Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Frank Fairlegh - Scenes From The Life Of A Private Pupil
Author: Smedley, Frank E. (Frank Edward)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Frank Fairlegh - Scenes From The Life Of A Private Pupil" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



FRANK FAIRLEGH

SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF A PRIVATE PUPIL

BY

FRANK E. SMEDLEY

          “How now! good lack! what present have we here?
          A Book that goes in peril of the press;
          But now it’s past those pikes, and doth appear
          To keep the lookers-on from heaviness.
          What stuff contains it?”

          _Davies of Hereford_

WITH TWENTY-EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS BY GEORGE CRUIKSHANK

A NEW EDITION

METHUEN & CO. LONDON

1904

THIS Issue is founded on the First Edition, published by A. Hall,
Virtue, & Co., in the year 1850.



     I. All Right! Off We Go!                               1

     II. Loss and Gain                                     12

     III.  Cold-water Cure for the Heartache               21

     IV.  Wherein is Commenced the Adventure of
     the Macintosh and Other Matters                       28

     V. Mad Bess                                           39

     VI. Lawless Gets Thoroughly Pot Oot                   46

     VII. The Board of Green Cloth                         59

     VIII. Good Resolutions                                71

     IX. A Denouement                                      81

     X. The Boating Party                                  93

     XI. Breakers Ahead!                                  100

     XII. Death and Change                                106

     XIII.  Catching a Shrimp                             114

     XIV.  The Ball                                       122

     XV. Ringing the Curfew                               129

     XVI. The Roman Father                                136

     XVII. The Invisible Girl                             145

     XVIII. The Game in Barstone Park                     150

     XIX. Turning the Tables                              155

     XX. Alma Mater                                       160

     XXI. The Wine Party                                  163

     XXII. Taming a Shrew                                 173

     XXIII.  What Harry and I Found When We Lost
     Our Way                                              182

     XXIV.  How Oaklands Broke His Horsewhip              190

     XXV. The Challenge                                   198

     XXVI. Coming   Events   Cast   Their   Shadows
     Before                                               205

     XXVII. The Duel                                      212

     XXVIII. The Substance of the Shadow                  220

     XXIX. The Struggle in Chesterton Meadow              229

     XXX. Mr. Frampton’s Introduction to a Tiger          234

     XXXI. How I Rise a Degree, and Mr. Frampton
     Gets Elevated in More Ways Than One                  242

     XXXII. Catching Sight of an Old Flame                250

     XXXIII.  Woman’s a Riddle                            257

     XXXIV.  The Riddle Baffles Me!                       264

     XXXV. A Mysterious Letter                            272

     XXXVI. The Riddle Solved                             280

     XXXVII. The Forlorn Hope                             288

     XXXVIII. Facing the Enemy                            296

     XXXIX. The Council of War                            304

     XL. Lawless’s Matinée Musicale                       313

     XLI. How Lawless Became a Lady’s Man                 322

     XLII. The Meet at Eversley Gorse                     331

     XLIII. A Charade--Not All Acting                     340

     XLIV. Confessions                                    350

     XLV. Helping a Lame Dog Over a Stile                 360

     XLVI. Tears and Smiles                               369

     XLVII. A Cure for the Heartache                      378

     XLVHI. Paying Off Old Scores                         389

     XLIX. Mr. Frampton Makes a Discovery                 399

     L. A Ray of Sunshine                                 408

     LI. Freddy Coleman Falls into Difficulties           417

     LII. Lawless Astonishes Mr. Coleman                  425

     LIII. A Comedy of Errors                             432

     LIV. Mr. Vernor Meets His Match                      440

     LV. The Pursuit                                      447

     LVI. Retribution                                     454

     LVII. Woo’d and Married                              463



     LIST  OF ILLUSTRATIONS

     Frank Fairlegh Caught in the Trap                     27

     Lawless Ornamenting Frank’s Writing-desk              29

     Mad Bess                                              44

     Lawless Finds his Level                               56

     The Doctor Makes a Discovery                          79

     The Doctor Expels a Pupil                             90

     Frank Rescues Coleman                                104

     The Fall op the Candelabrum                          124

     Freddy Coleman mystifies the Beadle                  133

     Lawless Eloping with the Fire-engine                 135

     The Wine Party                                       167

     The Roused Lion                                      190

     The Results ok giving Satisfaction                   216

     Fairlegh to the Rescue                               231

     Hurra! Hurra!   Room for the Governor                246

     The Shy Young Gentleman Favours the Company
     with a Song                                          249

     A Mysterious Bonnet                                  253

     An Unexpected Reverse                                266

     The Discovery                                        281

     The Lover’s Leap                                     338

     A Charade--Not all Acting                            345

     A New Cure for the Heartache                         382

     A Striking Position                                  398

     The Reconciliation                                   418

     Mammon Worship                                       430

     A Messenger of Evil                                  447

     The Retribution                                      457

     The Rescue                                           459



FRANK FAIRLEGH

OR

SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF A PRIVATE PUPIL



CHAPTER I -- ALL RIGHT! OFF WE GO!

~1~~

          “Yet here... you are stayed for
          ... There; my blessing with you,
          And these few precepts in thy memory
          See thou character-----”

          “Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits.
          I rather would entreat thy company
          To see the wonders of the world abroad,
          Than living dully, sluggardis’d at home,
          Wear out thy youth with shapeless idleness.”

          “Where unbruised youth, with unstuff’d brain,
          Doth couch his limbs, there golden sleep doth reign.”
           _Shakspeare_


“NEVER forget, under any circumstances, to think and act like a
gentleman, and don’t exceed your allowance,” said my father.

“Mind you read your Bible, and remember what I told you about wearing
flannel waistcoats,” cried my mother.

And with their united “God bless you, my boy!” still ringing in my ears,
I found myself inside the stage-coach, on my way to London.

Now, I am well aware that the correct thing for a boy in my situation
(i.e. leaving home for the first time) would be to fall back on his
seat, and into a reverie, during which, utterly lost to all external
impressions, he should entertain the thoughts and feelings of a
well-informed man of thirty; the same thoughts and feelings being
clothed in ~2~~the semi-poetic prose of a fashionable novel-writer.
Deeply grieved, therefore, am I at being forced both to set at nought so
laudable an established precedent, and to expose my own degeneracy. But
the truth must be told at all hazards. The only feeling I experienced,
beyond a vague sense of loneliness and desolation, was one of great
personal discomfort. It rained hard, so that a small stream of water,
which descended from the roof of the coach as I entered it, had
insinuated itself between one of the flannel waistcoats, which formed
so important an item in the maternal valediction, and my skin, whence,
endeavouring to carry out what a logician would call the “law of its
being,” by finding its own level, it placed me in the undesirable
position of an involuntary disciple of the cold-water cure taking a
“sitz-bad”. As to my thoughts, the reader shall have the full benefit
of them, in the exact order in which they flitted through my brain.

First came a vague desire to render my position more comfortable, ending
in a forlorn hope that intense and continued sitting might, by some
undefined process of evaporation, cure the evil. This suggested a
speculation, half pleasing and half painful, as to what would be
my mother’s feelings could she be aware of the state of things; the
pleasure being the result of that mysterious preternatural delight which
a boy always takes in everything at all likely to injure his health,
or endanger his existence, and the pain arising from the knowledge that
there was now no one near me to care whether I was comfortable or not.
Again, these speculations merged into a sort of dreamy wonder, as to
why a queer little old gentleman opposite (my sole fellow-traveller) was
grunting like a pig, at intervals of about a minute, though he was wide
awake the whole time; and whether a small tuft of hair, on a mole at
the tip of his nose, could have anything to do with it. At this point my
meditations were interrupted by the old gentleman himself, who, after
a louder grunt than usual, gave vent to his feelings in the following
speech, which was partly addressed to me and partly a soliloquy.

“Umph! going to school, my boy, eh?” then, in a lower tone, “Wonder why
I called him my boy, when he’s no such thing: just like me, umph!”

I replied by informing him that I was not exactly going to school--(I
was nearly fifteen, and the word “school” sounded derogatory to my
dignity)--but that, having been up to the present time educated at home
by my father, I was now on my way to complete my studies under the care
of a private tutor, who only received six pupils, a very different thing
from a school, as I took the liberty of insinuating.

“Umph! different thing? You will cost more, learn less, and fancy
yourself a man when you are a boy; that’s the only difference I can
see:” then came the aside--“Snubbing the poor child, when he’s a peg too
low already, just like me; umph!”

After which he relapsed into a silence which continued uninterrupted
until we reached London, save once, while we were changing horses, when
he produced a flask with a silver top, and, taking a sip himself, asked
me if I drank brandy. On my shaking my head, with a smile caused by
what appeared to me the utter wildness and desperation of the notion, he
muttered:--

“Umph! of course he doesn’t; how should he?--just like me”.

In due course of time we reached the Old Bell Inn, Holborn, where the
coach stopped, and where my trunk and myself were to be handed over to
the tender mercies of the coachman of the Rocket, a fast coach (I speak
of the slow old days when railroads were unknown) which then ran to
Helmstone, the watering-place where my future tutor, the Rev. Dr.
Mildman, resided. My first impressions of London are scarcely worth
recording, for the simple reason that they consisted solely of intense
and unmitigated surprise at everything and everybody I saw and
heard; which may be more readily believed when I add the fact that my
preconceived notions of the metropolis had led me to imagine it perhaps
might be twice the size of the town nearest to my father’s house; in
short, almost as large as Grosvenor Square.

Here, then, I parted company with my fellow-traveller, who took leave of
me thus:--

“Umph! well, good-bye; be a good boy--good man, you’d like me to say,
I suppose; man, indeed! umph! don’t forget what your parents told you”;
then adding, “Of course he will, what’s the use of telling him not?
just like me”;--he dived into the recesses of a hackney-coach, and
disappeared.

Nothing worthy of note occurred during my journey to Helmstone, where
we arrived at about half-past four in the afternoon. My feelings of
surprise and admiration were destined once more to be excited on this
(to me) memorable day, as, in my way from the coach-office to Langdale
Terrace, where Dr. Mildman resided, I beheld, for the first time, that
most stupendous work of God, the mighty Ocean; which, alike in its wild
resistless freedom, and its ~4~~miraculous obedience to the command,
“Thus far shalt thou come, and no further,” bears at once the plainest
print of its Almighty Creator’s hand, while it affords a strong and
convincing proof of His omnipotence.

On knocking at the door of Dr. Mildman’s house (if the truth must
be told, it was with a trembling hand I did so) it was opened by a
man-servant, whose singularly plain features were characterised by
an expression alternating between extreme civility and an intense
appreciation of the ludicrous.

On mentioning my name, and asking if Dr. Mildman was at home, he
replied:--

“Yes, sir, master’s in, sir; so you’re Mr. Fairlegh, sir, our new young
gent, sir?” (here the ludicrous expression predominated); “hope you’ll
be comfortable, sir” (here he nearly burst into a laugh); “show you into
master’s study, sir, directly” (here he became preternaturally grave
again); and, opening the study door, ushered me into the presence of the
dreaded tutor.

On my entrance Dr. Mildman (for such I presumed a middle-aged gentleman,
the sole tenant of the apartment, to be) rose from a library table, at
which he had been seated, and, shaking me kindly by the hand, inquired
after the health of my father and mother, what sort of journey I had
had, and sundry other particulars of the like nature, evidently with the
good-humoured design of putting me a little more at my ease, as I
have no doubt the trepidation I was well aware of feeling inwardly, at
finding myself _tête-à-tête_ with a real live tutor, was written in very
legible characters on my countenance. Dr. Mildman, whose appearance
I studied with an anxious eye, was a gentlemanly-looking man of
five-and-forty, or thereabouts, with a high bald forehead, and good
features, the prevailing expression of which, naturally mild and
benevolent, was at times chequered by that look which all schoolmasters
sooner or later acquire--a look which seems to say, “Now, sir, do you
intend to mind me or do you not?” Had it not been for this, and for
an appearance of irresolution about the mouth, he would have been a
decidedly fine-looking man. While I was making these observations he
informed me that I had arrived just in time for dinner, and that the
servant should show me to my sleeping apartment, whence, when I had
sacrificed to the Graces (as he was pleased to call dressing), I was to
descend to the drawing-room, and be introduced to Mrs. Mildman and my
future companions.

My sleeping-room, which was rather a small garret than otherwise, was
furnished, as it appeared to me, with more ~5~~regard to economy than to
the comfort of its inmate. At one end stood a small four-post bedstead,
which, owing to some mysterious cause, chose to hold its near fore-leg
up in the air, and slightly advanced, thereby impressing the beholder
with the idea that it was about to trot into the middle of the room. On
an unpainted deal table stood a looking-glass, which, from a habit it
had of altering and embellishing the face of any one who consulted it,
must evidently have possessed a strong natural taste for the ludicrous:
an ancient washing-stand, supporting a basin and towel, and a
dissipated-looking chair completed the catalogue.

And here, while preparing for the alarming ordeal I was so soon to
undergo, let me present to the reader a slight sketch of myself, mental
and bodily; and, as mind ought to take precedence of matter, I will
attempt, as far as I am able after the lapse of time, to paint my
character in true colours, “nought extenuating, nor setting down aught
in malice”. I was, then, as the phrase goes, “a very well-behaved young
gentleman”; that is, I had a great respect for all properly constituted
authorities, and an extreme regard for the proprieties of life; was very
particular about my shoes being clean, and my hat nicely brushed; always
said “Thank you” when a servant handed me a plate, and “May I trouble
you?” when I asked for a bit of bread. In short, I bade fair in time to
become a thorough old bachelor; one of those unhappy mortals whose lives
are alike a burthen to themselves and others--men who, by magnifying
the minor household miseries into events of importance, are uneasy and
suspicious about the things from the wash having been properly aired,
and become low and anxious as the dreadful time approaches when clean
sheets are inevitable! My ideas of a private tutor, derived chiefly from
_Sandford and Merton_, and _Evenings at Home_, were rather wide of the
mark, leading me to expect that Dr. Mildman would impart instruction
to us during long rambles over green fields, and in the form of moral
allegories, to which we should listen with respectful attention and
affectionate esteem. With regard to my outward man, or rather boy, I
should have been obliged to confine myself to such particulars as I
could remember, namely, that I was tall for my age, but slightly built,
and so thin, as often to provoke the application of such epithets as
“hop-pole,” “thread-paper,” etc., had it not been that, in turning over
some papers a few days since, I stumbled on a water-colour sketch of
myself, which I well remember being taken by a young artist in the
neighbourhood, just ~6~~before I left home, in the hope of consoling
my mother for my departure. It represented a lad about fifteen, in
a picturesque attitude, feeding a pony out of a very elegant little
basket, with what appeared to be white currants, though I have every
reason to believe they were meant for oats. The aforesaid youth rejoiced
in an open shirt-collar and black ribbon _à la_ Byron, curling hair of a
dark chestnut colour, regular features, a high forehead, complexion like
a girl’s, very pink and white, and a pair of large blue eyes, engaged in
regarding the white currant oats with intense surprise, as well indeed
they might. Whether this young gentleman bore more resemblance to me
than the currants did to oats, I am, of course, unable to judge; but, as
the portrait represented a very handsome boy, I hope none of my readers
will be rude enough to doubt that it was a striking likeness.

I now proceeded to render myself thoroughly wretched, by attempting to
extricate the articles necessary for a change of dress from the very
bottom of my trunk, where, according to the nature of such things, they
had hidden themselves; grammars, lexicons, and other like “Amenities of
Literature,” being the things that came to hand most readily. Scarcely
had I contrived to discover a wearable suit when I was informed that
dinner was on the table; so, hastily tumbling into my clothes, and
giving a final peep at the facetious looking-glass, the result of which
was to twist the bow of my Byron tie under my left ear, in the belief
that I was thereby putting it straight, I rushed downstairs, just
in time to see the back of the hindmost pupil disappear through the
dining-room door.

“Better late than never, Fairlegh. Mrs. Mildman, this is Fairlegh;
he can sit by you, Coleman;--‘For what we are going to receive,’
etc.;--Thomas, the carving-knife.”

Such was the address with which my tutor greeted my entrance, and,
during its progress, I popped into a seat indicated by a sort of half
wink from Thomas, resisting by a powerful act of self-control a sudden
impulse which seized me to bolt out of the room, and do something rash
but indefinite, between going to sea and taking prussic acid; not quite
either, but partaking of the nature of both. “Take soup, Fairlegh?” said
Dr. Mildman. “Thank you, sir, if you please.”

“A pleasant journey, had you?” inquired Mrs. Mildman.

“Not any, I am much obliged to you,” I replied, thinking of the fish.

This produced a total silence, during which the pupils ~7~~exchanged
glances, and Thomas concealed an illicit smile behind the bread-basket.

“Does your father,” began Dr. Mildman in a very grave and deliberate
manner, “does your father shoot?--boiled mutton, my dear?”

I replied that he had given it up of late years, as the fatigue was too
much for him.

“Oh! I was very fond of carrying a gun-pepper--when I was-a spoon-at
Oxford; I could hit a--mashed potato--bird as well as most men; yes, I was
very sorry to give up my double-barrel--ale, Thomas.”

“You came inside, I believe?” questioned Mrs. Mildman, a lady possessing
a shadowy outline, indistinct features faintly characterised by an
indefinite expression, long ringlets of an almost impossible shade
of whity-brown, and a complexion and general appearance only to be
described by the term “washed out”.

“Yes, all the way, ma’am.”

“Did you not dislike it very much? it creases one’s gown so, unless it
is a merino or mousseline-de-laine; but one can’t always wear them, you
know.”

Not being in the least prepared with a suitable answer, I merely made
what I intended to be an affirmative ahem, in doing which a crumb of
bread chose to go the wrong way, producing a violent fit of coughing,
in the agonies of which I seized and drank off Dr. Mildman’s tumbler of
ale, mistaking it for my own small beer. The effect of this, my crowning
_gaucherie_, was to call forth a languid smile on the countenance of the
senior pupil, a tall young man, with dark hair, and a rather forbidding
expression of face, which struggled only too successfully with an
attempt to look exceedingly amiable; which smile was repeated with
variations by all the others.

“I’m afraid you do not distinctly perceive the difference between those
important pronouns, _meum_ and _tuum_, Fairlegh? Thomas, a clean glass!”
 said Dr. Mildman, with a forced attempt at drollery; but Thomas had
evaporated suddenly, leaving no clue to his whereabouts, unless sundry
faint sounds of suppressed laughter outside the door, indicating, as I
fancied, his extreme appreciation of my unfortunate mistake, proceeded
from him.

It is, I believe, a generally received axiom that all mortal affairs
must sooner or later come to an end; at all events, the dinner I have
been describing did not form an exception to the rule. In due time Mrs.
Mildman disappeared, after which Dr. Mildman addressed a remark or two
about Greek tragedy to the tall pupil, which led to a ~8~~dissertation
on the merits of a gentleman named Prometheus, who, it seemed, was bound
in some peculiar way, but whether this referred to his apprenticeship to
any trade, or to the cover of the book containing his history, did not
appear. This conversation lasted about ten minutes, at the expiration of
which the senior pupil “grinned horribly a ghastly smile” at the others,
who instantly rose, and conveyed themselves out of the room with such
rapidity that I, being quite unprepared for such a proceeding, sat for a
moment in silent amazement, and then, becoming suddenly alive to a sense
of my situation, rushed frantically after them. My speed was checked
somewhat abruptly by a door at the end of the passage being violently
slammed in my face, for which polite attention I was indebted to the
philanthropy of the hindmost pupil, who thereby imposed upon me the
agreeable task of feeling in the dark for a door-handle in an unknown
locality. After fumbling for some time, in a state of the greatest
bewilderment I at length opened the door, and beheld the interior of
the “pupils’ room,” which, for the benefit of such of my readers as may
never have seen the like, I will now endeavour shortly to describe.

The parlour devoted to the pupils’ use was of a good size, nearly
square, and, like the cabin of a certain “ould Irish gentleman,”
 appeared to be fitted up with “nothing at all for show”. In three of the
corners stood small tables covered with books and writing materials for
the use of Dr. Mildman and the two senior pupils; in the fourth was a
book-case. The centre of the room was occupied by a large square table,
the common property of the other pupils; while a carpet, “a little
the worse for wear,” and sundry veteran chairs, rather crazy from the
treatment to which many generations of pupils had subjected them
(a chair being the favourite projectile in the event of a shindy),
completed the catalogue. Mr. Richard Cumberland, the senior pupil, was
lounging in an easy attitude on one side of the fireplace; on the
other stood, bolt upright, a lad rather older than myself, with a long
unmeaning face, and a set of arms and legs which appeared not to belong
to one another. This worthy, as I soon learned, responded to the name
of Nathaniel Mullins, and usually served as the butt of the party in the
absence of newer or worthier game. Exactly in front of the fire, with
his coat-tails under his arms, and his legs extended like a pair of
compasses, was stationed Mr. George Lawless, who, having been expelled
from one of the upper forms at Eton for some heroic exploit which the
head master could not be persuaded to ~9~~view in its proper light, was
sent to vegetate for a year or two at Dr. Mildman’s ere he proceeded to
one of the universities. This gentleman was of rather a short thick-set
figure, with a large head, and an expression of countenance resembling
that of a bull when the animal “means mischief,” and was supposed by his
friends to be more “thoroughly wide awake” than any one of his years
in the three kingdoms. The quartette was completed by Mr. Frederick
Coleman, a small lad, with a round merry face, who was perched on the
back of a chair, with his feet resting on the hob, and his person so
disposed as effectually to screen every ray of fire from Nathaniel
Mullins.

“You are not cold, Fairlegh? Don’t let me keep the fire from you,” said
Lawless, without, however, showing the slightest intention of moving.
“Not very, thank you.”

“Eh! quite right--glad to hear it. It’s Mildman’s wish that, during the
first half, no pupil should come on the hearthrug. I made a point of
conscience of it myself when I first came. The Spartans, you know, never
allowed their little boys to do so, and even the Athenians, a much more
luxurious people, always had their pinafores made of asbestos, or some
such fireproof stuff. You are well read in Walker’s _History of Greece_,
I hope?” I replied that I was afraid I was not. “Never read _Hookeyus
Magnus_? Your father ought to be ashamed of himself for neglecting you
so. You are aware, I suppose, that the Greeks had a different sort of
fire from what we burn nowadays? You’ve heard of Greek fire?”

I answered that I had, but did not exactly understand what it meant.

“Not know that, either? disgraceful! Well, it was a kind of way they
had of flaring up in those times, a sort of ‘light of other days,’ which
enabled them to give their friends a warm reception; so much so, indeed,
that their friends found it too warm sometimes, and latterly they
usually reserved it for their enemies. Mind you remember all this, for
it is one of the first things old Sam will be sure to ask you.”

Did my ears deceive me? Could he have called the tutor, the dreaded
tutor, “old Sam”? I trembled as I stood--plain, unhonoured “Sam,” as
though he had spoken of a footman! The room turned round with me. Alas
for Sandford and Merton, and affectionate and respectful esteem!

“But how’s this?” continued Lawless, “we have ~10~~forgotten to
introduce you in form to your companions, and to enter your name in the
books of the establishment; why, Cumberland, what were you thinking of?”

“Beg pardon,” rejoined Cumberland, “I really was so buried in thought,
trying to solve that problem about bisecting the Siamese twins--you know
it, Lawless? However, it is not too late, is it? Allow me to introduce
you, Mr. Fairplay------”

“Legh, sir,” interrupted I.

“Ah, exactly; well, then, Mr. Fairlegh, let me introduce this gentleman,
Mr. George Lawless, who has, if I mistake not, been already trying, with
his usual benevolence, to supply a few of your deficiencies; he is,
if he will allow me to say so, one of the most rising young men of his
generation, one of the firmest props of the glorious edifice of our
rights and privileges.”

“A regular brick,” interposed Coleman. “Hold your tongue, Freddy: little
boys should be seen and not heard, as Tacitus tells us,” said Lawless,
reprovingly.

The only reply to this, if reply it could be called, was something which
sounded to me like a muttered reference to the Greek historian Walker,
whom Lawless had so lately mentioned; and Cumberland continued:--

“You will pay great attention to everything Lawless tells you,
and endeavour to improve by following his example, at a respectful
distance--ahem! The gentleman on your right hand, Mr. Mullins, who is
chiefly remarkable for looking [‘like a fool,’ put in Coleman, _sotto
voce_], before he leaps, so long, that in general he postpones leaping
altogether, and is in the habit of making [‘an ass of himself,’
suggested Coleman]--really, Freddy, I am surprised at you--of making two
bites at a cherry--you will be better able to appreciate when you know
more of him. As to my young friend Freddy here, his naturally good
abilities and amiable temper [‘Draw it mild, old fellow!’ interrupted
the young gentleman in question] have interested us so much in his
favour that we cannot but view with regret a habit he has of late fallen
into, of turning everything into ridicule [‘What a pity!’ from the same
individual], together with a lamentable addiction to the use of slang
terms. Let me hope his association with such a polished young gentleman
as Mr. Fairlegh may improve him in these particulars.”

“Who drank Mildman’s ale at dinner?” asked Coleman; “if that’s a
specimen of his polished manners, I think mine take the shine out of
them, rather.” ~11~~“I assure you,” interrupted I, eagerly, “I never was
more distressed in my life; it was quite a mistake.”

“Pretty good mistake--Hodgson’s pale ale for Muddytub’s swipes--eh,
Mull?” rejoined Coleman.

“I believe you,” replied Mullins.

“Well, now for entering your name; that’s important, you know,” said
Lawless; “you had better ring the bell, and tell Thomas to bring the
books.”

I obeyed, and when Thomas made his appearance informed him of my desire
to enter my name in the books of the establishment, which I begged he
would bring for that purpose. A look of bewilderment that came over his
face on hearing my request changed to an expression of intelligence, as,
after receiving some masonic sign from Lawless, he replied:--

“The books, sir; yes, sir; bring ‘em directly, sir “.

After a few minutes he returned with two small, not overclean, books,
ruled with blue lines. One of these Lawless took from him, opened with
much ceremony, and, covering the upper part of the page with a bit of
blotting paper, pointed to a line, and desired me to write my name and
age, as well as the date of my arrival, upon it. The .same ceremony was
repeated with the second.

“That’s all right: now let’s see how it reads,” said he, and, removing
the blotting paper, read as follows: “‘Pair of Wellingtons, £1 15s.;
satin stock, 25s.; cap ribbon for Sally Duster, 2s. 6d.; box of cigars,
£1 16s. (mem. shocking bad lot)--5th Nov., Francis Fairlegh, aged
15’.--So much for that; now, let’s see the next: ‘Five shirts, four pair
of stockings, six pocket-handkerchiefs, two pair of white ducks--5th
Nov., Francis Fairlegh, aged 15’.”

Here his voice was drowned in a roar of laughter from the whole party
assembled, Thomas included, during which the true state of the case
dawned upon me, viz.--that I had, with much pomp and ceremony, entered
my name, age, and the date of my arrival in Mr. George Lawless’s private
account and washing books!

My thoughts, as I laid my aching head upon my pillow that night, were
not of the most enviable nature. Leaving for the first time the home
where I had lived from childhood, and in which I had met with affection
and kindness from all around me, had been a trial under which my
fortitude would most assuredly have given way, but for the brilliant
picture my imagination had very obligingly sketched of the happy family
of which I was about to become a member; in the foreground of which
stood a group of fellow-pupils, a united brotherhood of congenial
~12~~souls,, containing three bosom friends at the very least, anxiously
awaiting my arrival with outstretched arms of welcome. Now, however,
this last hope had failed me; for, innocent (or, as Coleman would have
termed it, green) as I then was, I could not but perceive that the tone
of mock politeness assumed towards me by Cumberland and Lawless was
merely a convenient cloak for impertinence, which could be thrown aside
at any moment when a more open display of their powers of tormenting
should seem advisable. In fact (though I was little aware of the
pleasures in store for me), I had already seen enough to prove that the
life of a private pupil was not exactly “all my fancy painted it”; and,
as the misery of leaving those I loved proved in its “sad reality”
 a much more serious affair than I had imagined, the result of my
cogitations was, that I was a very unhappy boy (I did not feel the
smallest inclination to boast myself _man_ at that moment), and that, if
something very much to my advantage did not turn up in the course of
the next twenty-four hours, my friends would have the melancholy
satisfaction of depositing a broken heart (which, on the principle of
the Kilkenny cats, was all I expected would remain of me by that time)
in an early grave. Hereabouts my feelings becoming too many for me
at the thought of my own funeral, I fairly gave up the struggle, and,
bursting into a flood of tears, cried myself to sleep, like a child.



CHAPTER II -- LOSS AND GAIN

     “And youthful still, in your doublet and hose, this raw
     rheumatic day?”

     “His thefts were too open; his filching was like an
     unskilful singer, he kept not time.... Convey, the wise
     it call. ‘Steal!’ foh! a fico for the phrase!”--
     _Shakspeare._

     “From _Greenland’s_ icy mountains.”--_Heber_.

AMONGST the minor phenomena which are hourly occurring in the details
of everyday life, although we are seldom sufficiently close observers to
perceive them, there is none more remarkable than the change wrought in
our feelings and ideas by a good night’s rest; and never was this change
more strikingly exemplified than on the present occasion. I had fallen
asleep in the act of performing the character of chief-mourner at my own
funeral, and I awoke ~13~~in the highest possible health and spirits,
with a strong determination never to “say die” under any conceivable
aspect affairs might assume. “What in the world,” said I to myself, as I
sprang out of bed, and began to dress,--“What in the world was there for
me to make myself so miserable about last night? Suppose Cumberland and
Lawless should laugh at, and tease me a little at first, what does it
signify? I must take it in good part as long as I can, and if that does
not do I must speak seriously to them--tell them they really annoy me
and make me uncomfortable, and then, of course, they will leave off. As
to Coleman, I am certain------Well, it’s very odd!”--this last remark
was elicited by the fact that a search I had been making for some
minutes, in every place possible and impossible, for that indispensable
article of male attire, my trousers, had proved wholly ineffectual,
although I had a distinct recollection of having placed them carefully
on a chair by my bedside the previous night. There, however, they
certainly were not now, nor, as far as I could discover, anywhere else
in the room. Under these circumstances, ringing the bell for Thomas
seemed advisable, as it occurred to me that he had probably abstracted
the missing garment for the purpose of brushing. In a few moments he
answered the summons, and, with a face bright from the combined effects
of a light heart and a severe application of yellow soap, inquired, “if
I had rung for my shaving water?”

“Why, no---I do not--that is, it was not--I seldom shave of a morning;
for the fact is, I have no beard to shave as yet.”

“Oh, sir, that’s no reason; there’s Mr. Coleman’s not got the leastest
westige of a hair upon his chin, and he’s been mowing away with the
greatest of persewerance for the last six months, and sends his rashier
to be ground every three weeks, regilar, in order to _get_ a beard--but
what can I do for you, sir?”

“Why,” replied I, trying to look grave, “it’s very odd, but I have
lost--that is, I can’t find--my trousers anywhere. I put them on this
chair last night, I know.”

“Umph! that’s sing’lar, too; I was just a coming upstairs to brush ‘em
for you; you did not hear anybody come into your room after you went to
bed, did you, sir?”

“No; but then I was so tired--I slept as sound as a top.”

“Ah! I shouldn’t much wonder if Mr. Coleman knew something about ‘em:
perhaps you had better put on another pair, and, if I can find ‘em, I’ll
bring ‘em back after breakfast.”

This was very good advice, and, therefore, of course, ~14~~impossible
to follow; for, on examining my trunk, lo and behold! dress pantaloons,
white ducks, _et hoc genus omne_, had totally disappeared, and I seemed
to stand a very good chance of making my first appearance at my tutor’s
breakfast-table in an extemporary “kilt,” improvised for the occasion
out of two towels and a checked neckcloth. In this extremity Thomas, as
a last resource, knocked at Coleman’s door, informing him that I
should be glad to speak to him--a proceeding speedily followed by the
appearance of that gentleman _in propria persona_.

“Good-morning, Fairlegh! hope you slept well. You are looking cold; had
not you better get some clothes on? Mildman will be down in a minute,
and there will be a pretty row if we are not all there; he’s precious
particular, I can tell you.”

“That is exactly what I want to do,” replied I; “but the fact is,
somebody has taken away all my trousers in the night.”

“Bless me! you don’t say so? Another case of pilfering! this is getting
serious: I will call Lawless--I say, Lawless!” “Well, what’s the row?”
 was the reply. “Have the French landed? or is the kitchen chimney on
fire? eh! What do I behold! Fairlegh, lightly and elegantly attired in
nothing but his shirt, and Thomas standing like Niobe, the picture of
woe! Here’s a sight for a father!”

“Why, it’s a bad job,” said Coleman; “do you know, here’s another case
of pilfering; Fairlegh has had all his trousers stolen in the night.”

“You don’t say so!” rejoined Lawless: “what is to be done? It must be
stopped somehow: we had better tell him all we know about it. Thomas,
leave the room.”

Thomas obeyed, giving me a look of great intelligence, the meaning of
which, however, I was totally at a loss to conceive, as he went; and
Lawless continued:--

“I am afraid you will hardly believe us,--it is really a most unheard-of
thing,--but we have lately missed a great many of our clothes, and we
have every reason to suspect (I declare I can scarcely bear to mention
it) that Mildman takes them himself, fancying, of course, that, placed
by his position so entirely above suspicion, he may do it with
impunity. We have suspected this for some time; and lately one or two
circumstances--old clothesmen having been observed leaving his study, a
pawn-ticket falling out of his waistcoat pocket one day as he went out
of our parlour, etc.--have put the matter beyond a doubt; but he has
never gone to such an extent as this before. Mind you don’t mention a
word of this to Thomas, for, bad as ~15~~Mildman is, one would not wish
to show him up before his own servant.”

“Good gracious!” cried I, “but you are joking, it never can be
really true!” Reading, however, in the solemn, not to say distressed,
expression of their faces indisputable evidence of the reality of the
accusation, I continued: “I had no idea such things ever could take
place, and he a clergyman, too!--dreadful! but what in the world am I
to do? I have not got a pair of trousers to put on. Oh! if he would
but have taken anything else, even my watch instead, I should not have
minded--what shall I do?”

“Why really,” replied Coleman, “it is not so easy to advise: you can’t
go down as you are, that’s certain. Suppose you were to wrap yourself up
in a blanket, and go and tell him you have found him out, and that you
will call a policeman if he does not give you your clothes instantly;
have it out with him fairly, and check the thing effectually once for
all--eh?”

“No, that won’t do,” said Lawless. “I should say, sit down quietly (how
cold you must be!) and write him a civil note, saying, that you had
reason to believe he had borrowed your trousers (that’s the way I should
put it), and that you would be very much gratified by his lending you
a pair to wear to-day; and then you can stick in something about
your having been always accustomed to live with people who were very
particular in regard to dress, and that you are sorry you are obliged to
trouble him for such a trifle; in fact, do a bit of the respectful, and
then pull up short with ‘obedient pupil,’ etc.”

“Ay, that’s the way to do it,” said Coleman, “in the shop-fellow’s
style, you know--much obliged for past favours, and hope for a
continuance of the same--more than _you_ do, though, Fairlegh, I should
fancy; but there goes the bell--I am off,” and away he scudded, followed
by Lawless humming:--

          “Brian O’Lynn had no breeches to wear,
          So he took an old catskin, and made him a pair.”

Here was a pretty state of things: the breakfast bell had rung, and I,
who considered being too late a crime of the first magnitude, was unable
even to begin dressing from the melancholy fact that every pair of
trousers I possessed in the world had disappeared; while, to complete my
misery, I was led to believe the delinquent who had abstracted them
was no less a person than the tutor, whom I had come fully prepared to
regard with feelings of the utmost respect and veneration.

~16~~However, in such a situation, thinking over my miseries was worse
than useless; _something_ must be done at once--but what? Write the note
as Lawless had advised? No, it was useless to think of that; I felt
I could not do it. “Ah! a bright idea!--I’ll try it.” So, suiting the
action to the word, I rang the bell, and then jumping into bed muffled
myself up in the bedclothes.

“Well, sir, have you found them?” asked Thomas, entering.

“No, Thomas,” replied I dolefully, “nor ever shall, I fear; but will you
go to ‘Dr. Mildman, and tell him, with my respects, that I cannot get up
to breakfast this morning, and, if he asks what is the matter with me,
say that I am prevented from coming down by _severe cold_. I am sure
that is true enough,” added I, shivering.

“Well, sir, I will, if you wish it; but I don’t exactly see the good of
it; you _must_ get up some time or other.”

“I don’t know,” replied I gloomily, “we shall see; only do you take my
message.”

And he accordingly left the room, muttering as he did so, “Well, I calls
this a great deal too bad, and I’ll tell master of it myself, if nobody
else won’t”.

“Tell master of it himself!”--he also suspected him then. This crushed
my last faint hope that, after all, it might turn out to be only a trick
of the pupils; and, overpowered by the utter vileness and depravity of
him who was set in authority over me, I buried my face in the pillow,
feeling a strong inclination to renew the lamentations of the preceding
night. Not many minutes had elapsed when the sound of a heavy footstep
slowly ascending the stairs attracted my attention. I raised my head,
and beheld the benevolent countenance (for even then it certainly did
wear a benevolent expression) of my wicked tutor, regarding me with a
mingled look of scrutiny and pity.

“Why, Fairlegh, what’s all this?--Thomas tells me you are not able to
come down to breakfast; you are not ill, I hope?”

“No, sir,” replied I, “I don’t think I am very ill, but I _can’t_ come
down to breakfast.”

“Not ill, and yet you can’t come down to breakfast! pray, what in the
world prevents you?”

“Perhaps,” said I (for I was becoming angry at what I considered his
unparalleled effrontery, and thought I would give him a hint that he
could not deceive me so easily as he seemed to expect), “perhaps you can
tell that better than I can.”

~17~~“I, my boy!--I’m afraid not; my pretensions to the title of doctor
are based on divinity, not physic:--however, put out your tongue--that’s
right enough; let me feel your hand--a little cold or so, but nothing to
signify; did this kind of seizure ever happen to you at home?”

Well, this was adding insult to injury with a vengeance; not content
with stealing my clothes himself, but actually asking me whether such
things did not happen at home! The wretch! thought I; does he suppose
that everybody is as wicked as himself?

“No,” I answered, my voice trembling with the anger I was scarcely
able to repress; “no, sir, such a thing never could happen in my dear
father’s house.”

“There, don’t agitate yourself; you seem excited: perhaps you _had_
better lie in bed a little longer; I will send you up something warm,
and after that you may feel more inclined to get up,” said he kindly,
adding to himself, as he left the room, “Very strange boy--I can’t make
him out at all”.

The door closed, and I was once more alone. “Is he guilty or not
guilty?” thought I; “if he really has taken the clothes, he is the most
accomplished hypocrite I ever heard of; yet he _must_ have done so,
everything combines to prove it--Thomas’s speech--nay, even his own
offer of sending me ‘something warm’; something warm, indeed! what do
I want with anything warm, except my trousers? No! the fact was beyond
dispute; they were gone, and he had stolen them, whilst I, unhappy
youth, was entirely in his power, and had not therefore a chance
of redress. ‘But I will not bear it,’ cried I, ‘I’ll write to my
father--I’ll run away--I’ll------’”

“Hurrah!” shouted Thomas, rushing into the room with his arm full of
clothes, “here they are, sir; I have found the whole kit of them at
last.”

“Where?” exclaimed I eagerly.

“Where? why in such a queer place!” replied he, “stuffed up the chimbley
in master’s study; but I have given them a good brushing, and they are
none the worse for it, except them blessed white ducks; they are almost
black ducks now, though they will wash, so that don’t signify none.”

“Up the chimney, in master’s study!” here was at last proof positive; my
clothes had been actually found in his possession--oh, the wickedness of
this world!

“But how did you ever find them?” asked I.

“Why! I happened to go in to fetch something, and I see’d a little bit
of the leg of one of them hanging down ~18~~the chimbley, so I guessed
how it all was, directly. I think I know how they got there, too; they
did not walk there by themselves, I should say.”

“I wish they had,” muttered I.

“I thought _somebody_ was up too early this morning to be about any
good,” continued he; “he is never out of bed till the last moment,
without there’s some mischief in the wind.”

This was pretty plain speaking, however. Thomas was clearly as well
aware of his master’s nefarious practices as the pupils themselves,
and Lawless’s amiable desire to conceal Dr. Mildman’s sins from his
servant’s knowledge was no longer of any avail. I hastened, therefore
(the only reason for silence being thus removed), to relieve my mind
from the burden of just indignation which was oppressing it.

“And can you, Thomas,” exclaimed I, with flashing eyes, “remain the
servant of a man who dares thus to outrage every law, human and divine?
one who having taken upon himself the sacred office of a clergyman of
the Church of England, and so made it his especial duty to set a good
example to all around him, can take advantage of the situation in which
he is placed in regard to his pupils, and actually demean himself by
purloining the clothes of the young men” (I felt five-and-twenty at
the very least at that moment) “committed to his charge?--why, my
father------”

What I imagined my father would have said or done under these
circumstances was fated to remain a mystery, as my eloquence was brought
to a sudden conclusion by my consternation, when a series of remarkable
phenomena, which had been developing themselves during my harangue in
the countenance of Thomas, terminated abruptly in what appeared to me a
fit of most unmitigated insanity. A look of extreme astonishment, which
he had assumed at the beginning of my speech, had given place to an
expression of mingled surprise and anger as I continued; which again
in its turn had yielded to a grin of intense amusement, growing every
moment broader and broader, accompanied by a spasmodic twitching of his
whole person; and, as I mentioned his master’s purloining my trousers,
he suddenly sprang up from the floor nearly a yard high, and commenced
an extempore _pas seul_ of a Jim Crow character, which he continued with
unabated vigour during several minutes. This “_Mazurka d’ecstase_,” or
whatever a ballet-master would have called it, having at length, to my
great joy, concluded, the performer of it sank exhausted into a chair,
and regarding me with a face still ~19~~somewhat the worse for his late
violent exertions favoured me with the following geographical remark:--

“Well, I never did believe in the existence of sich a place as Greenland
before, but there’s nowhere else as you could have come from, sir, I am
certain.”

“Eh! why! what’s the matter with you? have I done anything particularly
‘green,’ as you call it? what are you talking about?” said I, not
feeling exactly pleased at the reception my virtuous indignation had met
with.

“Oh! don’t be angry, sir; I am sure I did not mean to offend you; but
really I could not help it, when I heard you say about master’s having
stole your things. Oh lor!” he added, holding his sides with both hands,
“how my precious sides do ache, sure-ly!”

“Do you consider that any laughing matter?” said I, still in the dark.

“Oh! don’t, sir, don’t say it again, or you will be the death of
me,” replied Thomas, struggling against a relapse; “why, bless your
innocence, what could ever make you think master would take your
clothes?”

“Make me think? why, Lawless told me so,” answered I, “and he also said
it was not the first time such a thing had occurred either.”

“You’ll have enough to do, sir, if you believe all our young gents tell
you; why, master would as soon think of flying as of stealing anything.
It was Mr. Coleman as put them up the chimbley; he’s always a playing
some trick or another for everlasting.”

A pause ensued, during which the whole affair in its true bearings
became for the first time clear to my mind’s eye; the result of my
cogitations may be gathered from the following remark, which escaped me
as it were involuntarily--“What a confounded ass I have made of myself,
_to be sure_!”

Should any of my readers be rude enough to agree with me in this
particular, let them reflect for a moment on the peculiar position
in which I was placed. Having lived from childhood in a quiet country
parsonage, with my father and mother, and a sister younger than myself,
as my sole companions, “mystification”--that is, telling deliberate
falsehoods by way of a joke--was a perfectly novel idea to me; and,
when that joke involved the possibility of such serious consequences as
offending the tutor under whose care we were placed, I (wholly ignorant
of the impudence and recklessness of public school boys) considered such
a solution of the mystery inconceivable. Moreover, everything around me
was so strange, and so entirely ~20~~different from the habits of life
in which I had been hitherto brought up, that for the time my mind was
completely bewildered. I appeared to have lost my powers of judgment,
and to have relapsed, as far as intellect was concerned, into childhood
again. My readers must excuse this digression, but it appeared to me
necessary to explain how it was possible for a lad of fifteen to have
been made the victim of such a palpably absurd deception without its
involving the necessity of his not being “so sharp as he should be”.

The promised “something warm” made its appearance ere long, in the shape
of tea and toast, which, despite my alarming seizure, I demolished with
great gusto in bed (for I did not dare to get up), feeling, from the
fact of my having obtained it under false pretences, very like a culprit
all the while. Having finished my breakfast, and allowed sufficient time
to elapse for my recovery, I got up, and, selecting a pair of trousers
which appeared to have suffered less from their sojourn in the chimney
than the others, dressed myself, and soon after eleven o’clock made my
appearance in the pupils’ room, where I found Dr. Mildman seated at his
desk, and the pupils apparently very hard at work.

“How do you find yourself now you are up, Fairlegh?” inquired my tutor
kindly.

“Quite well, sir, thank you,” I replied, feeling like an impostor.

“Quite recovered?” continued he.

“Everything--entirely, I mean,” stammered I, thinking of my trousers.

“That’s well, and now let us see what kind of Latin and Greek lining you
have got to your head.”

So saying, without appearing to notice the tittering of the pupils, he
pointed to a seat by his side, and commenced what I considered a very
formidable examination, with the view of eliciting the extent of my
acquaintance with the writers of antiquity, which proved to be extremely
select. When he had thoroughly satisfied (or dissatisfied) himself upon
this point, he recommended Horace and Xenophon to my particular notice,
adding, that Coleman was also directing his attention to the sayings
and doings of the same honourable and learned gentlemen--and that,
therefore, we were to work together. He then explained to me certain
rules and regulations of his establishment, to which he added a few
moral remarks, conveying the information, that, if I always did exactly
what he considered right, and scrupulously avoided everything he deemed
wrong, I might relieve my mind from all fears of ~21~~his displeasure,
which was, to say the least, satisfactory, if not particularly original.

Exactly as the clock struck one Dr. Mildman left the room (the morning’s
“study,” as it was called, ending at that hour), leaving us our own
masters till five, at which time we dined. Lest any kind reader should
fancy we were starved, let me add, that at half-past one a substantial
luncheon was provided, of which we might partake or not as we pleased.
As well as I remember we generally did graciously incline towards the
demolition of the viands, unless “metal more attractive” awaited us
elsewhere--but I am digressing.



CHAPTER III -- COLD-WATER CURE FOR THE HEARTACHE

          “Oh! grief for words too deep,
          From all his loved ones parted,

          He could not choose but weep,
          He was so lonely-hearted.”
           --Shortfellow.


          “How does the water come down at Lodore?

          Dashing and flashing, and splashing and clashing,
          All at once and all o’er, with a mighty uproar,
          And this way the water comes down at Lodore.”
           --Southey.

“PRAY, Fairlegh, what did you mean by not coming down till eleven
o’clock?” asked Cumberland in an angry tone.

“Did its mamma say it was always to have its breakfast in bed, a dear?”
 sneered Lawless.

“When she fastened that pretty square collar round its neck,” chimed in
Coleman.

“Just like a great gal,” added Mullins.

“Mildman was exceedingly angry about it, I can tell you,” continued
Cumberland, “and desired me to speak seriously to you on the subject;
such abominable idleness is not to be tolerated.”

“It was not idleness,” answered I, warmly; “you all know very well, why
I could not come down, and I don’t think it was at all right or kind of
you to play me such a trick.”

“Eh--now don’t say that--you will hurt my feelings; I declare it
is quite affecting,” said Coleman, wiping his eyes with Mullins’s
handkerchief, of which he had just picked his pocket.

~22~~“I’d have given five pounds to have seen old Sam’s phiz, when he
was trying to make out what ailed young stupid here, whether he was
really ill, or only shamming,” said Lawless; “depend upon it, he thinks
it was all pretence, and he can’t bear anything of that sort; that was
why he began spinning him that long yarn about ‘meriting his approbation
by upright and straightforward conduct,’ this morning. I saw what the
old boy was aiming at in a minute; there’s nothing puts him out so much
as being deceived.”

“Won’t he set him all the hard lines to construe, that’s all!” said
Mullins.

“It will be ‘hard lines’ upon him if he does,” observed Coleman.

“Hold your tongue, Freddy! your puns are enough to make one ill,” said
Cumberland.

“Well, I don’t know whether you are going to stand here all day baiting
your pinafore, Cumberland?” interrupted Lawless; “I’m not, for I’ve got
a horse waiting for me down at Snaffles’s, and I am going to ride over
to Hookley; there’s a pigeon-match coming off to-day between Clayton, of
the Lancers--(he was just above me at Eton, you know)--and Tom Horton,
who won the great match at Pinchley, and I have backed Clayton pretty
heavily--shall you come?”

“No,” replied Cumberland, “no, I am going down to
F------Street.”

“As usual, the board of green cloth, eh? you will go there once too
often, if you don’t mind, old fellow.” “That’s my look out,” replied
Cumberland. And away they went to their different pursuits, each, as
he left the room, making me a very low obeisance; Coleman taking the
trouble to open the door again after he had gone out, to beg, “that,
if I were going to write to my mother, I would tell her, with his love,
that she need not make herself in the least uneasy, as _he had quite_
got over his last little attack”. In a few minutes they had all quitted
the house, and I remained the sole tenant of the pupils’ room.

Many a long year has passed over my head since the day I am now
describing, and each (though my life has been on the whole as free
from care as that of most of the sons of Adam) has brought with it some
portion of sorrow or suffering to temper the happiness I have enjoyed,
and teach me the much required lesson, that “here we have no abiding
place”. I have lived to see bright hopes fade--high and noble
aspirations fall to the ground, checked ~23~~by the sordid policy of
worldly men--and the proud hearts which gave them birth become gradually
debased to the level of those around them, or break in the unequal
struggle--and these things have pained me. I have beheld those dear to
me stretched upon the bed of sickness, and taken from me by the icy
hand of death; and have deemed, as the grave closed over them, that my
happiness, as far as this world was concerned, was buried with them. I
have known (and this was grief indeed) those loved with all the warm
and trustful confidence of youth prove false and unworthy of such deep
affection; and have wished, in the bitterness of my soul, that the pit
had shut her mouth upon me also, so I had but died with my faith in them
unshaken. Still, although such sorrows as these may have produced a
more deep and lasting effect, I do not remember ever to have felt more
thoroughly desolate than upon the present occasion. The last scene,
though trifling in itself, had made a great impression upon me, from the
fact that it proved, as I considered, the animus of the pupils towards
me. “Every man’s hand was against me.” Even the oaf Mullins might insult
me with impunity; secure that, in so doing, if in nothing else, he
would be supported by the rest. Then I had offended my tutor, all my
predilections in whose favour had returned with double force, since I
had satisfied myself that he was not addicted to the commission of petty
larceny; offended him by allowing him to suppose that I had practised
a mean deception upon him. Moreover, it was impossible to explain my
conduct to him without showing up Coleman, an extreme measure for which
I was by no means prepared. Besides, every one would think, if I were to
do so, that I was actuated by a paltry spirit of malice, and that would
have been worse to bear than anything. No--turn my gaze to whichever
side I. would, the horizon seemed alike clouded; there was no comfort
for me anywhere. I looked at my watch--two o’clock! Three long hours to
dinner-time, in which I might do what I liked. _What I liked_! there was
mockery in the very sound. What was there for me to do? go out and see
more new faces looking coldly on me, and wander up and down in strange
places alone, amidst a crowd? No! I had not the heart to do that. Sit
down, and write home, and by telling them how miserable I was, render
them unhappy too?--that was worst of all. At length I found a book, and
began reading as it were mechanically, but so little was I able to fix
my attention that, had I been questioned at the end of the time as to
the subject of the work I had been ~24~~perusing, I should have been
utterly at a loss for an answer. I had fairly given it up as hopeless,
and closed the book, when I heard footsteps in the passage, followed by
the sudden apparition of the ever-smiling Mr. Frederick Coleman, who,
closing the door after him, accosted me as follows:--

“What, Fairlegh, all in the downs, old fellow?--‘never say die!’--come,
be jolly--look at me”.

As he said this I involuntarily raised my eyes to his features, and
certainly if ever there were a face formed for banishing blue devils by
a glance, it was his. It was a round face, not remarkable for beauty
of outline, inasmuch as it bore a strong resemblance to that of the
gentleman on the blue China plates, in two pigtails and a petticoat,
who appears to pass a mild ornithological and botanical existence in
studying intently certain fishy-looking birds, and a cannon-ball tree,
which form the leading feature of the landscape in his vicinity. With
regard to expression, however, Coleman had a decided advantage over
the Chinese horticulturist, for, whereas the countenance of the latter
gentleman expresses (if indeed it can be said to express anything) only
meek astonishment, Coleman’s small black eyes danced and sparkled with
such a spirit of mischief and devilry, while such a fund of merriment,
and, as it now for the first time struck me, of good-nature also, lurked
about the corners of his mouth, that it seemed impossible to look at him
without feeling that there was something contagious in his hilarity.

“Why,” said I, “everything here is so new to me, so entirely different
from all I have been accustomed to before, and the unkind--that is,
the odd way in which Lawless and the rest of you seem to behave to me,
treating me as if you thought I was either a fool or a baby--it all
seems so strange, that I confess I am not over-happy.”

“Precious odd if you were, I think,” replied Coleman; “and it was a
horrid shame of me to hide your trousers as I did this morning. Oh! how
delightfully miserable you did look, as you stood shivering up in the
cold! I’m sorry for it now, but I’m such a chap for a bit of fun, that
if a trick like that comes into my head, do it I must. Oh! I get into no
end of scrapes that way! Why it was but the other day I put a piece
of cobbler’s wax on the seat of Mildman’s chair, and ruined his best
Sunday-going sit-upons; he knew, too, who did it, I’m sure, for the next
day he gave me a double dose of Euclid, to take the nonsense out of me,
I suppose. He had better mind what he’s at, though! I have got another
dodge ready for him ~25~~if he does not take care! But I did not mean to
annoy you: you behaved like a brick, too, in not saying anything about
it--I am really very sorry.”

“Never mind,” said I; “it’s all right again now: I like a joke as well
as anybody when I know it’s only fun; the thing I am afraid of now is,
that Dr. Mildman may think I wanted to deceive him, by pretending to be
ill, when I was not.”

“I daresay he has got a pretty good notion how it is,” said Coleman,
“but we’ll get Thomas to tell him what I was up to, and that will set it
all straight again.”

“That will be very kind indeed,” replied I; “but will not Dr. Mildman be
angry with you about it?”

“Not he,” said Coleman, “he never finds fault unless there’s real
necessity for it; he’s as good a fellow as ever lived, is old Sam, only
he’s so precious slow.”

“I am glad you like him, he seems so very kind and good-natured,” said
I, “just the sort of person one should wish one’s tutor to be. But about
Cumberland and Lawless; what kind of fellows are they when you come to
know them?”

“Oh, you will like Lawless well enough when he gets tired of bullying
you,” replied Coleman; “though you need not stand so much of that as I
was obliged to bear; you are a good head taller than I am--let’s look at
your arm; it would be all the better for a little more muscle, but that
will soon improve. I’ll put on the gloves with you for an hour or so
every day.”

“Put on the gloves!” repeated I; “how do you mean?--what has that to do
with Lawless?”

“Oh, you muff! don’t you understand?--of course, I mean the
boxing-gloves; and when you know how to use your fists, if Lawless comes
it too strong, slip into him.”

“He must bully a good deal before I am driven to that,” replied I; “I
never struck a blow in anger in my life.”

“You will see before long,” rejoined Coleman; “but at all events there
is no harm in learning to use your fists; a man should always be able to
defend himself if he is attacked.”

“Yes, that’s very true,” observed I; “but you have not told me anything
of Cumberland. Shall I ever like him, do you think?”

“Not if you are the sort of fellow I take you to be,” replied he;
“there’s something about Cumberland not altogether right, I fancy;
I’m not very strait-laced myself, particularly if there’s any fun in a
thing, not so much so as I should be, I suspect; but Cumberland is too
bad even ~26~~for me; besides, there’s no fun in what he does, and then
he’s such a humbug--not straightforward and honest, you know. Lawless
would not be half such a bully either, if Cumberland did not set him
on. But don’t you say a word about this to any one; Cumberland would
be ready to murder me, or to get somebody else to do it for him--that’s
more in his way.”

“Do not fear my repeating anything told me in confidence,” replied
I; “but what do you mean when you say there’s something wrong about
Cumberland?”

“Do you know what Lawless meant by the ‘board of green cloth’ this
morning?”

“No--it puzzled me.”

“I will tell you then,” replied Coleman, sinking his voice almost to a
whisper--“the billiard table!”

After telling me this, Coleman, evidently fearing to commit himself
further with one of whom he knew so little, turned the conversation,
and, finding it still wanted more than an hour to dinner, proposed that
we should take a stroll along the shore together. In the course of
our walk I acquired the additional information that another pupil was
expected in a few days--the only son of Sir John Oaklands, a baronet of
large fortune in Hertfordshire; and that an acquaintance of Coleman’s,
who knew him, said he was a capital fellow, but very odd--though in what
the oddity consisted did not appear. Moreover, Coleman confirmed me in
my preconceived idea, that Mullins’s genius lay at present chiefly in
the eating, drinking, and sleeping line--adding that, in his opinion,
he bore a striking resemblance to those somewhat dissimilar articles, a
muff and a spoon. In converse such as this, the time slipped away, till
we suddenly discovered that we had only a quarter of an hour left
in which to walk back to Langdale Terrace, and prepare for dinner;
whereupon a race began, in which my longer legs gave me so decided an
advantage over Coleman that he declared he would deliver me up to
the tender mercies of the “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals,” for what he was pleased to call “an aggravated case of
over-driving a private pupil”.

We had not more than five minutes left when we arrived at Dr. Mildman’s
door, Coleman affording a practical illustration of the truth of
the aphorism, that “it is the pace that kills”; so that Thomas’s
injunction, “Look sharp, gentlemen,” was scarcely necessary to induce
us to rush upstairs two steps at a time. In the same hurry I entered
my bedroom, without observing that the door was standing ajar rather
suspiciously, for which piece of inattention I ~27~~was rewarded by a
deluge of water, which wetted me from head to foot, and a violent blow
on the shoulder, which stretched me on the ground in the midst of a
puddle. That I may not keep the reader in suspense I will at once inform
him that I was indebted for this agreeable surprise to the kindness
and skill of Lawless, who, having returned from his pigeon-match
half-an-hour sooner than was necessary, had devoted it to the
construction of what he called a “booby trap,” which ingenious piece of
mechanism was arranged in the following manner: The victim’s room-door
was placed ajar, and upon the top thereof a Greek Lexicon, or any other
equally ponderous volume, was carefully balanced, and upon this was set
in its turn a jug of water. If all these were properly adjusted, the
catastrophe above described was certain to ensue when the door was
opened.

[Illustration: page27 Caught in a Trap]

“Fairly caught, by Jove,” cried Lawless, who had been on the watch.

“By Jupiter Pluvius, you should have said,” joined in Coleman, helping
me up again; for so sudden and unexpected had been the shock that I
had remained for a moment just as I had fallen, with a kind of vague
expectation that the roof of the house would come down upon me.

“I suppose I have to thank you for that,” said I, turning to Lawless.

“Pray, don’t mention it, Pinafore,” was the answer; “what little trouble
I had in making the arrangement, I can assure you, was quite repaid by
its success.”

“I’ll certainly put on the gloves to-morrow,” whispered I to Coleman--to
which he replied by a sympathetic wink, adding:--

“And now I think you had better get ready, more particularly as you
will have to find out ‘how to dress _jugged hair_,’ as the cookery-books
say”.

By dint of almost superhuman exertions I did just contrive to get down
in time for dinner, though my unfortunate “jugged hair,” which was
anything but dry, must have presented rather a singular appearance. In
the course of dinner Dr. Mildman told us that we should have the whole
of the next day to ourselves, as he was obliged to go to London on
business, and should not return till the middle of the day following--an
announcement which seemed to afford great satisfaction to his hearers,
despite an attempt made by Cumberland to keep up appearances, by putting
on a look of mournful resignation, which, being imitated by Coleman,
who, as might be expected, rather overdid the thing, failed most
signally. ~28~~



CHAPTER IV -- WHEREIN IS COMMENCED THE ADVENTURE OF THE MACINTOSH, AND
OTHER MATTERS

          “How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds,
          Makes ill deeds done.”

          “Come, tailor, let us see’t;

          Oh! mercy.... What masking stuff is here?

          What’s this? a sleeve?”

          “Disguise, I see; thou art a wickedness
          Wherein the pregnant enemy does much.”

          “A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!”
           --Shakspeare.

ON returning to the pupils’ room Lawless commenced (to my great delight,
as I thereby enjoyed a complete immunity from his somewhat troublesome
attentions) a full, true, and particular account of the pigeon-match, in
which his friend Clayton had, with unrivalled skill, slain a sufficient
number of victims to furnish forth pies for the supply of the whole
mess during the ensuing fortnight. At length, however, all was said that
could be said, even upon this interesting subject, and the narrator,
casting his eyes around in search of wherewithal to amuse himself,
chanced to espy my new writing-desk, a parting gift from my little
sister Fanny, who, with the self-denial of true affection, had saved up
her pocket-money during many previous months in order to provide funds
for this munificent present.

“Pinafore, is that desk yours?” demanded Lawless.

Not much admiring the _sobriquet_ by which he chose to address me, I did
not feel myself called upon to reply.

“Are you deaf, stupid? don’t you hear me speaking to you?--where did you
get that writing-desk?”

Still I did not answer.

“Sulky, eh? I shall have to lick him before long, I see. Here you,
what’s your name? Fairlegh, did your grand-mother give you that
writing-desk?”

“No,” replied I, “my sister Fanny gave it to me the day before I left
home.”

“Oh, you have got a sister Fanny, have you? how old is she, and what is
she like?”

“She is just thirteen, and she has got the dearest little face in the
world,” answered I, earnestly, as the recollection of her bright blue
eyes and sunny smile came across me.

~29~~“How interesting!” sighed Coleman; “it quite makes my heart beat;
you could not send for her, could you?”

“And she gave you that desk, did she?--how very kind of her,” resumed
Lawless, putting the poker in the fire.

“Yes, was it not?” said I, eagerly. “I would not have any harm happen to
it for more than I can tell.”

“So I suppose,” replied Lawless, still devoting himself to the poker,
which was rapidly becoming red-hot. “Have you ever,” continued he, “seen
this new way they have of ornamenting things? encaustic work, I think
they call it:--it’s done by the application of heat, you know.”

“I never even heard of it,” said I.

“Ah! I thought not,” rejoined Lawless. “Well, as I happen to understand
the process, I’ll condescend to enlighten your ignorance. Mullins, give
me that desk.”

“Don’t touch it,” cried I, bounding forward to the rescue; “I won’t
have anything done to it.”

[Illustration: page29 Ornamenting a Writing Desk]

My design was, however, frustrated by Cumberland and Lawless, who, both
throwing themselves upon me at the same moment, succeeded, despite
my struggles, in forcing me into a chair, where they held me, while
Mullins, by their direction, with the aid of sundry neckcloths, braces,
etc., tied me hand and foot; Coleman, who attempted to interfere in my
behalf, receiving a push which sent him reeling across the room, and a
hint that if he did not mind his own business he would be served in the
same manner.

Having thus effectually placed me _hors de combat_, Lawless took
possession of my poor writing-desk, and commenced tracing on the top
thereof, with the red-hot poker, what he was pleased to term a “design
from the antique,” which consisted of a spirited outline of that
riddle-loving female the Sphinx, as she appeared when dressed in
top-boots and a wide-awake, and regaling herself with a choice cigar! He
was giving the finishing touch to a large pair of moustaches, with which
he had embellished her countenance, and which he declared was the only
thing wanting to complete the likeness to an old aunt of Dr. Mildman’s,
whom the pupils usually designated by the endearing appellation of
“Growler,” when the door opened, and Thomas announced that “Smithson”
 was waiting to see Mr. Lawless.

“Oh yes, to be sure, let him come in; no, wait a minute. Here, you,
Coleman and Mullins, untie Fairlegh; be quick!--confound that desk,
how it smells of burning, and I have made my hands all black too. Well,
Smithson, have you brought the things?”

The person to whom this query was addressed was a ~30~~young man,
attired in the extreme of the fashion, who lounged into the room with
a “quite at home” kind of air, and, nodding familiarly all around,
arranged his curls with a ring-adorned hand, as he replied in a drawling
tone:--

“Ya’as, Mr. Lawless, we’re all right--punctual to a moment--always ready
‘to come to time,’ as we say in the ring”.

“Who is he?” whispered I to Coleman.

“Who is he?” replied Coleman; “why the best fellow in the world, to
be sure’. Not know Smithson, the prince of tailors, the tailor _par
excellence_! I suppose you never heard of the Duke of Wellington, have
you?”

I replied humbly that I believed I had heard the name of that
illustrious individual mentioned in connection with Waterloo and the
Peninsula--and that I was accustomed to regard him as the first man of
the age.

“Aye, well then, Smithson is the second; though I really don’t know
whether he is not quite as great in his way as Wellington, upon my
honour. The last pair of trousers he made for Lawless were something
sublime, too good for this wicked world, a great deal.”

During this brief conversation Smithson had been engaged in extricating
a somewhat voluminous garment from the interior of a blue bag, which a
boy, who accompanied him, had just placed inside the study-door.

“There, this is the new invention I told you about; a man named
Macintosh hit upon it. Now, with this coat on, you might stand under a
water-fall without getting even damp. Try it on, Mr. Lawless; just the
thing, eh, gents?”

Our curiosity being roused by this panegyric, we gathered round Lawless
to examine the garment which had called it forth. Such of my readers as
recollect the first introduction of Macintoshes will doubtless remember
that the earlier specimens of the race differed very materially in form
from those which are in use at the present day. The one we were now
inspecting was of a whity-brown colour, and, though it had sleeves like
a coat, hung in straight folds from the waist to the ankles, somewhat
after the fashion of a carter’s frock, having huge pockets at the side,
and fastening round the neck with a hook and eye.

“How does it do?” asked Lawless, screwing himself round in an insane
effort to look at the small of his own back, a thing a man is certain
to attempt when trying on a coat. “It does not make a fellow look like a
Guy, does it?”

~31~~“No, I rather admire the sort of thing,” said Cumberland.

“A jolly dodge for a shower of rain, and no mistake,” put in Coleman.

“It is deucedly fashionable, really,” said Smithson--“this one of yours,
and one we made for Augustus Flareaway, Lord Fitz-scamper’s son, the man
in the Guards, you know, are the only two out yet.”

“I have just got it at the right time then,” said Lawless; “I knew old
Sam was going to town, so I settled to drive Clayton over to Woodend, in
the tandem, to-morrow. The harriers meet there at eleven, and this will
be the very thing to hide the leathers, and tops, and the green cutaway.
I saw you at the match, by-the-by, Smithey, this morning.”

“Ya’as, I was there; did you see the thing I was on?”

“A bright bay, with a star on the forehead! a spicy-looking nag
enough--whose is it?”

“Why, young Robarts, who came into a lot of tin the other day, has just
bought it; Snaffles charged him ninety guineas for it.”

“And what is it worth?” asked Lawless.

“Oh! he would not do a dirty thing by any gent I introduced,” replied
Smithson. “I took young Robarts there: he merely made his fair profit
out of it; he gave forty pounds for it himself to a man who bred it,
only the week before, to my certain knowledge: it’s a very sweet thing,
and would carry him well, but he’s afraid to ride it; that’s how I was
on it to-day. I’m getting it steady for him.”

“A thing it will take you some time to accomplish, eh? A mount like that
is not to be had for nothing, every day, is it?”

“Ya’as, you’re about right there, Mr. Lawless; you’re down to every
move, I see, as usual. Any orders to-day, gents? your two vests will be
home to-morrow, Mr. Coleman.”

“Here, Smithson, wait a moment,” said Cumberland, drawing him on one
side; “I was deucedly unlucky with the balls this morning,” continued he
in a lower tone, “can you let me have five-and-twenty pounds?”

“What you please, sir,” replied Smithson, bowing.

“On the old terms, I suppose?” observed Cumberland.

“All right,” answered Smithson; “stay, I can leave it with you now,”
 added he, drawing out a leather case; “oblige me by writing your name
here--thank you.”

So saying, he handed some bank-notes to Cumberland, carefully replaced
the paper he had received from him in his pocket-book, and withdrew.

~32~~“Smithey was in great force to-night,” observed Lawless, as the
door closed behind him--“nicely they are bleeding that young ass Robarts
among them--he has got into good hands to help him to get rid of his
money, at all events. I don’t believe Snaffles gave forty pounds for
that bay horse; he has got a decided curb on the off hock, if I ever
saw one, and I fancy he’s a little touched in the wind, too and there’s
another thing I should say----”

What other failing might be attributed to Mr. Robarts’ bay steed
we were, however, not destined to learn, as tea was at this moment
announced. In due time followed evening prayers, after which we retired
for the night. Being very sleepy I threw off my clothes, and jumped
hastily into bed, by which act I became painfully aware of the presence
of what a surgeon would term “certain foreign bodies”--i.e., not, as
might be imagined, sundry French, German, and Italian corpses, but
various hard substances, totally opposed to one’s preconceived ideas of
the component parts of a feather-bed. Sleep being out of the question on
a couch so constituted, I immediately commenced an active search, in the
course of which I succeeded in bringing to light two clothes-brushes,
a boot-jack, a pair of spurs, Lemprière’s _Classical Dictionary_ and a
brick-bat. Having freed myself from these undesirable bed-fellows I soon
fell asleep, and passed (as it seemed to me) the whole night in dreaming
that I was a pigeon, or thereabouts, and that Smithson, mounted on the
top-booted Sphinx, was inciting Lawless to shoot at me with a red-hot
poker.

As Coleman and I were standing at the window of the pupils’ room, about
ten o’clock on the following morning, watching the vehicle destined to
convey Dr. Mildman to the coach-office, Lawless made his appearance,
prepared for his expedition, with his hunting-costume effectually
concealed under the new Macintosh.

“Isn’t Mildman gone yet? Deuce take it, what a time he is! I ought to be
off--I’m too late already!”

“They have not even put his carpet-bag in yet,” said I.

“Well, I shall make a bolt, and chance it about his seeing me,”
 exclaimed Lawless; “he’ll only think I’m going out for a walk rather
earlier than usual, if he does catch a glimpse of me, so here’s off.”

Thus saying, he placed his hat upon his head, with the air of a man
determined to do or die, and vanished.

Fortune is currently reported to favour the brave, and so, to do her
justice, she generally does; still, at the best of times, she is but a
fickle jade, at all events she appeared determined to prove herself so
in the present instance; for ~33~~scarcely had Lawless got a dozen paces
from the house, before Dr. Mildman appeared at the front door with
his great coat and hat on, followed by Thomas bearing a carpet-bag and
umbrella, and, his attention being attracted by footsteps, he turned his
head, and beheld Lawless. As soon as he perceived him he gave a start of
surprise, and, pulling out his eye-glass (he was rather short-sighted),
gazed long and fixedly after the retreating figure. At length, having
apparently satisfied himself as to the identity of the person he was
examining, he replaced his glass, stood for a moment as if confounded by
what he had seen, and then turning, abruptly re-entered the house,
and shut his study-door behind him with a bang, leaving Thomas and the
fly-driver mute with astonishment. In about five minutes he re-appeared,
and saying to Thomas, in a stern tone, “Let that note be given to Mr.
Lawless the moment he returns,” got into the fly and drove off.

“There’s a precious go,” observed Coleman; “I wonder what’s in the wind
now. I have not seen old Sam get up the steam like that since I have
been here. He was not half so angry when I put Thomas’s hat on the peg
where he hangs his own, and he, never noticing the difference, put it
on, and walked to church in it, gold band and all.”

“I wouldn’t be Lawless for something,” observed I; “I wonder what the
note’s about?”

“That’s just what puzzles me,” said Coleman. “I should have thought
he had seen the sporting togs, but that’s impossible; he must have a
penetrating glance indeed if he could see through that Macintosh.”

“Lawless was too impatient,” said Cumberland; “he should have waited a
few minutes longer, and then Mildman would have gone off without knowing
anything about him. Depend upon it, the grand rule of life is to take
things coolly, and wait for an opportunity: you have the game in your
own hands then, and can take advantage of the follies and passions of
others, instead of allowing them to avail themselves of yours.”

“In plain English, cheat instead of being cheated,” put in Coleman.

“You’re not far wrong there, Freddy; the world is made up of knaves and
fools--those who cheat, and those who are cheated--and I, for one, have
no taste for being a fool,” said Cumberland.

“Nor I,” said Mullins; “I should not like to be a fool at all; I had
rather be----”

“A butterfly,” interrupted Coleman, thereby astonishing Mullins to such
a degree that he remained silent for ~34~~some moments, with his mouth
wide open as if in the act of speaking.

“You cannot mean what you say; you surely would not wish to cheat
people,” said I to Cumberland; “if it were really true that one must
be either a knave or a fool, I’d rather be a fool by far--I’m sure you
could never be happy if you cheated any one,” continued I. “What does
the Bible say about doing to others as you would have others do to you?”

“There, don’t preach to me, you canting young prig,” said Cumberland
angrily, and immediately left the room.

“You hit him pretty hard then,” whispered Coleman; “a very bad piece
of business happened just before I came, about his winning a lot of tin
from a young fellow here, at billiards, and they do say that Cumberland
did not play fairly. It was rather unlucky your saying it; he will
be your enemy from henceforth, depend upon it. He never forgets nor
forgives a thing of that sort.”

“I meant no harm by the remark,” replied I; “I knew nothing of his
having cheated any one; however, I do not care; I don’t like him, and
I’m just as well pleased he should not like me. But now, as my foreign
relations seem to be rapidly assuming a warlike character (as the
newspapers have it), what do you say to giving me a lesson in sparring,
as you proposed, by way of preparation?”

“With all my heart,” replied Coleman.

And accordingly the gloves were produced, and my initiatory lesson
in the pugilistic art commenced by Coleman’s first placing me in an
exceedingly uncomfortable attitude, and then very considerately knocking
me out of it again, thereby depositing me with much skill and science
flat upon the hearth-rug. This manouvre he repeated with great success
during some half hour or so, at the end of which time I began to
discover the knack with which it was done, and proceeded to demonstrate
the proficiency I was making, by a well-directed blow, which, being
delivered with much greater force than I had intended, sent Coleman
flying across the room. Chancing to encounter Mullins in the course, of
his transit he overturned that worthy against the table in the centre of
the apartment, which, yielding to their combined weight, fell over with
a grand crash, dragging them down with it, in the midst of an avalanche
of books, papers, and inkstands.

This _grand coup_ brought, as might be expected, our lesson to a close
for the day, Coleman declaring that such another hit would inevitably
knock him into the middle of next week, if not farther, and that
he really should not feel ~35~~justified in allowing such a serious
interruption to his studies to take place.

“And now, what are we going to do with ourselves?” asked I; “as this is
a holiday, we ought to do something.”

“Are you fond of riding?” inquired Coleman.

“Nothing I like better,” replied I; “I have been used to it all my life;
I have had a pony ever since I was four years old.”

“I wish I was used to it,” said Coleman. “My governor living in London,
I never crossed a horse till I came here, and I’m a regular muff at it;
but I want to learn. What do you say to a ride this afternoon?”

“Just the thing,” said I, “if it is not too expensive for my pocket.”

“Oh no,” replied Coleman; “Snaffles lets horses at as cheap a rate as
any one, and good ‘uns to go, too; does not he, Cumberland?”

“Eh, what are you talking about?” said Cumberland, who had just entered
the room; “Snaffles? Oh yes, he’s the man for horse flesh. Are you going
to amuse yourself by tumbling off that fat little cob of his again,
Fred?”

“I was thinking of having another try,” replied Coleman; “what do you
say, Fairlegh? Never mind the tin; I daresay you have got plenty, and
can get more when that’s gone.”

“I have got a ten-pound note,” answered I; “but that must last me all
this quarter: however, we’ll have our ride to-day.”

“I’ll walk down with you,” said Cumberland; “I’m going that way;
besides, it’s worth a walk any day to see Coleman mount; it took him ten
minutes the last time I saw him, and then he threw the wrong leg over,
so that he turned his face to the tail.”

“_Scandalum magnatum!_ not a true bill,” replied Coleman.

“Now, come along, Fairlegh, let’s get ready, and be off.” During our
walk down to Snaffles’ stables Cumberland (who seemed entirely to have
forgotten my _mal à propos_ remark) talked to me in a much more amiable
manner than he had yet done; and the conversation naturally turning upon
horses and riding, a theme always interesting to me, I was induced to
enter into sundry details of my own exploits in that line. We reached
the livery stables just as I had concluded a somewhat egotistical
relation concerning a horse which a gentleman in our neighbourhood had
bought for his invalid son, but which, proving at first too spirited,
I had undertaken to ride every day for a ~36~~month in order to get him
quiet; a feat I was rather proud of having satisfactorily accomplished.

“Good-morning, Mr. Snaffles; is Punch at home?” asked Coleman of a stout
red-faced man, attired in a bright green Newmarket coat and top-boots.

“Yes, sir. Mr. Lawless told me your governor was gone to town, so I kept
him in, thinking perhaps you would want him.”

“That’s all right,” said Coleman; “and here’s my friend, Mr. Fairlegh,
will want a nag too.”

“Proud to serve any gent as is a friend of yours, Mr. Coleman,” replied
Snaffles, with a bob of his head towards me, intended as a bow. “What
stamp of horse do you like, sir? Most of my cattle are out with the
harriers to-day.”

“Snaffles--a word with you,” interrupted Cumberland.

“One moment, sir,” said Snaffles to me, as he crossed over to where
Cumberland was standing.

“Come and look at Punch; and let’s hear what you think of him,” said
Coleman, drawing me towards the stable.

“What does Cumberland want with that man?” asked I.

“What, Snaffles? I fancy he owes a bill here, and I daresay it is
something about that.”

“Oh, is that all?” rejoined I.

“Why, what did you think it was?” inquired Coleman.

“Never mind,” I replied; “let’s look at Punch.”

And accordingly I was introduced to a little fat, round, jolly-looking
cob, about fourteen hands high, who appeared to me an equine counterpart
of Coleman himself. After having duly praised and patted him I turned to
leave the stable, just as Cumberland and Snaffles were passing the door,
and I caught the following words from the latter, who appeared rather
excited:--

“Well, if any harm comes of it, Mr. Cumberland, you’ll remember it’s
your doing, not mine”.

Cumberland’s reply was inaudible, and Snaffles turned to me, saying:--

“I’ve only one horse at home likely to suit you, sir; you’ll find her
rather high-couraged, but Mr. Cumberland tells me you won’t mind that”.

“I have been mentioning what a good rider you _say_ you are,” said
Cumberland, laying a slight emphasis on the say.

“Oh, I daresay she will do very well,” replied I. “I suppose she has no
vice about her.”

“Oh dear, no,” said Snaffles, “nothing of the sort.--James,” added
he, calling to a helper, “saddle the chestnut mare, and bring her out
directly.”

The man whom he addressed, and who was a fellow ~37~~with a
good-humoured, honest face, became suddenly grave, as he replied in a
deprecatory tone:--

“The chestnut mare? Mad Bess, sir?”

“Don’t repeat my words, but do as you are told,” was the answer; and the
man went away looking surly.

After the interval of a few minutes a stable door opposite was thrown
open, and Mad Bess made her appearance, led by two grooms. She was a
bright chestnut, with flowing mane and tail, about fifteen-and-a-half
hands high, nearly thorough-bred, and as handsome as a picture; but the
restless motion of her eye disclosing the white, the ears laid back at
the slightest sound, and a half-frightened, half-wild air, when any one
went up to her, told a tale as to her temper, about which no one in the
least accustomed to horses could doubt for an instant.

“That mare is vicious,” said I, as soon as I had looked at her.

“Oh dear, no, sir, quiet as a lamb, I can assure you. Soh, girl! soh!”
 said Snaffles, in a coaxing tone of voice, attempting to pat her; but
Bess did not choose to “soh,” if by “sohing” is meant, as I presume,
standing still and behaving prettily; for on her master’s approach she
snorted, attempted to rear, and ran back, giving the men at her head as
much as they could do to hold her.

“She’s a little fresh to-day; she was not out yesterday, but it’s all
play, pretty creature! nothing but play,” continued Snaffles.

“If you are afraid, Fairlegh, don’t ride her,” said Cumberland; “but I
fancied from your conversation you were a bold rider, and did not mind a
little spirit in a horse: you had better take her in again, Snaffles.”

“Leave her alone,” cried I, quickly (for I was becoming irritated by
Cumberland’s sneers, in spite of my attempt at self-control), “I’ll
ride her. I’m no more afraid than other people; nor do I mind a
spirited horse, Cumberland; but that mare is more than spirited, she’s
ill-tempered--look at her eye!”

“Well, you had better not ride her, then,” said Cumberland.

“Yes, I will,” answered I, for I was now thoroughly roused, and
determined to go through with the affair, at all hazards. I was always,
even as a boy, of a determined, or, as ill-natured people would call it,
obstinate disposition, and I doubt whether I am entirely cured of the
fault at the present time.

“Please yourself; only mind, I have warned you not to ride her if you
are afraid,” said Cumberland.

~38~~“A nice warning,” replied I, turning away;--“who’ll lend me a pair
of spurs?”

“I’ve got a pair here, sir; if you’ll step this way I’ll put them on for
you,” said the man whom I had heard addressed as “James,”--adding, in a
lower tone, as he buckled them on, “for Heaven’s sake, young gentleman,
don’t mount that mare unless you’re a first-rate rider.”

“Why, what’s the matter with her? does she kick?” inquired I.

“She’ll try and pitch you off, if possible, and if she can’t do that,
she’ll bolt with you, and then the Lord have mercy upon you!”

This was encouraging, certainly!

“You are an honest fellow, James,” replied I; “and I am much obliged to
you. Ride her I must, my honour is at stake, but I’ll be as careful as I
can, and, if I come back safe, you shall have half a crown.”

“Thank you, sir,” was the reply, “I shall be glad enough to see you come
back in any other way than on a shutter, without the money.”

Of a truth, the race of Job’s comforters is not yet extinct, thought I,
as I turned to look for Coleman, who had been up to this moment employed
in superintending the operation of saddling Punch, and now made his
appearance, leading that renowned steed by the bridle.

“Why, Fairlegh, you are not going to ride that vicious brute to be sure;
even Lawless won’t mount her, and he does not care what he rides in
general.”

“Nevermind about Lawless,” said I, assuming an air of confidence I was
very far from feeling; “she won’t eat me, I daresay.”

“I don’t know that,” rejoined Coleman, regarding Mad Bess with a look of
horror; “Cumberland, don’t let him mount her.”

“Nay, I can’t prevent it; Fairlegh is his own master, and must do as he
likes,” was the answer.

“Come, we can’t keep the men standing here the whole day,” said I to
Coleman; “mount Punch, and get out of my way as fast as you can, if you
are going to do so at all”--a request with which, seeing I was quite
determined, he at length unwillingly complied, and having, after one or
two failures, succeeded in throwing his leg over the cob’s broad back,
rode slowly out of the yard, and took up his station outside in order to
witness my proceedings.

“Now, then,” said I, “keep her as steady as you can for a minute, and as
soon as I am fairly mounted give her her head--stand clear there.”

~39~~I then took a short run, and, placing one hand on the saddle, while
I seized a lock of the mane with the other, I sprang from the ground and
vaulted at once upon her back, without the aid of the stirrup, a feat I
had learned from a groom who once lived with us, and which stood me in
good stead on the present occasion, as I thereby avoided a kick with
which Mad Bess greeted my approach. I next took up the reins as gently
as I could, the men let go her head, and after a little plunging and
capering, though much less than I had expected, her ladyship gave up
hostilities for the present, and allowed me to ride her quietly up
and down the yard. I then wished Cumberland (who looked, as I thought,
somewhat mortified) a good-afternoon, turned a deaf ear to the eulogies
of Mr. Snaffles and his satellites, and proceeded to join Coleman. As I
left the yard my friend James joined me, under the pretence of arranging
my stirrup leather, when he took the opportunity of saying:--

“She’ll go pretty well now you’re once mounted, sir, as long as you can
hold her with the snaffle, but if you are obliged to use the curb--look
out for squalls!!!”



CHAPTER V -- MAD BESS

          “Away, away, my steed and I,
          Upon the pinions of the wind,
          All human dwellings left behind,
          We sped like meteors through the sky,

          With glossy skin and dripping mane,
          And reeling limbs, and reeking flank,
          The wild steed’s sinewy nerves still strain
          Up the repelling bank.

          We gained the top, a boundless plain
          Spreads onward.

          My heart turned sick, my brain grew sore,
          And throbbed awhile, then beat no more,
          The sky spun like a mighty wheel,
          And a slight flash sprang o’er my eyes,
          Which saw no farther.”

          _Mazeppa_.

OUT of consideration for the excitable disposition of Mad Bess we took
our way along the least bustling streets we could select; directing our
course towards the outskirts of the town, behind which extended for some
miles a ~40~~portion of the range of hills known as the South Downs,
over the smooth green turf of which we promised ourselves a canter. As
we rode along Coleman questioned me as to what could have passed while
he was seeing Punch saddled, to make me determine to ride the chestnut
mare, whose vicious disposition was, he informed me, so well known, that
not only would no one ride her who could help it, but that Snaffles, who
was most anxious to get rid of her, had not as yet been able to find
a purchaser. In reply to this I gave him a short account of what had
occurred, adding my more than suspicion that the whole matter had been
arranged by Cumberland, in which notion he entirely agreed with me.

“I was afraid of something of this sort, when I said I was sorry you had
made that remark about cheating to him this morning--you see, he would
no doubt suppose you had heard the particulars of his gambling affair,
and meant to insult him by what you said, and he has done this out of
revenge. Oh, how I wish we were safely at home again; shall we turn back
now?”

“Not for the world,” said I--“you will find, when you know me better,
that when once I have undertaken a thing, I _will_ go through with
it--difficulties only make me more determined.”

“Ah!” said Coleman, “you should get somebody to write a book about
you, that is the kind of disposition they always give to the heroes of
novels, the sort of character that will go and run his head against a
brick wall to prove that it is the harder and thicker of the two--they
knock out their brains though, sometimes, in doing it, when they happen
to have any--it is very pretty to read about, splendid in theory, but I
much doubt its acting so well if you come to put it in practice.”

“You may laugh at me, if you please,” replied I; “but depend upon it,
a man of energy and determination will undertake great deeds, aye, and
perform them too, which your prudent, cautious character would have
considered impossibilities.”

“Perhaps it may be so,” was the reply; “I know I am not the sort of
stuff they cut heroes out of--woa, Punch! steady, old boy; holloa, what
ails him? this is getting serious.”

During this conversation we had been gradually leaving the town behind
us and approaching the downs, and had arrived at a point where the road
became a mere cart-track, and the open country lay spread for
miles before us. Our two steeds, which had up to the present time
~41~~conducted themselves with the greatest propriety, now began to show
signs of excitement, and, as the fresh air from the downs blew against
their nostrils, they tossed their heads, snorted, and exchanged the
quiet jog-trot pace at which we had been proceeding, for a dancing,
sidelong motion, which somewhat disturbed Coleman’s equanimity, and
elicited from him the expressions above recorded. The road at the same
time becoming uneven and full of ruts, we agreed to turn our horses’
heads, and quit it for the more tempting pathway afforded by the
green-sward. No sooner, however, did Punch feel the change from the
hard road to the soft elastic footing of the turf, than he proceeded to
demonstrate his happiness by slightly elevating his heels and popping
his head down between his forelegs, thereby jerking the rein loose in
Coleman’s hand; and, perceiving that his rider (who was fully employed
in grasping the pommel of his saddle in order to preserve his seat)
made no effort to check his vivacity, he indulged his high spirits still
further by setting off at a brisk canter.

“Pull him in,” cried I, “you’ll have him run away with you; pull at
him.”

Whether my advice was acted upon or not I was unable to observe, as
my whole attention was demanded by Mad Bess, who appeared at length
resolved to justify the propriety of her appellation. Holding her in by
means of the snaffle alone had been quite as much as I had been able to
accomplish during the last ten minutes, and this escapade on the part of
Punch brought the matter to a crisis. I must either allow her to follow
him, i.e., to run away, or use the curb to prevent it. Seating myself,
therefore, as firmly as I could, and gripping the saddle tightly with my
knees, I took up the curb rein, which till now had been hanging loosely
on the mare’s neck, and gradually tightened it. This did not, for a
moment, seem to produce any effect, but as soon as I drew the rein
sufficiently tight to check her speed, she stopped short, and shook
her head angrily. I attempted gently to urge her on--not a step except
backwards would she stir--at length in despair I touched her slightly
with the spur, and then “the fiend within her woke,” and proceeded to
make up for lost time with a vengeance. The moment the mare felt the
spur she reared until she stood perfectly erect, and fought the air with
her forelegs. Upon this I slackened the rein, and, striking her over the
ears with my riding-whip, brought her down again;--no sooner, however,
had her forefeet touched the ground than she gave ~42~~two or three
violent plunges, which nearly succeeded in unseating me, jerked down her
head so suddenly as to loosen the reins from my grasp, kicked viciously
several times, and, seizing the cheek of the bit between her teeth so
as to render it utterly useless (evidently an old trick of hers), sprang
forward at a wild gallop. The pace at which we were going soon brought
us alongside of Punch, who, having thoroughly mastered his rider,
considered it highly improper that any steed should imagine itself able
to pass him, and therefore proceeded to emulate the pace of Mad Bess.
Thereupon a short but very spirited race ensued, the cob’s pluck
enabling him to keep neck and neck for a few yards; but the mare was
going at racing speed, and the length of her stride soon began to tell;
Punch, too, showed signs of having nearly had enough of it. I therefore
shouted to Coleman as we were leaving them: “Keep his head up hill, and
you’ll be able to pull him in directly”. His answer was inaudible, but
when I turned my head two or three minutes afterwards I was glad to see
that he had followed my advice with complete success--Punch was standing
still, about half a mile off, while his rider was apparently watching my
course with looks of horror. All anxiety on his account being thus at
an end, I proceeded to take as calm a view of my own situation as
circumstances would allow, in order to decide on the best means of
extricating myself therefrom. We had reached the top of the first range
of hills I have described, and were now tearing at a fearful rate down
the descent on the opposite side. It was clear that the mare could not
keep up the pace at which she was going for any length of time: still
she was in first-rate racing condition, not an ounce of superfluous
flesh about her, and, though she must have gone more than two miles
already, she appeared as fresh as when we started. I therefore cast my
eyes around in search of some obstacle which might check her speed. The
slope down which we were proceeding extended for about a mile before us,
after which the ground again began to rise. In the valley between the
two hills was a small piece of cultivated land, enclosed (as is usual in
the district I am describing) within a low wall, built of flint-stones
from the beach. Towards this I determined to guide the mare as well as
I was able, in the hope that she would refuse the leap, in which case
I imagined I might pull her in. The pace at which we were going soon
brought us near the spot, when I was glad to perceive that the wall was
a more formidable obstacle than I had at first imagined, being fully
six feet high, with a ditch in ~43~~front of it. I therefore selected a
place where the ditch seemed widest, got her head up by sawing her mouth
with the snaffle, and put her fairly at it. No sooner did she perceive
the obstacles before her than, slightly moderating her pace, she
appeared to collect herself, gathered her legs well under her, and,
rushing forward, cleared wall, ditch, and at least seven feet of ground
beyond, with a leap like a deer, alighting safely with me on her back on
the opposite side, where she continued her course with unabated vigour.

We had crossed the field (a wheat stubble) ere I had recovered from my
astonishment at finding myself safe, after such a leap as I had most
assuredly never dreamt of taking. Fortunately there was a low gate on
the farther side, towards which I guided the mare, for though I could
not check, I was in some measure able to direct, her course. This time,
however, she either did not see the impediment in her way, or despised
it, as, without abating her speed, she literally rushed through the
gate, snapping into shivers with her chest the upper bar, which was
luckily rotten, and clearing the lower ones in her stride. The blow,
and the splintered wood flying about her ears, appeared to frighten
her afresh, and she tore up the opposite ascent, which was longer and
steeper than the last, like a mad creature. I was glad to perceive,
however, that the pace at which she had come, and the distance (which
must have been several miles), were beginning to tell--her glossy coat
was stained with sweat and dust, while her breath, drawn with short
and laboured sobs, her heaving flanks, and the tremulous motion of
her limbs, afforded convincing proofs that the struggle could not be
protracted much longer. Still she continued to hold the bit between her
teeth as firmly as though it were in a vice, rendering any attempt to
pull her in utterly futile. We had now reached the crest of the hill,
when I was not best pleased to perceive that the descent on the
other side was much more precipitous than any I had yet met with. I
endeavoured, therefore, to pull her head round, thinking it would be
best to try and retrace our steps, but I soon found that it was useless
to attempt it. The mare had now become wholly unmanageable; I could not
guide her in the slightest decree; and, though she was evidently getting
more and more exhausted, she still continued to gallop madly forwards,
as though some demon had taken possession of her, and was urging her
on to our common destruction. As we proceeded down the hill our speed
increased from the force of gravitation, till we actually seemed to
~44~~fly--the wind appeared to shriek as it rushed past my ears, while,
from the rapidity with which we were moving, the ground seemed to glide
from under us, till my head reeled so giddily that I was afraid I should
fall from the saddle.

[Illustration: page44 Mad Bess]

We had proceeded about half way down the descent when, on passing one
or two stunted bushes which had concealed the ground beyond, I saw, oh,
horror of horrors! what appeared to be the mouth of an old chalk-pit,
stretching dark and unfathomable right across our path, about 300 yards
before us. The mare perceives it when too late, attempts to stop, but
from the impetus with which she is going is unable to do so. Another
moment, and we shall be over the brink! With the energy of despair I
lifted her with the rein with both hands, and drove the spurs madly into
her flanks;--she rose to the leap, there was a bound! a sensation of
flying through the air! a crash! and I found myself stretched in safety
on the turf beyond, and Mad Bess lying, panting, but uninjured beside
me.

To spring upon my feet, and seize the bridle of the mare, who had also
by this time recovered her footing, was the work of a moment. I then
proceeded to look around, in order to gain a more clear idea of the
situation in which I was placed, in the hope of discovering the easiest
method of extricating myself from it. Close behind me lay the chalk-pit,
and, as I gazed down its rugged sides, overgrown with brambles and rank
weeds, I shuddered to think of the probable fate from which I had been
so almost miraculously preserved, and turned away with a heartfelt
expression of thanksgiving to Him who had mercifully decreed that the
thread of my young life should not be snapped in so sudden and fearful
a manner. Straight before me the descent became almost suddenly
precipitous, but a little to the right I perceived a sort of
sheep-track, winding downwards round the side of the hill. It was a
self-evident fact that this must lead somewhere, and, as all places were
alike to me, so that they contained any human beings who were able and
willing to direct me towards Helmstone, I determined to follow it. After
walking about half a mile, Mad Bess (with her ears drooping, and her
nose nearly touching the ground) following me as quietly as a dog, I was
rejoiced by the sight of curling smoke, and, on turning a corner, I
came suddenly upon a little village green, around which some half dozen
cottages were scattered at irregular distances. I directed my steps
towards one of these, before which a ~45~~crazy sign, rendered by age
and exposure to the weather as delightfully vague and unintelligible
as though it had come fresh from the brush of Turner himself, hung
picturesquely from the branch of an old oak.

The sound of horse’s feet attracted the attention of an elderly man, who
appeared to combine in his single person the offices of ostler, waiter,
and boots, and who, as soon as he became aware of my necessities,
proceeded to fulfil the duties of these various situations with the
greatest alacrity. First (as of the most importance in his eyes) he
rubbed down Mad Bess, and administered some refreshment to her in the
shape of hay and water; then he brought me a glass of ale, declaring it
would do me good (in which, by the way, he was not far from right). He
then brushed from my coat certain stains which I had contracted in my
fall, and finally told me my way to Helmstone. I now remounted Mad
Bess, who, though much refreshed by the hay and water, still continued
perfectly quiet and tractable; and, setting off at a moderate trot,
reached the town, after riding about eight miles, without any further
adventure, in rather less than an hour.

As I entered the street in which Snaffles’ stables were situated I
perceived Coleman and Lawless standing at the entrance of the yard,
evidently awaiting my arrival.

When I got near them Coleman sprang eagerly forward to meet me,
saying:--

“How jolly glad I am to see you safe again, old fellow! I was so
frightened about you. How did you manage to stop her?”

“Why, Fairlegh, I had no idea you were such a rider,” exclaimed Lawless;
“I made up my mind you would break your neck, and old Sam be minus a
pupil, when I heard you were gone out on that mare. You have taken the
devil out of her somehow, and no mistake; she’s as quiet as a lamb,”
 added he, patting her.

“You were very near being right,” replied I; “she did her best to break
my neck and her own too, I can assure you”

I then proceeded to relate my adventures, to which both Lawless and
Coleman listened with great attention; the former interrupting me every
now and then with various expressions of commendation, and when I had
ended he shook me warmly by the hand, saying:--

“I give you great credit; you behaved in a very plucky manner all
through; I didn’t think you had it in you; ‘pon my word, I didn’t. I
shall just tell Cumberland and ~46~~Snaffles a bit of my mind, too.
Here, Snaffles, you confounded old humbug, where are you?”

“Oh, don’t say anything to him,” said I; “it’s never worth while being
angry with people of that kind; besides, Cumberland made him do it.”

“That does not signify; he knew the danger to which he was exposing you,
perhaps better than Cumberland did. He had no business to do it, and
I’ll make him beg your pardon before we leave this yard. Here, you
ostler fellow, where’s your master?” shouted Lawless, as he turned into
the yard, where I soon heard the loud tones of his voice engaged in
angry colloquy with Snaffles, whose replies were inaudible.

In a short time the latter approached the spot where I was standing, and
began a very long and humble apology, saying that he should never have
thought of giving me the mare if he had not seen at a glance that I
was a first-rate rider, and much more to the same purpose, when Lawless
interrupted him with:--

“There, cut it short; Mr. Fairlegh does not want any more of your
blarney; and mind, if anything of the sort occurs again, I shall hire my
horses somewhere else, and take care to let all my friends know why I do
so. Now, let’s be off; it’s getting near dinner-time.”

So saying, he turned to leave the yard, a movement which, as soon as
I had found my friend James, returned his spurs, and given him the
promised half-crown, I proceeded to imitate: and that ended the episode
of Mad Bess.



CHAPTER VI -- LAWLESS GETS THOROUGHLY PUT OUT

~45~~

          ...” What ‘tis
          To Have a stranger come--
          It seems you know him not
          No, sir! not I.”
           --Southey.

          “Either forbear... or resolve you
          For more amazement: if you can behold it,
          I’ll make the statue move indeed.”
           --Winter’s Tale.

          “Since the youth will not be entreated, his own peril on his
          forwardness....   You shall try but one fall.”
           --_As You Like It_.


ON reaching home the door was opened by Thomas, who accosted us with:--

“Here’s such a bit of fun, gentlemen! The new pupil’s arrived, and ain’t
he a rum un, jest? Oh, I never!”

~47~~“Why, how do you mean? what’s he like, then?” asked Lawless.

“Oh, he’s very well to look at, only he’s as tall as a life-guardsman;
but he’s sich a free and easy chap, and ain’t he got a pretty good
notion of making himself comfortable, too!--that’s all. But come in,
gents, you’ll soon see what I mean. He chucked the flyman who brought
him here half a guinea, and when I asked him if he did not want the
change, for the fare was only half a crown, he merely said ‘Pooh!’ and
told me not to talk, for it tired him.”

With our feelings of curiosity somewhat excited by this account we
hastened into the pupils’ room, anxious to behold the individual who had
so greatly astonished Thomas.

Seated in Dr. Mildman’s arm-chair, and with his legs resting upon two
other chairs, so arranged as to form a temporary sofa, reclined a young
man, apparently about eighteen, though his length of limb, and the
almost herculean proportions of his chest and shoulders, seemed rather
to belong to a more advanced age. He raised his head as we entered,
disclosing a set of features which, in spite of an expression of languor
and indifference, must have been pronounced unusually handsome. His
complexion was a rich nut-brown; the high forehead, white as snow,
contrasting well with the dark hue of his hair, which, in short
clustering curls, harmonised well with the classical outline of his
head, reminding one involuntarily of the young Antinous. The short
curling upper-lip, and well-chiselled nostril, told a tale of pride and
resolution, strongly at variance with the mild sleepy appearance of the
large dark hazel eyes, to which the long silken lashes that shaded them
imparted an almost feminine expression. He did not attempt to alter his
position as we approached, but, merely turning his head, gazed at us
steadfastly for a moment, and then observed in a slow, half-absent
manner:--

“Oh, the other pupils, I suppose--how do you do, all of you?”

Lawless, who was foremost, was so much surprised, and so little pleased
at this nonchalant style of address, that he made no reply, but turning
on his heel proceeded to leave the room, in order to divest himself of
his hunting costume, muttering as he went, “Cool enough that, by Jove,
eh!”

The duty of doing the polite having thus devolved upon Coleman, he
winked at me by way of preliminary, and, ~48~~making a low bow in the
true dancing-master style, replied as follows:--

“Your penetration has not erred, Mr. Oaklands; we _are_ the other
pupils; and in answer to your obliging inquiries, I have much pleasure
in informing you that we are all in perfect health and very tolerable
spirits; and now, sir, in return for your kind condescension, allow me,
in the absence of my superiors, to express a hope that you are feeling
pretty comfortable--ahem!”

Having thus delivered himself, Coleman drew up his figure to its utmost
height, and, folding his arms with an air of pompous dignity, awaited an
answer.

“Oh yes, I’m comfortable enough,” was the reply; “I always am; only I’m
so done up, tired as a dog--the least thing fatigues me; I’m as weak as
a rat! Don’t they give you sofas here, Mr. What’s-your-name?”

“My name is Norval--I mean Coleman; my father divides his time between
feeding his flocks on the Grampian Hills, and fleecing his clients in
Lincoln’s Inn; though I must confess that ever since I can remember, he
has dropped the shepherd, and stuck to the solicitor, finding it pays
best, I suppose. Regarding the sofa, we have not one at present, but Dr.
Mildman went to town this morning; I did not till this moment know why.
But now I see it all--he was doubtless aware you would arrive to-day,
and, finding he could not get a sufficiently comfortable sofa for you
in Helmstone, he is gone to London on purpose to procure one. There is
still time to write by the post, if there is any particular way in which
you would like to have the stuffing arranged.”

This speech made Oaklands raise his head, and look Coleman so fixedly in
the face, with such a clear, earnest, penetrating gaze, that it appeared
as if he would read his very soul. Having apparently satisfied himself,
he smiled slightly, resumed his former attitude, and observed in the
same half-sleepy tone:--

“No, I’ll leave all that to him; I am not particular. What time do you
dine here?”

I replied (for the look I have described seemed to have had the
wonderful effect of silencing Coleman), “At five o’clock”.

“Very good; and I believe there’s a Mrs. Mildman, or some such person,
is there not? I suppose one must dress. Will you be so kind as to tell
the servant to bring some hot water, and to look out my things for me at
a quarter before five? I hate to be obliged to hurry, it tires one so.”

~49~~Having said this, he took up a book which was lying by his side,
and, murmuring something about “talking being so fatiguing,” soon became
buried in its contents.

Whilst I was dressing for dinner Lawless came into my room, and told me
that he had been speaking to Cumberland with regard to the way in which
he had behaved to me about the mare, and that Cumberland professed
himself exceedingly sorry that the affair had so nearly turned out a
serious one, declaring he meant it quite as a joke, never expecting that
when I saw the mare I should venture to mount her.

“So you see,” continued Lawless, “he merely wanted to have a good laugh
at you--nothing more. It was a thoughtless thing to do, but not so bad
as you had fancied it, by any means.”

“Well,” replied I, “as he says so, I am bound to believe him; but his
manner certainly gave me the impression that he intended me to ride her.
He went the right way to make me do so, at all events, by hinting that I
was afraid.”

“Ah! he could not know that by intuition, you see,” said Lawless; “he
thought, I daresay, as I did, that you were a mere molly-coddle, brought
up at your mother’s apron-string, and had not pluck enough in you to do
anything sporting.”

“It’s not worth saying anything more about,” replied I; “it will never
happen again: I am very much obliged to you, though.”

“Oh, that’s nothing,” said Lawless; “if Cumberland had really meant to
break your neck, I should have fallen out with him; that would have been
too much of a good thing: however, as it is it’s all right.”

And so the conversation ended, though I felt far from satisfied in my
own mind as to the innocence of Cumberland’s intentions.

On reaching the drawing-room I found the whole party assembled with the
exception of Mr. Henry Oaklands, who had not yet made his appearance.
At the moment of my entrance Mrs. Mildman, who had not seen the new
arrival, and who, like the rest of her sex, was somewhat curious, was
examining Coleman (who stood bolt upright before her, with his hands
behind him, looking like a boy saying his lesson) as to his manners and
appearance.

“Very tall, and dark hair and large eyes,” continued Mrs. Mildman; “why,
he must be very handsome.”

“He seems as if he were half-asleep,” observed I.

~50~~“Not always,” said Coleman; “did you see the look he gave me? he
seemed wide-awake enough then; I thought he was going to eat me.”

“Dear me I why he must be quite a cannibal! besides, I don’t think you
would be at all nice to eat, Mr. Coleman,” said Mrs. Mildman, with a
smile.

“Horrid nasty, I’m sure,” muttered Mullins, who was seated on the very
edge of his chair, and looked thoroughly uncomfortable, as was his wont
in anything like civilised society.

At this moment the door opened, and Oaklands entered. If one had doubted
about his height before, when lying on the chairs, the question was set
at rest the instant he was seen standing: he must have measured at
least six feet two inches, though the extreme breadth of his chest
and shoulders, and the graceful setting-on of his finely formed
head, together with the perfect symmetry and proportion of his limbs,
prevented his appearing too tall. He went through the ceremony of
introduction with the greatest ease and self-possession; and though he
infused rather more courtesy into his manner towards Mrs. Mildman
than he had taken the trouble to bestow on us, his behaviour was still
characterised by the same indolence and listlessness I had previously
noticed, and which indeed seemed part and parcel of himself. Having
bowed slightly to Cumberland and Lawless he seated himself very
leisurely on the sofa by Mrs. Mildman’s side, altering one of the
pillows so as to make himself thoroughly comfortable as he did so.
Having settled it to his satisfaction, he addressed Mrs. Mildman with:--

“What a very fatiguing day this has been; haven’t you found it so?”

“No, I can’t say I have,” was the reply; “I daresay it was warm
travelling: I’m afraid, in that case, Dr. Mildman will not have a very
pleasant journey--he’s gone to town to-day.”

“Ah, so that short, stout young gentleman” (the first two adjectives he
pronounced very slowly and distinctly) “told me.”

“Mr. Coleman,” insinuated Mrs. Mildman.

“Pleasant that,” whispered Coleman to me.

“Take care,” replied I, “he will hear you.”

“I’m afraid,” continued Oaklands, “the old gentleman will be quite
knocked up. I wonder he does not make two days’ journey of it.”

“Dr. Mildman is not so _very_ old,” observed Mrs. Mildman, in rather an
annoyed tone of voice.

~51~~“I really beg pardon, I scarcely know why I said it,” replied
Oaklands, “only I somehow fancied all tutors were between sixty and
seventy--very absurd of me. My father sent all kind of civil messages
to the o---- to Dr. Mildman, only it is so much trouble to remember that
sort of thing.”

At this point the conversation was interrupted by the announcement of
dinner. Oaklands (from whom I could not withdraw my eyes, so unlike
anything I had ever met with before was he) was evidently preparing to
hand Mrs. Mildman down to dinner, as soon as he could summon
sufficient energy to move, but, perceiving Cumberland approach her for
that purpose, he appeared to recollect himself, smiled slightly as if at
what he had been about to do, and, taking me by the arm, said:--

“Come, Master Curlylocks, you shall be my lady, and a very pretty girl
you would make, too, if you were properly bemuslined”; adding, as we
went downstairs together, “You and I shall be great friends, I’m sure;
I like your face particularly. What a lot of stairs there are in this
house! they’ll tire me to death.”

When we returned to the pupils’ room after dinner Lawless found, lying
on the table, the note Dr. Mildman had written in such a mysterious
manner before he left home in the morning, and proceeded to open it
forthwith. Scarcely had he glanced his eye over it, when he was seized
with so violent a fit of laughter, that I expected every moment to see
him fall out of his chair. As soon as he had in some measure recovered
the power of speaking he exclaimed:--

“Here, listen to this! and tell me if it is not the very best thing you
ever heard in your lives “. He then read as follows:--

“‘It is not without much pain that I bring myself to write this note;
but I feel that I should not be doing my duty towards your excellent
father, if I were to allow such extreme misconduct on the part of
his son to pass unreproved. I know not towards what scene of vulgar
dissipation you might be directing your steps, but the simple fact
(to which I was myself witness) of your leaving my house _in the low
disguise of a carter’s smock-frock_, affords in itself sufficient proof
that your associates must belong to a class of persons utterly unfitted
for the companionship of a gentleman. Let me hope this hint may be
enough, and that conduct so thoroughly disgraceful in one brought up as
you have been may not occur again. I presume I need scarcely say that,
in the event of your ~52~~disregarding my wishes upon this point, the
only course left open to me would be to expel you, a measure to which it
would deeply grieve me to be obliged to resort.’”

His voice was here drowned by a chorus of laughter from all present
who were aware of the true state of the case, which lasted without
interruption for several minutes. At length Lawless observed:--

“I’ll tell you what, it will be a death-blow to Smithson; a Macintosh
made by him to be taken for a smock-frock! he’ll never recover it.”

“Mildman might well look like a thunder-cloud,” said Coleman, “if that
was the notion he had got in his head; what a jolly lark, to be sure!”

“How do you mean to undeceive him?” inquired Cumberland.

“Oh, trust me for finding a way to do that,” replied Lawless; “‘the low
disguise of a carter’s smock-frock,’ indeed! What fun it would be if
he were to meet my governor in town to-day, and tell him of my evil
courses! why, the old boy would go into fits! I wonder what he means
by his ‘scenes of vulgar dissipation’? I daresay he fancies me playing
all-fours with a beery coalheaver, and kissing his sooty-faced wife; or
drinking alternate goes of gin-and-water with a dustman for the purpose
of insinuating myself into the affections of Miss Cinderella Smut, his
interesting sister. By Jove! it’s as good as a play!”

More laughter followed Lawless’s illustration of Dr. Mildman’s note.
The subject was discussed for some time, and a plan arranged for
enlightening the Doctor as to the true character of the mysterious
garment.

At length there was a pause, when I heard Coleman whisper to Lawless:--

“Thomas was pretty right in saying that new fellow knows how to make
himself comfortable, at all events”.

“He’s a precious deal too free and easy to please me,” muttered Lawless,
in an undertone; “I shall take the liberty of seeing whether his
self-possession cannot be disturbed a little. I have no notion of such
airs. Here, Mullins!”

And laying hold of Mullins by the arm, he pulled him into a chair by
his side, and proceeded to give him some instructions in a whisper. The
subject of their remarks, Harry Oaklands, who had, on re-entering the
room, taken possession of the three chairs near the window, was still
reclining, book in hand, in the same indolent position, apparently
enjoying the beauty of the autumnal sunset, without concerning himself
in the slightest degree about anything which might be going on inside
the room.

~53~~Lawless, whose proceedings I was watching with an anxious eye,
having evidently succeeded, by a judicious mixture of bullying and
cajollery, in persuading Mullins to assist him in whatever he was about
to attempt, now drew a chair to the other side of the window, and seated
himself exactly opposite to Oaklands.

“How tired riding makes a fellow! I declare I’m regularly baked, used
completely up,” he observed, and then continued, glancing at Oaklands,
“Not such a bad idea, that. Mullins, give us a chair; I don’t see why
elevating the extremities should not pay in my case, as well as in other
people’s.”

He then placed his legs across the chair which Mullins brought him, and,
folding his arms so as exactly to imitate the attitude of his opposite
neighbour, sat for some minutes gazing out of the window with a
countenance of mock solemnity. Finding this did not produce any effect
on Oaklands, who, having slightly raised his eyes when Lawless first
seated himself, immediately cast them upon the book again, Lawless
stretched himself, yawned, and once more addressed Mullins.

“Shocking bad sunset as ever I saw--it’s no go staring at that. I must
have a book--give me the Byron.”

To this Mullins replied that he believed Mr. Oaklands was reading it.

“Indeed! the book belongs to you, does it not?”

Mullins replied in the affirmative.

“Have you any objection to lend it to me?”

Mullins would be most happy to do so.

“Then ask the gentleman to give it to you--you have a right to do what
you please with your own property, I imagine?”

It was very evident that this suggestion was not exactly agreeable to
Mullins; and although his habitual fear of Lawless was so strong
as completely to overpower any dread of what might be the possible
consequences of his act, it was not without much hesitation that he
approached Oaklands, and asked him for the book, as he wished to lend it
to Lawless.

On hearing this Oaklands leisurely turned to the fly-leaf, and, having
apparently satisfied himself, by the perusal of the name written
thereon, that it really belonged to Mullins, handed it to him without a
word. I fancied, however, from the stern expression of his mouth and a
slight contraction of the brow, that he was not as insensible to their
impertinence as he wished to appear.

Lawless, who had been sitting during this little scene ~54~~with his
eyes closed, as if asleep, now roused himself, and saying, “Oh, you have
got it at last, have you?” began turning over the pages, reading aloud a
line or two here and there, while he kept up a running commentary on the
text as he did so:--

“Hum! ha! now let’s see, here we are--the ‘g-i-a-o-u-r,’--that’s a
nice word to talk about. What does g-i-a-o-u-r spell, Mullins? You don’t
know? what an ass you are, to be sure!--

          ‘Fair clime, whose every season smiles
          Benignant o’er those blessed isles’--

blessed isles, indeed; what stuff!--

          ‘‘Tis Greece, but living Greece no more;’

that would do for a motto for the barbers to stick on their pots of
bear’s grease!--

          ‘Clime of the unforgotten brave;’

_unforgotten_! yes, I should think so; how the deuce should they be
forgotten, when one is bored with them morning, noon, and night, for
everlasting, by old Sam, and all the other pastors and masters in the
kingdom? Hang me, if I can read this trash; the only poetry that ever
was written worth reading is ‘Don Juan’.”

He then flung the book down, adding:--

“It’s confoundedly cold, I think. Mullins, shut that window.”

This order involved more difficulties in its execution than might at
first be imagined. Oaklands, after giving up the book, had slightly
altered his position by drawing nearer the window and leaning his elbow
on the sill, so that it was impossible to shut it without obliging him
to move. Mullins saw this, and seemed for a moment inclined not to obey,
but a look and a threatening gesture from Lawless again decided him; and
with slow unwilling steps he approached the window, and laid his hand
on it, for the purpose of shutting it. As he did so, Oaklands raised his
head, and regarded him for a moment with a glance like lightning, his
large eyes glaring in the twilight like those of some wild animal, while
the red flush of anger rose to his brow, and we all expected to see him
strike Mullins to the ground. Conquering himself, however, by a powerful
effort of self-control, he folded his arms, and, turning from the
window, suffered Mullins to close it without interruption. Still I could
perceive, from ~55~~the distended nostril and quivering lip, that his
forbearance was almost exhausted.

“Ah, that’s an improvement,” said Lawless; “I was getting uncommonly
chilly. By the way, what an interesting virtue patience is; it is a
curious fact in Natural History that some of the lower animals share it
with us; for instance, there’s nothing so patient as a jack-ass----”

“Except a pig,” put in Mullins; “they’re uncommon--”

“Obstinate,” suggested Coleman.

“Oh, ah! it’s obstinate I mean,” replied Mullins. “Well, you know
donkeys are obstinate, like a pig; that’s what I meant.”

“Don’t be a fool,” said Lawless. “Deuce take these chairs, I cannot make
myself comfortable anyhow--the fact is, I must have three, that’s the
proper number--give me another, Mullins.”

“I can’t find one,” was the answer; “they are all in use.”

“Can’t find one! nonsense,” said Lawless; “here, take one of these; the
gentleman is asleep, and won’t object, I daresay.”

When Mullins was shutting the window his head had been so turned as
to prevent his observing the symptoms of anger in Oaklands, which
had convinced me that he would not bear trifling with much longer.
Presuming, therefore, from the success of his former attacks, that the
new pupil was a person who might be insulted with impunity, and actuated
by that general desire of retaliation, which is the certain effect
bullying produces upon a mean disposition, Mullins proceeded, _con
amore_, to fulfil Lawless’s injunction. With a sudden snatch he withdrew
the centre chair, on which Oaklands’ legs mainly rested, so violently
as nearly to throw them to the ground, a catastrophe which was finally
consummated by Lawless giving the other chair a push with his foot, so
that it was only by great exertion and quickness that Oaklands was able
to save himself from falling.

This was the climax; forbearance merely human could endure no
longer: Lawless had obtained his object of disturbing Harry Oaklands’
self-possession, and was now to learn the consequences of his success.
With a bound like that of an infuriated tiger, Oaklands leaped upon
his feet, and, dashing Mullins into a corner with such force that he
remained lying exactly where he fell, he sprang upon Lawless, seized him
by the collar of his coat, and after a short but severe struggle dragged
him to the ~56~~window, which was about eight feet from the ground,
threw it open, and taking him in his arms with as much ease as if he
had been a child flung him out. He then returned to the corner in which,
paralysed with fear, Mullins was still crouching, drew him to the spot
from whence he had removed the chair, placed him there upon his hands
and knees, and saying, in a stern voice, “If you dare to move till I
tell you, I’ll throw you out of the window too,” quietly resumed his
former position, with his legs resting upon Mullins’ back instead of a
chair.

[Illustration: page56 Lawless Finds his Level]

As soon as Coleman and I had in some degree recovered from our surprise
and consternation (for the anger of Oaklands once roused was a fearful
thing to behold), we ran to the other window, just in time to see
Lawless, who had alighted among some stunted shrubs, turn round and
shake his fist at Oaklands (who merely smiled), ere he regained his
feet, and rang the bell in order to gain admittance. A minute afterwards
we heard him stride upstairs, enter his bedroom, and close the door with
a most sonorous bang. Affairs remained in this position nearly a quarter
of an hour, no one feeling inclined to be the first to speak. At
length the silence was broken by Oaklands, who, addressing himself to
Cumberland, said:--

“I am afraid this absurd piece of business has completely marred the
harmony of the evening. Get up, Mr. Mullins,” he continued, removing his
legs, and assisting him to rise; “I hope I did not hurt you just now.”

In reply to this Mullins grumbled out something intended as a negative,
and, shambling across the room, placed himself in a corner, as far as
possible from Oaklands, where he sat rubbing his knees, the very image
of sulkiness and terror. Cumberland, who appeared during the whole
course of the affair absorbed in a book, though, in fact, not a single
word or look had escaped him, now came forward and apologised, in a
quiet, gentlemanly manner (which, when he was inclined, no one could
assume with greater success), for Lawless’s impertinence, which had
only, he said, met with its proper reward.

“You must excuse me, Mr. Cumberland, if I cannot agree with you,”
 replied Oaklands; “since I have had time to cool a little, I see the
matter in quite a different light. Mr. Lawless was perfectly right;
the carelessness of my manner must naturally have seemed as if I were
purposely giving myself airs, but I can assure you such was not the
case.”

He paused for a moment, and then continued, with a half-embarrassed
smile:--

~57~~“The fact is, I am afraid that I have been spoiled at home; my
mother died when I was a little child, and my dear father, having nobody
else to care about, thought, I believe, that there was no one in the
world equal to me, and that nothing was too good for me. Of course, all
our servants and people have taken their tone from him, so that I have
never had any one to say to me, ‘Nay,’ and am therefore not at all used
to the sort of thing. I hope I do not often lose my temper as I have
done this evening; but really Mr. Lawless appears quite an adept in the
art of ingeniously tormenting.”

“I am afraid you must have found so much exertion very fatiguing,”
 observed Coleman, politely.

“A fair hit, Mr. Coleman,” replied Oaklands, laughing. “No! those are
not the things that tire me, somehow; but in general I am very easily
knocked up--I am indeed--most things are so much trouble, and I hate
trouble; I suppose it is that I am not strong.”

“Wretchedly weak, I should say,” rejoined Coleman; “it struck me that
you were so just now, when you chucked Lawless out of the window like a
cat.”

“Be quiet, Freddy,” said Cumberland, reprovingly.

“Nay, don’t stop him,” said Oaklands; “I delight in a joke beyond
measure, when I have not the trouble of making it myself. But about this
Mr. Lawless, I am exceedingly sorry that I handled him so roughly; would
you mind going to tell him so, Mr. Cumberland, and explaining that I did
not mean anything offensive by my manner?”

“Exactly, I’ll make him understand the whole affair, and bring him down
with me in five minutes,” said Cumberland, leaving the room as he spoke.

“What makes Cumberland so good-natured and amiable to-night?” whispered
I to Coleman.

“Can’t you tell?” was the reply. “Don’t you see that Oaklands is a
regular top-sawyer, a fish worth catching; and that by doing this,
Cumberland places him under an obligation at first starting? Not a bad
move to begin with, eh? Besides, if a regular quarrel between Lawless
and Oaklands were to ensue, Cumberland would have to take one side or
the other; and it would not exactly suit him to break with Lawless, he
knows too much about him; besides,” added he, sinking his voice, “he
owes him money, more than I should like to owe anybody a precious deal,
I can tell you. Now, do you _twig_?”

“Yes,” said I, “I comprehend the matter more clearly, if that is what
you mean by _twigging_; but how shocking ~58~~it all is! why, Cumberland
is quite a swindler--gambling, borrowing money he can’t pay, and----”

“Hush!” interrupted Coleman, “here they come.”

Coleman was not mistaken: Cumberland had been successful in his embassy,
and now entered the room, accompanied by Lawless, who looked rather
crestfallen, somewhat angry, and particularly embarrassed and
uncomfortable, which, as Coleman whispered to me, was not to be wondered
at, considering how thoroughly he had been _put out_ just before.
Oaklands, however, appeared to see nothing of all this; but, rising from
his seat as they entered, he approached Lawless, saying:--

“This has been a foolish piece of business, Mr. Lawless; I freely own
that I am thoroughly ashamed of the part I have taken in it, and I can
only apologise for the intemperate manner in which I behaved.”

The frank courtesy with which he said this was so irresistible, that
Lawless was completely overcome, and, probably for the first time in
his life, felt himself thoroughly in the wrong. Seizing Oaklands’ hand,
therefore, and shaking it heartily, he replied:--

“I’ll tell you what it is, Oaklands--we don’t Mr. each other here--you
are a right good fellow--a regular brick, and no mistake; and as to
your shoving me out of the window, you served me quite right for my
abominable impertinence. I only wonder you did not do it ten minutes
sooner, that’s all; but you really ought to be careful what you do with
those arms of yours; I was like a child in your grasp; you are as strong
as a steam engine.”

“I can assure you I am not,” replied Oaklands; “they never let me do
anything at home, for fear I should knock myself up.”

“You are more likely to knock other people down, I should say,” rejoined
Lawless; “and, by the way, that reminds me--Mullins! come here, stupid,
and beg Mr. Oaklands’ pardon, and thank him for knocking you down.”

A sulky, half-muttered “shan’t,” was the only reply.

“Nay, I don’t want anything of that kind; I don’t indeed, Lawless; pray
leave him alone,” cried Oaklands eagerly.

But Lawless was not so easily quieted, and Oaklands, unwilling to
risk the harmony so newly established between them, did not choose to
interfere further; so Mullins was dragged across the room by the ears,
and was forced by Lawless, who stood over him with the poker (which, he
informed him, he was destined to eat red-hot if he became restive),
to make Oaklands a long and ~59~~formal apology, with a short form of
thanksgiving appended, for the kindness and condescension he had evinced
in knocking him down so nicely, of which oration he delivered himself
with a very bad grace indeed.

“And all went merry as a marriage-bell,” until we were summoned to
the drawing-room, where we were regaled with weak tea, thin bread and
butter, and small conversation till ten o’clock, when Mrs. Mildman
proceeded to read prayers, which, being a duty she was little accustomed
to, and which consequently rendered her extremely nervous, she did
not accomplish without having twice called King William, George, and
suppressed our gracious Queen Adelaide altogether.



CHAPTER VII -- THE BOARD OF GREEN CLOTH

          “What have we here--a man or a fish?”
           --The Tempest.

          ‘“The devil he baited a trap,
          With billiard balls and a cue;

          And he chose as marker,

          An imp much darker
          Than all the rest in hue.
          And he put on his Sunday clothes,
          And he played with saint and with sinner,

          For he’d found out a way

          To make the thing pay,
          And when losing, _He still was the winner!_”
           --_Old Legend_.

THE moment Dr. Mildman arrived at home the next day Lawless watched him
into his study, and, as soon as he was safely lodged therein, proceeded,
by the aid of sundry nails and loops previously placed there for the
purpose, to hang his Macintosh right across the passage, so that no
one could leave the study without running against it. He then ambushed
himself near the open door of the pupils’ room, where, unseen himself,
he could observe the effect of his arrangements. Coleman and I,
also taking a lively interest in the event, ensconced ourselves in a
favourable position for seeing and hearing. After waiting till our small
stock of patience was nearly exhausted, we were rewarded by hearing the
study-door slowly open, followed by the tread of a well-known footstep
in the passage. The next sound that reached ~60~~our ears was a quick
shuffling of feet upon the oil-cloth, as if the person advancing had
“shyed” at some unexpected object; then came the muttered exclamation,
“Bless my heart, what’s this?” And immediately afterwards Dr. Mildman’s
face, wearing an expression of the most thorough perplexity and
bewilderment, appeared cautiously peeping from behind the Macintosh.
Having apparently satisfied himself that no enemy was concealed there,
and he had nothing further to fear, but that the whole plot was
centred as it were in the mysterious garment before him, he set himself
seriously to work to examine it. First he pulled out his eye-glass and,
stepping back a pace or two, took a general survey of the whole; he then
approached it again, and taking hold of it in different places with
his hand, examined it in detail so closely that it seemed as if he were
trying to count the number of threads. Being apparently unwilling in so
difficult an investigation to trust to the evidence of any one sense,
he replaced his eye-glass in his waistcoat pocket, and began rubbing
a portion of the skirt between his hands; the sense of touch failing,
however, to throw any new light upon the subject, as a sort of forlorn
hope, he applied his nose to it. The result of this was an indescribable
exclamation, expressive of intense disgust, followed immediately by a
violent sneeze; then came a long pause, as though he were considering
of what possible use such a garment could be. At length a ray of light
seemed to break in upon the darkness, and once more laying hands on the
Macintosh he proceeded, after unhooking it from the nails on which it
hung, slowly and deliberately to put it on, with the back part foremost,
somewhat after the fashion of a child’s pinafore. Having at length
accomplished this difficult operation, he walked, or rather shuffled
(for his petticoats interfered greatly with the free use of his limbs),
up and down the hall, with a grave, not to say solemn, expression of
countenance. Appearing perfectly satisfied after one or two turns that
he had at last solved the enigma, he divested himself of the perplexing
garment, hung it on a peg appropriated to great-coats, and approached
the door of the pupils’ room.

By the time he entered Lawless was seated at his desk studying
Herodotus, while Coleman and I were deeply immersed in our respective
Euclids.

After shaking hands with Oaklands, and addressing some good-natured
remarks to each of us in turn, he went up to Lawless, and, laying his
hand kindly on his shoulder, said, with a half-smile:--

~61~~“I am afraid I have made rather an absurd mistake about that
strange garment of yours, Lawless; I suppose it is some new kind of
greatcoat, is it not?”

“Yes, sir, it is a sort of waterproof cloth, made with Indian rubber.”

“Indian rubber, is it? Well, I fancied so; it has not the nicest smell
in the world. I certainly thought it was a smock-frock, though, when I
saw you go out in it. Is not it rather awkward to walk in? I found it so
when I tried it on just now, and buttoning behind does not seem to me at
all a good plan.”

“No, sir, but it is meant to button in front; perhaps you put it on the
back part foremost.”

“Hem!” said Dr. Mildman, trying to look as if he thought such a thing
impossible, and failing--“it is a very singular article of dress
altogether, but I am glad it was not a smock-frock you went out in. I
hope,” continued he, turning to Oaklands, with an evident wish to change
the conversation, “I hope they took good care of you when you arrived
last night?”

This was turning the tables with a vengeance! Lawless became suddenly
immersed in Herodotus again.

“Oh! the greatest,” was the reply; “I had so much attention paid me
that I was almost _upset_ by it. I was not quite overcome, though,” he
continued, with a sly glance towards Lawless, “and Mrs. Mildman gave us
some very nice tea, which soon restored me.”

“Well, I’m glad they managed to make you comfortable among them,”
 observed Dr. Mildman, turning over his papers and books, preparatory to
beginning the morning’s study.

“Hadn’t you better ask him when he expects the sofa will be down?”
 suggested Coleman to Oaklands, in a whisper.

“No, you jackanapes,” was the reply, “and don’t you make me laugh when
that old gentleman is in the room, for there’s nothing more fatiguing
than the attempt to smother a laugh.”

Coleman’s only answer to this, if answer it could be called, was a
grimace, which had the desired effect of throwing Oaklands into a fit of
laughter, which he found it very hard labour indeed to stifle; nor had
his countenance quite recovered from the effects of his exertions, when
he was summoned to the Doctor’s table to undergo an examination similar
to that which had appeared so formidable to me a few days before; and
thus terminated the notable adventure of the carter’s frock, though I
~62~~observed that after a week or two had elapsed the Macintosh was
handed over to Thomas, and Smithson was called upon to tax his inventive
powers to furnish Lawless with a less questionably shaped garment of the
same material.

A few days after this, as I was walking with Coleman, he suddenly
exclaimed:--

“Well, of all the antediluvian affairs I ever beheld, the old fellow
now coming towards us is the queerest; he looks like a fossil edition
of Methuselah, dug up and modernised some hundred years ago at the very
least. Holloa! he’s going mad I believe; I hope he does not bite.”

The subject of these somewhat uncomplimentary remarks was a little old
gentleman in a broad-brimmed white hat, turned up with green, and a
black cloth spencer (an article much like a boy’s jacket exaggerated),
from beneath which protruded the very broad tails of a blue coat, with
rather more than their proper complement of bright brass buttons, while
drab gaiters and shorts completed the costume.

The moment, however, I beheld the countenance of the individual in
question, I recognised the never-to-be-mistaken mole at the tip of
the nose of my late coach companion to London. The recognition seemed
mutual, for no sooner did he perceive me than he stopped short, and
pointed straight at me with a stout silver-mounted bamboo which he held
in his hand, uttering a sonorous “Umph!” as he did so; to which somewhat
unusual mode of salutation may be attributed Coleman’s doubts as to his
sanity.

“Who’d ever have thought of meeting you at Helmstone, I should like to
know?” exclaimed he in a tone of astonishment.

“I was going to say the same thing to you, sir,” replied I; “I came down
here the very day on which we travelled together.”

“Umph! I came the next; well, and what are you doing now you are here?
Schoolmaster lives here, I suppose--tutor, you call him, though, don’t
you?”

I informed him of my tutor’s name and residence, when he continued:--

“Umph! I know him; very good man, too good to be plagued by a set of
tiresome boys--men, though, you call yourselves, don’t you? Umph! Is he
a man too?” he inquired, pointing to Coleman.

“I’ve been a man these seventeen years, sir,” replied Coleman.

~63~~“Umph, a man seventeen years ago! a baby, more likely: what does he
mean? what does he mean?”

I explained that he probably intended a pun upon his name, which was
Coleman.

“A pun, Umph? he makes puns, does he? funny boy, funny boy, I daresay.
How does the Doctor like that, though? Make puns to him, he’d _pun_ish
you, Umph? Stupid things puns--made one myself then, though--just like
me. Well, give the Doctor my compliments--Mr. Frampton’s--I live at No.
10 Castle Street,--he knows me, and ask him to let you come and dine
with me next week; bring funny boy too, if he likes to come;” and away
he posted, muttering “Umph! plaguing myself about a pack of boys, when I
might be quiet--just like me!”

We did not fail to deliver Mr. Frampton’s message to Dr. Mildman on our
return home, who willingly gave us the required permission, saying
that he knew but little of the old gentleman personally, though he had
resided for several years at Helmstone, but that he was universally
respected, in spite of his eccentricities, and was reported to have
spent great part of his life abroad. The next time I met my new friend
he repeated his invitation to Coleman and myself, and, on the day
appointed, gave us an excellent dinner, with quite as much wine as we
knew what to do with; amused and interested us with sundry well-told
anecdotes of adventures he had met with during his residence in foreign
lands, and dismissed us at nine o’clock with a tip of a guinea each, and
an injunction to come and see him again whenever we pleased.

For many succeeding weeks nothing of any particular moment occurred to
interrupt the even tenor of the new course of life I had entered upon.
The liking which Oaklands seemed to have taken to me at first sight soon
ripened into a warm friendship, which continued daily to increase on
my part, as the many noble and lovable qualities of his disposition
appeared, one by one, from behind the veil of indolence which, till one
knew him well, effectually concealed them. Coleman, though too volatile
to make a real friend of, was a very agreeable companion, and, if it
were ever possible to get him to be serious for a minute, showed that
beneath the frivolity of his manner lay a basis of clear good sense and
right feeling, which only required calling forth to render him a much
higher character than he appeared at present. For the rest, I was
alternately bullied and patronised by Lawless (though he never ventured
on the former line of conduct when Oaklands was present), while
Cumberland, outwardly ~64~~professing great regard for me, never let
slip an opportunity of showing me an ill-natured turn, when he could
contrive to do so without committing himself openly.

A more intimate acquaintance with Mullins only served to place beyond
a doubt the fact of his being a most unmitigated, and not over-amiable,
fool. The word is a strong one, but I fear that, if I were to use a
milder term, it would be at the expense of truth.

For my tutor I soon began to conceive the warmest feeling of regard and
esteem; in fact, it was impossible to know him well, and not to love
him. Simple as a child in everything relating to worldly matters,
he united the deepest learning to the most elevated piety, while the
thoroughly practical character of his religion, carried, as it was,
into all the minor details of everyday life, imparted a gentleness and
benignity to his manner which seemed to elevate him above the level of
ordinary mortals. If he had a fault (I suppose, merely for the sake
of proving him human, I must allow him one), it was a want of moral
courage, which made it so disagreeable to him to find fault with any of
us, that he would now and then allow evils to exist, which a little more
firmness and decision might have prevented; but, had it not been for
this, he would have been quite perfect, and perfection is a thing not to
be met with in this life.

Cumberland, after the eventful evening on which he acted as peacemaker
between Lawless and Oaklands, had persevered steadily in his endeavour
to ingratiate himself with the latter; and, by taking advantage of
his weak point, his indolence and dislike of trouble, had, at length,
succeeded in making Oaklands believe him essential to his comfort.
Thus, though there was not the smallest sympathy between them, a sort
of alliance was established, which gave Cumberland exactly the
opportunities he required for putting into execution certain schemes
which he had formed. Of what these schemes consisted, and how far they
succeeded, will appear in the course of this veracious history.

The winter months, after favouring us with rather more than our due
allowance of frost and snow, had at length passed away, and March,
having come in like a lion, appeared determined, after the fashion of
Bottom the weaver, “to roar that it would do any man’s heart good to
hear him,” and to kick up a thorough dust ere he would condescend to
go out like a lamb, albeit, in the latter state, he might have made
a shilling per pound of himself at any market, had he felt suicidally
inclined.

~65~~“This will never do,” said Oaklands to me, as, for the third time,
we were obliged to turn round and cover our eyes, to avoid being blinded
by the cloud of dust which a strong east wind was driving directly in
our faces; “there is nothing in the world tires one like walking against
a high wind. A quarter to three,” added he, taking out his watch. “I
have an appointment at three o’clock. Will you walk with me? I must turn
up here.”

I assented; and, turning a corner, we proceeded up a narrow street,
where the houses, in a great measure, protected us from the wind. After
walking some little distance in silence Oaklands again addressed me:--

“Frank, did you ever play at billiards?”

I replied in the negative.

“It’s a game I’ve rather a liking for,” continued he; “we have a table
at Heathfield, and my father and I often played when the weather was too
bad to get out. I used to beat the old gentleman easily though at last,
till I found out one day he did not half like it, so then I was obliged
to make shocking mistakes, every now and then, to give him a chance of
winning; anybody else would have found me out in a minute, for I am the
worst hand in the world at playing the hypocrite, but my father is the
most unsuspicious creature breathing. Oh! he is such a dear old man.
You must come and stay with us, Frank, and learn to know him and love
him--he’d delight in you--you are just the sort of fellow he likes.”

“There’s nothing I should like better,” answered I, “if I can get
leave from head-quarters; but why did you want to know if I played at
billiards?”

“Oh, I have been playing a good deal lately with Cumberland, who
seems very fond of the game, and I’m going to meet him at the rooms in
F----Street to-day; so I thought, if you knew anything of the game, you
might like to come with me.”

“Cumberland is a first-rate player, isn’t he?” asked I.

“No, I do not think so: we play very evenly, I should say; but we are to
have a regular match to-day, to decide which is the best player.”

“Do you play for money?”

“Just a trifle to give an interest to the game, nothing more,” replied
Oaklands; “our match to-day is for a five-pound note.”

I must confess that I could not help feeling extremely uneasy at the
information Oaklands had just given me. The recollection of what Coleman
had said concerning some gaming affair in which Cumberland was supposed
~66~~to have behaved dishonourably, combined with a sort of general
notion, which seemed to prevail, that he was not exactly a safe person
to have much to do with, might in some degree account for this; still
I always felt a kind of instinctive dislike and mistrust of Cumberland,
which led me to avoid him as much as possible on my own account. In the
present instance, when the danger seemed to threaten my friend, this
feeling assumed a vague character of fear; “and yet,” reasoned I with
myself, “what is there to dread? Oaklands has plenty of money at his
command; besides, he says they play pretty evenly, so that he must
win nearly as often as Cumberland; then, he is older than I am, and of
course must be better able to judge what is right or wrong for him to
do.” However, remembering the old adage, that “lookers-on see most of
the game,” I determined, for once, to accompany him; I therefore told
him that, though I could not play myself, it would be an amusement to me
to watch them, and that, if he had no objection, I would go with him, to
which proposition he willingly agreed. As we turned into F----Street we
were joined by Cumberland, who, as I fancied, did not seem best pleased
at seeing me, nor did the scowl which passed across his brow, on hearing
I was to accompany them, tend to lessen this impression. He did not,
however, attempt to make any opposition to the plan, merely remarking
that, as I did not play myself, he thought I should find it rather dull.
After proceeding about half way down the street Cumberland stopped in
front of a small cigar-shop, and, turning towards a private door,
on which was a brass plate with the word “Billiards” engraved on it,
knocked, and was admitted. Leading the way up a dark, narrow staircase,
he opened a green baize door at the top, and ushered us into a tolerably
large room, lighted by a sky-light, immediately under which stood the
billiard-table. On one side was placed a rack, containing a formidable
arrangement of cues, maces, etc., while at the farther end two small
dials, with a brass hand in the centre for the purpose of marking the
scores of the different players, were fixed against the wall. As we
entered, two persons who were apparently performing certain intricate
manoeuvres with the balls by way of practice immediately left off
playing and came towards us. One of these, a little man, with small keen
grey eyes, and a quick restless manner, which involuntarily reminded one
of a hungry rat, rejoiced in the name of “Slipsey,” and proved to be the
billiard-marker; his ~67~~companion was a tall stout personage, with
a very red face, rather handsome features, large white teeth, and a
profusion of bushy whiskers, moustaches, and imperial of a dark-brown
colour. His dress consisted of a blue military frock coat, which he wore
open, to display a crimson plush waistcoat and thick gold watch-chain,
while his costume was completed by a pair of black and white plaid
trousers, made in the extreme of the fashion, with a broad stripe down
the outside of the leg. This personage swaggered up to Cumberland,
and, with a manner composed of impertinent familiarity and awkwardness,
addressed him as follows:--

“How d’ye do, Mr. Cumberland? hope I see you well, sir. Terrible bad
day, gentlemen, don’t you think? dusty enough to pepper the devil, as we
used to say in Spain, hey? Going to have a touch at the rolley-polleys,
I suppose.”

“We shall be disturbing you, Captain Spicer,” said Cumberland, who, I
thought, had tact enough to perceive that his friend’s free and easy
manner was the reverse of acceptable to Oaklands.

“Not at all, not at all,” was the reply; “it was so terrible unpleasant
out of doors that, as I happened to be going by, I thought I’d look in
to see if there was anything up; and as the table was lying idle I got
knocking the balls about with little Slipsey here, just to keep one’s
hand in, you know.”

“Well, then, we had better begin at once,” said Cumberland, to which
Oaklands assented rather coldly.

As he was pulling off his greatcoat he whispered to me, “If that man
stays here long, I shall never be able to stand it: his familiarity is
unbearable; there is nothing tires me so much as being obliged to be
civil to that kind of people”.

“How is it to be?” said Cumberland, “whoever wins four games out of
seven is the conqueror, wasn’t that it?”

“Yes, I believe so,” was Oaklands’ reply.

“A very sporting match, ‘pon my life,” observed the Captain; “are the
stakes high?”

“Oh no! a mere nothing: five, or ten pounds, did we say?” inquired
Cumberland.

“Just as you like,” replied Oaklands, carelessly.

“Ten pounds, by all means, I should say; five pounds is so shocking
small, don’t you think? not worth playing for?” said the Captain.

“Ten let it be then,” said Cumberland; and after a few preliminaries
they began playing.

~68~~I did not understand the game sufficiently to be able to give
a detailed account of the various chances of the match, nor would it
probably greatly interest the reader were I to do so. Suffice it, then,
to state, that, as far as I could judge, Oaklands, disgusted by the
vulgar impertinence of the Captain (if Captain he was), thought the
whole thing a bore, and played carelessly. The consequence was, that
Cumberland won the first two games. This put Oaklands upon his mettle,
and he won the third and fourth; the fifth was hardly contested,
Oaklands evidently playing as well as he was able, Cumberland also
taking pains; but it struck me as singular that, in each game, _his_
play seemed to depend upon that of his adversary. When Oaklands first
began Cumberland certainly beat him, but not by many; and, as he became
interested, and his play improved, so in the same ratio did Cumberland’s
keep pace with it. Of course, there might be nothing in this; the same
causes that affected the one might influence the other; but the idea
having once occurred to me, I determined to watch the proceedings still
more closely, in order, if possible, to make up my mind on the point.
After a very close contest Oaklands also won the fifth game; in the
sixth he missed a difficult stroke, after which he played carelessly,
apparently intending to reserve his strength for the final struggle, so
that Cumberland won it easily. Each had now won three games, and on the
event of the seventh depended the match. Again did Oaklands, who was
evidently deeply interested, use his utmost skill, and his play, which
certainly was very good, called forth frequent eulogiums from the
Captain, who offered to bet unheard-of sums on the certainty of his
winning (which, as there was no one in the room at all likely to accept
his offer, was a very safe and innocent amusement), and again, _pari
passu_, did Cumberland’s skill keep pace with his. After playing neck
and neck, till nearly the end of the game, Cumberland gained a slight
advantage, which produced the following state of affairs:--It was
Oaklands’ turn to play, and the balls were placed in such a position,
that by a brilliant stroke he might win the game, but it required great
skill to do so. If he failed, the chances were so much in Cumberland’s
favour as to render his success almost a certainty. It was an anxious
moment: for my own part, I felt as if I scarcely dared breathe, and
could distinctly hear the throbbing of my own heart, while the Captain,
after having most liberally offered to bet five hundred pounds to five
pence that he did it, remained silent and ~69~~motionless as a statue,
watching the proceedings, with his eye-glass screwed after some
mysterious fashion into the corner of his eye. And now, carefully and
deliberately, Oaklands pointed his cue--his elbow was drawn back for the
stroke--for the last time his eye appeared to measure and calculate
the precise spot he must strike to produce the desired effect--when
suddenly, and at the exact moment in which the cue struck the ball, a
sonorous sneeze from the rat-like billiard-marker resounded through
the room; as a necessary consequence, Oaklands gave a slight start and
missed his stroke. The confusion that ensued can “better be imagined
than described,” as the newspapers always say about the return from
Epsom. With an exclamation of anger and disappointment Oaklands turned
away from the table, while the Captain began storming at Slipsey, whom
he declared himself ready to kick till all was blue, for the trifling
remuneration of half a farthing. The marker himself apologised, with
great contrition, for his delinquency, which he declared was quite
involuntary, at the same time asserting that, to the best of his belief,
the gentleman had made his stroke _before_ he sneezed: this Oaklands
denied, and appealed to Cumberland for his opinion. After trying in
various ways to avoid giving a direct answer, and appealing in his turn
to Captain Spicer (who was so intensely positive that the sneeze had
preceded the stroke, that he was willing to back his opinion to any
amount), Cumberland very unwillingly owned that, if he was forced to
say what he thought, he believed Oaklands had made his stroke before the
sneeze caused him to start, but that it was a near thing, and he might
very possibly be mistaken. This was quite enough for Oaklands, who
declared that he was perfectly satisfied, and begged Cumberland to
play, which, with some apparent reluctance, he did, and, as was almost a
matter of certainty, proved the conqueror.

“‘Pon my life, in all my experience, I never knew a gentleman lose a
match in such a tremendously unfortunate way,” observed the Captain.
“I am certain that if you had not been flurried, Mr. Oaklands, sir, you
could have done the trick as clean as a whistle. Allow me to place the
balls as they were then--I know how they stood to a nicety--there,
that’s it to a demi-semi fraction; oblige me, sir, just as a personal
favour, by trying the stroke once more.”

Thus invoked, Oaklands approached the table, and, without a moment’s
deliberation, struck the ball, and succeeded in doing with perfect ease
the very thing which a minute before would have won him ten pounds.

~70~~“There! I was super-certain you could do it; the match was yours,
sir, as safe as the bank, if that wretched little abortion there hadn’t
made that disgusting noise. Play him again, sir; play him again: Mr.
Cumberland’s a pretty player, a very pretty player; but you’re too
strong for him, Mr. Oaklands; it’s my firm conviction you’re too strong
for him.”

“What do you say to giving me my revenge, Cumberland?” asked Oaklands.

“Oh! _I_ can have no possible objection,” replied Cumberland, with
the slightest imaginable assumption of superiority in his tone, which
annoyed my ear, and which I felt sure would produce the same effect upon
Oaklands. The next game Oaklands won; and they continued to play the
rest of the afternoon with various success, and for what appeared to me
very high stakes. I calculated that, by the time they left off, Oaklands
must have lost more than thirty pounds; and yet, in spite of this, to a
superficial observer he appeared to be the better player of the two: he
certainly made the most brilliant strokes, but he also made blunders,
and failed now and then; while Cumberland’s score mounted up without
one’s exactly knowing how; he never seemed to be playing particularly
well, and yet there was always something easy for him to do; while, when
Oaklands had to play, the balls got into such awkward positions that it
appeared as if they were leagued against him.

Besides this, many things concurred to strengthen me in my pre-conceived
idea, that Cumberland was accommodating his play to that of Oaklands,
whom, I felt certain, he could have beaten easily, if he had been so
inclined. If this were really the case, the only conclusion one could
come to was, that the whole thing was a regularly arranged plot: the
object of which was to win as much as he could of Oaklands’ money. The
marker’s sneeze too, occurring so very opportunely for Cumberland’s
interest; and the presence of the Captain, who, by his eulogiums on
Oaklands’ skill, had excited him to continue playing, while, by his
observations and advice, he had endeavoured (whenever it was possible)
to raise the amount of the stakes; all this favoured my view of the
case. Still these were but suspicions; for I was utterly without proof:
and could I on mere suspicion tell Oaklands that he was a dupe, and
Cumberland a knave? No, this would never do; so I determined, as people
generally do when they are at their wits’ end, and can ~71~~hit on
nothing better, to wait and see what time would bring forth, and act
according to circumstances.

Should any of my readers think such penetration unnatural in a boy of
my age, brought up in a quiet country parsonage, let them remember that,
though utterly ignorant of the ways of the world, I was what is called
a quick, sharp boy; that I had been informed Cumberland was not a person
to be trusted, nay, that he was known to have cheated some young
man before; and that, moreover, my very unworldliness and ignorance
increased my suspicions, inasmuch as it seemed to me that playing
billiards, at a public table, for what I considered large sums of money,
was neither more nor less than gambling; and gambling I viewed in the
light of a patent twenty-devil-power man-trap, fresh baited (in the
present case with a billiard cue and balls) by the claws of the Evil
One himself; consequently, I was prepared to view everything that passed
with the greatest mistrust; and, in such a frame of mind, I must have
been blind not to have perceived something of what was going on.



CHAPTER VIII -- GOOD RESOLUTIONS

          “Blest are those
          Whose blood and judgement are so well commingled,
          That they are not a pipe for Fortune’s linger
          To sound what stop she please.”
           --Hamlet.

          “There’s a sweet little cherub that sits up aloft.”
           --Naval Song.

AS we were preparing to take our departure I observed the Captain
exchange glances with Cumberland, who turned to Oaklands, saying:--

“Don’t wait for me; I have one or two places to call at in my way back,
and I shall only make you late;--when you get home, give Thomas a hint
to keep back dinner five minutes or so--old Mildman won’t say anything
about it, if he fancies it’s the servant’s fault.”

To this Oaklands replied, “that it was rather a shame, but he’d see what
he could do for once”; and, with a very distant bow to the Captain, we
left the room. As soon as we were in the street Oaklands accosted me
with:--

“Well, Frank, what do you think of billiards?”

~72~~“Why,” replied I, after a moment’s thought, “as to the game itself,
it’s a very pretty game, and when you can play well, I have no doubt a
very interesting one; too much so, perhaps.”

“Too interesting! why, that’s the beauty of it; almost every other
game is a bore, and tires one, because one does not get sufficiently
interested to forget the trouble of it; what can you mean by too
interesting?”

“You won’t be angry at what I am going to say, will you?” said I,
looking up in his face.

“Angry with you, my dear boy! no fear of that; always say just what
you think to me, and, if it happens to be disagreeable, why it can’t be
helped; I would rather hear a disagreeable truth from a friend any day,
than have it left for some ill-natured person to bring out, when he
wants to annoy me.”

“All I meant to say was this,” I replied; “it seems to me that you get
so much excited by the game, that you go on playing longer, and for
higher stakes, than you intended to do when you began,--surely,”
 continued I, “it cannot be right to lose such sums of money merely for
amusement; is it not gambling?”

“I believe you are right, Frank,” replied Oaklands, after a short pause,
during which he had apparently been revolving the matter in his mind;
“when one comes to think seriously about it, it is a most unprofitable
way of getting rid of one’s money; you will scarcely credit it,”
 continued he, half-smiling, “but I declare to you I have been playing
almost every day for the last two months.”

“So long as that?” interrupted I, aghast.

“There or thereabouts,” said Oaklands, laughing at the tone of horror in
which I had spoken; “but I was going to say,” he continued, “that till
this moment--looking upon it merely as an amusement, something to keep
one from going to sleep over a newspaper in that vile reading-room--I
have never taken the trouble to consider whether there was any right or
wrong in the matter. I am very much obliged to you for the hint,
Frank; I’ll think it all over to-night, and see how much I owe Master
Cumberland, and I’ll tell you to-morrow what conclusion I have come to.
I hate to do anything in a hurry--even to think; one must take time to
do that well.”

We had now reached home, and, mindful of his promise, Oaklands begged
Thomas to use his interest with the cook, for the purpose of postponing
dinner for a few ~73~~minutes, in order to give Cumberland a chance of
being ready--to which Thomas replied:--

“Very well, sir, anything to oblige you, Mr. Oaklands,” muttering to
himself as he went off, “wonder what that chap Cumberland is up to now;
no good, I’ll be bound”.

In another minute we heard his voice in the lower regions, exclaiming:--

“I say, cook, mustn’t dish up for the next ten minutes; master ain’t
quite finished his next Sunday’s sermon; he’s got hitched just at
thirdly and lastly, and mustn’t be disturbed; not on no account”;--which
produced from that functionary the following pathetic rejoinder:--

“Then, it’s hall hup with the pigeon pie, for it will be burnt as black
as my blessed shoe by that time!”

As I was descending the stairs, ready to go out, the next day, Oaklands
called me into his room, and, closing the door, said:--

“Well, Fairlegh, I have thought over all you said yesterday,--made up my
mind--and acted upon it”.

“Bravo!” replied I, “I am so glad, for, whenever you will but rouse
yourself, you are sure to act more rightly and sensibly than anybody
else; but what have you done now? Let me hear all about it.”

“Oh, nothing very wonderful,” answered Oaklands; “when I came to look
at my pocket-book, I found I had lost, from first to last, above one
hundred and fifty pounds.”

“Good gracious!” cried I, aghast at the magnitude of the sum; “what will
you do?”

Oaklands smiled at my look of horror, and continued:--

“About one hundred pounds of this I still owe Cumberland, for, after my
ready money was gone, I merely set down on paper all I won or lost, as
he said I could pay him at any time, just as it suited me best; and I
thought I would wait till I got my next quarter’s allowance, pay him out
of that, and be very economical ever after. Well, when I saw what the
sums amounted to, I found this plan certainly would not answer, and that
I was getting into a mess; so I made up my mind to put an end to the
thing at once,--and sat down to write to my father, telling him I had
been playing billiards every day for some time past with a friend,--of
course I did not mention who,--and that, without being at all aware
of it, my losses had mounted up till I owed him one hundred pounds. I
mentioned at the same time that I had a pretty long bill at Smithson’s;
and then went on to say that I saw the folly, if not worse than folly,
of what I had been doing; and that I applied ~74~~to him, as the best
friend I had in the world,--and I am sure he is too, Frank,--to save me
from the consequences of my own imprudence.”

“I am very glad you did that; it was much the wisest thing,” interrupted
I.

“As soon as I had written my letter,” continued Oaklands, “I went
to Cumberland, and told him that I found I had been going on over
fast,--that I owned he was too good a player for me,--and that I
therefore did not mean to play any more--and would pay him as soon as I
received my father’s answer.”

“And what did he say to that?” inquired I.

“Why, he seemed surprised and a little annoyed, I fancied. He denied
being the best player, and begged I would not think of paying him yet,
saying that I had been unlucky of late, but that, if I would go on
boldly, luck was sure to change, and that I should most likely win it
all back again.”

“And you?”

“Oh! I told him that was the true spirit of gambling; that I did not
choose to owe so much to any man as I owed him, and that pay him I
would. Well then, he said, that if I did not like to trouble my father
about such a trifle, and yet was determined to pay him, it could be very
easily managed. I asked how? He hummed and ha’d, and at last said that
Smithson would advance me the money in a minute--that I should only have
to sign a receipt for it, and need not pay him for years--not till I
was of age, and not then if I did not like--that no one would be any the
wiser--and he was going on with more in the same style, when I stopped
him, by answering very abruptly, that such an arrangement was not to my
taste, and that I was not yet reduced be borrowing money of my tailor.”

“Quite right, I am so glad you told him that,” interposed I; “what _did_
he say then?”

“Something about not intending to offend me, and its being a thing done
every day.”

“By him perhaps,” said I, recollecting the scene I had witnessed soon
after my arrival.

“Why! what do you mean?” said Oaklands.

“I’ll tell you when you have done,” replied I; “but I want to know how
all this ended.”

“There was not much more. He tried to persuade me to go again to-day,
and play another match. I told him I was engaged to ride with you.
Then he looked as if he was going to be angry. I waited to see, and he
wasn’t, and so we parted.”

~75~~“And what think you of Cumberland now?” inquired I. “I can’t say
I altogether like the way in which he has behaved about this,” replied
Oaklands; “it certainly looks as if he would have had no objection to
win as much as he could from me, for he must have known all along that
he was the best player. It strikes me that I am well out of the mess,
and I have to thank you for being so too, old fellow.”

“Nay, you have to thank your own energy and decision; I did nothing
towards helping you out of your difficulties.”

“Indeed! if a man is walking over a precipice with his eyes shut, is it
nothing to cause him to open them, in order that he may see the dangers
into which the path he is following will lead him?”

“Ah! Harry, if you would but exert yourself, so as to keep your own eyes
open----”

“What a wide-awake fellow you would be!” interposed Coleman, who, after
having tapped twice, without succeeding in making himself heard (so
engrossed were we by the conversation in which we were engaged), had
in despair opened the door in time to overhear my last remark. “I say,
gents, as Thomas calls us,” continued he, “what have you been doing to
Cumberland to put him into such a charming temper?”

“Is he out of humour then?” inquired Oaklands. “I should say, _rather_,”
 replied Coleman, winking ironically; “he came into our room just now,
looking as black as thunder, and, as I know he hates to be spoken to
when he is in the sulks, I asked him if you were going to play billiards
with him to-day.”

Harry and I exchanged glances, and Coleman continued:--

“He fixed his eyes upon me, and stared as if he would have felt greatly
relieved by cutting my throat, and at last growled out, ‘No; that you
were going to ride with Fairlegh’; to which I replied, ‘that it was
quite delightful to see what great friends you had become’; whereupon
he ground his teeth with rage, and told me ‘to go to the devil for a
prating fool’; so I answered, that I was not in want of such an article
just at present, and had not time to go so far to-day, and then I came
here instead. Oh, he’s in no end of a rage, I know.”

“And your remarks would not tend to soothe him much either,” said I.
“Oaklands has just been telling him he does not mean to play billiards
again.”

“Phew!” whistled Coleman, “that was a lucky shot of mine; I fancied it
must have been something about ~76~~Oaklands and billiards that had gone
wrong, when I saw how savage it made him. I like to _rile_ Cumberland
sometimes, because he’s always so soft and silky; he seems afraid of
getting into a good honest rage, lest he should let out something he
does not want one to know. I hate such extreme caution; it always makes
me think there must be something very wrong to be concealed, when people
are so mighty particular.”

“You are not quite a fool after all, Freddy,” said Oaklands,
encouragingly.

“Thank ye for nothing, Harry Longlegs,” replied Coleman,--skipping
beyond the reach of Oaklands’ arm. A few mornings after this
conversation took place Oaklands, who was sitting in the recess of the
window (from which he had ejected Lawless on the memorable evening of
his arrival), called me to him, and asked in a low tone of voice whether
I should mind calling at the billiard-rooms when I went out, and paying
a month’s subscription which he owed there. He added that he did not
like going himself, for fear of meeting Cumberland or the Captain, as if
they pressed him to play, and he refused (which he certainly should do),
something disagreeable might occur, which it was quite as well to avoid.
In this I quite agreed, and willingly undertook the commission. While we
were talking Thomas came into the room with a couple of letters, one of
which he gave to Oaklands, saying, it had just come by the post, while
he handed the other to Cumberland, informing him that the gentleman who
brought it was waiting for an answer. I fancied that Cumberland changed
colour slightly when his eye fell upon the writing. After rapidly
perusing the note, he crushed it in his hand, and flung it into the
fire, saying:--

“My compliments to the gentleman, and I’ll be with him at the time he
mentions”.

“Well, this _is_ kind of my father,” exclaimed Oaklands, looking up with
a face beaming with pleasure; “after writing me the warmest and most
affectionate letter possible, he sends me an order for three hundred
pounds upon his banker, telling me always to apply to him when I want
money, or get into difficulties of any kind; and that if I will promise
him that this shall be the case, I need never be afraid of asking for
too much, as he should be really annoyed were I to stint myself.”

“What a pattern for fathers!” exclaimed Coleman, rubbing his hands. “I
only wish my old dad would test my obedience in that sort of way;--I’d
take care I would ~77~~not annoy him by asking for too little; he need
not fret himself on that account. Ugh!” continued he, with a look of
intense disgust, “it’s quite dreadful to think what perverted ideas he
has on the subject; he actually fancies it his business to _spend_ his
money as well as to make it; and as for sons, the less they have the
better, lest they should get into extravagant habits, forsooth! I
declare it’s quite aggravating to think of the difference between
people: a cheque for three hundred pounds from a father, who’ll be
annoyed if one does not always apply to him for money enough! Open the
window there! I am getting faint!”

“Don’t you think there’s a little difference between sons as well as
fathers, Master Fred, eh?” inquired Lawless. “I should say some sons
might be safely trusted with three-hundred-pound cheques; while others
are certain to waste two shillings, and misapply sixpence, out of every
half-crown they may get hold of.”

“Sir, I scorn your insinuations; sir, you’re no gentleman,” was the
reply, producing (as was probably intended) an attack from Lawless,
which Coleman avoided for some time by dodging round chairs and under
tables. After the chase had lasted for several minutes Coleman, when on
the point of being captured, contrived, by a master-stroke of policy,
to substitute Mullins in his place, and the affair ended by that worthy
being knocked down by Lawless, “for always choosing to interfere with
everything,” and being kicked up again by Coleman, “for having prevented
him from properly vindicating his wounded honour”.

“Who’s going near the Post-office, and will put a letter in for me?”
 asked Oaklands.

“I am,” replied Cumberland; “I’ve got one of my own to put in also.”

“Don’t forget it or lose it, for it’s rather important,” added Oaklands;
“but I need not caution you, you are not one of the harebrained sort; if
it had been my friend Freddy, now----”

“I’ll tell you what it is, Mr. Oaklands,” said Coleman, putting on an
air of offended dignity, in which, though very much exaggerated, there
was at the bottom the smallest possible spice of reality--a thing,
by the way, one may often observe in people who have a very strong
appreciation of the ridiculous, and who, however fond they may be of
doing absurd things for the sake of being laughed at, do not approve of
their buffooneries being taken for granted--“I’ll tell you what it is,
sir--you have ~78~~formed a most mistaken estimate of my character; I
beg to say that any affair I undertake is certain to be conducted in
a very sedate and business-like manner. My prudence I consider
unimpeachable; and as to steadiness, I flatter myself I go considerably
ahead of the Archbishop of Canterbury in that article. If I hear you
repeat such offensive remarks, I shall be under the painful necessity of
elongating your already sufficiently prolonged proboscis.”

“Come and try,” said Oaklands, folding his arms with an air of defiance.
Coleman, reckoning on his adversary’s dislike of exertion, and
trusting to his own extreme quickness and activity to effect his escape
scot-free, made a feint of turning away as if to avoid the contest, and
then, with a sudden spring, leaped upon Oaklands, and succeeded in just
touching his nose. The latter was, however, upon his guard, and while,
by seizing his outstretched arm with one hand, he prevented him from
attaining his object, he caught him by the coat-collar with the other,
and detained him prisoner.

“I’ve got you this time, at all events, Master Freddy; now what shall I
do with you, to pay you off for all your impertinence?” said Oaklands,
looking round the room in search of something suitable to his purpose.
“I have it,” continued he, as his eyes encountered the bookcase, which
was a large square-topped, old-fashioned affair, standing about eight
feet high, and the upper part forming a sort of glass-fronted closet,
in which the books were arranged on shelves. “Great men like you, who
go ahead of archbishops and so on, should be seated in high places.”
 So saying he lifted Coleman in his arms, with as much ease as if he had
been a kitten; and, stepping up on a chair which stood near, seated him
on the top of the bookcase, with his head touching the ceiling, and his
feet dangling about six feet from the ground.

“What a horrid shame!” said Coleman; “come help me down again, Harry,
there’s a good fellow.”

“I help you down!” rejoined Oaklands, “I’ve had trouble enough in
putting you up, I think; I’m a great deal too much tired to help you
down again.”

“Well, if you won’t, there’s nobody else can,” said Coleman, “unless
they get a ladder, or a fire-escape--don’t call me proud, gentlemen, if
I look down upon you all, for I assure you it’s quite involuntary on my
part.”

“A decided case of ‘up aloft’: he looks quite the cherub, does he not?”
 said Lawless.

~79~~“They are making game of you, Coleman,” cried Mullins, grinning.

“I hope not,” was the reply, “for in that case I should be much too
_high_ to be pleasant.”

“They ought to keep you there for an hour longer for that vile pun,”
 said Cumberland. “Is your letter ready, Oaklands, for I must be going?”

“It is upstairs, I’ll fetch it,” replied Oaklands, leaving the room.

“Well, as it seems I am here for life, I may as well make myself
comfortable,” said Coleman, and, suiting the action to the word, he
crossed his legs under him like a tailor, and folding his arms leaned
his back against the wall, the picture of ease.

At this moment there was a gentle tap at the door; some one said
“Come in,” and, without a word of preparation, Dr. Mildman entered the
apartment. Our surprise and consternation at this apparition may easily
be imagined. Cumberland and Lawless tried to carry it off by assuming
an easy unembarrassed air, as if nothing particular was going on; I felt
strongly disposed to laugh; while Mullins looked much more inclined to
cry; but the expression of Coleman’s face, affording a regular series
of “dissolving views” of varied emotions, was the “gem” of the whole
affair. The unconscious cause of all this excitement, whose back was
turned towards the bookcase, walked quietly up to his usual seat,
saying, as he did so:--

[Illustration: page79 The Doctor Makes a Discovery]

“Don’t let me disturb you--I only came to look for my eye-glass, which I
think I must have dropped”.

“I see it, sir,” said I, springing forward and picking it up; “how lucky
none of us happened to tread on it and break it!”

“Thank you, Fairlegh, it is an old friend, and I should have been sorry
to have any harm happen to it,” replied he, as he turned to leave the
room, without having once raised his eyes from the ground. Coleman, who
up to this moment had considered a discovery inevitable, gave me a sign
to open the door, and, believing the danger over, was proceeding to
relieve his feelings by making a hideous face at his retiring tutor,
when the bookcase, affected no doubt by the additional weight placed
upon it, suddenly gave a loud crack.

“Bless my heart,” said Dr. Mildman, looking up in alarm, “what’s that?
Gracious me!” continued he, starting back as his eyes encountered
Coleman, “there’s something alive up there! why it’s--eh?” continued he,
levelling his newly restored eye-glass at the object of his ~80~~alarm;
“yes, it certainly _is_ Coleman; pray, sir, is it usually your ‘custom
of an afternoon,’ as Shakspeare has it, to sit perched up there
cross-legged, like a Chinese mandarin? It’s a very singular taste.”

“Why, sir,” replied Coleman, for once completely taken aback, “you see I
didn’t--that is, I wasn’t--I mean, if I hadn’t--I shouldn’t.”

“Hum,” resumed Dr. Mildman, with whom he was rather a favourite, and
who, now that he had satisfied himself it was not some wild animal he
had to deal with, was evidently amused by Coleman’s embarrassment,
“that sentence of yours is not particularly clear or explanatory; but,”
 continued he, as a new idea occurred to him, “how in the world did you
get up there? you must have flown.”

“I didn’t get up, I was--that is, he----” stammered

Coleman, remembering just in time that he could not explain without
involving Oaklands.

“And how are you ever to get down again?” said Dr. Mildman.

“Has the pretty bird flown yet?” cried Oaklands, hastily entering the
room; when, observing the addition the party had received during
his absence, he started back, murmuring in an under tone, “The old
gentleman, by Jove!” Quickly recovering himself, however, he sprang upon
a chair, and, seizing Coleman in his arms, whisked him down with more
haste than ceremony; and going up to Dr. Mildman said respectfully,
“That was a bit of folly of mine, sir; I put him up there; I merely did
it for a joke, and I hadn’t an idea you would come in and find him”.

“Never mind,” replied Dr. Mildman, good-naturedly, “as you have
contrived to get him down again safely there is no harm done;” adding as
he left the room, “that young man is as strong as Hercules. I hope he’ll
never take it into his head to pop me up anywhere, for I am sure he
could do it if he chose.”



CHAPTER IX -- A DENOUEMENT

~81~~

          “Play not for gain but sport; who plays for more
          Than he can lose with pleasure, stakes his heart.”
           --Herbert.

          “If you are so bold as to venture a blowing-up, look closely
          to it! for the plot lies deadly deep... but of all things have
          a care of putting it in your pocket,... and if you can shun
          it, read it not;... consider well what you do, and look
          to yourself,... for there is danger and jeopardy in it.”--
          --Dr. Eachard.

IN the course of my walk that afternoon I called at the billiard-rooms
in F---- Street, in order to pay Oaklands’ subscription. On inquiring
for Mr. Johnson, the proprietor, I was told that he was engaged at
present, but that if I did not mind waiting for a few minutes, he would
be able to attend to me. To this I agreed, and was shown into a small
room downstairs, which, from its sanded floor, and a strong odour of
stale tobacco which pervaded it, was apparently used as a smoking-room.
It opened into what seemed to be a rather spacious apartment from which
it was divided by a glass half-door, across the lower panes of which
hung a green blind: this door, on my entrance, was standing slightly
ajar. The day being cold, there was a bright fire burning on the hearth;
near this I seated myself, and, seduced by its drowsy influence, fell
into a kind of trance, in which, between sleeping and waking, my mind
wandered away to a far different scene, among well-known forms and
familiar faces that had been strangers to me now for many a long day.
From this day-dream I was aroused by sounds, which, proceeding from the
adjoining apartment, resolved themselves, as I became more thoroughly
awake, into the voices of two persons apparently engaged in angry
colloquy.

“I tell you,” said a gruff voice, which somehow seemed familiar to
me--“I tell you it is the only chance for you; you must contrive to
bring him here again, and that without loss of time.”

“Must I again repeat that the thing is impossible?” was the reply, in
tones I knew but too well; “utterly impossible; when once his mind is
made up, and he takes the trouble to exert himself, he is immovable;
nothing can shake his determination.”

“And is this your boasted skill and management?” ~82~~rejoined the first
speaker; “how comes it, pray, that this overgrown child, who seemed the
other day to be held as nicely in leading-strings as need be--this raw
boy, whose hot-headedness, simplicity, and indolence rendered him as
easy a pigeon to pluck as one could desire; how comes it, I say, that he
has taken alarm in this sudden manner, so as to refuse to come here any
more? you’ve bungled this matter most shamefully, sir, and must take the
consequences.”

“That’s just the point I cannot make out,” replied the second speaker,
who, as the reader has probably discovered, was none other than
Cumberland; “it’s easy enough for you to lay it all to my mismanagement,
Captain Spicer, but I tell you it is no such thing; did I not
accommodate my play to his, always appearing to win by some accident, so
that the fool actually believed himself the better player, while he was
losing from twenty to thirty pounds a day? Didn’t I excite him, and lead
him on by a mixture of flattery and defiance, so that he often fancied
he was persuading me to play against my will, and was so ready to bet
that I might have won three times what I have of him, if you had not
advised me to go on quietly, and by degrees? Did not you refuse when I
wished you to take him in hand yourself, because you said I understood
him best, and managed him admirably? No, I believe that detestable young
Fairlegh is at the bottom of it: I observed him watching me with that
calm, steadfast glance of his, that I hated him for from the first
moment I saw him; I felt certain some mischief would arise from it.”

“Yes!” replied Spicer, “that was your fault too: why did you let the
other bring him; every fool knows that lookers-on see most of the game.”

“I was afraid to say much against it, lest Oaklands should suspect
anything,” rejoined Cumberland; “but I wish to Heaven I had now; I might
have been sure no good would come from it--that boy is my evil genius.”

“I have no time for talking about geniuses, and such confounded stuff,”
 observed Spicer, angrily, “so now to business, Mr. Cumberland: you are
aware you owe me two hundred pounds, I presume?”

Cumberland grumbled out an unwilling assent, to which he appended a
muttered remark not exactly calculated to enhance the Captain’s future
comfort.

“Like a good-natured fool,” continued Spicer, “I agreed to wait for my
money till you had done what you could with this Oaklands.”

“For which forbearance you were to receive fifty ~83~~pounds extra,
besides anything you could make out of him by private bets,” put in
Cumberland.

“Of course I was not going to wait all that time for my money for
nothing,” was the reply; “you have only as yet paid me fifty pounds, you
tell me you can’t persuade Oaklands to play again, so there’s nothing
more to be got from that quarter, consequently nothing more to wait for.
I must trouble you, therefore, to pay me the two hundred pounds at
once; for, to be plain with you, it won’t do for me to remain here any
longer--the air does not agree with my constitution.”

“And where on earth am I to get two hundred pounds at a minute’s
notice?” said Cumberland; “you are as well aware the thing is impossible
as I am.”

“I am aware of this, sir,” replied the Captain with an oath, “that I’ll
have my money; ay, and this very day too, or I’ll expose you--curse me
if I don’t. I know your uncle’s address: yes! you may well turn pale,
and gnaw your lip--other people can plot and scheme as well as
yourself: if I’m not paid before I leave this place, and that will be
by to-night’s mail, your uncle shall be told that his nephew is an
insolvent gambler; and the old tutor, the Rev. Dr. Mildman, shall have a
hint that his head pupil is little better than a blackleg.”

“Now listen to me, Spicer,” said Cumberland quietly; “I know you might
do what you have threatened, and that to me it would be neither more nor
less than ruin, but--and this is the real question--pray what possible
advantage (save calling people’s attention to the share, a pretty large
one, you have had in making me what I am) would it be to you?”

“To me, sir? eh! why, what do you mean, sir? your uncle is a man of
honour, and, of course, as such would pay his nephew’s debts for him,
more particularly when he knows that if he refuses to do so that nephew
will be sent to jail; yes, to jail, sir.”

“There; blustering is of no use with me, so you may save yourself that
trouble, Captain,” replied Cumberland; “as to sending me to jail, that
is absurd; you can’t arrest a minor for debt, and I shall not be of
age these two years. My uncle is, as you say, what is called a man of
honour, but he is not one of those over-scrupulous fools who will pay
any demand, however dishonest and unreasonable, rather than tarnish the
family honour, forsooth! No! he will pay what the law compels him, and
not a farthing more I leave you to decide whether the law is likely
to be of much use to you in the present ~84~~case. Now, listen to me;
though you cannot obtain the money by the means you proposed, you can,
as I said before, do me serious injury; therefore, if for no other
reason but to stop your mouth, I would pay you the whole if I could,
but I have not the power of doing so at present. What I propose then is
this--Oaklands will pay me, in a day or two, one hundred pounds; this
I will hand over to you at once, and will give you a written promise to
pay you the rest in the course of the next six months; for before that
time I must raise money somehow, even if I have to sell every farthing I
expect to come into to the Jews, in order to do it.”

“Won’t do,” was the reply; “the ready isn’t enough; I must leave this
country in a day or two, and I must have money to take with me; come,
one hundred and fifty pounds down, and I’ll let you off the other
fifty.”

“It’s impossible, I can get no other money yet, excepting the sum
Oaklands is to pay me.”

“Yes! and how the devil am I to be sure he will pay you directly; I’m
pretty certain the fool’s hard up himself; he hasn’t paid cash for a
month past.”

“If that’s all you’re afraid of, I can soon convince you to the
contrary; here’s a letter to his father’s banker, which I am going to
put into the post directly, with a cheque for three hundred pounds
in it; there, hold it up to the light, and you can see the figures
yourself.”

“By Jove! so it is,” exclaimed Spicer: “I say, Cumberland,” he
continued, and then the voices almost sunk into a whisper, so that
I could not catch more than a word here and there, but by the tone I
judged that the Captain was making some proposition, to which Cumberland
refused to agree.

At length I heard the former say, “Fifty pounds down, and a receipt in
full “.

Cumberland’s reply was inaudible, but when the Captain spoke again I
caught the following words: “Not the slightest risk, only you do as I
say, and----”

At this moment the outer door of the room in which I was sitting opened,
while the one communicating with the other apartment was violently
slammed to from the farther side, and I heard no more.

The newcomer was a little slipshod girl in dirty curlpapers, who
informed me that her master was sorry he could not see me that day as
he was particularly engaged, but if I would do him the favour of calling
to-morrow, at the same hour, he should be at leisure, etc. To this I
answered something, I scarcely knew what, and, seizing ~85~~my
hat, rushed out at the front door, to the great astonishment of the
curl-papered damsel, who cast an anxious glance at the pegs in the hall,
ere she could convince herself that I had not departed with more hats
and coats than legitimately belonged to me.

It was not until I had proceeded the length of two or three streets,
that I could collect my ideas sufficiently to form anything like a
just estimate of the extraordinary disclosures with which I had so
unexpectedly become acquainted, and no sooner had I in some measure
succeeded in so doing, than the puzzling question presented itself to
me, what line of conduct it would be advisable to adopt, in consequence
of what I had heard. I asked myself too, to begin with, what right I
had to make any use of a private conversation, which accident alone had
caused me to overhear? Would not people say I had behaved dishonourably
in having listened to it at all? But then again, by preserving
Cumberland’s secret, and concealing his real character from Oaklands,
should not I, as it were, become a party to any nefarious schemes he
might contemplate for the future? Having failed in one instance in his
attempt on Oaklands’ purse, would he not (having, as I was now fully
aware, such a strong necessity for money) devise some fresh plan, which
might succeed in its object, were Oaklands still ignorant of the real
character of the person he had to deal with? And in such case should
not I be answerable for any mischief which might ensue? Nay, for aught
I knew, some fresh villainy might be afloat even now; what plan could
Spicer have been urging, which Cumberland seemed unwilling to adopt, if
not something of this nature, and which might be prevented were Oaklands
made aware of all the circumstances?

This last idea settled the business. I determined to reveal everything
to Oaklands in confidence, and to be guided in my subsequent conduct by
his opinion. Having once arrived at this conclusion, the next thing
was to carry my intentions into effect with as little loss of time as
possible. I consequently started off at speed in a homeward direction,
and succeeded in reaching my destination in rather less than ten
minutes, having, at various times in the course of my route, run against
and knocked over no less than six little children, to the manifest
discomposure and indignation of as many nursery-maids, who evidently
regarded me as a commissioned agent of some modern Herod, performing my
master’s work zealously.

~86~~On arriving at home my impatience was doomed to be disappointed,
for Oaklands, who had gone out soon after I did, was not yet returned.
This delay, in the feverish state of anxiety and excitement in which
I was, appeared to me intolerable; and, unable to sit still, I kept
striding up and down the room, clenching my fists, and uttering
exclamations of impatience and vexation; which unusual conduct on my
part so astonished and alarmed the worthy Thomas that, after remaining
in the room till he had exhausted every conceivable pretext for so
doing, he boldly inquired whether “I did not feel myself ill, no how?”
 adding his hope, that “I had not been a-exhaling laughing gas, or
any sich rumbustical wegitable?” after which he favoured me with an
anecdote of “a young man as he know’d, as had done so, wot conducted
hisself more like a hideotic fool than a sanatory Christian, ever
after”. Perceiving at length that his attentions were rapidly
reducing me to the same state of mind as that of his friend, he very
considerately left me.

After half an hour of anxious expectation, in the course of which I must
have walked at least a mile or two over Dr. Mildman’s parlour carpet,
Oaklands and Lawless returned together. I instantly called the former
aside, and told him I wished to speak to him alone, as I had something
of importance to communicate. To this he replied that it was very near
dinner-time; but that, if I would come up to his room, I could talk
to him while he dressed. As soon as we were safely closeted together I
began my relation, but scarcely had I got beyond “You asked me to go to
the billiard-rooms, you know “--when a hasty footstep was heard upon the
stairs; some one knocked at the door, and immediately a voice, which I
knew to be that of Cumberland, asked to be let in, “as he had something
particular to say”.

“The plot thickens,” said Oaklands, as, without rising from his seat, he
stretched out an immense length of arm, and opened the door.

“Hear what I have to say first,” cried I; but it was too late, and
Cumberland entered, breathless, and with his usually sallow complexion
flushed with exercise and excitement.

“The most unfortunate thing”--he began; and stopping to draw breath, he
added, “I have run all the way from the post-office, as hard as my
legs would carry me--but I was going to tell you--as I went down, I met
Curtis of the --th, who told me their band was going to play in Park
Square, and asked me to go with him to hear it; and I’m ~87~~afraid
that, as I stood in the crowd, my pocket must have been picked, for when
I got to the post-office I found that my letter, my pocket handkerchief,
and I am sorry to say your letter also, had disappeared--so, remembering
you had told me your letter was of importance, I thought the best thing
I could do was to come home as fast as I could, and tell you.”

“By Jove,” exclaimed Oaklands, “that’s rather a bore though; there was
my father’s cheque for three hundred pounds in it; I suppose something
ought to be done about it directly.”

“Write a note to stop the payment; and--let me see--as it is too late
for the post now, if you will make a parcel of it, I’ll run down and
give it to the guard of the mail, begging him to deliver it himself as
soon as he gets to town--the cheque can’t be presented till to-morrow
morning, so that will be all right.”

“What a head you have for business, to be sure!” said Oaklands; “but why
should you have the trouble of taking it? I dare say Thomas will go with
it when we have done dinner, or I can take it myself.”

“Nay,” replied Cumberland, “as I have contrived to lose your letter, the
least I can do is to take the parcel; besides, I should like to speak to
the guard myself, so as to be sure there’s no mistake.”

While this was going on it may be imagined that my thoughts were not
idle. When Cumberland mentioned the loss of the letter my suspicions
that some nefarious scheme might be on foot began for the first time
to resolve themselves into a tangible form, but when I perceived his
anxiety to have the parcel entrusted to him, which was to prevent the
payment of the cheque, the whole scheme, or something nearly approaching
to it, flashed across me at once, and, without reflecting for a moment
on what might be the consequences of doing so, I said:--

“If Oaklands will take my advice, he will not entrust you with anything
else, till you can prove that you have really lost the letter, as you
say you have done”.

Had a thunderbolt fallen in the midst of us, it could scarcely have
produced greater confusion than did this speech of mine. Oaklands sprang
upon his feet, regarding me with the greatest surprise as he asked “if
I knew what I was saying?” while Cumberland, in a voice hoarse from
passion, inquired, “What the devil I meant by my insolence? what did I
dare to insinuate he had done with the letter, if he had not lost it?”

~88~~“I insinuate nothing,” was my reply; “but I tell you plainly that I
believe, and have good reason for believing, that you have not lost the
letter, but given it to your gambling friend and accomplice, Captain
Spicer, who, in return for it, is to give you a receipt in full for the
two hundred pounds you owe him, and fifty pounds down.” On hearing this
Cumberland turned as pale as ashes, and leaned on the back of a chair
for support, while I continued, “You look surprised, Oaklands, as well
you may; but when you hear what I have to tell, you will see that I do
not make this accusation without having good grounds to go upon “.

“I shall not stay here,” said Cumberland, making an effort to recover
himself, and turning towards the door, “I shall not remain here to be
any further insulted; I wish you good-evening, Mr. Oaklands.”

“Not so fast,” said Oaklands, springing to the door, and locking it; “if
all this be true, and Fairlegh would not have said so much unless he
had strong facts to produce, you and I shall have an account to settle
together, Mr. Cumberland; you will not leave this room till I know the
rights of the affair. Now, Frank, let us hear how you learned all this.”

“Strangely enough,” replied I; and I then gave him an exact account of
all that had passed at the billiard-rooms, repeating the conversation,
word for word, as nearly as I could remember it, leaving Oaklands
to draw his own inferences therefrom. During the whole of my recital
Cumberland sat with his elbows resting on the table, and his face buried
in his hands, without offering the slightest interruption, scarcely
indeed appearing aware of what was going on, save once, when I mentioned
the fact of the door between the two rooms being slightly open, when
he muttered something about “what cursed folly!” When I had finished my
account Oaklands turned towards Cumberland, and asked in a stern
voice “what he had to say to this statement?” Receiving no answer, he
continued: But it is useless, sir, to ask you: the truth of what
Fairlegh has said is self-evident--the next question is, What is to be
done about it?” He paused for a moment as if in thought, and then
resumed: “In the position in which I now stand, forming one of Dr.
Mildman’s household, and placed by my father under his control, I
scarcely consider myself a free agent. It seems to me, therefore, that
my course is clear; it is evidently my duty to inform him of the whole
affair, and afterwards to act as he may advise, Do you agree with me,
Frank?”

~89~~“It is exactly what I should have proposed, had you not mentioned
it first,” was my answer.

“For God’s sake, Oaklands, don’t,” exclaimed Cumberland, raising himself
suddenly; “he will write to my uncle--I shall be expelled--my character
lost--it will be utter ruin;--have pity upon me--I will get you back
your money, I will indeed, only don’t tell Mildman.”

“I have treated you up to the present time as a gentleman and a friend,”
 replied Oaklands; “you have proved yourself unworthy of either title,
and deserve nothing at my hands but the strictest justice; no one could
blame me were I to allow the law to take its course with you, as with
any other swindler, but this I shall be most unwilling to do; nothing
short of Dr. Mildman’s declaring it to be my positive duty will prevail
upon me. But our tutor ought to be informed of it, and shall: he is a
good, kind-hearted man, and if his judgment should err at all, you may
feel sure it will be on the side of mercy. Fairlegh, will you go down
and ask Dr. Mildman if I can speak to him on a matter of importance,
now, at once? you will find him in his study. Let me know when he is
ready, and we will come down; for,” added he, turning to Cumberland,
“I do not lose sight of you till this business is settled one way or
other.”

When I had told my errand Dr. Mildman, who looked a good deal surprised
and a little frightened, desired me (on receiving my assurance that the
business would not do as well after dinner) to tell Oaklands to come to
him immediately. To this Oaklands replied by desiring me to hold myself
in readiness for a summons, as he should want me presently. Then,
linking his arm within that of Cumberland, he half-led, half-forced, him
out of the room. In another minute I heard the study-door close behind
them.

“Now, Fairlegh,” said Dr. Mildman, when, in about a quarter of an hour’s
time, I had been sent for, “I wish you to repeat to me the conversation
you overheard at the billiard-room, as nearly word for word as you can
remember it.”

This I hastened to do; the Doctor listening with the most profound
attention, and asking one or two questions on any point which did not
at first appear quite clear to him. When I had concluded he resumed his
inquiries by asking whether I had seen the parties who were speaking. To
this I answered in the negative.

“But you imagined you recognised the voices?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Whose did you take them to be?”

~90~~“One I believed to be Cumberland’s, the other that of a Captain
Spicer, whom I had seen when I was there before.”

“How often have you been there?”

“Twice, sir; once about a week ago, and again to-day.”

“And have you the slightest moral doubt as to the fact of the persons
you heard speaking being Cumberland and this Captain Spicer?”

“Not the slightest; I feel quite certain of it.”

“That is all clear and straightforward enough,” observed Dr. Mildman,
turning to the culprit. “I am afraid the case is only too fully proved
against you; have you anything to say which can at all establish your
innocence?”

“It would be of no use if I were to do so,” said Cumberland, in a sullen
manner; “it is all a matter of assertion; you choose to believe what
they say, and if I were to deny it, you would not believe me without
proof, and how can I prove a negative?”

“But do you deny it?” inquired Dr. Mildman, regarding him with a clear,
scrutinising look. Cumberland attempted to speak, but, meeting Dr.
Mildman’s eye, was unable to get out a word, and turned away, concealing
his face in his handkerchief.

“This is a sad piece of business,” said Dr. Mildman; “I suppose you mean
to prosecute, Oaklands?”

“I shall be most unwilling to do so,” was the reply; “nor will I, sir,
unless you consider it my positive duty; I would rather lose the money
ten times over than bring such a disgrace upon Cumberland.”

“You are a kind-hearted fellow,” replied the Doctor; “it really is a
very difficult case in which to know how to act. As a general principle,
I am most averse to anything like hushing up evil.”

[Illustration: page90 The Doctor Expels and Pupil]

“For Heaven’s sake have pity upon me, Dr. Mildman,” cried Cumberland,
throwing himself on his knees before him; “I confess it all. I did allow
Spicer to keep the cheque; he threatened to expose me, and I did it to
escape detection; but promise you will not prosecute me, and I will tell
you where he may be found, so that something may be done about it yet. I
will pay anything you please. I shall come into money when I am of age,
and I can make some arrangement. I don’t care what I sacrifice, if
I have to dig to earn my bread, only do not disgrace me publicly.
Remember, I am very young, and oh! if you knew what it is to be tempted
as I have been! Oaklands, Fairlegh, intercede for me; think how you
~91~~should feel, either of you, if you were placed in my situation!”

“Get up, Mr. Cumberland,” observed Dr. Mildman, in a grave, impressive
manner; “it is equally needless and unbecoming to kneel to man for
forgiveness--learn to consider that position as a thing set apart and
sacred to the service of One greater than the sons of men--One, whom you
have indeed grievously offended, and to whom, in the solitude of your
chamber, you will do well to kneel, and pray that He who died to save
sinners may, in the fulness of His mercy, pardon you also.” He paused,
and then resumed: “We must decide what steps had better be taken to
recover your cheque, Oaklands; it is true we can send and stop the
payment of it--but if you determine not to prosecute, for Cumberland’s
sake, you must let off this man Spicer also, in which case it would be
advisable to prevent his presenting the cheque at all, as that might
lead to inquiries which it would be difficult to evade. You said just
now you knew where this bad man was to be found, Mr. Cumberland.”

“Yes, sir, if he is not at the billiard-rooms in F---- Street, his
lodgings are at No. 14, Richmond Buildings,” said Cumberland.

“Ay, exactly,” replied Dr. Mildman; and, resting his head upon his
hand, he remained for some minutes buried in thought. Having at
length apparently made up his mind, he turned to Cumberland, and said:
“Considering all the circumstances of the case, Mr. Cumberland, although
I most strongly reprobate your conduct, which has grieved and surprised
me more than I can express, I am unwilling to urge Oaklands to put the
law in force against you, for more reasons than one. In the first place,
I wish to spare your uncle the pain which such an exposure must occasion
him; and secondly, I cannot but hope that at your age, so severe a
lesson as this may work a permanent change in you, and that at some
future period you may regain that standing among honourable men, which
you have now so justly forfeited, and I am anxious that this should not
be prevented by the stigma which a public examination must attach to
your name for ever. I will therefore at once go with you to the abode
of this man Spicer, calling on my way at the house of a legal friend of
mine, whom I shall try to get to accompany us. I presume we shall have
no great difficulty in procuring restitution of the stolen letter, when
the culprit perceives that his schemes are found out, and that it
is consequently valueless to him. Having succeeded in this, we shall
~92~~endeavour to come to some equitable arrangement in regard to his
claims on you--do you agree to this?” Cumberland bowed his head in token
of assent, and Dr. Mildman continued:--

“And you, Oaklands, do you approve of this plan?” “It is like yourself,
Doctor, the perfection of justice and kindness,” replied Oaklands,
warmly.

“That is well,” resumed Dr. Mildman; “I have one more painful duty
to perform, which may as well be done at once--you are aware, Mr.
Cumberland, that I must expel you?”

“Will you not look over my fault this once?” entreated Cumberland;
“believe me, I will never give you cause for complaint again.”

“No, sir,” was the reply; “in justice to your companions I cannot longer
allow you to remain under the same roof with them: it is my duty to
see that they associate only with persons fitted for the society of
gentlemen, amongst whom, I am sorry to say, I can no longer class you. I
shall myself accompany you to town to-morrow, and, if possible, see your
uncle, to inform him of this unhappy affair. And now, sir, prepare to
go with me to this Captain Spicer;--on our return you will oblige me
by remaining in your room during the evening. Oaklands, will you ask
Lawless to take my place at the dinner-table, and inform your companions
that Cumberland has been engaged in an affair, of which I so strongly
disapprove, that I have determined on expelling him, but that you are
not at liberty to disclose the particulars? I need scarcely repeat this
caution to you, Fairlegh; you have shown so much good sense and right
feeling throughout the whole business that I am certain you will respect
my wishes on this head.”

I murmured some words in assent, and so ended one of the most painful
and distressing scenes it has ever been my fate to witness. ~93~~



CHAPTER X -- THE BOATING PARTY

          “Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows,
          While proudly riding o’er the azure realm,
          In gallant trim the gilded vessel goes,
          Youth on the prow, and pleasure at the helm.”
           --Gray’s Bard.

          “Shall I not take mine ease in mine inn?”
           --Henry IV.

THE dinner passed off heavily; every attempt to keep up a continued
conversation failed entirely; and a general feeling of relief was
experienced when the time arrived for us to retire to the pupils’ room.
Even here, however, the state of things was not much better. Lawless
and the others having in vain attempted to learn more of the affair from
Oaklands and myself than we felt at liberty to tell them, lounged over a
book, or dozed by the fire; whilst we, unable to converse on the subject
which alone engrossed our thoughts, and disinclined to do so upon any
other, were fain to follow their example. About half-past eight Dr.
Mildman and Cumberland returned, and, after dinner, which was served
to them in the Doctor’s study, Cumberland retired to his room, where
he remained during the rest of the evening. Oaklands then received a
summons from the Doctor, and, on his return, informed us that (as we had
already heard) Cumberland was to be expelled. He added that Dr. Mildman
intended to take him to town himself the next morning, as he was anxious
to see Cumberland’s uncle, who was also his guardian: he would probably,
therefore, not return till the following day, in consequence of which
we should have a whole holiday, and he trusted to us to spend it in a
proper manner, which, as Coleman remarked, proved that he was of a very
confiding disposition indeed, and no mistake.

When we went up to bed Oaklands beckoned me into his room, and, as
soon as he had closed the door, gave me an account (having obtained Dr.
Mildman’s permission to do so) of the interview with Spicer. They found
him, it seemed, at his lodgings, preparing for his departure. At first
he took a very high tone, denied the whole thing, and was extremely
blustering and impertinent; but on being confronted with Cumberland, and
~94~~threatened by Dr. Mildman’s legal friend with the terrors of the
law, he became thoroughly crestfallen, restored the three-hundred-pound
cheque, and consented, on the payment of fifty pounds, in addition to
the fifty pounds he had already received, to give up all claims upon
Cumberland, whereupon they paid him the money down, made him sign a
paper to the above effect, and left him.

“And so, my dear Frank,” said Oaklands, “there is an end of that affair,
and, if it only produces as much effect upon Cumberland as it has
produced upon me, it will read him a lesson he will not forget for many
a long day. I blame myself excessively,” he continued, “for my own share
in this matter; if it had not been for my easy, careless way of going
on, this scheme would never have been thought of--nay, I might, perhaps,
have been able to rescue Cumberland from the hands of this sharper; but
in this manner we neglect the opportunities afforded us of doing good,
and--Frank,” he continued, with a sudden burst of energy, “I will cure
myself of this abominable indolence.” He paused for some minutes in
thought, and then added, “Well, I must not stand here raving at you any
longer; it is getting very late: goodnight, old fellow! I shall be
glad enough to tumble into bed, for I’m as tired as a dog: it really is
astonishing how easily I am knocked up.”

The absurdity of this remark, following upon the resolution he had
expressed with so much energy but a minute before, struck us both at the
same instant, and occasioned a fit of laughter, which we did not check
till we recollected with what dissonance any approach to mirth must
strike the ear of the prisoner (for such he was in fact, if not in name)
in the adjoining apartment.

“Now, sir; come, Mr. Fairlegh, you’ll be late for breakfast,” were the
first sounds that reached my understanding on the following morning:
I say understanding, as I had heard, mixed up with my dreams, sundry
noises produced by unclosing shutters, arranging water-jugs, etc., which
appeared to my sleep-bewildered senses to have been going on for at
least half an hour. My faculties not being sufficiently aroused to
enable me to speak, Thomas continued, “You’ll be late, Mr. Fairlegh”;
then came an aside, “My wig, how he do sleep! I hope he ain’t been
a-taking lauddelum, or morpheus, or anything of a somnambulous natur. I
wouldn’t be master, always to have six boys a weighing on my mind, for
all the wealth of the Ingies.--Mr. Fairlegh, I say!”

“There, don’t make such a row,” replied I, jumping ~95~~out of bed and
making a dash at my clothes; “is it late?”

“Jest nine o’clock, sir; master and Mr. Cumberland’s been gone these two
hours. Shocking affair that, sir; it always gives me quite a turn when
any of our gents is expelled: it’s like being thrown out of place at a
minute’s warning, as I said to cook only this morning. ‘Cook,’ says I,
‘life’s a curious thing,’ there’s----”

“The breakfast bell ringing, by all that’s unlucky,” exclaimed I; and
downstairs I ran, with one arm in, and one out of my jacket, leaving
Thomas to conclude his speculations on the mutability of human affairs
as he best might, solus.

“How are we going to kill time to-day?” inquired Oaklands, as soon as we
had done breakfast.

“We mustn’t do anything to outrage the proprieties,” said Coleman;
“remember we are on _parole d’honneur_.”

“On a fiddlestick,” interrupted Lawless; “let’s all ride over to
the Duke of York, at Bradford, shoot some pigeons, have a champagne
breakfast, and be home again in time for the old woman’s feed at five
o’clock. I daresay I can pick up one or two fellows to go with us.”

“No,” said Oaklands, “that sort of thing won’t do to-day. I quite agree
with Freddy, we ought not to do anything to annoy the Doctor upon this
occasion; come, Lawless, I’m sure you’ll say so too, if you give it a
moment’s thought.”

“Well, he’s a good old fellow in his way, I know, but what are we to be
at then? something I must do, if it’s only to keep me out of mischief.”

“It’s a lovely day; let us hire a boat, and have a row,” suggested
Coleman.

“That’s not against the laws, is it?” asked Oaklands.

“Not a bit,” replied Coleman; “we used to go pulling about like bricks
last summer, and Mildman rather approved of it than otherwise, and said
it was a very healthy exercise.”

“Yes, that will do,” said Lawless; “I feel savage this morning, and
a good pull will take it out of me as well as anything. Now, don’t go
wasting time; let’s get ready, and be off;” and accordingly in less than
half an hour we were prepared, and on our way to the beach.

“How are we going to do it?” inquired Lawless; “you’ll take an oar,
Oaklands?”

Oaklands replied in the affirmative.

“Can you row, Fairlegh?”

I answered that I could a little.

~96~~“That will do famously, then,” said Lawless; “we’ll have a
four-oar; Wilson has a capital little boat that will be just the thing;
Freddy can steer, he’s a very fair hand at it, and we four fellows will
pull, so that we need not be bothered with a boatman. I do abominate
those chaps, they are such a set of humbugs.”

No objection was made to this plan. Lawless succeeded in getting the
boat he wished for; it was launched without any misadventure, and we
took our places, and began pulling away merrily, with the wind (what
little there was) and tide both in our favour.

The morning was beautiful: it was one of those enjoyable days, which
sometimes occur in early spring, in which Nature, seeming to overleap
at a bound the barrier between winter and summer, gives us a delightful
foretaste of the good things she has in store for us. The clear bright
sea, its surface just ruffled by a slight breeze from the south-west,
sparkled in the sunshine, and fell in diamond showers from our oars as
we raised them out of the water, while the calm serenity of the deep
blue sky above us appeared, indeed, a fitting emblem of that heaven, in
which “the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest”.

The peaceful beauty of the scene seemed to impress even the restless
spirits of which our little party was composed, and, by common consent,
we ceased rowing, and suffered the boat to drift with the tide, merely
pulling a stroke now and then to keep her head in the right direction.
After drifting for some twenty minutes or so in the manner I have
described Lawless, who never could remain quiet long, dropped the
blade of his oar into the water with a splash that made us all start,
exclaiming as he did so:--

“Well, this may be very sentimental and romantic, and all that sort of
thing, but it doesn’t strike me as particularly entertaining. Why, you
fellows were all asleep, I believe.”

“Heigho!” exclaimed Oaklands, rousing himself, with a deep sigh, “I was
in such a delicious reverie; what a barbarian you are, Lawless! you seem
utterly ignorant of the pleasures of the _dolce-far-niente_.”

“_Dolce-far-devilskin_!” was the reply, in tones of the greatest
contempt. “I would not be as lazy as you are, Oaklands, for any money.
You are fitter to lounge about in some old woman’s drawing-room, than to
handle an oar.” “Well, I don’t know,” answered Oaklands, quietly, “but I
think I can pull as long as you can.”

~97~~“You do, do you?” rejoined Lawless, “it will be odd to me, if you
can. I don’t think I was stroke-oar in the crack boat at Eton for a
year, without knowing how to row a little; what do you say to having a
try at once?”

“With all my heart,” replied Oaklands, divesting himself of his
waistcoat, braces, and neckcloth--which latter article he braced tightly
round his waist--an example speedily followed by Lawless, who exclaimed,
as he completed his preparations:--

“Now, you young shavers, pull in your oars, and we’ll give you a ride,
all free, gratis, for nothing”.

Mullins and I hastened to comply with Lawless’s directions, by placing
the oars and seating ourselves so as not to interfere with the trim of
the boat; while he and Oaklands, each taking a firm grasp of his oar,
commenced pulling away in real earnest. They were more evenly matched
than may be at first imagined, for Lawless, though much shorter than
Oaklands, was very square-built and broad about the shoulders, and his
arms, which were unusually long in proportion to his height, presented a
remarkable development of muscle, while it was evident, from the manner
in which he handled his oar, that he was the more practised rower of the
two. The boat, urged by their powerful strokes, appeared to fly through
the water, while cliff and headland (we were rowing along shore about
half a mile from the beach) came in view and disappeared again like
scenes in some moving panorama. We must now have proceeded some miles,
yet still the rival champions continued their exertions with unabated
energy and a degree of strength that seemed inexhaustible. Greatly
interested in the event, I had at first watched the contending parties
with anxious attention, but, perceiving that the efforts they were
making did not produce any visible effects upon them, and that the
struggle was likely to be a protracted one, I took advantage of the
opportunity to open a letter from my sister, which I had received just
as I was leaving the house. I was sorry to find, on perusing it, that my
father had been suffering from an inflammatory attack, brought on by
a cold which he had caught in returning from a visit to a sick
parishioner, through a pouring rain. A postscript from my mother,
however, added that I need not make myself in the least uneasy, as the
apothecary assured her that my father was going on as well as possible,
and would probably be quite restored in the course of a week or so. On
observing the date of the letter I found I ought to have received it the
day before. Arguing from this (on the “no-news-being-good-news” system)
~98~~that I should have heard again if anything had gone wrong, I
dismissed the subject from my mind, and was reading Fanny’s account of
a juvenile party she had been at in the neighbourhood, when my attention
was roused by Coleman, who, laying his hand on my shoulder, said:

“Look out, Frank, it won’t be long now before we shall see who’s best
man; the work’s beginning to tell”.

Thus invoked, I raised my eyes, and perceived that a change had come
over the aspect of affairs while I had been engaged with my letter.
Oaklands and Lawless were still rowing with the greatest energy, but it
appeared to me that their strokes were drawn with less and less vigour
each succeeding time, while their flushed faces, and heavy breathing,
proved that the severe labour they had undergone had not been without
its effect. The only visible difference between them was, that Lawless,
from his superior training, had not, as a jocky would say, “turned
a hair,” while the perspiration hung in big drops upon the brow of
Oaklands, and the knotted, swollen veins of his hands stood out like
tightly strained cordage.

“Hold hard!” shouted Lawless. “I say, Harry,” he continued, as soon as
they left off rowing, “how are you getting on?”

“I have been cooler in my life,” replied Oaklands, wiping his face with
his handkerchief.

“Well, I think it’s about a drawn battle,” said Lawless; “though I am
free to confess, that if you were in proper training, I should be no
match for you, even with the oar.”

“What made you stop just then?” inquired Oaklands; “I’m sure I could
have kept on for a quarter of an hour longer, if not more.”

“So could I,” replied Lawless, “ay, or for half an hour, if I had been
put to it; but I felt the work was beginning to tell, I saw you were
getting used up, and I recollected that we should have to row back with
the wind against us, which, as the breeze is freshening, will be no such
easy matter; so I thought if we went on till we were both done up we
should be in a regular fix.”

“It’s lucky you remembered it,” said Oaklands; “I was so excited, I
should have gone on pulling as long as I could have held an oar; we
must be some distance from Helmstone by this time. Have you any idea
whereabouts we are?”

“Let’s have a look,” rejoined Lawless. “Yes, that tall cliff you see
there is the Nag’s Head, and in the little bay ~99~~beyond stands the
village of Fisherton. I vote we go ashore there, have some bread and
cheese, and a draught of porter at the inn, and then we shall be able to
pull back again twice as well.”

This proposal seemed to afford general satisfaction; Mullins and
I resumed our oars, and, in less than half an hour, we were safely
ensconced in the sanded parlour of the Dolphin, while the pretty
bar-maid, upon whom also devolved the duties of waitress, hastened to
place before us a smoking dish of eggs and bacon, which we had chosen
in preference to red herrings--the only other dainty the Dolphin had
to offer us--Coleman observing that a “hard roe” was the only part of a
herring worth eating, and we had had that already, as we came along.

“I say, my dear, have you got any bottled porter?” inquired Lawless.

“Yes, sir, and very good it is,” replied the smiling damsel.

“That’s a blessing,” observed Coleman, piously.

“Bring us up a lot of it, my beauty,” resumed Lawless, “and some pewter
pots--porter’s twice as good out of its own native pewter.”

Thus exhorted, the blooming waitress tripped off, and soon returned with
a basket containing six bottles of porter.

“That’s the time of day,” said Lawless; “now for a corkscrew, pretty
one; here you are, Oaklands.”

“I must own that is capital, after such hard work as we have been
doing,” observed Oaklands, as he emptied the pewter pot at a draught.

“I say, Mary,” asked Coleman, “what’s gone of that young man that used
to keep company along with you--that nice young chap, that had such
insinivatin ways with him?”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about, sir; I’ve nothink to
say to no young man whatsumever,” replied the damsel addressed, shaking
her curls coquettishly.

“Ah!” sighed Coleman, “if I were but single now.”

“Why, you never mean to say you’ve got a wife already, such a very young
gentleman as you are?”

“Not only that, but a small family with a large appetite,” continued
Coleman, pathetically.

“Well, I never,” exclaimed the bar-maid, surprised, for once, out of
her company manners; then, observing a smile, at her expense, going the
round of the party, she added, “I see how it is; you are making fun
of me, sir; ~100~~oh, fie, you’re a wicked young gentleman, I know you
are.”

“Never mind him, my dear,” said Lawless, “but give me another bottle of
porter.”

In converse such as this the meal and the half-dozen of porter were
finished; in addition to which Lawless chose to have a glass of
brandy-and-water and a cigar. Having been rendered unusually hungry by
the sea air and the unaccustomed exercise of rowing, I had both eaten
and drunk more than I was in the habit of doing, to which cause may be
attributed my falling into a doze; an example which, I have every reason
to believe, was followed by most of the others. I know not how long my
nap had lasted, when I was aroused by hearing Coleman exclaim:--

“Why I think it rains! Lawless, wake up! I don’t much like the look of
the weather.”

“What’s the row?” inquired Lawless, leisurely removing his legs from the
table on which they had been resting, and walking to the window--a feat,
by the way, he did not perform quite as steadily as usual. “By Jove!”
 he continued, “the wind’s blowing great guns; we must look sharp, and be
off--we shall have the sea getting up.”

Accordingly, the bill was rung for and paid; Mary received half a
crown and a kiss from Lawless, and down we ran to the beach, where
difficulties we were little prepared for awaited us.



CHAPTER XI -- BREAKERS AHEAD!

          “Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of
          barren  ground.... The wills above be done! but I would
          fain die a dry death.”

          “I have great comfort from this fellow: methinks he hath
          no drowning mark upon him.”--Tempest.

THE wind, which we had observed was rising when we landed, had increased
during our stay at the inn, and was now blowing almost a gale from the
south-west; whilst the sea, which we had left smooth as a lake, was
rolling in and breaking on the beach in somewhat formidable waves.

“I tell you what,” said Coleman, as soon as he had observed the state
of affairs, “I won’t attempt to steer in such a sea as that; it requires
great skill and judgment, besides a stronger hand than mine, to keep the
~101~~boat’s head right; if I were to let her turn her broadside to one
of those waves, it would be a case of ‘Found drowned’ with some of us,
before long.”

“What’s to be done, then?” inquired Oaklands. “I am sure I can’t do it:
it’s a thing I’m quite ignorant of; all my boating having been on the
river.”

“Let’s hire one of those amphibious beggars out there to steer for us,”
 proposed Lawless, pointing to a group of fishermen who were lounging
round an old boat, not far from where we stood; “they’re up to all the
right dodges, you may depend. Here, my men! which of you will earn half
a guinea by steering our boat for us to Helmstone?”

“I wouldn’t, master, for ten times the money,” replied an old
weather-beaten boatman, in a tarpaulin hat; “and if you’ll take an
old man’s advice, gentlemen, you’ll none of you venture out in that
cockle-shell this afternoon; the wind’s getting up every minute, and we
shall have a rough night of it.”

“Nonsense,” replied Lawless; “I’ve often been out in worse weather than
this. Are you, all of you, frightened by that old woman’s croaking?”
 continued he, turning to the group of men.

“He’s no old woman,” replied a sturdy fellow, in a rough pea-jacket;
“he’s been a better sailor than ever you’ll be, and he’s right now too,”
 he added. “It’s as much as a man’s life is worth to go to sea in that
bit of a thing, with the waves running in as they do now--and with such
a set of landlubbers as them for a crew,” he muttered, turning away.

“Suppose we try and get something to take us home by land,” suggested
Oaklands; “and leave the boat for some of these good fellows to bring
home, as soon as the weather will allow.”

“You’ll have to walk, sir,” replied one of them, civilly; “I don’t
believe there’s a cart or horse in the place; they all went inland this
morning with fish, and won’t return till to-morrow.”

“There, you hear that,” said Lawless, who had just drunk enough to
render him captious and obstinate. “I’m not going to walk to please
anybody’s fancy; I see how it is,--I did not bid high enough. A couple
of guineas for any one who will come with us,” added he.

“A couple of guineas is not to be got every day,” observed a sullen,
downcast-looking man, who had not yet spoken; “and it is not much odds
to me whether I sink or swim now; those custom-house sharks,” added he,
with an oath, “look so close after one, that one can’t ~102~~do a stroke
of work that will pay a fellow nowadays. Money down, and I’m your man,
sir,” he added, turning to Lawless.

“That’s the ticket,” said Lawless, handing him the money. “I’m glad to
see one of you, at least, has got a little pluck about him. Come along.”

I could see that Oaklands did not at all approve of the plan, evidently
considering we were running a foolish risk; but, as nothing short of
a direct quarrel with Lawless could have prevented it, his habitual
indolence and easy temper prevailed, and he remained silent. I felt much
inclined to object, in which case I had little doubt the majority of
the party would have supported me; but a boyish dread, lest my refusal
should be attributed to cowardice, prevented my doing so. With the
assistance of the by-standers we contrived to launch our little bark
without further misadventure than a rather heavier sprinkling of salt
water than was agreeable. Rowing in such a sea, however, proved much
harder work than I, for one, had any idea of; we made scarcely any
way against the waves, and I soon felt sure that it would be utterly
impossible for us to reach Helmstone by any exertions we were capable
of making. The weather too was becoming worse every minute: it rained
heavily, and it was with the greatest difficulty we were able to prevent
the crests of some of the larger waves from dashing into our boat; in
fact, as it was, she was already half full of water, which poured in
faster than Coleman (who was the only person not otherwise engaged)
could bale it out.

“Upon my word, Lawless, it’s madness to attempt to go on,” exclaimed
Oaklands; “we are throwing away our lives for nothing.”

“It certainly looks rather queerish,” replied Lawless. “What do you say
about it, my man?” he asked of the person whom he had engaged to steer
us.

“I say,” replied the fellow in a surly tone, “that our only chance is
to make for the beach at once, and we shall have better luck than we
deserve, if we reach it alive.”

As he spoke a larger wave than usual broke against the bow of the boat,
flinging in such a body of water that we felt her stagger under it, and
I believed, for a moment, that we were about to sink. This decided the
question; the boat’s head was put about with some difficulty, and we
were soon straining every nerve to reach the shore. As we neared the
beach we perceived that even during ~103~~the short time which had
elapsed since we quitted it, the sea had become considerably rougher,
and the line of surf now presented anything but an encouraging
appearance. As we approached the breakers the steersman desired us to
back with our oars till he saw a favourable opportunity; and the moment
he gave us the signal to pull in as hard as we were able. After a
short pause the signal was given, and we attempted to pull in as he had
directed; but, in doing this, we did not act exactly in concert--Lawless
taking his stroke too soon, while Mullins did not make his soon enough;
consequently, we missed the precise moment, the boat turned broadside
to the beach, a wave poured over us, and in another instant we were
struggling in the breakers. For my own part, I succeeded in gaining my
legs, only to be thrown off them again by the next wave, which hurried
me along with it, and flung me on the shingle, when one of the group of
fishermen who had witnessed the catastrophe ran in, and seizing me by
the arm, in time to prevent my being washed back again by the under-tow,
dragged me out of the reach of the waves.

On recovering my feet my first impulse was to look round for my
companions. I at once perceived Lawless, Mullins, and Oaklands, who were
apparently uninjured, though the latter held his hand pressed against
his forehead, as if in pain; but Coleman was nowhere to be seen. “Where
is Coleman?” exclaimed I.

“There is some one clinging to the boat still,” observed a by-stander.

I looked anxiously in the direction indicated, and perceived the boat
floating bottom upwards, just beyond the line of breakers; while,
clinging to the keel, was a figure which I instantly recognised to be
that of Coleman. “Oh, save him, save him; he will be drowned!” cried I,
in an agony of fear.

“Ten guineas for any one who will get him out!” shouted Lawless; but
nobody seemed inclined to stir.

“Give me a rope,” cried I, seizing the end of a coil which one of the
boatmen had over his shoulder, and tying it round my waist.

“What are you going to do?” asked Lawless.

While he spoke a large wave separated Coleman from the boat, and, as it
poured its huge volume upon the beach, bore him along with it. With the
swiftness of thought I sprang forward, and succeeded in throwing my
arms round him, ere the next advancing wave dashed over us. And now
my foresight in fastening the rope ~104~~around me proved, under
Providence, the means of saving both our lives. Though thrown to the
ground by the force of the water I contrived to retain my grasp of
Coleman, and we were hauled up and conveyed beyond the reach of the surf
by the strong arms of those on shore, ere another wave could approach to
claim its victims.

[Illustration: page104 Frank Rescues Coleman]

On recovering my consciousness (I had been partially stunned by the
violence of my last fall) I found myself lying on the beach, with my
head resting on the breast of Oaklands.

“My dear, dear Frank, thank God that you are safe!” exclaimed he,
pressing me more closely to him.

“What of Coleman?” asked I, endeavouring to raise myself.

“They are taking him to the inn,” was the reply; “I will go and see if I
can be of any use, now I know you are unhurt; but I could not leave you
till I felt sure of that.”

“I fancied you seemed in pain just now,” said I.

“I struck my head against some part of the boat when she capsized,”
 returned Oaklands, “and the blow stunned me for a minute or two, so that
I knew nothing of what was going on till I saw you rush into the water
to save Coleman; that roused me effectually, and I helped them to pull
you both out. Frank, you have saved his life.”

“If it is saved,” rejoined I. “Let us go and see how he is getting on; I
think I can walk now, if you will let me lean upon your arm.”

With the assistance of Oaklands I contrived to reach the inn without
much difficulty; indeed, by the time I got there (the walk having served
in great measure to restore my circulation) I scarcely felt any ill
effects from my late exertions. The inn presented a rare scene of
confusion: people were hurrying in and out, the messenger sent for the
doctor had just returned, breathless, to say he was not to be found; the
fat landlady, in a state of the greatest excitement, was trotting about
making impracticable suggestions, to which no one paid the slightest
attention, while Coleman, still insensible, lay wrapped in blankets
before a blazing fire in the parlour, with the pretty barmaid on her
knees beside him sobbing piteously, as she chafed his temples with some
strong essence.

“That’s the time of day!” exclaimed Lawless, as his eye fell upon a
printed card which the landlady had just thrust into his hand, headed,
“The directions of the Humane Society for the restoration of persons
apparently drowned”. “We shall have it now all right,” added he, and
then read as follows: “The first observation we 105~~must make, which is
most important, is, that rolling the body on a tub--”

“Bring a tub,” cried the landlady eagerly, and off started several of
the by-standers to follow her injunctions--

“Is most injurious,” continued Lawless; “but holding up by the legs with
the head downwards”--(a party of volunteers, commanded by the landlady,
rushed forward to obtain possession of Coleman’s legs)--“is certain
death,” shouted Lawless, concluding the sentence.

While this was going on I had been rubbing Coleman’s hands between
my own, in the hope of restoring circulation; and now, to my extreme
delight, I perceived a slight pulsation at the wrist; next came a deep
sigh, followed by a tremulous motion of the limbs; and, before five
minutes were over, he was sufficiently restored to sit up, and recognise
those about him. After this, his recovery progressed with such rapidity
that ere half an hour had elapsed he was able to listen with interest
to Oaklands’ account of the circumstances attending his rescue, when
Lawless, hastily entering the room, exclaimed: “Here’s a slice of good
luck, at all events; there’s a post-chaise just stopped, returning to
Helmstone, and the boy agrees to take us all for a shilling a head, as
soon as he has done watering his horses. How is Freddy getting on?--will
he be able to go?”

“All right, old fellow,” replied Coleman. “Thanks to Fairlegh in the
first instance, and a stiff glass of brandy-and-water in the second,
‘Richard’s himself again!’”

“Well, you’ve had a near shave for it this time, however,” said Lawless;
“there is more truth than I was aware of in the old proverb, ‘If you
are born to be hanged, you will never be drowned’; though, if it had
not been for Frank Fairlegh, you would not have lived to fulfil your
destiny.”

In another ten minutes we were all packed in and about the post-chaise;
Coleman, Oaklands, and myself occupying the interior, while Lawless and
Mullins rode outside. The promise of an extra half-crown induced the
driver to use his best speed. At a quarter before five we were within a
stone’s-throw of home; and if that day at dinner Mrs. Mildman observed
the pale looks and jaded appearance of some of the party, I have every
reason to believe she has remained up to the present hour in total
ignorance as to their cause. ~106~~



CHAPTER XII -- DEATH AND CHANGE

          “The voice which I did more esteem
          Than music on her sweetest key;

          Those eyes which unto me did seem
          More comfortable than the day;

          Those now by me, as they have been,
          Shall never more be heard or seen;

          But what I once enjoyed in them,
          Shall seem hereafter as a dream.

          “All earthly comforts vanish thus;
          So little hold of them have we;

          That we from them, or they from us,
          May in a moment ravished be.

          Yet we are neither just nor wise
          If present mercies we despise,

          Or mind not how these may be made
          A thankful use of what we had.”
           --Wither.

          “Up springs at every step to claim a tear
          Some youthful friendship form’d and cherish’d here.”
           --Rogers.

          “Time flies away fast!
          The while we never remember--
          How soon our life here
          Grows old with the year
          That dies with the next December.”
           --Herrick.

AS I was undressing that night Coleman came into my room, and grasping
my hand with his own shook it warmly, saying: “I could not go to sleep,
Frank, without coming to thank you for the noble way in which you risked
your own life to save mine to-day. I laughed it off before Lawless and
the rest of the fellows, for when I feel deeply, I hate to show it; but
indeed,” (and the tears stood in his eyes while he spoke), “indeed I am
not ungrateful.”

“My dear Freddy,” returned I, “do not suppose I thought you so for a
moment; there, say no more about it; you would have done the same thing
for me that I did for you, had our positions been reversed.”

“I am not so sure of that,” was his reply; “I should have wished to
do so; but it is not every one who can act with such promptitude and
decision in moments of danger.”

~107~~“There is one request I should like to make,” said I.

“What is it?” replied he quickly.

“Do not forget to thank Him, whose instrument I was, for having so
mercifully preserved your life.”

A silent pressure of the hand was the only answer, and we parted for the
night.

Owing, probably, to over-fatigue, it was some little time before I went
to sleep. As I lay courting the fickle goddess (or god as the case may
be, for, mythologically speaking, I believe Somnus was a _he_), I
could not help contrasting my present feelings with those which I had
experienced on the first night of my arrival. Then, overcome by the
novelty of my situation, filled with a lively dread of my tutor, bullied
and despised by my companions, and separated for what I deemed an
interminable period from all who were dear to me, my position was far
from an enviable one.. Now, how different was the aspect of affairs!
With my tutor, who, from an object of dread, had become one of esteem
and affection, I had every reason to believe myself a favourite; I was
on terms of the closest friendship with those of my companions whose
intimacy was best worth cultivating; while with the others I had
gained a standing which would effectually prevent their ever venturing
seriously to annoy me; and, above all, I had acquired that degree of
self-confidence, without which one is alike impotent to choose the good
or to refuse the evil. And it was with an honest pride that I reflected,
that this improvement in my position was mainly owing to a steady
adherence to those principles, which it had been the constant aim of my
dear parents to instil into me from my childhood. I fell asleep at last,
endeavouring to picture to myself the delight of relating my adventures
on my return home; how my mother and sister would shudder over the
dangers I had escaped, while my father would applaud the spirit which
had carried me through them. The vision was a bright and happy one:
would it ever be realised?

To our surprise, we learned the next morning that Dr. Mildman had
arrived by the last coach the previous evening, having fortunately met
with Cumberland’s uncle at his house of business in town, and delivered
his nephew into his safe custody without further loss of time. The
breakfast passed over without the Doctor making any inquiry how we had
amused ourselves during his absence, nor, as may easily be believed,
did we volunteer information on the subject. On returning to the pupils’
room I found a letter, in my sister’s handwriting, lying ~108~~on the
table. With a feeling of dread for which I could not account, I hastened
to peruse it. Alas! the contents only served to realise my worst
apprehensions. My father’s illness had suddenly assumed a most alarming
character, inflammation having attacked the lungs with such violence
that the most active measures had failed to subdue it, and the
physician, whom my mother had summoned on the first appearance of
danger, scarcely held out the slightest hope of his recovery. Under
these circumstances my mother wished me to return home without loss of
time, as my father, before he became delirious, had desired that I might
be sent for, expressing himself most anxious to see me; and the letter
concluded with a line in my mother’s handwriting, exhorting me to make
every exertion to reach home without delay, if I wished to find him
alive. For a minute or two I sat with the letter still open in my hand,
as if stunned by the intelligence I had received; then, recollecting
that every instant was of importance, I sprang up, saying, “Where’s Dr.
Mildman? I must see him directly.”

“My dear Frank, is anything the matter? you are not ill?” inquired
Oaklands anxiously.

“You have received some bad news, I am afraid,” said Coleman.

“My father is very ill, dying perhaps,” replied I, while the tears,
which I in vain endeavoured to restrain, trickled down my cheeks. After
giving way to my feelings for a minute or two, the necessity for action
again flashed across me.

“What time is it now?” inquired I, drying my eyes.

“Just ten,” replied Oaklands, looking at his watch.

“There is a coach which starts at the half-hour, is there not?”

“Yes, the Highflyer, the best drag on the road,” returned Lawless;
“takes you to town in five hours, and does the thing well too.”

“I must go by that then,” replied I.

“What can I do to help you?” asked Coleman.

“If you would put a few things into my bag for me, while I speak to the
Doctor,” rejoined I.

“I will go and get a fly for you,” said Lawless, “and then I can pick
out a nag that will move his pins a bit; that will save you ten minutes,
and you have no time to lose.”

On acquainting Dr. Mildman with the sad intelligence I had received,
and the necessity which existed for me to depart immediately, he at once
gave me his permission 109~~to do so; and, after speaking kindly to
me, and showing the deepest sympathy for my distress, said he would not
detain me longer, as I must have preparations to make, but should like
to see me the last thing before I started, and wish me good-bye.

I found, on reaching my own room, my carpet-bag already packed:
Coleman and Thomas (whose honest face wore an expression of genuine
commiseration) having exerted themselves to save me all trouble on that
head. Nothing, therefore, remained for me to do, but to take leave of
my fellow-pupils and Dr. Mildman. After shaking hands with Lawless and
Mullins (the former assuring me, as he did so, that I was certain not
to be late, for he had succeeded in securing a trap, with a very spicy
little nag in it, which would have me there in no time) I hastened to
take leave of my tutor. The kindhearted Doctor inquired whether I had
sufficient money for my journey, and, begging me to write him word how I
got home, shook me warmly by the hand, saying, as he did so, “God bless
you, my boy! I trust you may find your father better; but if this should
not be the case, remember whose hand it is inflicts the blow, and strive
to say, ‘Thy will be done’. We shall have you among us again soon, I
hope; but should anything prevent your return, I wish you to know that I
am perfectly satisfied with the progress you have made in your studies;
and, in other respects, you have never given me a moment’s uneasiness
since you first entered my house. Once more, good-bye; and remember, if
ever you should want a friend, you will find one in Samuel Mildman.”

The fly-horse proved itself deserving of Lawless’s panegyric, and
I arrived at the coach-office in time to secure a seat outside the
Highflyer. After taking an affectionate leave of Oaklands and Coleman,
who had accompanied me, I ascended to my place; the coachman mounted his
box, exactly as the clock chimed the halfhour the horses sprang forward
with a bound, and ere ten minutes had elapsed Helmstone lay at least a
couple of miles behind us.

I accomplished my journey more quickly than I had deemed possible, and
had the melancholy satisfaction of reaching home in time to receive my
father’s blessing. The powerful remedies to which they had been obliged
to have recourse had produced their effect; the inflammation was
subdued; but the struggle had been protracted too long, and his
constitution, already enfeebled by a life of constant labour and
self-denial, was unable to rally.

~110~~Having given me a solemn charge to cherish and protect my mother
and sister, he commended us all to the care of Him who is emphatically
termed “the God of the fatherless and widow”; and then, his only earthly
care being ended, he prepared to meet Death, as those alone can do to
whom “to die is gain”. When the last beam of the setting sun threw a
golden tint around the spire of the little village church those lips
which had so often breathed the words of prayer and praise within its
sacred walls were mute for ever, and the gentle spirit which animated
them had returned to God who gave it!

In regard to this portion of my career, but little more remains to
be told. My father’s income being chiefly derived from his church
preferment, and his charities having been conducted on too liberal a
scale to allow of his laying by money, the funds which remained at my
mother’s disposal after winding up his affairs, though enough to secure
us from actual poverty, were not sufficient to allow of my continuing an
inmate of an establishment so expensive as that of Dr. Mildman. On being
informed of this change of circumstances the Doctor wrote to my mother
in the kindest manner; speaking of me in terms of praise which I will
not repeat, and inquiring what were her future views in regard to
me; expressing his earnest desire to assist them to the utmost of his
ability. At the same time I received letters from Oaklands and Coleman
full of lamentations that I was not likely to return; and promising, in
the warmth of their hearts, that their respective fathers should
assist me in all ways, possible and impossible. Mr. Coleman, senior, in
particular, was to do most unheard-of things for me; indeed, Freddy more
than hinted that through his agency I might consider myself secure
of the Attorney-Generalship, with a speedy prospect of becoming Lord
Chancellor. I also found enclosed a very characteristic note from
Lawless, wherein he stated, that if I really was likely to be obliged
to earn my own living, he could put me up to a dodge, by which all
the disagreeables of having so to do might be avoided. This infallible
recipe proved to be a scheme for my turning stage-coachman! After citing
numerous examples of gentlemen who had done so (amongst whom the name
of a certain baronet stood forth in high pre-eminence), he wound up by
desiring me to give the scheme my serious attention, and, if I agreed
to it, to come and spend a month with him when he returned home at
midsummer; by the end of which time he would engage to turn me out as
finished a “Waggoner” as ever handled the ribbons.

~111~~To these letters I despatched suitable replies, thanking the
writers for their kindness, but refusing to avail myself of their
offers, at all events for the present; and I finished by expressing a
hope, that, be my fate in life what it might, I should still preserve
the regard and esteem of the friends whose affection I prized so highly.

For some months after my father’s death I continued to live at the
rectory; Mr. Dalton, the new incumbent, who had been his curate, and was
unmarried, kindly allowing my mother to remain there till her plans for
the future should be so far arranged as to enable her to determine in
what part of the country it would be advisable for her to reside. It had
been my father’s wish and intention, when I should have attained a fit
age, to send me to one of the universities: a wish my mother was most
anxious to carry into effect. In order to accomplish this wish with her
reduced means, it would have been necessary for her, not only to have
practised the strictest economy, but also, in great measure, to have
sacrificed my sister’s education, as she would have been utterly unable
to afford the advantage of masters. To this, of course, I would not
consent; after much discussion, therefore, the idea of college was
reluctantly given up, and, as a last resource, my mother applied to an
uncle of hers, engaged in the West India trade, begging him to endeavour
to procure for me a clerkship in some mercantile establishment. She
received a very kind reply, saying that, although he considered me too
young at present to be chained to a desk, he should advise me to apply
myself diligently to the study of French and book-keeping; and ending
by offering me a situation in his own counting-house when I should
be eighteen. As my only alternative lay between accepting this offer
(however little suited to my taste), or remaining a burden upon my
mother, it may easily be imagined that I lost no time in signifying my
desire to avail myself of his kindness; and, ere a couple of months had
elapsed, I had plunged deeply into the mysteries of book-keeping, and
could jabber French with tolerable fluency. I was still working away at
“Double Entry,” and other horrors of a like nature, when one morning I
received a large business-like letter, in an unknown hand, the contents
of which astonished me not a little, as well they might; for they proved
to be of a nature once more entirely to change my prospects in life. The
epistle came from Messrs. Coutts, the bankers, and stated that they
were commissioned to pay me the sum of four hundred pounds per annum,
in quarterly payments, for the purpose ~112~~of defraying my expenses at
college; the only stipulations being, that the money should be used for
the purpose specified, that I did not contract any debts whatsoever,
and that I made no inquiries, direct or indirect, as to the source
from which the sum proceeded. In the event of my complying with these
conditions, the same allowance was to be continued to me till I should
have taken my degree.

The immediate consequence of this most unexpected communication was, our
devoting the greater part of a morning to vain speculations as to the
possible source from which this liberal offer might have proceeded.
After guessing every one we could think of, likely or unlikely, we
ended, as is usual in such cases, by becoming decidedly more puzzled
than when we began. The only person with whom I was acquainted,
possessing both the will and the power to do such a thing, was Sir John
Oaklands; but he had already, in the kindest manner, tried to persuade
my mother to allow me to accompany Harry to Trinity College, Cambridge,
begging to be permitted to defray the expenses of my so doing himself;
an offer which she (not choosing to place herself under so heavy an
obligation to a comparative stranger) had, with many expressions of
gratitude, declined. After consulting with our friend Mr. Dalton, it was
decided that I should signify to Messrs. Coutts my readiness to comply
with the required conditions, begging them to convey my best thanks to
my mysterious benefactor, and to inform him that it was my intention
(subject to his approval) to enter my name at Trinity without loss of
time. In answer to this I received the following laconic epistle:--

“Messrs. Coutts beg to inform Mr. Frank Fairlegh, that, in reply to his
favour of the 21st ult., they are desired to state, that the sum of
four hundred pounds per annum will be placed at his disposal whenever he
applies for it”.

I now resumed my studies under the superintendence of Mr. Dalton, who
had taken a good degree at Cambridge; and, alike delighted at my escape
from the counting-house, and anxious to do credit to my benefactor’s
liberality, I determined to make the best use of my time, and worked
_con amore_. In this manner the next year and a half passed away
without anything worthy of remark occurring. I was happy to perceive
a ~113~~gradual improvement taking place in my mother’s health and
spirits, while Fanny was developing into a very pretty and agreeable
girl.

Towards the expiration of this period Mr. Dalton saw fit to take unto
himself a wife, a circumstance which induced my mother to accept the
offer of a cottage belonging to Sir John Oaklands, which was suited to
her limited means. It was situated within the park gates, about a
mile from Heathfield Hall, and, though small, appeared well-built, and
exceedingly pretty.

This was an arrangement of which I highly approved, as it enabled me
to renew my intercourse with Harry, who, having left Dr. Mildman’s,
was spending a few months at home with his father previous to his
matriculation at Trinity. I found him but little altered in any respect,
save that he had become more manly-looking. For the rest, he was just as
good-tempered, kind-hearted, and, alas! indolent as ever. He informed
me that Lawless also was going to Cambridge, and that Coleman, when
he learned what a party of us there would be, had been most anxious to
accompany us; but his father, unfortunately, did not approve, and he was
now articled to a solicitor, with a view to his succeeding eventually to
his father’s practice.

Time rolled on, and another three months beheld us duly installed in our
rooms at Trinity, and dividing our time between reading (more or less,
in accordance with our various idiosyncrasies), boating on the Cam,
billiard-playing at Chesterton, _et hoc genus omne_.

Of the details of my college life I shall say but little, a piece of
forbearance for which I consider myself entitled to the everlasting
gratitude of my readers, who, if they have not had their curiosity
on that subject more than satisfied by the interminable narrations of
“Peter Priggins,” and his host of imitators, must indeed be insatiable.
Suffice it then to say, that, having from the first determined, if
possible, to obtain a good degree, I made a resolute stand against the
advances of Lawless (who, in consequence of his father’s having, for
some reason best known to himself and the Premier, received a peerage,
had now become an “honourable”) and the “rowing set,” amongst whom, by a
sort of freemasonry of kindred souls, he had become enrolled
immediately on his arrival. After several fruitless attempts to shake my
determination, they pronounced me an incorrigible “sap,” and, leaving me
to my own devices, proceeded to try their powers upon Oaklands. They met
with but little ~114~~success in this quarter, however; not that with
him they had any indomitable love of study to contend with, but that
“all that sort of thing was too much trouble; he really didn’t believe
there was a single fellow among the whole lot who had the slightest
appreciation of the _dolce far niente_”. When, however, they found out
that upon an emergency Harry could excel them all--whatever might be the
nature of the feat to be performed--and that I could cross a country,
pull an oar, or handle a bat with the best of them, they set us down
as a pair of eccentric geniuses, and as such admitted us to a kind of
honorary membership in their worshipful society; and thus, ‘twixt
work and play, the first two years of my residence at Cambridge passed
happily enough.



CHAPTER XIII -- CATCHING A SHRIMP

          “Give me that boy.”
           --Shakspeare.

          “I was there
          From college, visiting the son.”
           --Princess.

          “To bring in, Heaven shield us, a lion among ladies, is a
          most dreadful thing.”
           --Shakspeare.

“A MIGHTY stupid chapter that last!” “True for you, A reader, but how
was it to be avoided? It was necessary to give you that short summary
of my proceedings, the better to enable you to understand all that is to
follow, and so, don’t you see?”

“Yes, that will do. Above all things, Master Frank, avoid being prosy;
it is the worst fault an author can fall into.”

“Reader, you’re very cross!”

It was towards the close of the long vacation that, one morning as I was
sitting at breakfast with my mother and sister, a note was brought to
me. On opening it, it proved to be from Coleman, whose father had lately
taken a country-house near Hillingford, a small town about fifteen miles
from Heathfield, where he was now about to give a grand ball to all the
neighbourhood by way of house-warming. At this ball Freddy (with whom I
had kept up a constant correspondence, though we had never met since I
left Dr. Mildman’s) was most anxious I should be present, and his letter
was really a master-piece of ~115~~persuasion: not only should I meet
all the beauty and fashion of the county, but he had for some days
past employed himself in paving the way for me with several of the most
desirable young ladies of his acquaintance, who were now, as he assured
me, actually pining to be introduced to me. Moreover, the Honourable
George Lawless had promised to be there; so we were safe for fun of
some sort, Lawless’s tastes and habits being about as congenial to
the atmosphere of a ball-room, as those of a bull to the interior of a
china-shop.

~115~These manifold temptations, together with the desire of again
meeting Freddy himself, proved irresistible, and I decided to go.
Oaklands, who had received a similar invitation, was unluckily not able
to accept it, as his father had fixed a shooting-party for that day,
at which, and at the dinner that was to follow, Harry’s presence was
indispensable.

It was in the afternoon of a glorious September day that I set off
on horseback for Hillingford. I had accompanied the sportsmen in the
morning, and had walked just enough to excite without fatiguing myself;
and now the elastic motion of the horse (a valuable hunter of Sir
John’s)--the influence of the fair scene around me, as I cantered over
the smooth turf of Heathfield Park, and along the green lanes beyond
it--the prospect of seeing again an old companion of my boyhood’s
days--all contributed to produce in me an exhilaration of spirits which
seemed to raise me above the _kleinigkeiten_, the little, nesses (as
the Germans so well express it) of this world, and to exalt me to some
higher and nobler sphere. Out of this day-dream I was at length aroused
by the clatter of horses’ feet and the rattle of wheels in the lane
behind me, while a man’s voice, in tones not of the most gentle
description, accosted me as follows: “Now then, sir, if you’ve got a
licence to take up the whole road, I’ll just trouble you to show it!”
 With a touch of the spur I caused my horse to bound on one side, and, as
I did so, I turned to look at the speaker. Perched high in mid-air, upon
some mysterious species of dog-cart, bearing a striking resemblance to
the box of a mail-coach, which had contrived, by some private theory of
development of its own, to dispense with its body, while it had enlarged
its wheels to an almost incredible circumference; perched on the top of
this remarkable machine, and enveloped in a white greatcoat undermined
in every direction by strange and unexpected pockets, was none other
than the Honourable George Lawless! The turn-out was drawn by a pair
~116~~of thorough-breds, driven tandem, which were now (their irascible
tempers being disturbed by the delay which my usurpation of the road
had occasioned) relieving their feelings by executing a kind of hornpipe
upon their hindlegs. The equipage was completed by a tiger, so small,
that beyond a vague sensation of top-boots and a livery hat, one’s
senses failed to realise him.

“Why, Lawless!” exclaimed I; “you are determined to astonish the
natives, with a vengeance: such a turnout as that has never been seen in
these parts before, I’m certain.”

“Frank Fairlegh, by Jove! How are you, old fellow? Is it my trap you’re
talking about? what do you think of it? rather the thing, isn’t it, eh?”
 I signified my approval, and Lawless continued, “Yes, it’s been very
much admired, I assure you;--quiet, mare! quiet!--not a bad sort of
dodge to knock about in, eh?--What are you at, fool?--Tumble out,
Shrimp, and hit Spiteful a lick on the nose--he’s eating the mare’s
tail. Spicy tiger, Shrimp--did you ever hear how I picked him up?” I
replied in the negative, and Lawless resumed:--

“I was down at Broadstairs, the beginning of the long --wretched place,
but I went there for a boat-race with some more fellows; well, of
course, because we wanted it to be fine, the weather turned sulky, and
the boat-race had to be put off; so, to prevent ourselves from going
melancholy mad, we hired a drag, and managed to get together a team,
such as it was. The first day we went out they elected me waggoner, and
a nice job I had of it; three of the horses had never been in harness
before, and the fourth was a bolter. It was pretty near half an hour
before we could get them to start; and, when they were off, I had enough
to do to keep their heads out of the shop-windows. However, as soon as
they began to get warm to their work, things improved, and we rattled
along merrily. We were spinning away at about twelve miles an hour when,
just as we were getting clear of the town, we came suddenly upon a covey
of juvenile blackguards who were manufacturing dirt pies right in the
centre of the road. As soon as I saw them I sung out to them to clear
the course, but before they had time to cut away we were slap into the
middle of them. Well, I thought it was to be a regular case of Herod,
and that there would be at least half a dozen of them spifflicated, but
they all managed to save their bacon, except Shrimp--one of the wheels
went over him and broke him somewhere. Where was it, Shrimp?”

~117~~“Left arm, sir, if you please,” replied Shrimp in a shrill treble.

“Ay, so it was,” continued Lawless. “As soon as I could contrive to
pull up I sent the groom back, with orders to find a doctor, get the boy
repaired, and tell them to come to me at the hotel in the morning, and
I’d pay for all damages. Accordingly, while I was eating my breakfast
next morning, an amphibious old female in a blue pea-jacket was shown
in to me, who stated she was Shrimp’s mother. First, she was extremely
lachrymose, and couldn’t speak a word; then she got the steam up,
and began slanging me till all was blue: I was ‘an unchristian-like,
hard-hearted, heathen Turk, so I was, and I’d been and spiled her sweet
boy completely, so I had; such a boy as he was too, bless him; it was
quite a sight to hear him say his Catechism; and as to reading his book,
he’d beat the parson himself into fits at it’. Fortunately for me, she
was a little touched in the wind, and, when she pulled up to take breath
for a fresh start, I managed to cut in. ‘I tell you what it is, old
lady,’ said I, ‘there’s no need for you to put yourself into a fury
about it; misfortunes will happen in the best-regulated families, and
it seems to me a boy more or less can make no great odds to any one--no
fear of the breed becoming extinct just at present, if one may judge
from appearances; however, as you seem to set a value upon this
particular boy, I’ll tell you what I’ll do: I’ll _buy_ him of you, and
then, if anything should go wrong with him, it will be my loss and not
yours. I’ll give you twenty pounds for him, and that’s more than he
would be worth if he was sound.’ By Jove, the old girl brightened up in
a moment, wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her coat, and said: ‘Five
pounds more, and it’s a bargain’. And the end of it all was, the brat
got well before I left the place; I paid the old woman her money, and
brought Shrimp away with me, and it hasn’t turned out such a bad spec
either, for he makes a capital tiger; and now I’ve broken him in, I
would not take twice the money for him. You’ll be at old Coleman’s hop
to-night, I suppose; so bye! bye! for the present.”

Thus saying he drew the whip lightly across the leader’s back, the
horses sprang forward, and in another moment he was out of sight.

Half an hour’s ride brought me within view of Elm Lodge, the house
lately taken by Mr. Coleman, senior. As I rang at the bell a figure
leaped out of one of the front windows, and came bounding across the
lawn to meet me, ~118~~and in another minute my hand was seized and my
arm nearly shaken off by Coleman.

“Freddy, old boy!” “Frank, my dear old fellow!” were our mutual
exclamations, as we once more shook hands with an energy which must have
highly edified a pompous footman whom my ring had summoned. After the
first excitement of our meeting had a little subsided we found time to
examine each other more minutely, and note the changes a couple of years
had wrought in us. Coleman was the first to speak.

“Why, Frank, how you are altered!” “If you were but decently civil, you
would say ‘improved’ instead of ‘altered,’” replied I; “but you’ll
never learn manners.”

“Oh, if you want compliments I’ll soon get up a few, but it strikes me
they are not required. A man with such a face and figure as yours soon
finds out that he is a deucedly good-looking fellow. Why, how high do
you stand?”

“About six feet without my boots,” replied I, laughing at Coleman, who
kept turning me round, and examining me from top to toe, as if I had
been some newly discovered animal.

“Well, you are a screamer, and no mistake,” exclaimed he at length.
“Be merciful towards the young ladies tonight, or the floor will be so
cumbered with the heaps of slain that we shall have no room to dance.”

“Never fear,” rejoined I, “the female breast is not so susceptible as
you imagine; and I’ll back your bright eyes and merry smile to do more
execution than my long legs and broad shoulders any day.”

“No soft sawder, Master Frank, if you please; it’s an article for which
I’ve a particular distaste: people never make pretty speeches to one’s
face without laughing at one behind one’s back afterwards by way of
compensation.”

“Which rule of course applies to the remarks you have just been making
about me,” returned I.

“You’ve caught me there fairly,” laughed Coleman; “but come along in,
now, I want to introduce you to my mother and the governor; they are
longing to see you after all I’ve told them about you, though I can’t
say you look much like the thin delicate youth I have described you.”

Mr. Coleman, who was a short, stout, red-faced old gentleman, with a
bald head and a somewhat pompous manner, came forward and welcomed
me warmly, saying ~119~~all sorts of complimentary things to me in
extremely high-flown and grandiloquent language, and referring to my
having saved his son’s life, in doing which, however, he quite won my
heart by the evident pride and affection with which he spoke of Freddy.
The lady of the house was a little, round, merry-looking woman, chiefly
remarkable (as I soon discovered) for a peculiar mental obliquity,
leading her always to think of the wrong thing at the wrong time,
whereby she was perpetually becoming involved in grievous colloquial
entanglements, and meeting with innumerable small personal accidents, at
which no one laughed so heartily as herself.

About half-past nine that evening some of the guests began to arrive,
amongst the foremost of whom was Lawless, most expensively got up for
the occasion in a stock and waistcoat, which, as Coleman observed,
required to be seen ere they could be believed in. As the arrivals
succeeded each other more rapidly, and the rooms began to fill, Lawless
took me by the arm and led me to a corner, whence, unnoticed ourselves,
we could observe the whole scene.

“This will be a very full meet, Fairlegh,” he began; “I’m getting
confoundedly nervous, I can tell you; I’m not used to this sort of
affair, you know; I used always to shirk everything of the kind, but my
_Mater_ has got it into her head, since she’s become ‘My Lady,’ that
she must flare up and give balls, because ‘ladies of rank always do so,’
forsooth; and so she’s taken me in hand, to try and polish me up into
something like ‘a man of fashion,’ as she calls those confounded puppies
one sees lounging about drawing-rooms. Well, as I didn’t like to rile
the old woman by refusing to do what she wanted, I went to a French
mounseer, to teach me my paces; I’ve been in training above a month, so
I thought I’d come here just as a sort of trial to see how I could go
the pace.” “This is your _debut_, in fact,” returned I. “My how much?”
 was the reply. “Oh, I see, starting for the maiden stakes, for untried
horses only--that sort of thing--eh? Yes, it’s the first time I’ve been
regularly entered; I hope I shan’t bolt off the course; I feel uncommon
shy at starting, I can assure you.”

“Oh, you’ll do very well when you’re once off; your partner will tell
you if you are going to make any mistake,” replied I.

“My partner, eh? You mean one of those white-muslined young ladies, who
is to run in double harness with me, I suppose?--that’s another sell;--I
shall be ~120~~expected to talk to her, and I never know what to say
to women; if one don’t pay ‘era compliments, and do a bit of the
sentimental, they set you down as a brute directly. What an ass I was to
come here! I wish it was bedtime!”

“Nonsense, man; never be afraid!” exclaimed Freddy, who had just joined
us; “I’ll pick you out a partner who’s used to the thing, and will do
all the talking herself, and be glad of the opportunity of giving
her tongue a little exercise; and here comes the very girl, of all
others--Di Clapperton.” Then turning towards a tall, showy-looking girl,
who had just arrived, he addressed her with--“Delighted to see you, Miss
Clapperton; a ball-room never appears to me properly arranged till it
is graced by your presence: here’s my friend, the Hon. George Lawless,
dying to be introduced to you”.

“Pleasure--ar--dancing--with you, eh?” muttered the Hon. George, giving
a little quick nod between each word, and getting very red in the face.

The young lady smiled a gracious assent, and saying, “I think they
are forming a quadrille--shall we take our places?” marched him off in
triumph.

“Frank, are you provided; or can I do anything for you?” inquired
Coleman.

“Who is that interesting-looking girl, with dark hair?” asked I, in
return.

“What, the she-male with the white camellia in her head, leaning on the
arm of that old fellow with a cast-iron face? What a splendid pair
of eyes she has got! I’ll rind out her name, and get you introduced,”
 replied Coleman, disappearing in the crowd. In a minute or two he
returned, and informed me that the young lady’s name was Saville.
“You’ve not made such a bad hit either,” continued he; “they tell me
she’s to be a great heiress, and old Ironsides there is her guardian.
They say he keeps her shut up so close that nobody can see her; he would
hardly let her come to-night, only he’s under some business obligations
to my governor, and he persuaded him to bring her, in order to give me a
chance, I suppose.”

“What an expression of sadness there is in those deep blue eyes of hers!
I am afraid she is not happy, poor thing!” said I, half thinking aloud.

“Why, you’re getting quite romantic about it!” returned Coleman; “for
my part, I think she looks rather jolly than otherwise;--see how she’s
laughing with my cousin Lucy; by Jove, how her face lights up when
~121~~she smiles!--she’s very decidedly pretty. Well, will you be
introduced?--they are going to waltz.”

I signified my assent, and Coleman set off in search of his father to
perform the ceremony, not having courage enough himself to face “old
Stiff-back,” as he irreverently termed the young lady’s guardian.

“I am sorry to refuse your young friend, Mr. Coleman,” was the reply to
my introduction; “but Miss Saville never waltzes.”

“Come, don’t be crabbed, Vernor; young people ought to enjoy themselves;
recollect, we were young ourselves once!”

“If old Time had dealt as leniently by me as he seems to have done by
you, Coleman, I should consider myself young yet,” replied Mr. Vernor.
“I believe I have spoken my ward’s wishes upon this point; but, if it
would be more satisfactory to your friend to hear her decision from her
own lips I can have no objection.--Clara, my dear, this gentleman, Mr.
Fairlegh, does you the honour of wishing to waltz with you.”

Thus accosted, Miss Saville raised her eyes to my face for a moment,
and, instantly casting them down again, coloured slightly, as she
replied: “If Mr. Fairlegh will excuse me, I had rather not waltz”.

I could, of course, only bow in acquiescence, and was turning away, when
old Mr. Coleman stopped me with:--

“There, wait a minute, Mr. Fairlegh; my little niece, Lucy Markham, will
be only too glad to console you for your disappointment; she’s never so
happy as when she’s waltzing”.

“If you are impertinent, uncle, I’ll make you waltz with me till you’re
quite tired, by way of punishment!” replied his niece, as she accepted
my proffered arm.

During a pause in the waltz I referred to the refusal just received, and
asked my partner (a lively little brunette, with very white teeth and a
bewitching smile) whether her friend Miss Saville were not somewhat of a
prude?

“Poor dear Clara--a prude?--oh no!” was the reply. “You mean because she
would not waltz, I suppose?”

I bowed my head in assent, and she continued:--

“I gave you credit for more penetration, Mr. Fairlegh; did you not see
it was all that horrible Mr. Vernor, her guardian?--he chose her not to
waltz; and she is too much afraid of him to dare to do anything he does
not approve;--he would hardly let her come here to-night, only Uncle
Coleman worried him into it”.

~122~~“She is exceedingly pretty,” remarked I; “there is something
peculiar in the expression of those beautiful blue eyes which
particularly pleases me; an earnest, trustful look, which--you will
laugh at what I am going to say--which I have never seen before, except
in the eyes of a dog!”

“Oh! I know so well what you mean,” replied my partner; “I have observed
it often, but I never should have known how to express it. What a good
idea!”

“May I ask whether you are very intimate with her? Is she an old friend
of yours?”

“No, I never saw her till my uncle took this house; but Mr. Vernor
sometimes brings her with him when he drives over on business, and she
comes and sits with me while they are puzzling about their parchments. I
like her so much; she seems as agreeable and good as she is pretty.”

“How is it,” asked I, “that my friend Freddy did not know her by sight
even?--he had to inquire her name this evening.”

“Why, Frederick is generally obliged to be in town, you know; and I
have observed that when he is down here Mr. Vernor never brings her with
him.”

“He had better make a nun of her at once,” said I.

“Perhaps she won’t be a nun!” said, or rather sang Lucy. And here we
joined the waltzers again, and the conversation ended.



CHAPTER XIV -- THE BALL

          “I could be pleased with any one,
          Who entertained my sight with such gay shows
          As men and women, moving here and there,
          That coursing one another in their steps,
          Have made their feet a tune.”
           --Dryden.

          “And run through fire I will for thy sweet sake.”

          “Come now, what... shall we have,
          To wear away this long age of three hours,
          Between our after-supper and bed-time?”
           --Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“By Jove! this is hot work!” exclaimed Lawless, flinging himself down on
a sofa so violently as to make an old lady, who occupied the farther end
of it, jump to an extent which seriously disarranged an Anglo-Asiatic
~123~~nondescript, believed in by her as a turban, wherewith she adorned
her aged head. “If I have not been going the pace like a brick for the
last two hours, it’s a pity; what a girl that Di Clapperton is to step
out!--splendid action she has, to be sure, and giving tongue all the
time too. She’s in first-rate training, ‘pon my word: I thought she’d
have sewn me up at one time--the pace was terrific. I must walk into old
Coleman’s champagne before I make a fresh start; when I’ve recovered my
wind, and got a mouthful of hay and water, I’ll have at her again, and
dance till all’s blue before I give in.”

“My dear fellow,” said I, “you must not dance all the evening with the
same young lady; you’ll have her brother call upon you the first thing
to-morrow morning to know your intentions.”

“He shall very soon learn them as far as he is concerned, then,” replied
Lawless, doubling his fist. “Let me have him to myself for a quiet
twenty minutes, and I’ll send him home with such a face on him that his
nearest relations will be puzzled to recognise him for the next month to
come at least. But what do you really mean?”

“That it’s not etiquette to go on dancing with one young lady the whole
evening; you must ask some one else.”

“Have all the bother to go over again, eh? what a treat! Well, we live
and learn; it will require a few extra glasses of champagne to get the
steam up to the necessary height, that’s all. And there they are going
down to supper; that’s glorious!” and away he bounded to secure Miss
Clapperton’s arm, while I offered mine to the turbaned old lady, to
compensate for her late alarm.

After supper the dancing was resumed with fresh energy, the champagne
having produced its usual exhilarating effects upon the exhausted frames
of the dancers. Notwithstanding my former repulse, I made a successful
attempt to gain Miss Saville’s hand for a quadrille, though I saw, or
fancied I saw, the scowl on Mr. Vernor’s sour countenance grow deeper as
I led her away. My perseverance was not rewarded by any very interesting
results, for my partner, who was either distressingly shy, or acting
under constraint of some kind, made monosyllabic replies to every remark
I addressed to her, and appeared relieved when the termination of the
set enabled her to rejoin her grim protector.

“Of all the disagreeable faces I ever saw, Mr. Vernor’s is the most
repulsive,” said I to Coleman; “were I a believer in the power of the
‘evil eye,’ he is just the sort ~124~~of looking person I should imagine
would possess it. I am certain I have never met him before, and yet,
strange to say, there is something which appears familiar to me in his
expression, particularly when he frowns.”

“He is a savage-looking old Guy,” replied Freddy, “and bullies
that sweet girl shockingly, I can see. I should feel the greatest
satisfaction in punching his head for him, but I suppose it would be
hardly the correct thing on so short an acquaintance, and in my father’s
house too; eh?”

“Not exactly,” replied I, turning away with a smile.

When Lawless made his appearance after supper it was evident by his
flushed face, and a slight unsteadiness in his manner of walking, that
he had carried his intentions with regard to the champagne into effect;
and, heedless of my warning, he proceeded to lay violent siege to Miss
Clapperton, to induce her to waltz with him. I was watching them with
some little amusement, for the struggle in the young lady’s mind between
her sense of the proper, and her desire to waltz with an Honourable, was
very apparent, when I was requested by Mrs. Coleman to go in search of a
cloak appertaining to the turbaned old lady whom I had escorted down to
supper, and who, being delicate in some way or other, required especial
care in packing up. Owing to a trifling mistake of Mrs. Coleman’s (who
had described a red, worsted shawl as a blue cloth cloak, which mistake
I had to discover and rectify) my mission detained me some minutes. As I
re-entered the ball-room, shawl in hand, I was startled by the crash of
something heavy falling, followed by a shriek from several of the ladies
at the upper end of the room; and on hastening to the scene of action I
soon perceived the cause of their alarm.

[Illustration: page124  Fall of the Cadelabrum]

During my absence Lawless, having succeeded in overcoming Miss
Clapperton’s scruples, had recommenced waltzing with the greatest
energy; but unfortunately, after going round the room once or twice,
“the pace,” as he called it, becoming faster at every turn, the combined
effects of the champagne and the unaccustomed exercise rendered him
exceedingly giddy, and just before I entered the room he had fallen
against a small table supporting a handsome China candelabrum,
containing several wax lights, the overthrow of which had occasioned
the grand crash which I heard. The cause of the shriek, however, still
remained to be discovered, and a nearer approach instantly rendered it
apparent. One of the wax candles, which had not been extinguished in its
fall, had rolled against the ball-dress of Miss Saville, who happened
to ~125~~be seated next the table, and set it on fire. After making an
ineffectual attempt to put it out with her hands, she became alarmed,
and as I approached started wildly up, with the evident intention of
rushing out of the room. Without a moment’s hesitation I sprang forward,
caught her in my arms, and, flinging the worsted shawl over her dress,
which was just beginning to blaze, enveloped her in it, and, telling her
if she only remained quiet she would be perfectly safe, laid her on the
floor, while I continued to hold the thick shawl tightly down, till, to
my very great delight, I succeeded in extinguishing the flames.

By this time several gentlemen had gathered round us, eager with their
advice and offers of assistance. Having satisfied myself that the danger
was entirely over I raised Miss Saville from the ground, and, making way
through the crowd, half led, half carried her to the nearest sofa. After
placing her carefully upon it I left her to the care of Mrs. Coleman and
Lucy Markham, while I sought out the turbaned old lady whose shawl I had
so unceremoniously made use of, and succeeded in making my peace with
her, though, I believe, in her own secret breast, she considered Miss
Saville’s safety dearly purchased at the expense of her favourite
whittle. As I approached the sofa again, the following words, in the
harsh tones of Mr. Vernor’s voice, met my ear:--

“I have ascertained our carriage is here; as soon, therefore, as
you feel strong enough to walk, Clara, my dear, I should advise your
accompanying me home; quiet and rest are the best remedies after such an
alarm as this”.

“I am quite ready, sir,” was the reply, in a faint tone of voice.

“Nay, wait a few minutes longer,” said Lucy Markham kindly; “you are
trembling from head to foot even yet.”

“Indeed I am quite strong; I have no doubt I can walk now,” replied Miss
Saville, attempting to rise, but sinking back again almost immediately
from faintness.

“Can I be of any assistance?” inquired I, coming forward.

“I am obliged to you for the trouble you have already taken, sir,”
 answered Mr. Vernor coldly, “but will not add to it. Miss Saville will
be able to proceed with the assistance of my arm in a few minutes.”

After a short pause the young lady again announced her readiness to
depart; and, having shaken hands with Mrs. Coleman and Lucy Markham,
turned to leave the ~126~~room, leaning on Mr. Vernor’s arm. As I was
standing near the door I stepped forward to hold it open for them, Mr.
Vernor acknowledging my civility by the slightest imaginable motion of
the head. Miss Saville, as she approached me, paused for a moment, as
if about to speak, but, apparently relinquishing her intention, merely
bowed, and passed on.

“Well, if it’s in that sort of way fashionable individuals demonstrate
their gratitude for having their lives saved, I must say I don’t admire
it,” exclaimed Coleman, who had witnessed the cool behaviour of Mr.
Vernor and his ward; “it may be very genteel, but, were I in your place,
I should consider it unsatisfactory in the extreme, and allow the
next inflammable young lady who might happen to attract a spark in my
presence to consume as she pleased, without interfering; and peace be to
her ashes!”

“It was most fortunate that I happened to have that thick shawl in my
hand,” said I; “in another minute her whole dress would have been in
a blaze, and it would have been next to impossible to save her. What
courage and self-command she showed! she never attempted to move after I
threw the shawl around her, till I told her all danger was over.”

“Very grand, all that sort of thing,” returned Freddy; “but for my own
part I should like to see a little more feeling. I’ve no taste for your
‘marble maidens’; they always put me in mind of Lot’s wife.”

“Eh! Mrs. Lot?” interrupted Lawless, coming up to us: “why was she like
me? do you give it up? Because she got into a pretty pickle--there’s
a riddle for you. I say, I made a nice mess of it just now, didn’t I?
that’s what comes of going to these confounded balls. The fact was,”
 he continued, sinking his voice, “the filly bolted with me; she took
uncommon kindly to the champagne at supper; in consequence, she was
so fresh when we started that I couldn’t hold her; she kept pushing on
faster and faster, till at last she was fairly off with me; we did very
well as long as we stuck to the open country, but at last we contrived
to get among some very awkward fences; the first stiff bit of timber
we came to she made a rush at, and down we came, gate--I mean table,
candlestick, and all, a regular smash; and to make matters worse, one of
the candles set the other young woman’s petticoat alight.”

“In fact, after a very severe run, you were nearly being in at the
death,” suggested Coleman.

~127~~“By Jove, it was nothing to laugh at, though!” remarked Lawless;
“she’d have been regularly cooked, if Prank Fairlegh hadn’t put her
out when he did, and I should have been tried for ‘Unjustifiable
Girl-icide,’ or ‘Maliciously setting fire to a marriageable female,’ or
some such thing; and I daresay the young woman wasn’t insured anywhere:
I should have got into a pretty mess; it would have been a worse job
than breaking Shrimp.”

“Frederick, look here!” cried Lucy Markham, who was passing the place
where we stood; “see how Mr. Fairlegh’s sleeve is scorched; surely,” she
continued, turning to me, “your arm must be injured.”

“It begins to feel rather painful,” replied I; “but I daresay it’s
nothing to signify.”

“Come to my room,” exclaimed Freddy anxiously; “why did you not mention
it before?”

“Really I scarcely felt it in the excitement of the moment,” returned I;
“it can’t be of any consequence.”

On removing the coat-sleeve, however, a somewhat considerable burn was
apparent, extending about half way from the wrist to the elbow, and
which, the moment it was exposed to the air, became excessively painful.

Fortunately, among the guests who had not yet taken their departure was
the surgeon of the neighbourhood, who was speedily summoned, and who,
after having applied the proper remedies, recommended me to carry my arm
in a sling for a few days, at the end of which time, he assured me, it
would cause me little inconvenience.

As it was, by great good luck, my left arm which was injured, I
submitted to this mandate with tolerable resignation, and returned to
the drawing-room to be pitied by the tongues of the old, and the bright
eyes of the young ladies, to an extent which (as at that time of day I
was somewhat addicted to the vice of shyness) was more flattering than
agreeable.

It was between two and three o’clock when Lawless and I prepared to
take our departure for the inn at which we were to sleep. Being a lovely
night Coleman volunteered to accompany us for the sake of the walk,
telling the servants not to sit up for him, as he had a latch-key in his
pocket--an article, regarding the possession of which a constant civil
war was carried on between his mother and himself, wherein by dint of
sundry well-contrived stratagems, and deeply laid schemes, he invariably
gained the victory.

“I tell you what,” said Lawless, “the row and bother, ~128~~and the
whole kick-up altogether, has made me alarmingly hungry; the only decent
bit of chicken I managed to lay hands on at supper Di Clapperton ate:
precious twist that girl has, to be sure; even after all the ground
she’s been over to-night, going a topping pace the whole time too,
she wasn’t a bit off her feed; didn’t she walk into the ham
sandwiches--that’s all! I’d rather keep her for a week than a fortnight,
I can tell you; she’d eat her head off in a month, and no mistake. Here,
waiter,” he continued, “have you got anything to eat in the house?”

“Yes, sir, splendid barrel of oysters down by coach last night; capital
brown stout, sir--real Guinness’s!”

“That’s it, my man,” was the rejoinder; “trot ‘em out, by all means.
Freddy, old boy,” he continued, “come along in with us, and have some.”

“Well, I don’t mind astonishing the natives for once in a way,” replied
Freddy; “but it’s dreadfully debauched, eating oysters and drinking
porter at this time of day or night, whichever you are pleased to call
it; you’ll ruin my morals.”

“The devil fly away with your morals, and he won’t be overloaded
either,” was the polite rejoinder; and in we all went together. The
oysters and porter soon made their appearance, and had ample justice
done them; then, as a matter of course, spirits and water and cigars
were produced, “just to prevent the oysters from disagreeing with us”;
and we sat talking over old times, and relating various adventures which
had occurred to us since, without troubling our heads about the flight
of minutes. At length Coleman, pulling out his watch, exclaimed: “Past
four o’clock, by the powers! I must be getting to bed--I’ve got a lease
to draw to-morrow, and my head won’t be over-clear as it is.”

“Nonsense,” replied Lawless; “bed’s all a popular delusion; we can’t be
better off than we are--sit still.” But on Coleman’s persisting in his
wish to depart, Lawless continued: “Well, take another glass, and then
Frank and I will walk home with you, and see you safe, for it’s my
belief that you’re getting ‘screwed.,’ or you’d never think of going to
bed”. Freddy and I exchanged glances, for if any of our party were in
the condition expressed by the mysterious word “screwed,” it certainly
was Lawless himself. After sitting some little time longer, we once more
sallied forth, with the avowed intention of seeing Coleman home. ~129~~



CHAPTER XV -- RINGING THE CURFEW

     “If the bell have any sides the clapper will  find ‘em.”--
     --_Ben Jonson_.

     “----ringing changes all our bells hath marr’d,
     Jangled they have and jarr’d
     So long, they’re out of tune, and out of frame;

     They seem not now the same.
     Put them in frame anew, and once begin
     To tune them so, that they may chime all in.”
      --_Herbert_.

     “Great then are the mysteries of bell-ringing: and this may
     be said in its praise, that of all devices which men have sought
     out for obtaining distinction by making a noise in the world, it
     is the most harmless.”
      --_The Doctor_.

AS we proceeded through the town Lawless, despite our endeavours to
restrain him, chose to vent his superabundant spirits by performing
sundry feats at the expense of the public, which, had the police
regulations of the place been properly attended to, would have assuredly
gained us a sojourn in the watch-house. We had just prevailed upon him
to move on, after singing “We won’t go home till morning” under the
windows of “the Misses Properprim’s Seminary for Young Ladies,” when
a little shrivelled old man, in a sort of watchman’s white greatcoat,
bearing a horn lantern in his hand, brushed past us, and preceded us
down the street at a shuffling trot.

“Holloa!” cried Lawless, “who’s that old picture of ugliness? Look what
a pace the beggar’s cutting along at! what on earth’s he up to?”

“That’s the sexton and bell-ringer,” returned Coleman; “they keep up the
old custom at Hillingford of ringing the curfew at daybreak, and he’s
going about it now, I suppose.”

“What jolly fun!” said Lawless; “come on, and let’s see how the old
cock does it; “and, suiting the action to the word, off he started in
pursuit.

“We’d better follow him,” said I; “he’ll be getting into some mischief
or other, depend upon it.”

After running a short distance down the street, on turning a corner
we found Lawless standing under a small arched door-way leading into a
curious old battlemented tower, which did not form part of any church
or other building of the same date as itself, but stood alone,
~130~~showing, as it reared its time-worn head high above the more
modern dwellings of which the street was composed, like some giant relic
of the days of old. This tower contained a peal of bells, the fame
of which was great in that part of the country, and of which the
townspeople were justly proud.

“All right!” cried Lawless; “the old scarecrow ran in here like a
lamp-lighter, as soon he saw me bowling after him, and has left the key
in the lock; so I shall take the liberty of exploring a little; I’ve a
strong though undeveloped taste for architectural antiquities. Twopence
more, and up goes the donkey! come along!”

So saying, he flung open the door, and disappeared up some steps leading
to the interior of the tower, and, after a moment’s hesitation, Coleman
and I followed him.

“Don’t be alarmed, old boy!” observed Lawless, patting the sexton (who
looked frightened out of his wits at our intrusion) so forcibly on the
back as to set him coughing violently; “we’re not come to murder you for
the sake of your lantern.”

“This gentleman,” said Coleman, who by the cunning twinkle of his eye
was evidently becoming possessed by the spirit of mischief, “has been
sent down by the Venerable Society of Antiquaries to ascertain whether
the old custom of ringing the Curfew is properly performed here. He is,
in fact, no other than the Noble President of the Society himself. That
gentleman (pointing to me) is the Vice-President, and I, who have the
honour of addressing you, am the unworthy Secretary.”

“That’s it, Daddy,” resumed Lawless, coolly taking up the lantern, and
lighting a cigar; “that’s the precise state of the poll, I mean case; so
now go to work, and mind you do the trick properly.”

Thus adjured, the old man, who appeared completely bewildered by all
that was going on, mechanically took hold of a rope, and began slowly
and at stated intervals tolling one of the bells.

“Where are your assistants, my good man?” inquired Coleman after a short
pause.--The only answer was a stare of vacant surprise, and Coleman
continued, “Why, you don’t mean to say you only ring one bell, to be
sure? oh, this is all wrong:--what do you say, Mr. President?”

“Wrong?” replied Lawless, removing the cigar from his mouth and puffing
a cloud of smoke into the sexton’s face, “I should just think it _was_,
most particularly and confoundedly wrong. I’ll tell you what it is, old
death’s-head and cross-bones; things can’t be allowed to go on ~131~~in
this manner. Reform, sir, is wanting, ‘the bill, the whole bill, and
nothing but the bill’. I mean to get into Parliament some day, Fairlegh,
when I am tired of knocking about, you know--but that wasn’t exactly
what I was going to say.”

“Suppose we show him the proper way to do it, Mr. President!” suggested
Freddy, catching hold of the rope of one of the bells.

“Off she goes,” cried Lawless, seizing another.

“Gentlemen, good gentlemen, don’t ring the bells, pray,” implored the
old man, “you’ll raise the whole town; they are never rung in that way
without there’s a fire, or a flood, or the riot act read, or something
of that dreadful natur the matter.”

But his expostulations were vain. Lawless had already begun ringing his
bell in a manner which threatened to stun us all; and Coleman saying to
me, “Come, Frank, we’re regularly in for it, so you may as well take a
rope and do the thing handsomely while we _are_ about it; it would
be horridly shabby of you to desert us now,” I hastened to follow his
example.

Now it must be known that when I arrived at the inn, before supper,
owing probably to a combination of the fatigue of the day, the
excitement of the evening and the pain of my arm, I felt somewhat faint
and exhausted, and should have greatly preferred going at once quietly
to bed; but, as I was aware that by so doing I should break up the party
I resolved to keep up as well as I could, and say nothing about it.
Finding myself refreshed by the bottled porter, I repeated the dose
several times, and the remedy continuing to prove efficacious, without
giving the thing a thought, I drank more deeply than was my wont, and
was a good deal surprised, when I rose to accompany the others, to
discover that my legs were slightly unsteady, and my head not so clear
as usual. Still I had been far from approving the proceedings of my
companions, and had any one told me, when I entered the tower, that I
was going to ring all the good people of Hillingford out of their beds
in a fright, I should indignantly have repelled the accusation. Now,
however, owing to the way in which Coleman had requested my assistance,
it appeared to my bewildered senses that I should be meanly deserting my
friends the moment they had got into difficulties, if I were to refuse;
but when he used the word “shabby,” it settled the business, and,
seizing a rope with my uninjured hand, I began pulling away vigorously.

~132~~“Now, then, you wretched old beggar,” shouted Lawless, “don’t
stand there winking and blinking like an owl; pull away like bricks,
or I’ll break your neck for you; go to work, I say!” and the miserable
sexton, with a mute gesture of despair, resuming his occupation, a
peal of four bells was soon ringing bravely out over hill and dale, and
making “night horrible” to the startled inhabitants of Hillingford.

After the lapse of a few minutes a distant shout was heard; then a
confused noise of people running and calling to each other in the
streets reached our ears; and lastly the sound of several persons
rapidly approaching the bell-tower became audible.

“We’re in for a scrimmage now, I expect,” said Lawless, leisurely
turning up his sleeves.

“Not a bit of it,” replied Freddy; “only leave it to me, and you’ll
see. All you fellows have got to do is to hold your tongues, and keep
on ringing away till your arms ache; trust me to manage the thing all
right. Lawless, keep your eye on ancient Methuselah there, and if he
offers to say a word just knock him head over heels by accident, will
you?”

“Aye, aye, sir,” replied Lawless, shaking his fists significantly at the
sexton.

At this moment a short fat man with a very red face (who we afterwards
learned was no less a person than the mayor of Hillingford in his
public, and a mighty tallow-chandler in his private, capacity) appeared,
attired in a night-cap and greatcoat, and bearing the rest of his
wardrobe under his arm, followed by several of the townspeople, all in
a singular state of undress, and with the liveliest alarm depicted on
their countenances. The worthy mayor was so much out of breath by his
unwonted exertions that some seconds elapsed before he could utter
a word, and in the meantime we continued ringing as though our lives
depended upon it. At length he contrived to gasp out a hurried inquiry
(hardly audible amidst the clanging of the bells) as to what was the
matter. To this Coleman replied by pointing with one hand to a kind
of loop-hole, of which there were several for the purpose of supplying
light and air to the interior of the tower, while with the other hand he
continued ringing away more lustily than before.

“Bless my soul!” exclaimed the mayor, raising himself on tiptoe, and
stretching his short neck in a vain endeavour to peep through the
loop-hole, “it must be a fire in West Street!”

~133~~Two or three of the by-standers immediately rushed into the
street, calling out, “A fire in West Street! send for the engines”.

At this moment Freddy caught the eye of a tall, gaunt-looking man in a
top-boot and plush breeches, but without coat or waistcoat, and wearing
a gold-laced cocked hat on his head, hind part before, from beneath
which peeped out a white cotton night-cap. Having succeeded in
attracting the attention of this worthy, who in his proper person
supported the dignity of parish beadle, Coleman repeated the same
stratagem he had so successfully practised upon the mayor, save that
in this instance he pointed to a loop-hole in a completely opposite
direction to the one he had indicated previously. The beadle immediately
ran out, muttering ere he did so, “I was certain sure as they was
all wrong”.--In another minute we heard him shouting, “It’s in Middle
Street, I tell you, there’s a fire in Middle Street!”

[Illustration: page133  Freddy Mystifies the Beadle]

Coleman now turned to the mayor, who, having somewhat recovered his
breath, was evidently preparing to question the sexton as to the
particulars of the affair, and exclaimed in a tone of deep feeling, “I
am surprised to see a person of your high station standing idle at a
moment like this! take a rope, sir, and lend a hand to assist us, if you
be a man”.

“To be sure, to be sure,” was the reply, “anything for the good of the
town,” and, grasping an unoccupied rope, he began pulling away with all
his might.

The hubbub and confusion now became something unparalleled--people
without number kept running in and out of the tower, giving and
receiving all kinds of contradictory orders; volunteers had been
found to assist us, and the whole peal of eight bells was clashing and
clanging away above the tumult, and spreading the alarm farther and
wider; men on horseback were arriving from the country eager to render
assistance; women were screaming, dogs barking, children crying; and, to
crown the whole, a violent and angry debate was being carried on by the
more influential members of the crowd as to the quarter in which the
supposed conflagration was raging--one party loudly declaring it was in
Middle Street, while the other as vehemently protested it was in West
Street.

The confusion had apparently attained its highest pitch, and the noise
was perfectly deafening, when suddenly a shout was raised, “The engines!
clear the way for the engines!” and in another moment the scampering of
the ~134~~crowd in all directions, the sound of horses’ feet galloping,
and the rattle of wheels, announced their approach. While all this was
going on Coleman had contrived silently and unperceived to substitute
two of the by-standers in my place and his own, so that Lawless was the
only one of our party actually engaged in ringing. Seizing the moment,
therefore, when the shout of “The engines!” had attracted the attention
of the loiterers, he touched him on the shoulder, saying, “Now’s our
time, come along,” and, joining a party who were going out, we reached
the door of the bell-tower unobserved.

The scene which presented itself to our view as we gained the open
street would require the pencil of a Wilkie, or the pen of a Dickens, to
describe. The street widened in front of the bell-tower, so as to make
a kind of square. In the centre of the space thus formed stood the
fire-engine drawn by four post-horses, the post-boys sitting erect in
their saddles, ready to dash forward the moment the firemen (who in
their green coats faced with red, and shining leather helmets,
imparted a somewhat military character to the scene) should succeed
in ascertaining the place at which their assistance was required. The
crowd, which had opened to admit the passage of the engine, immediately
closed round it again in an apparently impenetrable phalanx, the
individual members of which afforded as singular a variety of costume
as can well be imagined, extending from the simple shirt of propriety
to the decorated uniforms of the fire-brigade. As every one who had an
opinion to give was bawling it out at the very top of his voice, whilst
those who had none contented themselves by shouting vague sentences
devoid of particular meaning of any kind, the noise and tumult were such
as beggared description. There was one short, stout, red-faced little
fellow (for I succeeded in catching sight of him at last) with a mouth
of such fearful dimensions that when it was open the upper half of his
head appeared a mere lid, whose intellects being still partially under
the dominion of sleep, evidently imagined himself at the Election,
which had taken place a short time previously, and continued strenuously
vociferating the name of his favourite candidate, though the cry of
“Judkins for ever!” did not tend greatly to elucidate matters. Suddenly,
and at the very height of the confusion, the bells ceased ringing, and
for a moment, as if influenced by some supernatural power, the crowd to
a man became silent.

The transition from the Babel of sounds I have been ~135~~describing to
such perfect tranquillity was most striking, and impressed one with an
involuntary feeling of awe. I was aroused by Coleman, who whispered in
an undertone, “The sexton has peached, depend upon it, and the sooner
we’re off the better”.

“Yes, and I’ll go in style too; so good-bye, and take care of
yourselves,” exclaimed Lawless, and, springing forward, before any
one was aware of his intention, he forced his way through the crowd,
overturning sundry members thereof in his progress, until he reached the
fire-engine, upon which he seated himself with a bound, shouting as
he did so: “Forward, forward! do you want the place to be burnt to
the ground? I’ll show you the way; give ‘em the spur; faster, faster,
straight on till I tell you to turn--faster, I say!”

[Illustration: page135 Eloping with the Fire-Engine]

The appearance of authority, coupled with energy and decision, will
usually control a crowd. The firemen, completely taken in by Lawless’s
manner, reiterated his orders; the post-boys applied both whip and spur
vigorously--the horses dashed forward, and, amidst the enthusiastic
cheering of the mob, the engine disappeared like a flash of lightning.

“Well, I give the Honourable George credit for that,” exclaimed Coleman,
as soon as we had a little recovered from our surprise at Lawless’s
elopement with the fire-engine; “it was a good idea, and he worked it
out most artistically; the air with which he waved his hat to cheer them
forward was quite melodramatic. I’ve seen the thing not half so well
done by several of the greatest generals who ever lived--gallant
commanders, whom their men would have followed through any amount of the
reddest possible fire during the whole of Astley’s campaigns, that is,
if the commissariat department (consisting of the pot-boy stationed at
the side-scenes with the porter) did its duty efficiently.”

“Freddy, they’re beginning to come out from the bell-tower,” interrupted
I; “we shall be called upon to answer for our misdeeds if we stay much
longer; see, that long man in the cocked hat is coming towards us.”

“So he is,” returned Coleman; “it strikes me they’ve found us out;
follow me, and try and look as if it wasn’t you as much as possible,
will you?” So saying, he began to make his way out of the crowd
unperceived, an example I hastened to follow; but we were not destined
to effect our purpose quite so easily. The point Coleman wished to gain
was an arched gateway leading into a stable-yard, from which he hoped,
by a foot-path with which he was acquainted, across some fields, to
reach ~136~~without molestation the inn where I was to sleep. But,
in order to effect this, we were obliged to pass the door of the
bell-tower, from which several people, who appeared angry and excited,
were now issuing. The foremost of those, the cock-hatted official before
mentioned, made his way up to us, exclaiming as he did so:--

“Here, you young gen’lmen, just you stop a bit, will yer? His Wusshup,
the mayor, seems to begin to think as somebody’s been a making a fool of
him.”

“A very natural idea,” returned Coleman; “I only wonder it never
occurred to him before; as far as my limited acquaintance with him
will allow me to judge, the endeavour appears to have been perfectly
successful. I wish you a very good-morning.”

“That’s all wery fine, but I must trouble yer to come along o’ me; his
Wusshup wants to speak to yer,” replied the beadle, seizing Coleman by
the coat-collar.

“That is a pleasure his ‘Wusshup’ must contrive to postpone till he
has caught me,” answered Freddy, as with a sudden jerk he succeeded
in freeing himself from his captor’s grasp, while, almost at the same
moment, he dealt him a cuff on the side of the head which sent him
reeling back to the door of the bell-tower, where encountering the
mayor, who had just made his appearance, he came headlong to the
ground, dragging that illustrious functionary down with him in a frantic
endeavour to save himself. Profiting by the confusion that ensued Freddy
and I sprang forward, darted through the archway, and, making the best
use of our legs, soon found ourselves in the open fields, and quite
beyond the reach of pursuit.



CHAPTER XVI -- THE ROMAN FATHER

          “If a dream should come in now to make you afear’d,
          With a wind-mill on his head, and bells at his beard;
          Would you straight wear your spectacles here at your toes,
          And your boots on your brows, and your spurs on your nose?”
           --_Ben Jonson_.

          “No-----he
          With more than Roman fortitude is ever
          First at the board in this unhappy process
          Against his last and only son.”
           --_The Two Foscari._

DREAMS, ye strange mysterious visions of the soul! Ye wild and freakish
gambolings of the spirit, freed from the incubus of matter, and
unfettered by the control of reason, of what fantastic caprices are ye
the originators ~137~~--what caricatures of the various features of our
waking life do ye not exhibit to us, ludicrous and distorted indeed, but
still preserving through their most extravagant exaggerations a wayward
and grotesque likeness to the realities they shadow forth! And stranger
even than your most strange vagaries, is the cool matter-of-fact way in
which our sleeping senses calmly accept and acquiesce in the medley of
impossible absurdities you offer to their notice. We conceive ourselves,
for instance, proceeding along a green lane on horseback; the animal
upon which we are mounted becomes suddenly, we know and care not how,
a copper tea-kettle, and we ride quietly on without testifying, or
even feeling, the least symptom of surprise, as though the identity
of hackneys and tea-kettles was a fact generally recognised in natural
history; the kettle perhaps addresses us, it converses with us on all
the subjects which interest us most deeply; and we discuss our various
hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, loves and hates, with no other
sentiment, save a degree of pleasure at the very sensible and
enlightened views which the utensil takes of the matter. I might
multiply examples, ad infinitum, to illustrate my meaning; but to
those who are familiar with the phenomena alluded to one instance will
suffice; while those who have never experienced them will probably,
at all events, take refuge in disbelief, and lament themselves with a
self-satisfying sorrow over the fresh proof it adduces of the truth of
the Israelitish monarch’s aphorism, that “all men are liars “.

Be this as it may, my sleep (when, at length, after the excitement I had
undergone, sleep condescended to visit me, which was not until, contrary
to all the rules of good breeding, Somnus had allowed me to call upon
him repeatedly in vain) was disturbed by all sorts and kinds of visions.
Lawlesses innumerable, attended by shoals of top-booted shrimps--the
visionary shrimp being a sort of compromise between the boy so called
and the real article--drove impossible dog-carts drawn by quadrupeds
whose heads and necks bore a striking resemblance to the waltz-loving
Diana Clapperton, up and down ball-rooms, to the unspeakable terror
of squadrons of turbaned old ladies. Deafening peals of bells, rung
by troops of Freddy ColeMEN (which I take to be the correct plural
of Coleman), were rousing night-capped nations from their slumbers
in alarm, to whom flocks of frightened mayors were bleating forth
bewildered orders, which resulted in perplexing everybody; and through
it all, mixed up and combined with everything, the pale interesting face
of Clara Saville, ~138~~characterised by an expression of the deepest
sadness, gazed at me reproachfully out of its large trustful eyes, and
rendered me intensely miserable. From dreams such as these I was
not sorry to be aroused by the sun shining brightly through my
window-shutter; and, on consulting my watch, I found, somewhat to my
surprise, that I had slept till nearly midday.

On reaching the breakfast-room my first inquiry was for Lawless, in
reply to which, I was informed that he had returned (on the fire-engine)
about half an hour after I came in; that immediately upon his arrival
he had called for unlimited supplies of rum, lemons, and other suitable
ingredients, wherewith he manufactured a monster brewing of punch in
a washing-tub for the benefit of the firemen, with whom he had somehow
contrived to establish the most amicable relations; he then assisted in
discussing the beverage he had prepared, which appeared to produce no
particular effects until, wishing to rise to return thanks when they
drank his health, he suddenly lost his balance, and being carried to bed
by the waiter and boots, had not yet reappeared. Not liking to disturb
him, I breakfasted alone, and then strolled out to look after Freddy. I
found him sitting in the study, busily engaged in drawing the lease he
had mentioned to us the night before. On seeing me, however, he
sprang up, and, shaking me by the hand, inquired how I was after our
adventures.

“That’s all right, so far,” was his reply to my assurance that my
injured arm was going on favourably, and that I felt no other ill
effects of any kind. “I tell you what,” he continued, “my governor’s in
no end of a rage about the bell-ringing affair: that old fool of a mayor
recognised me it seems, and vows vengeance, threatening to do all sorts
of things to me, and the governor swears he’ll aid and abet him in
anything he chooses to do. They had better take care what they are at,
or they may find I’m not to be bullied with impunity; but come along
into the drawing-room; I don’t mind facing the elders now I’ve got you
to support me; and really, what between my father’s accusations and my
mother’s excuses, it’s as good as a play.”

“You’re abominably undutiful, Master Fred,” replied I, as I turned to
follow him.

On reaching the drawing-room we found Mr. Coleman standing with his arms
folded with an air of dignified severity, so exactly in the centre of
the hearth-rug that he seemed to belong to the pattern. Seated in a
low arm-chair on the right-hand side of the fireplace was Mrs.
~139~~Coleman, apparently absorbed in the manufacture of some mysterious
article of knitting, which constantly required propitiating by the
repetition of a short arithmetical puzzle, without which it would by no
means allow itself to be created. At her feet, engaged in the Sisyphian
labour of remedying the effects of “a great fall” in worsteds, scissors,
and other “articles for the work-table,” knelt Lucy Markham, looking
so piquante and pretty, that I could not help wondering how my friend
Freddy contrived to keep himself heart-whole, if, as I imagined, he was
thrown constantly into her society. The party was completed by a large,
sleek, scrupulously white cat, clearly a privileged individual, who sat
bolt upright in the chair opposite Mrs. Coleman, regarding the company
with an air of intense self-satisfaction, and evidently considering the
whole thing got up for her express delectation. Mr. Coleman received me
with pompous civility, hoping I felt no ill effects from my exertions in
the _earlier_ part of the evening--taking care to lay a marked emphasis
on the word earlier. Lucy acknowledged my presence by a smile and a
slight inclination of the head, but without altering her position.
Worthy Mrs. Coleman, however, jumped up and shook hands warmly with me,
thereby providing Lucy with full employment for the next ten minutes in
picking up the whole machinery of the knitting.

“Very glad indeed to see you, Mr. Lawless,” commenced Mrs. Coleman.

“It’s Fairlegh, mother,” interposed Freddy.

“Yes, my dear, yes, I knew it was Mr. Fairlegh, only I’m always making a
mistake about names; but I never forget a face I have once seen; and
I’m sure I’m not likely to forget Mr. Fairlegh’s after the noble way in
which he behaved last night” (here Mr. Coleman turned away with a kind
of ironical growl, and began caressing the cat). “I declare when I saw
him setting Clara Saville’s dress on fire, so nicely made as it was
too----”

“My dear aunt,” remonstrated Lucy, “it was Mr. Lawless who threw down
the candelabrum, and set Clara’s frock alight.”

“Yes, my love, I know, I saw it all, my dear; and very kind it was of
him, I mean afterwards, in speaking to me of it; he said he was so very
sorry about it--and he called it something funny, poor young man--‘no
end of a something or other ‘------”

“Sell,” suggested Freddy.

“Oh yes, that was it, no end of a sell. What did he mean by that, my
dear?”

~140~~“I strongly disapprove,” observed Mr. Coleman (who still continued
stroking the cat as he spoke, which process he performed by passing his
hand deliberately from her head, along her back, to the very tip of
her tail, which he retained each time in his grasp for a moment, ere he
recommenced operations), “I highly disapprove of the absurd practice, so
common with young men of the present day, of expressing their ideas
in that low and incomprehensible dialect, termed ‘slang,’ which, in my
opinion, has neither wit nor refinement to redeem its vulgarity, and
which effectually prevents their acquiring that easy yet dignified mode
of expression which should characterise the conversation of the true
gentleman. In _my_ younger days we took Burke for our model; the
eloquence of Pitt and Fox gave the tone to society; and during our hours
of relaxation we emulated the polished wit of Sheridan; but it is
a symptom of that fearful levelling system which is one of the most
alarming features of the present age; instead of striving to raise and
exalt------”

“Really, my dear Mr. Coleman, I beg your pardon for interrupting you,”
 cried his wife, “but this is the second time you’ve lifted my poor
little cat off her hind legs by her tail; and though she’s as good as
gold, and lets you do just what you like to her, it can’t be pleasant
for her, I’m sure.”

The only reply to this, if reply it can be called, was an angry “Psha!”
 and, turning on his heel, Mr. Coleman strode with great dignity towards
the window, though the effect was considerably marred by his stumbling
against an ottoman which stood in the way, and hurting his shin to
an extent which entailed rubbing, albeit a sublunary and un-Spartan
operation, as a necessary consequence. A pause ensued, which at length
became so awkward that I was about to hazard some wretched commonplace
or other, for the sake of breaking the silence, when Mrs. Coleman
addressed me with:--

“You’ll take some luncheon, Mr. Lawless, I’m sure. Freddy, _ring the
bell!_”

“He’ll be ready enough to do that,” growled Mr. Coleman; “you could not
have asked a fitter person.”

“Of course he will, a dear fellow,” replied Mrs. Coleman; “he’s always
ready to oblige anybody.”

“I disapprove greatly of such extreme facility of disposition,” observed
Mr. Coleman; “it lays a young man open to every temptation that comes in
his way; and, for want of a proper degree of firmness and self-respect,
he gets led into all kinds of follies and excesses.”

~141~~“Now, my dear Mr. Coleman,” returned his wife, “I cannot bear to
hear you talk in that way; you are too hard upon poor Freddy and his
young friends; I’m certain they meant no harm;--if they _did_ ring the
bells by way of a joke, I daresay they had drunk rather more champagne
than was prudent, and scarcely knew what they were about; and really all
they seem to have done was to make people get up a little sooner than
usual, and that is rather a good thing than otherwise, for I’m sure if
you did but know the trouble I have sometimes in getting the maids out
of bed in the morning--and that lazy fine gentleman of a footman too,
he’s just as bad.--Why, what’s the matter now?”

“I really am astonished at you, Mrs. Coleman,” exclaimed her husband,
walking hurriedly across the room--although this time he took good care
to avoid the ottoman, “encouraging that boy of yours in such scandalous
and ungentlemanly proceedings as those he was engaged in last night!
No harm, indeed! I only hope (that is, I don’t hope it at all, for he
deserves to be punished, and I wish he may) that the laws of his country
may think there’s no harm in it. Mr. Dullmug, the mayor, intends, very
properly in my opinion, to appeal to those laws; that is a thing, I am
proud to say, no Englishman ever does in vain. You may smile, sir,” he
continued, detecting Freddy in the act of telegraphing to me his dissent
from the last doctrine propounded. “You may ridicule your old father’s
opinion, but you’ll find it no laughing matter to clear yourself,
and justify your conduct, in a court of justice. They may bring it in
conspiracy, for I daresay you plotted it all beforehand; they may bring
it in riot and illegal assembly, for there were three of you engaged in
it; they may bring it in treason, for you incited his majesty’s subjects
to commit a broach of the peace, and interfered with the proper officers
in the discharge of their duty: ‘pon my word I don’t know that they may
not bring it in murder, for the poor child that had the measles in the
town died between six and seven o’clock this morning, and no doubt the
confusion had something to do with accelerating its death. So, sir, if
you’re not hanged, you’re certain to be transported; and don’t ask me
to assist you; I’ve lived by supporting the law for fifty years, and I’m
not going in my old age to lend my countenance to those who break it,
and set it at nought, though my own son be one of them. I have spoken
my mind plainly, Mr. Fairlegh, more so perhaps than I should have done
before a guest ~142~~in my own house, but it is a matter upon which I
feel deeply. I wish you good-morning, sir.” So saying, he turned away,
and stalked majestically out of the room, closely followed, not to say
imitated, by the cat, who held her tail erect, so as to form a right
angle with the line of her back, and walked with a hypocritical air of
meek dignity and chastened self-approval.

“That’s what I call pleasant and satisfactory,” exclaimed Freddy, after
a pause, during which each member of the party exchanged glances of
consternation with somebody else. “Who would ever have imagined the
possibility of the governor’s turning cantankerous--assuming the
character of the Roman father upon the shortest possible notice, and
thirsting to sacrifice his son on the altar of the outraged laws of his
country! What an interesting victim I shall make, to be sure! Lucy must
lend me that wreath of roses she looked so pretty in last night, to wear
at the fatal ceremony. And my dear mother shall stand near, tearing out
those revered locks of hers by handfuls.” (The reader should perhaps
be informed that Mrs. Coleman rejoiced in a false front of so open and
ingenuous a nature, that from its youth upwards it never could have been
guilty of deceiving any one.) “May I ring and tell John to have all the
carving knives sharpened? it would be more satisfactory to my feelings
not to be slaughtered with a blunt weapon.”

“Don’t talk in that way, Frederick,” cried Mrs. Coleman. “I’m sure your
father would never think of doing such dreadful things; but I believe
you’re only making fun of him, which isn’t at all right of you. I’m not
a bit surprised at his being angry with you, when you know how steady
he always says he was as a young man (not that I ever quite believe it,
though); _he_ never went ringing bells, however late he might stay out
at night, that I heard of (though I should never have known it if he
had, very likely). I don’t myself see any great harm in it, you know,
Mr. Fairless, particularly after your saving poor Clara Saville, and
Freddy from drowning, when you were all boys together--indeed I shall
always have the highest opinion of you for it, only I wish you had never
done it at all, either of you, because of making your father so angry,
you I mean, Frederick.”

“Have you received any account of Miss Saville this morning?” inquired
I, anxious to change the conversation; for I could see that Freddy,
despite his assumed indifference, was a good deal annoyed at the
serious light in which the old gentleman seemed to look upon our
~143~~_escapade_. “I should be glad to know that she was none the worse
for all the alarm she must have suffered.”

“No, we have not heard anything of her,” replied Lucy. “Should we not
send to inquire after her, aunt?”

“Certainly, my dear Lucy; I am glad you have reminded me; I always meant
to send, only all this has put it out of my head.”

“Now, Frank, there’s a splendid chance for you,” exclaimed Freddy;
“nothing can be more correct than for you to call and make the proper
inquiries in person; and then if old Stiff-back should happen not to be
at home, and you can contrive to get let in, and the young lady be not
actually a stone----”

“Indeed, Frederick, she is nothing of the kind,” interrupted Lucy
warmly; “if you only knew her, you would be astonished to find what deep
warm feelings are concealed beneath that calm manner of hers; but she
has wonderful self-control. I could see last night how much she was
grieved at being obliged to go away without having thanked Mr. Fairlegh
for saving her.”

“Give her a chance to repair the error to-day, by all means, then,”
 said Freddy; “and if you should succeed in gaining an interview, and
she really is anxious to do a little bit of the grateful, and old Vernor
does not kick you downstairs, I shall begin to regret that I didn’t
extinguish her myself.”

“I really have a great mind to follow your advice,” returned I; “it is
only proper to inquire after the young lady, and they need not let me in
unless they like.”

“If you should see her, Mr. Lawlegh,” said Mrs. Coleman, “tell her from
me how very much vexed I was about the candelabrum being thrown down and
setting fire to her dress; it was made of the very best Dresden china,
and must have cost (only it was a present, which made it all the more
valuable, you know) fifteen or sixteen guineas; and I’m sure I wonder,
now I come to think of it, why it did not flare up and burn her to
death; but you were so quick and clever, and entirely spoilt that
beautiful whittle of old Mrs. Trottles, with the greatest presence of
mind; and I’m sure we ought all to be thankful to you for it; and we
shall be delighted to see her when she has quite recovered it, tell her,
particularly Lucy, who is nearest her own age, you know.”

“Let me see,” said Freddy, musing; “Mrs. Trottles must be seventy-two if
she is a day; ‘pon my word, Lucy, you’re the youngest-looking woman
of your age I ever ~144~~met with; if I had not heard my mother say it
myself, I’d never have believed it.”

“Believed what, Freddy? What have I said?” asked Mrs. Coleman.

“That Lucy was Mrs. Trottles’ most intimate friend, because she was
nearest her own age,” returned Freddy.

“No such thing, sir; I said, or I meant to say--only you are so tiresome
with your jokes, that you puzzle one--that Lucy being her own age,
I mean Clara’s, Mr. Fairless was to tell her how very glad she would
be--and very natural it is for young people to like young people--to see
her; and I hope you’ll remember to tell her all I have said exactly, Mr.
Fairless, for I’m always anxious to try to please and amuse her, she’s
so very dull and stupid, poor thing!”

To perform this utter impossibility I faithfully pledged myself; and,
taking a hasty farewell of the ladies, hurried out of the room
to conceal a fit of laughter which had been gradually becoming
irrepressible.

“Laugh away, old boy,” cried Freddy, who had accompanied me into the
hall; “no wonder I’m an odd fellow, for, as Pat would say, my mother was
one before me, and no mistake. I wish you luck with the fair Clara--not
that you’ll see her--old Vernor will take care of that somehow or other;
even if he’s not at home, he’ll have locked her up safely before he went
out, depend upon it.”

“You do not mean that in sober earnest?” said I.

“Perhaps not actually in fact,” replied Freddy, “but in effect I believe
he does. Clara tells Lucy she never sees any one.”

“She shall see me to-day, if I can possibly contrive it,” said I. “Oh
for the good old days of chivalry, when knocking the guardian on the
head, and running away with the imprisoned damsel afterwards, would
have been accounted a very moral and gentlemanlike way of spending the
morning!”

“Certainly, they had a pleasant knack of simplifying matters, ‘those
knights of old,’” replied Freddy; “but it’s not a line of business that
would have suited me at all; in balancing their accounts, the kicks
always appear to have obtained a very uncomfortable preponderance over
the halfpence; besides, the _causa belli_ was a point on which their
ideas were generally in a deplorable state of confusion: when one kills
a man, it’s as well to have some slight notion _why_ one does it; and
the case comes home to one still more closely if it’s somebody else
who’s going to kill you.”

“You’re about right there, Master Freddy,” said I, smiling as I shook
hands with him, and quitted the house. %



CHAPTER XVII -- THE INVISIBLE GIRL

~145~~

          “Aye, that’s a dolt indeed, for he doth nothing but talk of
          his horse.”
           --_Merchant of Venice_.

          “Yond young fellow swears he will speak with you. What’s
          to be said to him? He’s fortified against any denial.”
           --_Twelfth Night_.

          “Be subject to no sight but mine; invisible
          To every eyeball else.”
           --_Tempest_.

ON arriving at the inn, to which I was forced to return to order my
horse, I perceived Lawless’s tandem waiting at the door, surrounded by
a crowd of admiring rustics, with Shrimp, his arms folded with an air of
nonchalant defiance, which seemed to say, “Oh! run over me by all means
if you choose,” stationed directly in front of the leader’s head. On
entering the parlour I found Lawless busily engaged in pulling on a pair
of refractory boots, and looking very hot and red in the face from the
exertion.

“How are you, Fairlegh? how are you? That stupid fool has made ‘em too
tight for anybody but Tom Thumb, and be hanged to him. Ever read fairy
tales, Fairlegh? I did when I was a little shaver, and wore cock-tailed
petticoats--all bare legs and bustle--‘a Highland lad my love was born’;
that style of thing, rather, you know; never believed ‘em, though:
wasn’t to be done even then; eh? Well, this is a puzzler; I can’t get
‘em on. Where’s the fellow they call Boots? Here, you sir, come and see
if you can pull on these confounded namesakes of yours, and I’ll tip you
half a crown if you succeed; cheaper than breaking one’s back, eh?”

“Where are you off to, supposing you should ever get those boots on?”
 asked I.

“Eh? I am going to call on the young woman I set alight at the hop last
night, and tell her I’m quite down in the mouth about it; explain that
I didn’t go to do it; that it was quite a mistake, and all owing to the
other young woman’s being so fresh, in fact; and then offer to rig her
out again, start her in new harness from bridle ~146~~crupper, all at my
own expense, and that will be finishing off the affair handsomely, won’t
it?”

“I should advise your leaving out that last piece of munificence,”
 replied I; “she might think it an insult.” “An insult, eh? Oh, if she’s
so proud as all that comes to I’d better stay away altogether; I shall
be safe to put my foot into it there, a good deal faster than I have
into these villainous boots--that’s it, Sampson, another pull such as
that and the deed’s done,” added Lawless, patting the human Boots on the
back encouragingly.

“I was just going to ride over to inquire after Miss Saville myself,”
 said I.

“That’s the very thing, then,” was the reply. “I’ll drive you there
instead; it will be better for your scorched fin (pointing to my injured
arm) than jolting about outside a horse, and you shall tell me what to
say as we go along; you seem to understand the sex, as they call the
petticoats, better than I do, and can put a fellow up to a few of the
right dodges. I only wish they were all horses, and then I flatter
myself I should not require any man’s advice how to harness, drive,
train, or physic them.”

“The ladies are infinitely indebted to you,” replied I, as I ran
upstairs to prepare for our expedition.

A drive of rather less than an hour and a half, during which the
thorough-breds performed in a way to delight every lover of horseflesh,
brought us to the park gate of Barstone Priory, where Mr. Vernor
resided. After winding in and out for some half-mile amongst groups
of magnificent forest-trees, their trunks partially concealed by
plantations of rare and beautiful shrubs, a sudden turn of the road
brought us in front of the Priory--an ancient, venerable-looking pile
of building, which had evidently, as its name implied, once belonged to
some religious community. The alterations it had undergone, in order to
adapt it to its present purpose, had been carried out with more taste
and skill than are usually met with in such cases. The garden, with its
straight terrace-walks and brilliant flower-beds, contrasted well
with the grey stone of which the building was composed, while the
smooth-shaven lawn, with an old, quaintly carved sundial in the centre,
and, above all, the absence of any living creature whatsoever, imparted
an air of severe formality to the scene, which, as the eye rested
upon it, seemed to realise all one had read of monastic discipline and
seclusion; and one half expected to see a train of dark-veiled nuns or
sandalled friars winding slowly forth from the hall-door.

~147~~“What a singular old shop!” exclaimed my companion, regarding the
structure with a look of displeased criticism; “wretched little windows
as ever I saw; they must be all in the dark inside on a dull day, and
every day would be dull if one lived there, I should think. It would
puzzle a fellow to tell whether that building was clerical or lay, fish
or flesh; a castle that had taken a serious turn, or a church out for
the day in plain clothes; how people can like to live in such a mouldy,
rusty, musty old barn, that looks as full of ghosts as a cheese is of
mites, I can’t conceive.”

“There certainly is an appearance of gloom and loneliness about the
place,” replied I; “but I think it is chiefly owing to the absence of
any living object--a herd of deer in the park, a group of children and
dogs playing on the lawn--anything to give animation to the picture,
would be the greatest improvement.”

“I should just think it would,” returned Lawless. “Fancy a pack of
hounds under that jolly old oak yonder, the huntsman and whips in their
bits of pink, and a field of about fifty of the right sort of fellows
on thorough-breds, dawdling about, talking to one another, or taking
a canter over the turf, just to settle themselves in the saddle; that
would be a sight to make old Vernor look a little better pleased than he
did last night, sing out for his boots and buckskins, and clap his leg
over the first four-footed beast that came in his way, even if it should
happen to be the old cow.”

“I hope I may be there to see if he does,” replied I laughing.

On inquiring whether Mr. Vernor was at home we were answered in the
affirmative by a tall, gaunt-looking man-servant, with a stern, not
to say surly, countenance, the expression of which was in some degree
contradicted by a pair of quick, restless little grey eyes, which in
any other face one should have said twinkled merrily beneath the large
grizzled eyebrows which o’ershadowed them.

Having, at Lawless’s request, procured a nondescript hobbledehoy of
indefinite character to stand at the horses’ heads (we had left
Shrimp behind, by common consent, that he might be no restraint on
our conversation), he conducted us across the hall into a kind of
morning-room, fitted up with oak panels, and with a very handsome
old carved oak chimney-piece reaching half-way to the ceiling. He
was leaving the room to inform his master of our arrival when Lawless
stopped him by saying:--

“Here, just wait a bit; tell the young woman--that is ~148~~to say,
don’t tell her anything; but I mean, let Miss Saville be made aware (I
see you’re awake, for all your long face), put her up to our being here;
don’t you know, eh?” “Tip him,” whispered I.

“Eh, stop a bit; you’re a very honest fellow, and it’s right to reward
faithful servants; and--you understand all about it, eh?”

One portion of this somewhat incoherent address he did understand,
evidently, for without altering a muscle of his face, he put out his
hand, took the money, and left the room with the same unconscious air
of imperturbability which he had maintained throughout the whole
conference. “Good move that, eh?” exclaimed Lawless, as soon as the door
was closed; “that’ll fetch her out of her hole, for a guinea. Mind, I
shall do my best to cut you out, Master Frank. I don’t see why I haven’t
a right to quite as large a share of her gratitude as you have, for if
I hadn’t set her on fire you’d never have put her out; so, in fact, she
owes it all to me--don’t you see?”

“I’m afraid there’s a little sophistry in that argument,” replied
I; “but we had better wait till we find whether we shall have the
opportunity afforded us of trying our powers of fascination before we
quarrel about the effects to be produced by them. I cannot say I feel
over sanguine as to the success of your somewhat original negotiation
with that raw-boned giant in the blue plush _sine qua nons_, as Coleman
calls them.”

“Time will show,” rejoined Lawless, turning towards the door, which
opened at this moment to admit Mr. Vernor; and, alas! him only.

His reception of us, though perfectly easy and well-bred, was anything
but agreeable or encouraging. He answered our inquiries after Miss
Saville’s health by informing us, cursorily, that no ill effects had
ensued from her alarm of the previous evening. He received Lawless’s
apologies with a calm, half-ironical smile, and an assurance that they
were not required; and he slightly thanked me for my obliging assistance
in words perfectly unexceptionable in themselves, but which, from a
peculiarity in the tone of voice more than anything else, impressed one
with a sense of insult rather than of compliment. Still, in compliance
with certain expressive looks from Lawless, who evidently was most
unwilling to be convinced of the failure of his little bit of diplomacy,
I used every means I could think of to prolong the visit. I first
admired, then criticised, the carving of the chimney-piece; I dived
into a ~149~~book of prints which lay upon the table, and prosed about
mezzo-tint and line engraving, and bored myself, and of course my
hearers also, till our powers of endurance were taxed almost beyond
their strength; and, at last, having completely exhausted not only my
small-talk, but my entire stock of conversation of all sorts and sizes,
I was regularly beaten to a stand-still, and obliged to take refuge
in alternately teasing and caressing a beautiful black and tan setter,
which seemed the only member of the party thoroughly sociable and at his
ease.

At length it became apparent even to Lawless himself that the visit
could not be protracted longer, and we accordingly rose and took our
leave, our host (I will not call him entertainer, for it would be a
complete misnomer) preserving the same tone of cool and imperturbable
politeness to the very last. On reaching the hall we encountered the
surly old footman, whose features looked more than ever as if they had
been carved out of some very hard species of wood.

“I say, old boy, where’s the young lady, eh?” exclaimed Lawless, as soon
as he caught sight of him; “she never showed so much as the tip of her
nose in the room; how was that, eh?”

“If she com’d into the room when gentlemen was calling, master would eat
her without salt,” was the reply.

“Which fact you were perfectly aware of when you took my tip so quietly
just now?”

“In course I was, why should I not be?”

“Done brown for once, by Jove!” muttered Lawless as he left the hall;
“a raw-boned old rogue, I’ll be even with him some day, though----, we
shall see, eh?”

While Lawless was busily engaged in settling some of the harness which
had become disarranged the old footman came up to me and whispered,
“Make use of your eyes as you drive through the park, and mayhap you’ll
spy some _game worth looking after_, young gentleman”.

Surprised at this unexpected address, I turned to question him as to
its meaning, but in vain; for no sooner had he finished speaking than he
re-entered the hall and shut the door behind him.

What could he intend me to understand, thought I; he evidently wished
to imply something beyond the simple meaning of the words “game
worth looking after”; could he mean to----no! the thing is
impossible--“absurd!” exclaimed I, as a wild idea shot through my brain
and I felt myself colour like a girl.

~150~~“What’s absurd?” exclaimed Lawless, gathering up the reins as
he spoke; “what are you talking about? why, you’re ranting and staring
about you like a play-actor; what’s the matter with you, eh, Frank?”

“Nothing,” replied I, taking my seat; “don’t drive too fast through the
park, I want to look at the view as we go along.”

In obedience to the gaunt domestic’s mysterious injunction I made the
best use of my eyes as we retraced our way through the park, and for my
pains had the satisfaction of beholding a solitary rabbit, half-hidden
under a dock-leaf, and sundry carrion crows.



CHAPTER XVIII -- THE GAME IN BARSTONE PARK

          “The fringed curtains of thine eye advance and say what
          thou see’st yond.”
           --_Tempest_.

          “Accost, Sir Andrew, accost.”
           --_Twelfth Night_.

          “Let us go thank him and encourage him.
          My _Guardian’s_ rough and envious disposition
          Strikes me at heart--Sir you have well deserved.”
           --_As You Like It_.

WE had arrived within a quarter of a mile of the gate, and I had just
settled to my thorough dissatisfaction that the old footman must be a
humorist, and had diverted himself by making a kind of April-fool out
of season of me, when, through the trees, which at that spot stretched
their huge branches across the road so as to form a complete arch, I
fancied I perceived the flutter of a woman’s dress; and, in another
moment, a turn in the drive disclosed to my view a female form, which I
instantly recognised as that of Clara Saville.

Without a minute’s hesitation I sprang to the ground before Lawless had
time to pull up, and, saying to him, “I shall be back again directly;
wait for me, there’s a good fellow,” I hastily entered a winding path,
which led through the trees to the spot where I had seen the young lady,
leaving my companion mute from astonishment. Up to this moment, acting
solely from a sort of instinctive impulse which made me wish to see
and speak to Miss Saville, I had never considered the light in which my
proceedings might appear to her. What right, I now asked myself, had
I to intrude upon her privacy, and, ~151~~as it were, force my company
upon her, whether she wished it or not? Might she not look upon it as
an impertinent intrusion? As these thoughts flitted through my brain I
slackened my pace; and had it not been for very shame could have found
in my heart to turn back again. This, however, I resolved not to do;
having committed myself so far, I determined to give her an opportunity
of seeing me, and, if she should show any intention of avoiding me, it
would then be time enough to retrace my steps and leave her unmolested.
With this design I proceeded slowly up the path, stopping now and then
as if to admire the view, until a turn of the walk brought me in sight
of a rustic bench, on which was seated the young lady I had before
observed. As soon as she perceived me she rose and turned towards me,
disclosing, as she did so, the graceful form and lovely features of my
partner of the preceding evening. The morning costume, including a
most irresistible little cottage-bonnet lined with pink, was even more
becoming to her than the ball-dress; and when, instead of the cold
air of constraint which had characterised her manner of the previous
evening, she advanced to meet me with a slight blush and the most
bewitching smile of welcome that ever set man’s heart beating, I thought
I had never seen anything so perfectly beautiful before.

“I must ask your forgiveness for venturing thus to intrude upon you,
Miss Saville,” began I, after we had exchanged salutations; “but the
temptation of learning from your own lips that you had sustained no
injury was too strong to be resisted, more particularly after the
disappointment of finding you were from home when I did myself the
pleasure of calling on Mr. Vernor to inquire after you.”

“Nay, there is nothing to forgive,” replied Miss Saville; “on the
contrary,” she continued, blushing slightly, “I was anxious to see you,
in order to thank you for the eminent service you rendered me yesterday
evening.”

“Really it is not worth mentioning,” returned I; “it is only what any
other gentleman in the room would have done had he been in my situation;
it was good Mrs. Trottle’s shawl saved you; I could have done nothing
without that.”

“You shall not cheat me out of my gratitude in that way,” replied she,
smiling; “the shawl would have been of little avail had it not been so
promptly and energetically applied; and, as for the other gentlemen,
they ~152~~certainly were very ready with their offers of assistance
_after_ the danger was over. I am afraid,” she continued, looking down,
“you must have repented the trouble you had taken when you found what a
thankless person you had exerted yourself to save.”

“Indeed, no such idea crossed my mind for an instant; the slight service
I was able to render you was quite repaid by the pleasure of knowing
that I had been fortunate enough to prevent you from sustaining injury,”
 said I.

“You are very kind,” was the reply; “but I can assure you I have been
exceedingly annoyed by imagining how wholly destitute of gratitude you
must have considered me!”

“Lucy Markham told me such would be the case,” replied I, smiling.

“Did she?--a dear warm-hearted girl--she always does me justice!”
 exclaimed Miss Saville, as she raised her beautiful eyes, sparkling with
animation, to my face. She then, for the first time, observed my injured
arm, and added quickly, “but you wear your arm in a sling; I hope--that
is--I am afraid---I trust it was not injured last night!”

“It is a mere trifle,” replied I; “he wristband of my sleeve caught
fire, and burnt my arm, but it is nothing of any consequence, I can
assure you.”

“I am sure you must have thought me sadly ungrateful,” returned my
companion; “you exerted yourself, and successfully, to save my life,
receiving a painful injury in so doing, whilst I left the house without
offering you the thanks due even to the commonest service imaginable.”

“You were not then aware that I had burnt my arm, remember; and forgive
me for adding,” returned I (for I saw that she was really distressed at
the idea of my considering her wanting in gratitude), “that it did not
require any unusual degree of penetration to perceive that you were not
altogether a free agent.”

“No, indeed,” replied she, eagerly catching at the idea, “Mr. Vernor,
my guardian--he always means to be very kind I am sure; but,” she added,
sinking her voice, “he is so very particular, and he speaks so sternly
sometimes, that--I know it is very silly--but I cannot help feeling
afraid of him. I mention this, sir, to prevent your judging me too
harshly, and I trust to your generosity not to take any unfair advantage
of my openness; and now,” she added, fixing her large eyes upon me with
an imploring look which would have melted the toughest old anchorite
~153~~that ever chewed grey peas, “you will not think me so very
ungrateful, will you?”

“My dear Miss Saville,” replied I, “let me beg you to believe I never
dreamt of blaming you for a moment; on the contrary, I pay you no
compliment, but only mention the simple truth, when I tell you that I
admired your behaviour throughout the whole affair exceedingly;
your presence of mind and self-control were greater than, under the
circumstances, I could have supposed possible.” As she made no reply
to this, but remained looking steadfastly on the ground, with her head
turned so as to conceal her face, I continued--“I hope it is unnecessary
for me to add, that you need not entertain the slightest fear of my
making any indiscreet use of the frankness with which you have done me
the honour of speaking to me--but I am forgetting half my business,”
 added I, wishing to set her at ease again, “I am charged with all sorts
of kind messages to you from good Mrs. Coleman and Miss Markham; I
presume you would wish me to tell them I have had the pleasure of
ascertaining that you have sustained no ill effects from your alarm.”

“Oh yes, by all means,” replied Miss Saville, looking up with a pleased
expression, “give my kind love to them both, and tell dear Lucy I shall
come over to see her as soon as ever I can.”

“I will not intrude upon you longer, then, having delivered my message,”
 said I; “I have kept my companion, the gentleman who was so unfortunate
as to overturn the candelabrum, waiting an unconscionable time already;
he is very penitent for his offence; may I venture to relieve his mind
by telling him that you forgive him?”

“Pray do so,” was the reply; “I never bear malice; besides, it was
entirely an accident, you know. How thoroughly wretched he seemed when
he found what he had done; frightened as I was, I could scarcely help
laughing when I caught a glimpse of his face, he looked so delightfully
miserable,” added she, with a merry laugh. After a moment’s pause she
continued--“I’m afraid Mr. Vernor will think I am lost, if he should
happen to inquire after me, and I’m not forthcoming”.

“Surely,” said I, “he can never be so unreasonable as to blame you for
such a trifle as remaining five minutes too long. Does he expect you to
be a nun because he lives in a priory?”

“Almost, I really think,” was the reply; “and now, good-bye, Mr.
Fairlegh,” she continued--“I shall feel ~154~~happier since I have been
able to explain to you that I am not quite a monster of ingratitude.”

“If that is the case, I am bound to rejoice in it also,” answered I,
“though I would fain convince you that the explanation was not required.”

Her only reply to this was an incredulous shake of the head; and, once
more wishing me good-morning, she tripped along the path; and, when
I turned to look again, her graceful figure had disappeared among the
trees.

With a flushed brow and beating heart (gentle reader, I was barely
twenty) I hastened to rejoin my companion, who, as might be expected,
was not in the most amiable humour imaginable, having had to restrain
the impatience of two fiery horses for a space of time nearly
approaching a quarter of an hour.

“Really, Lawless,” I began, “I am quite ashamed.” “Oh, you are, are
you?” was the rejoinder. “I should rather think you ought to be, too.
But it’s always the way with you fellows who pretend to be steady and
moral, and all that sort of thing: when you do find a chance of getting
into mischief, you’re worse a great deal than a man like myself, for
instance, who, without being bothered with any particular principles of
any kind, has what I call a general sense of fitness and propriety, and
does his dissipation sensibly and correctly. But to go tearing off like
a lunatic after the first petticoat you see fluttering among the
bushes in a gentleman’s park, and leaving your friend to hold in two
thorough-bred peppery devils, that are enough to pull a man’s arms off,
for above a quarter of an hour, it’s too bad a great deal. Why, just
before you came, I fully expected when that mare was plunging about on
her hind legs----”

“How lovely she looked!” interrupted I, thinking aloud.

“You thought so, did you?” rejoined Lawless; “I wish you’d just had to
hold her; her mouth’s as hard----”

“Her mouth is perfect,” replied I emphatically; “quite perfect.”

“Well, that’s cool,” muttered Lawless; “he’ll put me in a passion
directly;--pray, sir, may I ask how on earth you come to know anything
about her mouth?”

“How do I know anything about her mouth?” exclaimed I. “Did I not watch
with delight its ever-varying expression?--mark each movement of those
beautiful lips, and drink in every syllable that fell from them?--not
observe her mouth! Think you, when we have been conversing together for
the last quarter of an hour, that I could fail to do so?”

~155~~“Oh he’s gone stark staring mad!” exclaimed Lawless;
“strait-waistcoats, Bedlam, and all that sort o’ thing, you
know;--conversing with my bay mare for the last quarter of an hour, and
drinking in every syllable that fell from her beautiful lips--oh, he’s
raving!”

“What do you mean?” said I, at length awaking to some consciousness of
sublunary affairs--“Your mare!--who ever thought of your mare? it’s Miss
Saville I’m talking about.”

“Miss Saville!” repeated Lawless, giving vent to a long whistle,
expressive of incredulity; “why, you don’t mean to say you’ve been
talking to Miss Saville all this time, do you?”

“To be sure I have,” replied I; “and a very interesting and agreeable
conversation it was too.”

“Well,” exclaimed Lawless, after a short pause; “all the luck in this
matter seem’s to fall to your share; so the sooner I get out of it the
better. It won’t break my heart, that’s one comfort;--if the young woman
has the bad taste to prefer you to me, why, it can’t be helped, you
know;--but what did she say for herself, eh?”

“She sent you her forgiveness for one thing,” replied I; and I then
proceeded to relate such particulars of the interview as I considered
expedient; which recital, and our remarks thereupon, furnished
conversation during the remainder of our drive.



CHAPTER XIX -- TURNING THE TABLES

     “‘You should also make no noise in the streets.’

     “‘You may stay him.’

     “‘Nay, by’re lady, that I think he cannot.’

     “‘Five shillings to one on’t with any man that knows the
     statutes, he may stay him. His wits are not so blunt as, God help, I
     would desire they were. It is an offence to stay a man _against
     his will_. Dost thou not suspect my place? dost thou not suspect
     my years? O that he were here to write me down an ass! but,
     masters, remember that I am an ass: though it be not written
     down, yet forget not that I am an ass.”
      --_Much Ado About Nothing_.

ABOUT a week had elapsed after the events which I have just recorded,
when one morning, shortly before my return to Cambridge, I received a
letter from Coleman, detailing the finale of the bellringing affair. It
ran as follows:--

~156~~“My Dear Frank--Doubtless you are, or ought to be, very anxious
to hear how I contrived to get out of the scrape into which you and
the Honourable George managed to inveigle me, having previously availed
yourselves of my innocence, and succeeded, through the seductive medium
of oysters and porter, in corrupting my morals, then leaving me, poor
victim! to bear the blame, and suffer the consequences, of our common
misdemeanour. However, mine is no pitiful spirit to be quelled by
misfortune, and, as dangers thickened around me, I bore up against them
bravely, like--like--(was it Julius Cæsar or Coriolanus who did that
sort of thing?) but never mind--like _a_ Roman brick, we’ll say; the
particular brick is quite immaterial, but I must beg you to believe the
likeness was something striking. To descend to particulars.--Hostilities
were commenced by that old ass, Mayor Dullmug, who took out a summons
against me for creating a riot and disturbance in the town, and the
first day the bench sat I was marched off by two policemen, and locked
up in a little dirty room, to keep cool till their worships were ready
to discuss me. Well, there I sat, kicking my heels, and chuckling over a
heart-rending little scene I had just gone through with my mother, whose
dread of the terrors of the law was greatly increased by the very vague
ideas she possessed of the extent of its powers. The punishment she had
settled in her own mind as likely to be awarded me was transportation,
and her farewell address was as follows: ‘If they should be cruel enough
to order you to be transported for fourteen years, Freddy, my dear, I
shall try to persuade your father (though he’s just like a savage North
American Indian about you) to get it changed “for life” instead, for
they always die of the yellow fever for the sharks to eat them, when
they’ve been over there three or four years; and four years are better
than fourteen, though bad’s the best, and I’m a miserable woman. I
read all about it last week in one of Captain Marryat’s books, and very
shocking I thought it,’--Having ventured to hint that if I was carried
off by the yellow fever at the end of a year or two, the length of my
sentence would not signify much to me when I was dead, I was rebuked
with ‘Don’t talk in that shocking way, Frederick, as if you were a
heathen, in your situation, and I hearing you your collect every Sunday,
besides Mrs. Hannah More, who might have been a saint if ever there was
one, or anything else she liked, with her talents, only she was too
good for this wicked world, and so she went to a better, and wrote that
charming book _Colebs_ ~157~~_in Search of a Wife_’.--Oh! my poor dear
mother’s queer sentences! I was becoming shockingly tired of my own
company, when it occurred to me that it would be the correct thing to
carve my name on the Newgate stone _à la_ Jack Sheppard; and I was
just putting a few finishing strokes to the N of Coleman, wherewith,
in characters at least six inches long, I had embellished a very
conspicuous spot over the chimney-piece, when I was surprised ‘with my
chisel so fine, tra la,’ (i.e., with a red-hot poker, which I had been
obliged to put up with instead, it being the only implement attainable,)
by the officials, who came to summon me, and who did not appear in the
slightest degree capable of appreciating the beauties of my performance.
By them I was straightway conducted into the awful presence of sundry
elderly gentlemen, rejoicing in heads all more or less bald, and faces
expressing various degrees of solemn stupidity, who in their proper
persons constituted ‘the bench’. Before these grave and reverend
signiors did Master Dullmug and his satellites

          “‘Then and there,
          Rehearse and declare’

all my heinous crimes, offences and misdemeanours; whereupon the
aforesaid signiors did solemnly shake their bald heads, and appear
exceedingly shocked and particularly puzzled. Well, at last I was called
upon for my defence, and, having made up my mind for some time what line
I would take, I cut the matter very short, by owning to have assisted
in ringing the bells, which I confessed was an act of folly, but nothing
more, and that the idea of its constituting an offence punishable by law
was absurd in the extreme. This sent them to book, and, after turning
over sundry ponderous tomes, and consulting various statutes of all
sorts and sizes, besides whispering together, and shaking their
heads once and again, till I began to fear that their necks would
be dislocated, they arrived at the conclusion that I was right, or
thereabouts. This fact the eldest, most bald, and most stupid of
the party, chosen by common consent, doubtless in virtue of these
attributes, as spokesman, proceeded to communicate to me in a very prosy
harangue, to which he appended a lecture--a sort of stock article, which
he evidently kept constantly on hand, with blanks which could be filled
up to suit any class of offenders. In this harangue he pointed out the
dangers of juvenile tricks, and the evils of dissipation, winding up
with the assurance that, as I seemed deeply sensible of the error of
my ways, they, the ~158~~magistrates, would, on my making a suitable
apology to that excellent public functionary, the Mayor of Hillingford,
graciously deign to overlook my misconduct. During his long-winded
address a new idea struck me, and when he had concluded I inquired, with
all due respect, whether ‘I was to understand that it was quite certain
I had committed no offence punishable by law?’ To this he replied, ‘that
I might set my mind completely at ease upon that point; that though,
morally speaking, I had been guilty of a very serious misdemeanour, in
the eye of the law I was perfectly innocent’. ‘In that case, gentlemen,’
replied I, ‘the liberty of the subject has been infringed; I have been
kept in illegal confinement for some hours, and I believe I have my
remedy in an action for false imprisonment against Mr. Dullmug. Does not
the law bear me out in what I state?’ Again they had recourse to their
books, and were unwillingly forced to confess that I was right.’ Then,’
continued I, ‘so far from making any apology to Mr. Dullmug, unless that
gentleman consents to beg _my_ pardon, and gives me a written apology
for the unjust and illegal prosecution to which he has subjected me,
I shall at once take the necessary steps to proceed against him.’ Oh!
Frank, I would have given something to have had you there, old boy!
when I announced this determination; there was such a shindy as I
never before witnessed: old Dullmug was furious, and vowed he’d never
apologise: I declared if he didn’t, nothing should prevent me from
bringing my action: the magistrates tried to persuade me, but I was
inflexible; and (by Jove! I was very near forgetting the best part of it
all) my governor, who was in court, the moment he found the law was on
my side, turned suddenly round, swore I had been shamefully used, and
that if it cost him every farthing he possessed in the world, he would
see justice done me. So the end of it was that old Dullmug was forced to
write the apology; it now lies in my writing-desk, and I look upon it
as one of the proudest trophies man ever possessed. So, Master Frank,
considering all things, I think I may reckon I got pretty well out of
that scrape.

“Ever your affectionate,

“F. C.

“P.S.--What have you said or done to render old Vernor so bitter against
you? Clara Saville tells Lucy, that, when she informed him of her having
met and conversed with you alone in the park that day, he flew into
~159~~such a rage as she had never seen him in before, and abused you
like a pickpocket; and she says she feels certain that, for some cause
or other, he entertains a strong personal dislike to you. _Entre nous_,
I don’t think the fair Clara seems exactly to sympathise with him in
this feeling. Considering that you had somewhat less than half an hour
to make play in, from Lucy’s account you do not seem to have wasted much
time. Ah! Master Frank, you are a naughty boy; I can’t help sighing when
I reflect, how anxious your poor dear mother must feel about you, when
she knows you’re out.”

“Still the same light-hearted merry fellow as ever,” exclaimed I, as I
closed the letter; “how long, I wonder, will those buoyant spirits of
his resist the depressing effect which contact with the harsh realities
of life appears always sooner or later to produce? Strange, what he says
about that Mr. Vernor; I am not conscious that I ever met the man till
the evening of the ball, and yet I fancied there was something which
seemed not utterly unfamiliar to me in the expression of his face.
Vernor! Vernor! I don’t believe I ever heard the name before--it’s very
odd. Of course, what he says about Miss Saville is all nonsense; and yet
there was something in her manner, which made me fancy, if I had time
and opportunity--pshaw! what absurdity--I shall have enough to do if I
am to imagine myself in love with every nice girl who says, ‘Thank you’
prettily for any trifling service I may chance to render her. Î am sure
she is not happy, poor thing! Seriously, I wish I were sufficiently
intimate with her to be able to afford her the advice and assistance of
a friend, should such be ever required by her. I should take the liberty
of asking old Vernor what he meant by his extraordinary behaviour
towards me, were I to see much more of him; there’s nothing like a
little plain speaking. But I need, not trouble my brains about the
matter; I shall probably never meet either of them again, so what does
it signify? She certainly is the loveliest girl I ever saw, though!
heigho!” and, with a sigh, for which I should have been somewhat
puzzled rationally to account, I took up my gun, and set off for a day’s
shooting with Harry Oaklands. ~160~~



CHAPTER XX -- ALMA MATER

     “He’s a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can
     easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of
     the twenty to follow my own teaching. The brain may devise
     laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps over a cold decree.”
      --_Merchant of Venice_.

TIME, that venerable and much-vituperated individual, who, if he has to
answer for some acts savouring of a taste for wanton destruction--if
he now and then lunches on some noble old abbey, which had remained a
memorial of the deep piety and marvellous skill of our forefathers--if
he crops, by way of salad, some wide-spreading beech or hoary
patriarchal oak, which had flung its shade over the tombs of countless
generations, and, as it stood forming a link between the present and the
past, won men’s reverence by force of contrast with their own ephemeral
existence--yet atones for his delinquencies by softening the bitterness
of grief, blunting the sharp edge of pain, and affording to the
broken-hearted the rest, and to the slave the freedom, of the
grave;--old Time, I say, who should be praised at all events for his
perseverance and steadiness, swept onward with his scythe, and cutting
his way through the frost and snow of winter, once more beheld the dust
of that “brother of the east wind,” March, converted into mud by the
showers of April, and the summer was again approaching. It was on a fine
morning in May, that, as Oaklands and I were breakfasting together in my
rooms at Trinity, we heard a tap at the door, and the redoubtable Shrimp
made his appearance. This interesting youth had, under Lawless’s able
tuition, arrived at such a pitch of knowingness that it was utterly
impossible to make him credit anything; he had not the smallest particle
of confidence remaining in the integrity of man, woman, or child; and,
like many another of the would-be wise in their generation, the only
flaw in his scepticism was the bigoted nature of his faith in the false
and hateful doctrine of the universal depravity of the human race.
He was the bearer of a missive from his master, inviting Oaklands and
myself to a wine-party at his rooms that evening.

“I suppose we may as well go,” said Oaklands; “I like a positive
engagement somewhere--it saves one the trouble of thinking what one
shall do with oneself.”

~161~~“You can accept it,” replied I, “but it would be a waste of time
which I have no right to allow myself; not only does it make one idle
while it lasts, but the next day also, for I defy a man to read to any
purpose the morning after one of Lawless’s symposia.”

“Call it supper, my dear boy,” returned Oaklands, stretching himself;
“why do you take the trouble to use a long word when a short one would
do just as well? If I could but get you to economise your labour and
take things a little more easily, it would be of the greatest advantage
to you;--that everlasting reading too--I tell you what, Frank, you are
reading a great deal too hard; you look quite pale and ill. I promised
Mrs. Fairlegh I would not let you overwork yourself, and you shall not
either. Come, you must and shall go to this party; you want relaxation
and amusement, and those fellows will contrive to rouse you up a bit,
and do you good.”

“To say the truth,” I replied, “that is one of my chief objections to
going. Lawless I like, for the sake of old recollections, and because he
is at bottom a well-disposed, good-hearted fellow; but I cannot approve
of the set of men one meets there. It is not merely their being what
is termed ‘fast’ that I object to; for though I do not set up for a
sporting character myself, I am rather amused than otherwise to mix
occasionally with that style of men; but there is a tone of recklessness
in the conversation of the set we meet there, a want of reverence for
everything human and divine, which, I confess, disgusts me--they seem to
consider no object too high or too low to make a jest of.”

“I understand the kind of thing you refer to,” answered Oaklands, “but I
think it’s only one or two of them who offend in that way; there is one
man who is my particular aversion; I declare if I thought he’d be there
to-night I would not go.”

“I think I know who you mean,” replied I; “Stephen Wilford, is it not?
the man they call ‘Butcher,’ from some brutal thing he once did to a
horse.”

“You’re right, Frank; I can scarcely sit quietly by and hear that man
talk. I suppose he sees that I dislike him, for there is something in
his manner to me which is almost offensive; really at times I fancy he
wishes to pick a quarrel with me.”

“Not unlikely,” said I; “he has the reputation of being a dead shot with
the pistol, and on the strength of it he presumes to bully every one.”

“He had better not go too far with me,” returned ~162~~Oaklands, with
flashing eyes; “men are not to be frightened like children; such a
character as that is a public nuisance.”

“He will not be there to-night, I am glad to say,” replied I, “for I
met him yesterday when I was walking with Lawless, and he said he was
engaged to Wentworth this evening; but, my dear Harry, for Heaven’s sake
avoid any quarrel with this man; should you not do so, you will only be
hazarding your life unnecessarily, and it can lead to no good result.”

“My dear fellow, do I ever quarrel with anybody? there is nothing worth
the trouble of quarrelling about in this world; besides, it would be an
immense fatigue to be shot,” observed Harry, smiling.

“I have no great faith in your pacific sensations, for they are nothing
more,” rejoined I; “your indolence always fails you where it might be
of use in subduing (forgive me for using the term) your fiery temper;
besides, in allowing a man of this kind to quarrel with you, you give
him just the opportunity he wants; in fact you are completely playing
his game.”

“Well, I can’t see that exactly; suppose the worst comes to the worst,
and you are obliged to fight him, he stands nearly as good a chance of
being killed as you do.”

“Excuse me, he does nothing of the kind; going out with a professed
duellist is like playing cards with a skilful gambler; the chances are
very greatly in his favour: in the first place, nine men out of ten
would lose their nerve entirely when stationed opposite the pistol of
a dead shot; then again, there are a thousand apparent trifles of which
the initiated are aware, and which make the greatest difference, such as
securing a proper position with regard to the sun, taking care that your
figure is not in a direct line with any upright object, a tree or post
for instance, and lots of other things of a like nature which we know
nothing about, all of which he is certain to contrive to have arranged
favourably for himself, and disadvantageously for his opponent. Then,
having as it were trained himself for the occasion, he is perfectly cool
and collected, and ready to avail himself of every circumstance he might
turn to his advantage--a moment’s hesitation in pulling the trigger when
the signal is given, and he fires first--many a man has received his
death-wound before now ere he had discharged his own pistol.”

“My dear boy,” said Harry, “you really are exciting and alarming
yourself very unnecessarily; I am not going to quarrel with Wilford or
anybody else; I detest ~163~~active exertion of every kind, and consider
duelling as a fashionable compound of iniquity, containing equal parts
of murder and suicide--and we’ll go to Lawless’s this evening, that
I’m determined upon--and--let me see--I’ve got James’s new novel in my
pocket. I shall not disturb you if I stay here, shall I? I’m not going
to talk.”

Then, without waiting for an answer, he stretched himself’ at full
length on (and beyond) the sofa, and was soon buried in the pages of
that best of followers in the footsteps of the mighty Wizard of the
North--Walter Scott--leaving me to the somewhat less agreeable task of
reading mathematics.



CHAPTER XXI -- THE WINE-PARTY

          “This night I hold an old-accustomed feast,
          Whereto I have invited many a guest,
          Such as I love.”

          “A fair assembly, whither should they come?

          Servant.--Up-----!

          Romeo.--Whither?

          Servant.--To supper.”
           --_Shakspeare_.

          “All is not false that seems at first a lie.”
           --_Southey_.

          “Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?

          I do bite my thumb, sir!

          Do you quarrel, sir?

          Quarrel, sir!   No, sir!

          If you do, sir, I am for you.”
           --_Shakspeare_.

LET the reader imagine a long table covered with the remains of an
excellent dessert, interspersed with a multitude of bottles of all
shapes and sizes, containing every variety of wine that money could
procure, or palate desire; whilst in the centre stood a glorious
old china bowl of punch, which the guests were discussing in
tumblers--wine-glasses having been unanimously voted much too slow.
Around this table let there be seated from fifteen to twenty men, whose
ages might vary from nineteen to three- or four-and-twenty; some smoking
cigars, some talking vociferously, some laughing, some though they were
decidedly the minority, listening: but ~164~~all showing signs of being
more or less elated by the wine they had taken. Let the reader
imagine all this, and he will have formed a pretty correct idea of the
supper-party in Lawless’s rooms, as it appeared about ten o’clock on the
evening subsequent to the conversation I have just detailed.

“Didn’t I see you riding a black horse with one white stocking
yesterday, Oaklands?” inquired a young man with a round jovial
countenance, which might have been reckoned handsome but for the extreme
redness of the complexion, and the loss of a front tooth, occasioned by
a fall received in the hunting field, whose name was Richard, or, as he
was more commonly termed, Dick Curtis.

“Yes,” replied Oaklands, “I daresay you did; I was trying him.”

“Ah! I fancied he was not one of your own.” “No; he belongs to Tom
Barret, who wants me to buy him; but I don’t think he’s strong enough to
carry my weight; there’s not substance enough about him; I ride nearly
eleven stone.”

“Oh! he’ll never do for you,” exclaimed Lawless. “I know the horse well;
they call him Blacksmith, because the man who bred him was named Smith;
he lives down in Lincolnshire, and breeds lots of horses; but they are
none of them, at least none that I have seen, what I call the right
sort; don’t you buy him,--he’s got too much daylight under him to suit
you.”

“Too long in the pasterns to carry weight,” urged Curtis.

“Rather inclined to be cow-hocked,” chimed in Lawless.

“Not ribbed home,” remarked Curtis.

“Too narrow across the loins,” observed Lawless.

“He’ll never carry flesh,” continued Curtis.

“It’s useless to think of his jumping; he’ll never make a hunter,” said
Lawless.

“Only hear them,” interrupted a tall, fashionable-looking young man,
with a high forehead and a profusion of light, curling hair; “now
those two fellows are once off, it’s all up with anything like rational
conversation for the rest of the evening.”

“That’s right, Archer, put the curb on ‘em; we might as well be in
Tattersall’s yard at once,” observed another of the company, addressing
the last speaker.

“I fear it’s beyond my power,” replied Archer; “they’ve got such
an incurable trick of talking equine scandal, and taking away the
characters of their ~165~~neighbours’ horses, that nobody can stop them
unless it is Stephen Wilford.”

The mention of this name seemed to have the effect of rendering every
one grave, and a pause ensued, during which Oaklands and I exchanged
glances. At length the silence was broken by Curtis, who said:--

“By the way, what’s become of Wilford? I expected to meet him here
to-night.”

“He was engaged to dine with Wentworth,” said Lawless; “but he promised
to look in upon us in the course of the evening; I thought he would have
been here before this.”

As he spoke a tap was heard at the room-door.

“Well, that’s odd,” continued Lawless; “that’s Wilford for a ducat; talk
of the devil,--eh, don’t you know? Come in.”

“You had better not repeat that in his hearing,” observed Archer,
“though I believe he’d take it as a compliment on the whole; it’s my
opinion he rather affects the satanic.”

“Hush,” said Curtis, pressing his arm, “here he is.”

As he spoke the door opened, and the subject of their remarks entered.
He was rather above the middle height, of a slight but unusually elegant
figure, with remarkably small hands and feet, the former of which were
white and smooth as those of a woman. His features were delicately
formed and regular, and the shape of his face a perfect oval; strongly
marked eyebrows overshadowed a pair of piercing black eyes; his lips
were thin and compressed, and his mouth finely cut; his hair, which was
unusually glossy and luxuriant, was jet black, as were his whiskers,
affording a marked contrast to the death-like pallor of his countenance.
The only fault that could be found in the drawing of his face was that
the eyes were placed too near together; but this imparted a character of
intensity to his glance which added to, rather than detracted from, the
general effect of his appearance. His features, when in repose, were
usually marked by an expression of contemptuous indifference; he seldom
laughed, but his smile conveyed an indication of such bitter sarcasm
that I have seen men, whom he chose to make a butt for his ridicule,
writhe under it as under the infliction of bodily torture. He was
dressed, as was his wont, entirely in black; but his clothes, which were
fashionably cut, fitted him without a wrinkle. He bowed slightly to the
assembled company, and then seated himself in a chair which had been
reserved for ~166~~him at the upper end of the table, nearly opposite
Oaklands and myself, saying as he did so: “I’m afraid I’m rather late,
Lawless, but Wentworth and I had a little business to transact, and I
could not get away sooner”.

“What devil’s deed have they been at now, I wonder?” whispered Oaklands
to me.

“Manslaughter, most likely,” replied Archer (who was seated next me, and
had overheard the remark), “Wilford appears so thoroughly satisfied with
himself; that was just the way in which he looked the morning he winged
Sherringham, for I saw him myself.”

“Send me down the claret, will you, Curtis?” asked Wilford. “Punch is a
beverage I don’t patronise; it makes a man’s hand shaky.”

“If that is the case,” returned Archer, “you ought to make a point of
drinking it for the good of society, my dear Wilford; let me help you to
a glass.”

“Nonsense, Archer, be quiet, man; here, taste this cool bottle, Wilford;
claret’s good for nothing if it’s at all flat,” exclaimed Lawless,
drawing the cork of a fresh magnum as he spoke.

“I differ from you in that opinion, Archer,” returned Wilford, fixing
his keen black eyes upon the person he addressed with a piercing glance;
“society is like the wine in this glass,” and he filled a bumper to
the brim with claret as he spoke; “it requires a steady hand to keep
it within its proper bounds, and to compel it to preserve an unruffled
surface”; and so saying he raised the glass to his lips without spilling
a drop, still keeping his eyes fixed upon Archer’s face with the same
withering glance.

“Well, I have often heard of looking daggers at a person,” continued
Archer, who had been drinking somewhat deeply during the evening, and
now appeared possessed by a spirit of mischief leading him to tease and
annoy Wilford in every way he could think of; “but Wilford does
worse, he positively looks pistols--cocked and loaded pistols--at one.
Fairlegh, I shall screen myself behind your broad shoulders; I never
could stand fire.” So saying he seized me by the elbows, and, urging me
forward, crouched down behind me, affecting the extremity of terror.

The scowl on Wilford’s brow deepened as he spoke, but, after a moment’s
hesitation, apparently considering the affair too absurd to take notice
of, he turned away with a contemptuous smile, saying, “You make your
punch too strong, Lawless”.

Archer instantly recovered his erect attitude, and with ~167~~a flushed
face seemed about to make some angry reply, when Lawless, who appeared
nervously anxious that the evening should pass over harmoniously,
interposed.

“Archer, you’re absolutely incorrigible; keep him in order, Fairlegh,
eh? give him some more punch, and fill your own glass--it has been
empty I don’t know how long. I’ll find a toast that will make you
drink--bumpers round, gentlemen, ‘to the health of the prettiest girl in
Hertfordshire’. Are you all charged? I beg to propose

[Illustration: page167  The Wine Party]

“Excuse my interrupting you, Lawless,” exclaimed I--for I felt certain
who it was he was thinking of; and the idea of Miss Saville’s name
being mentioned and discussed with the tone of licence common on such
occasions, appeared to me such complete profanation, that I determined,
be the consequences what they might, to prevent it--“Excuse my
interrupting you, but I should feel greatly obliged by your substituting
some other toast for the one you are about to propose”.

“Eh, what! not drink the young woman’s health? why I thought you admired
her more than I do: not drink her health? how’s that, eh?”

“I shall be most happy to explain to you the reasons for my request at
some other time,” replied I; “at present I can only add that I shall
consider it as a personal favour if you will accede to it.”

“It does not appear to me to require an OEdipus to discover Mr.
Fairlegh’s reasons for this request,” observed Stephen Wilford; “he
evidently does not consider the present company deserving of the high
honour of drinking the health of a young lady whom _he_ distinguishes by
his admiration.”

“Not over-flattering, I must say,” muttered Lawless, looking annoyed.

“I suppose he’s afraid of our hearing her name, lest some of us should
go and cut him out,” suggested Curtis in an undertone, which was,
however, perfectly audible.

“In the meanwhile, Lawless, I hope you’re not going to indulge your
friend’s caprice at the expense of the rest of the company,” resumed
Wilford; “having raised our expectations you are bound to gratify them.”

Lawless, who evidently hesitated between his desire to assert his
independence and his wish to oblige me, was beginning with his usual,
“Eh? why, don’t you see,”--when I interrupted him by saying, “Allow me to
set this matter at rest in a very few words. Lawless, I hope, knows me
well enough to feel sure that I could not ~168~~intend any disrespect
either to himself or to his guests--I believe it is not such an
unheard-of thing for a gentle-man to object to the name of any lady
whom he respects being commented upon with the freedom incidental to a
convivial meeting like the present--however that may be, I have asked
Lawless as a favour not to drink a certain toast in my presence; should
he be unwilling to comply with my request, as I would not wish to be
the slightest restraint upon him at his own table, I shall request his
permission to withdraw; on this point I await his decision. I have only
one more observation to make,” continued I, looking at Wilford, who was
evidently preparing to speak, “which is, that if, after what I have just
said, any gentleman should continue to urge Lawless to give the toast to
which I object, I must perforce consider that he wishes to insult me.”

As I concluded, there was a murmur of applause, and Archer and one or
two others turned to Lawless, declaring it was quite impossible to
press the matter further after what I had said; when Wilford, in a cold,
sarcastic tone of voice, observed: “I am sorry Mr. Fairlegh’s _last_
argument should have failed in convincing me, as easily as it seems to
have done some others of the party; such, however, unfortunately being
the case, I must repeat, even at the risk of incurring a thing so
terrible as that gentleman’s displeasure, my decided opinion that
Lawless, having informed us he was going to drink a particular toast,
should not allow himself to be bullied out of it, in compliance with any
man’s humour”.

This speech, as it might be expected, produced great excitement; I
sprang to my feet (an example followed by several of the party), and was
about to make an angry reply, when Oaklands, who up to this moment had
taken no part in the discussion, but sat sipping his wine with his usual
air of listless contentment, apparently indifferent to, if not wholly
unconscious of, all that was going on, now rose from his seat, and
having obtained silence said: “Really, gentlemen, all this confusion
appears to me very unnecessary, when a word from our host will end it.
Fairlegh has asked you not to propose a certain toast; it only remains
for you, Lawless, to say, whether you intend to do so or not.”

Thus urged, Lawless replied, “Eh? no, certainly not; Frank Fairlegh’s
a trump, and I would not do anything to annoy him for more than I can
tell: besides, when I come to think of it, I believe he was right, and
I was wrong--but you see, women are a kind of cattle I don’t clearly
understand--if it was a horse now----”

~169~~A burst of laughter at this characteristic remark drowned the
conclusion of the speech, but the announcement that the toast was given
up appeared to produce general satisfaction; for, since I had spoken,
the popular opinion had been decidedly in my favour.

“The cause of this little interruption to the harmony of the evening
being removed,” resumed Oaklands, “suppose we see whether its effects
may not as easily be got rid of. Every man, I take it, has a right to
express his own opinion, and I think Fairlegh must allow that he was a
little hasty in presupposing, that by so doing an insult was intended.
This being the case, he will, I am sure, agree with me that he ought not
to take any notice of Mr. Wilford’s remark.”

“Yes, to be sure, that’s it--all right, eh?” exclaimed Lawless; “come,
Fairlegh, as a favour to me, let the matter end here.”

Thus urged, I could only reply, that “I was quite willing to defer to
their judgment, and do whatever they considered right “--and as Wilford
(though I could see that he was annoyed beyond measure at having failed
in persuading Lawless to give the toast) remained silent, merely curling
his lip contemptuously when I spoke, here the affair ended.

As soon as the conversation became general Oaklands turned to me with
a mischievous smile, and asked, in an undertone, “Pray, Master Frank,
what’s become of all the wisdom and prudence recommended to me this
morning? I am afraid you quite exhausted your stock, and have not
reserved any for your own use. Who’s the fire-eater now, I wonder?”

“Laugh away, Harry; I may have acted foolishly, as is usually the case
where one acts entirely from impulse; but I could not have sat tamely
by and heard Clara Saville’s name polluted by the-remarks of such men
as Curtis and Wilford--I should have got into a row with them sooner or
later, and it was better to check the thing at once.”

“My dear boy,” returned Oaklands, “do not imagine for a moment that I
am inclined to blame you; the only thing that I could not help feeling
rather amused at, was your throwing down the gauntlet to the gentleman
opposite, when I recollected a certain lecture on prudence, with which I
was victimised this morning.”

“As you are strong, be merciful,” replied I; “and, whenever I do a
foolish thing, may I always have such a friend at hand to save me from
the consequences.”

~170~~“That’s a toast I will drink most willingly,” said Oaklands
smiling; “the more so, as it reverses the position in which we generally
stand with regard to each other, the alteration being decidedly in my
favour; but--” he continued, interrupting himself, “what on earth are
they laughing at, and making such a row about?”

“Oh, it’s merely Curtis romancing with the most unmitigated effrontery,
about something that neither he, nor any one else, ever did out
hunting,” replied Archer; “a tremendous leap, I fancy it was.”

“Do not be too sure that it is impossible,” replied I; “a horse once
cleared the mouth of a chalk pit with me on its back, when I was a boy;
Lawless remembers it.” “Eh! what? Mad Bess!” returned Lawless; “I should
think I did too; I rode there afterwards and examined the place--a
regular break-neck-looking hole as ever I saw in my life. Tell ‘em about
it, Frank.”

Thus called upon, no choice was left me but to commence the recital,
which, although there are few things to which I have a greater objection
than being the hero of my own story, I accordingly did. Several remarks
were made as I concluded, but, owing either to my well-known dislike of
exaggeration, or to the air of truthfulness with which I had told the
tale, nobody seemed inclined to doubt that the adventure had occurred in
the manner I related, although it was of a more incredible nature than
the feat Curtis had recounted. This fact had just excited my attention,
when Wilford, turning to the man on his right hand, observed: “It’s
a great pity that some one hasn’t taken notes of this evening’s
conversation; they would have afforded materials for a new volume of the
adventures of Baron Munchausen”.

My only answer to this remark, which was evidently intended for my
hearing, was a slight smile, for I had determined I would not again be
betrayed into any altercation with him, and, being now on my guard,
I felt pretty sure of being able to maintain my resolution. To my
annoyance Oaklands replied: “If your remark is intended to throw any
discredit upon the truth of the anecdote my friend has related, I
must be excused for observing that Lawless and I, though not actually
eyewitnesses of the leap, are yet perfectly aware that it took place”.

“Was that observation addressed to me, Mr. Oaklands?” inquired Wilford,
regarding Oaklands with an insolent stare.

~171~~“To you, sir, or to any other man who ventures to throw a doubt on
what Fairlegh has just stated,” replied Oaklands, his brow flushing with
anger.

“Really,” observed Wilford, with a contemptuous sneer, “Mr. Fairlegh
is most fortunate in possessing such a steady and useful friend: first,
when he dictates to Lawless what toasts he is to propose at his own
table, and threatens the company generally with the weight of his
displeasure should they venture to question the propriety of his so
doing, Mr. Oaklands kindly saves him from the consequences of this
warlike declaration, by advancing the somewhat novel doctrine, that his
friend, having spoken unadvisedly, ought not to act up to the tenor of
his words. Again, Mr. Fairlegh relates a marvellous tale of his earlier
days, and Mr. Oaklands is prepared to visit the most trifling indication
of disbelief with the fire and faggots of his indignation. Gentlemen,
I hope you are all good and true Fairleghites, or you will assuredly be
burned at the stake, to satisfy the bigotry of Pope Oaklands the First.”

During this speech I could perceive by the veins on his forehead,
swollen almost to bursting, his firmly set teeth, and his Viands
clenched till the blood was forced back from the nails, that Oaklands
was striving to master his passion; apparently he succeeded in a great
measure, for, as Wilford concluded, he spoke calmly and deliberately:
“The only reply, sir,” he began, “that I shall deign to make to your
elaborate insult is, that I consider it as such, and shall expect you to
render me the satisfaction due to a gentleman”.

“No, Harry,” exclaimed I, “I cannot permit this: the quarrel, if it be
a quarrel, is mine; on this point I cannot allow even you to interfere.
Mr. Wilford shall hear from me.”

“No, no!” exclaimed Lawless; “I’m sure you must see, Wilford, that this
is not at all the sort of thing, eh? recollect Oaklands and Fairlegh
are two of my oldest friends, and something is due to me at all events,
eh?--Archer--Curtis--this cannot be allowed to go on.”

By this time the party had with one accord risen from their seats, and
divided into groups, some collecting round Wilford and Lawless, others
about Oaklands and myself, and the confusion of tongues was perfectly
deafening. At length I heard Wilford’s voice exclaim: “I consider it
unfair in the extreme to lay all this quarrelling and disturbance to
me, and, as it is not at all to my taste, I beg to wish you a very good
evening, Lawless”.

~172~~“You will do no such thing,” cried Oaklands, and, bursting through
the cluster of men who surrounded him and endeavoured to detain him, he
sprang to the door, double-locked it, and, placing his back against it,
added, “no one loaves the room till this affair is settled one way or
other.” The action, the tone of voice, and the manner which accompanied
them, reminded me so forcibly of a deed of a somewhat similar nature
at Dr. Mildman’s, when Oaklands first heard of the loss of his letter
containing the cheque, and began to suspect foul play--that for a moment
the lapse of years was forgotten, and it seemed as though we were boys
together again.

Whenever Oaklands was excited by strong emotion of any kind, there was
a proud consciousness of power in his every look and motion, which
possessed for me an irresistible attraction: and now, as he stood, his
noble figure drawn up to its fullest height, his arms folded across his
ample chest in an attitude of defiance a sculptor would have rejoiced to
imitate; his head thrown slightly back, and his handsome features marked
by an expression of haughty indignation; when I reflected that it was
a generous regard for my honour which excited that indignation, I felt
that my affection for him was indeed “passing the love of women,” and
that he was a friend for whom a man might resolve to lay down his life
willingly.

While these thoughts passed through my brain Lawless and several of the
more influential members of the party had been endeavouring to persuade
Wilford to own that he was in the wrong, and ought to apologise, but in
vain; the utmost concession they could get him to make was, that “he was
not aware that he had offered any particular insult to Mr. Oaklands, but
if that gentleman chose to put such a construction upon his words, he
could not help it, and should be ready to answer for them when and where
he pleased”.

They were then, as a last resource, about to appeal to Oaklands, when I
interfered by saying “that the insult, if insult it was, had originated
from the part I had taken in the proceedings of the evening, and
was directed far more against me than Oaklands; that under these
circumstances it was impossible for me to allow him to involve himself
further in the affair. If my veracity were impugned, I was the proper
person to defend it; there could be but one opinion on that subject.”

To this they all agreed, and at length Oaklands himself was forced
reluctantly to confess he supposed I was right.

“In this case, gentlemen,” I continued, “my course is ~173~~clear; I
leave my honour in your hands, certain that in so doing I am taking the
wisest course; honourable men and men of spirit like yourselves will, I
feel certain, never recommend anything incompatible with the strictest
regard for my reputation as a gentleman; neither will you needlessly
hurry me into an act, the consequences of which might possibly embitter
the whole of my alter life. In order that personal feeling may not
interfere any more with the matter, my friend and I will withdraw;
Lawless will kindly convey to me your decision, on which, be it what it
may, I pledge myself to act;---I wish you a very good-night.”

Then telling Lawless I should sit up for him, and taking leave of two
or three members of the party with whom I was most intimate, I drew
Oaklands’ arm within my own, and, unlocking the door, left the room,
Wilford’s fierce black eyes glaring at us with a look of disappointed
fury, such as I have witnessed in a caged tiger, being the last object I
beheld.



CHAPTER XXII -- TAMING A SHREW

          “I remember a mass of things, but nothing distinctly;
          A quarrel.”

          “I do repent; but Heaven hath pleased it so
          To punish me with this.”

          “We will compound this quarrel.”

          “‘What’s that?’--‘Why, a horse.’
          “‘Tell thou the tale.’”

          “Nay, I will win my wager better yet,
          And show more signs of her obedience.”

          “Now go thy ways, thou hast tamed a curst shrew.”
           --_Shakspeare_.

“WHY did you prevent me from giving that insolent scoundrel the lesson
he deserved?” was Oaklands’ first observation as we left the quadrangle
in which Lawless’s rooms were situated; “I do not thank you for it,
Frank.”

“My dear Harry,” replied I, “you are excited at present; when you are a
little more cool you will see that I could not have acted otherwise than
I did. Even supposing I could have borne such a thing myself, what would
have ~174~~been said of me if I had allowed you to fight in my quarrel?
no honourable man would have permitted me to associate with him
afterwards.”

“But I don’t see that the quarrel was yours at all,” returned Oaklands;
“your share of it was ended when the toast affair came to a conclusion;
the rest of the matter was purely personal between him and myself.”

“How can that be, when the origin of it was his doubting, or pretending
to doubt, the truth of the anecdote which I related?” inquired I. “No;
depend upon it, Harry, I have acted rightly, though I bitterly regret
now having gone to the party, and so exposed myself to all this. I have
always looked upon duelling with the greatest abhorrence; to run the
risk of committing murder (for I can call it by no milder name), when at
the very moment in which the crime is consummated you may fall yourself,
and thus even the forlorn hope of living to repent be cut off from you,
appears to me little short of madness. On one point I am resolved--if I
do go out with him, nothing shall induce me to fire at him; I will not
die a murderer, at all events.”

“Should your life indeed be sacrificed,” said Oaklands, and his deep
voice trembled with emotion as he spoke, “I will follow this man as the
avenger of blood, fix a mortal insult upon him wherever I meet him, and
shoot him like a dog, convinced that I shall perform a righteous act in
so doing, by ridding the world of such a monster!”

I saw by his manner that it would be useless to attempt to reason with
him at that moment--his warm feelings, and the fiery though generous
impulses of his impetuous nature, had so completely gained possession of
him, that he was no longer a reasonable creature--we therefore walked
in silence to my rooms, where we parted; I declining his offer to remain
with me till I should learn the decision of Lawless and his friends,
on the plea of wishing to be alone (which was, indeed, a true one),
although my chief reason for so doing was to prevent the possibility of
Oaklands saying anything in his present excited state of mind, which, if
repeated, might in any way involve him with Wilford.

My first act, when I found myself once more alone, was to sit down, and
endeavour calmly to review the situation in which I was placed. In the
event of their deciding that the affair might be arranged amicably, my
course was clear--I had only to avoid Wilford as much as possible during
the time I should remain at Cambridge, and, if ~174~~ever I were obliged
to be in his company, to treat him with a cool and studied civility,
which would leave him no pretext for forcing a quarrel upon me. On the
other hand, if they should think it imperative upon me to go out with
him, then indeed was the prospect a gloomy one. Wilford, whose ruthless
disposition was so well known as to have become, as it were, a by-word
among the set he mixed with, was not a man to be offended with impunity,
and as, moreover, I had made up my mind not to return his fire, the
chances were strongly against my escaping with life.

I am no coward; on the contrary, like most men whose physical energy is
unimpaired, I am constitutionally fearless, and in moments of danger
and excitement have never found myself wanting; still it would be
affectation to deny that the prospect of a sudden and violent death,
thus unexpectedly forced upon me, impressed my mind with a vague
sensation of terror, mingled with regret for the past, and sorrow for
the future. To be thus cut off in the bright spring-time of vigorous
manhood, when the warm blood of youth dances gladly through the veins,
and every pulse throbs with the instinct of high and noble daring--to
die with hopes unattained, wishes ungratified, duties unperformed--to
leave those we love without one parting look or word to struggle on
through this cold unsympathising world alone and unprotected--and, above
all, to lose one’s life in an act the lawfulness of which was more than
questionable--all these things contributed to form a picture, which it
required either a very steadfast or an utterly callous heart to enable
one to gaze upon without blanching. I thought of the misery I should
entail upon my family; how, instead of fulfilling my father’s dying
injunctions to take his place, and devote myself to comfort and protect
them, I should wound my mother’s heart anew, and spread the dark mist
of sorrow over the fair prospect of my sister’s young existence; and I
cursed my fastidious folly in objecting to the toast, to which, in my
self-accusation, I traced all that had afterwards occurred. Then, with
the inconsistency of human nature, I began to speculate upon what would
be Clara Saville’s feelings, were she to learn that it was to prevent
the slightest breath of insult being coupled with her name that I was
about to peril, not only my life, but, for aught I knew, my hopes of
happiness here and hereafter. As the last awful possibility occurred
to me, the burden of my misery became too great for me to bear, and,
retiring to the privacy of my own chamber, I flung myself on my knees,
and poured ~176~~forth an earnest prayer for pardon for the past, and
deliverance for the future.

When I again returned to my sitting-room my mind had nearly recovered
its usual tone, and I felt prepared to meet and to go through whatever
might be before me with calmness and determination. As I was uncertain
how long it might be before Lawless would arrive, I resolved, in order
to avoid the horrors of suspense, to employ myself, and taking up the
mathematical treatise upon which I was engaged, and by a vigorous effort
of mind compelling my attention, I read steadily for about half an
hour, at the end of which time the sound of hasty footsteps was heard
ascending the stairs, and in another minute the door was flung open, and
Lawless and Archer entered the apartment.

“Reading mathematics, as I’m a slightly inebriated Christian!” exclaimed
Archer, taking the book out of my hands; “well, if that isn’t pretty
cool for a man who may be going to be shot at six o’clock to-morrow
morning, for anything he knows to the contrary, I’m no judge of
temperature.”

“Oh! bother mathematics,” rejoined Lawless, flinging the book which
Archer held out to him at a bust of Homer adorning the top of my
bookshelves, which it fortunately missed--“Frank, old boy! it’s all
right--you’re not to have a bullet through your lungs this time--shake
hands, old fellow! I’m so glad about it that I’ve--”

“Drunk punch enough to floor any two men of ordinary capacity,”
 interposed Archer.

“Of course I have,” continued Lawless, “and I consider I’ve performed
a very meritorious act in so doing;--there was the punch, all the other
fellows were gone away, somebody must have drunk it, or that young
reprobate Shrimp would have got hold of it; and I promised the venerable
fish-fag his mother to take especial care of his what do ye call
‘ums--morals, isn’t it? and instil by precept, and--and--”

“Example,” suggested Archer.

“Yes, all that sort of thing,” continued Lawless, “a taste for, that is,
an unbounded admiration of, the sublime and beautiful, as exemplified
under the form of--”

“Rum punch, and lashings of it,” chimed in Archer; “but suppose you were
to tell Fairlegh all that has passed since he came away, or let me do it
for you, whichever you like best.”

“Oh! you tell him, by all means,--I like to encourage ingenuous youth;
fire away, Archer, my boy!”

~177~~Thus urged, Archer informed me that upon my departure there had
been a somewhat stormy discussion, in which the events of the evening
were freely canvassed; and at last they came to a unanimous decision
that any man was at liberty to withdraw, if a toast was proposed to
which he objected, and that, if the toastmaster preferred giving it up
rather than allow him to leave the party, he had a perfect right to do
so. This being the case, they decided that Wilford, having been in the
wrong, ought to confess he had spoken hastily, and that, if he would do
so, and would add that he had meant nothing offensive either to me
or Oaklands, there the matter might rest. This for a long time he
positively refused to do; at length, finding he could get no one to
support him, he said that, as I had owned I was wrong in attempting to
prevent his expressing his opinion, he considered that, in all other
respects, I had behaved in a gentlemanly way; therefore, if he had said
anything which implied the contrary, he was willing to withdraw it. But,
in regard to Mr. Oaklands, he considered he had interfered in a very
uncalled-for manner; and he could only repeat, if that gentleman felt
himself aggrieved by anything he had said, the remedy was in his own
hands. As soon as he had spoken he withdrew.

The question was again debated, and at length they came to the
conclusion that what Wilford had said amounted to an ample apology as
far as I was concerned, which I was bound to accept; and that Oaklands,
having agreed to consider the quarrel mine, could not take any further
notice of it; therefore, the affair was at an end.

“Well,” said I, as he finished his recital, “I must ever feel grateful
to you both for the trouble you have taken on my account, and the kind
feeling you have shown towards me throughout. I will not pretend to
deny that I am very glad the matter has been amicably arranged, for,
circumstanced as I am, with everything depending upon my own exertions,
a duel would have been ruin to me; but I must say I think the whole
business thoroughly unsatisfactory, and it is only my conviction that a
duel would make matters worse, instead of mending them, which leads me
to agree to the arrangement. I sincerely hope Oaklands will not hear
what Wilford said about him, for he is fearfully irritated against him
already.”

“I’ll tell you what it is,” interrupted Lawless; “it’s my belief that
Wilford’s behaviour to you to-night was only assumed for the sake of
provoking Oaklands. ~178~~Master Stephen hates him as he does the very
devil himself, and would like nothing better than to pick a quarrel with
him, have him out, and, putting a brace of slugs into him, leave him--”

“Quivering on a daisy,” said Archer, completing the sentence. “Really I
think,” he continued, “what Lawless says is very true; you see Oaklands’
careless, nonchalant manner, which is always exactly the same whether
he is talking to a beggar or a lord, gives continual offence to Wilford,
who has contrived somehow to exact a sort of deference and respect from
all the men with whom he associates till he actually seems to consider
it his right. Then, Wilford’s overbearing manner irritates Oaklands; and
so, whenever they have met, the breach has gone on widening, till now
they positively hate one another.”

“How is it you are so intimate with him?” asked I; “for nobody seems
really to like him.”

“Well, hang me if I can tell,” replied Lawless; “but, you see he has
some good points about him, after all; for instance, I never saw him out
with the hounds yet that he didn’t take a good place, aye, and keep it
too, however long the run and difficult the country. I killed the best
horse I had in my stables trying to follow him one day in Leicestershire
last season; my horse fell with me going over the last fence, and
never rose again. Wilford, and one of the whips, who was merely a
feather-weight, were the only men in at the death. I offered him three
hundred guineas for the horse he rode, but he only gave me one of his
pleasant looks, and said it wasn’t for sale.”

“You’ve seen that jet-black mare he rides now, haven’t you, Fairlegh?”
 asked Archer.

“Yes; what a magnificent creature it is!” was my reply.

“Did you ever hear how he came by it?”

On my answering in the negative, Archer continued: “Well, I wonder at
that, for it was in everybody’s mouth at one time: it’s worth hearing,
if it were but to show the determined character of the man. The mare
belonged to Lord Foxington, Lord Sellborough’s eldest son. I believe
he gave five hundred guineas for her. She was a splendid animal,
high-couraged, but temperate. In fact, when you were on her she hadn’t a
fault, but in the stable she was a perfect devil; there was only one man
who dared go near her, and he had been with her from the time she was
a filly: so that, when Foxington bought the mare ~179~~he was forced to
hire the groom too. The most difficult thing of all was putting on the
bridle; it was generally half an hour’s work before she would let even
this groom do it. After dinner one day Foxington began talking about
this animal, saying what a brute she was to handle, and adding what I
have just told you, as to the impossibility of putting on the bridle,
when Wilford, who was present, made some remark, which showed he did not
believe in the impossibility. Upon which Foxington inquired whether he
doubted the fact he had just heard? Wilford replied that he was sure his
lordship fully believed in the truth of what he had just stated; but,
for his own part, he had so often found impossibilities of this nature
yield to a little courage and determination, that he confessed he was
somewhat sceptical. Now, it so happened that Foxington, soon after he
bought the mare, had thought just as Wilford did, and determined that
he would put the bridle on. Accordingly he attempted it, and the matter
ended by his getting regularly driven out ol the stable by the animal,
with a tolerably severe bite in the fleshy part of his shoulder.
Wilford’s remark, therefore, as may be imagined, rather nettled him; and
he inquired, somewhat tartly, whether Wilford believed he could put the
bridle on? and, if so, whether he were willing to try? Wilford replied,
in his usual cool tone, that he had an idea he could do so, but that
he had no particular inclination to try, as it would probably be
some trouble, and the weather was too hot to render active exertion
desirable. At this Foxington laughed derisively, saying that it sounded
very like a put-off. ‘Not at all,’ returned Wilford; ‘and to show
you that I never say a thing without being ready to act up to it, I am
willing to stake five hundred guineas against the mare herself that I
go up to her and put the bridle on without any assistance, and without
a stick or anything whatsoever in my hands.’ Foxington accepted the bet
gladly, reckoning himself safe to pocket the five hundred guineas.
The affair was to come off the next morning at Foxington’s stables,
at eleven o’clock. His lordship had invited all the men who had been
present when the bet was made to come and witness the event, expecting
a complete triumph over Wilford. While they were standing about waiting
Foxington told them of his own attempt, and his conviction, from the
experience he had then gained, that the thing could not be done; and
the general opinion was that Wilford, under the influence of wine,
had foolishly boasted of a thing which he would ~180~~not be able to
accomplish, and was certain to lose his money. As the time drew near,
and he did not make his appearance, an idea began to gain ground that he
meant to shirk the affair altogether; and Foxington was becoming
exceedingly irate, when, just as the clock was on the stroke of eleven,
the sound of a horse’s feet was heard, and Wilford cantered quietly up,
looking as if he felt no personal interest whatever in the event. On his
arrival they proceeded at once to the stable in which the mare stood.
She was kept in a loose box, with her clothes on, but her head entirely
free.

“I ought, by-the-by,” said Archer, interrupting himself, “to have told
you that I had the account from a man who was there at the time, and saw
the whole thing.

“Well, as soon as they went into the stable, the mare left off feeding,
and, turning round so as to face them, stood with her ears pricked up,
gazing wildly at them. Wilford just glanced at her, and then leisurely
divested himself of his coat, waistcoat, and neckcloth, turned up
the wristbands of his shirt, and, taking the bridle from the groom,
announced that he was ready. As soon as the door was open, Wilford fixed
his eyes sternly on the mare, and walked towards her. To the surprise
of every one the animal allowed him to approach quietly and pat her,
without showing any symptoms of vice. Men began to exchange inquiring
glances with each other, and those who had betted heavily against him
trembled for their money; but Foxington, who was better acquainted with
the animal, exclaimed, ‘Wait a minute, he has not tried to touch her
head yet’. Wilford now moved his hand forward along the neck, patting
her, and speaking soothingly to her as he advanced; but, as he
approached the head, she became impatient and fidgety, and when he
attempted to take hold of the ear, in order to put on the bridle, she
flung up her head, reared, and ran back a few steps, where she stood,
shaking her mane and pawing the ground. After remaining in this position
a few seconds, she suddenly laid back her ears, and, showing the whites
of her eyes, ran at Wilford with her mouth wide open, and as soon as she
got within distance made a ferocious bite at him. By springing on one
side with great agility he just contrived to avoid it; then, dropping
the bridle, he threw himself into a sparring attitude (you know he’s
a capital boxer), and, as the mare again ran at him, hit out, and,
striking her just on a particular spot by the ear, brought her down like
a bullock. As soon as she recovered her legs she renewed the attack, and
Wilford ~181~~received her as before, delivering his blow with the same
coolness and precision. When the animal rose the second time she seemed
partially stunned, and stood for a moment with her head hanging down and
her ears drooping; but on Wilford’s making a step towards her she again
plunged forward, and attempted to seize him with her teeth. Once more
did Wilford evade her bite by springing on one side, and seizing his
opportunity succeeded in planting his hit, and, for the third time,
felled her to the ground. When she again rose, however, she showed no
disposition to renew the attack, but stood trembling violently, with the
perspiration running down her sides. She now allowed Wilford to approach
her, to stroke her head, pull her ears, and finally to put the bridle
on, and lead her out, completely conquered; and so my Lord Foxington
lost the best horse in his stables, and Wilford gained his bet, and
added to his character for invincibility, which, by the way, he cared
about much the most.”

“It was a bold deed,” returned I, as Archer concluded his story, “but
one does not like a man the better for having done it; there seems to me
a degree of wanton cruelty in punishing an animal so severely, unless he
had been actually forced to do it. Public executioners may be necessary
for the prevention of crime; but that is no reason why one need
volunteer as an amateur hangman.”

“Everybody thought it an uncommonly plucky thing at the time, and there
was an immense fuss made with him afterwards,” replied Archer.--“Why,
Lawless, are you asleep? rouse up, man--to bed--to bed. Good-night,
Fairlegh, you’ll sleep all the better for knowing you are not to be shot
at cock-crow.”

So saying, he took Lawless by the arm and marched him off, though, it
must be confessed, his gait, as he descended the stairs, was somewhat
unsteady.~182~~



CHAPTER XXIII -- WHAT HARRY AND I FOUND WHEN WE LOST OUR WAY

     “It is too true an evil--gone she is.

     Unhappy girl!    Ah! who would be a father!”

     “Far in the lane a lonely hut he found,
     No tenant ventured on th’ unwholesome ground,
     Here smokes his forge: he bares his sinewy arm,
     And early strokes the sounding anvil warm;
     Around his shop the steely sparkles Hew,
     As for the steed he shaped the bending shoe.”
      --_Gay’s Trivia_.

     “‘Be who thou wilt... thou art in no danger from me, so
     then tell me the meaning of this practice, and why thou drivest
     thy trade in this mysterious fashion----’

     “‘Your horse is shod, and your farrier paid--what need you
     cumber yourself further, than to mount and pursue your
     journey?’”

     --_Kenilworth_.

ON the afternoon of the day after Lawless’s wine-party Oaklands and I
were walking down to the stables where his horses were kept (he having,
in pursuance of his plan for preventing my over-reading myself, beguiled
me into a promise to ride with him), when we encountered Archer.

“I suppose you have heard the news _par excellence_,” said he, after we
had shaken hands.

“No,” replied I, “what may it happen to be?”

“Only that Lizzie Maurice, the pastry-cook’s daughter, disappeared last
night, and old Maurice is going about like a distracted creature this
morning, and can’t learn any tidings of her.”

“What, that pretty girl with the long ringlets, who used to stand behind
the counter?” asked I. “What is supposed to have become of her?”

“Yes, that’s the identical young lady,” returned Archer. “All that seems
to be known about her is, that she waited till her father went out to
smoke his pipe, as he usually does for an hour or so every evening, and
then got the urchin who runs of errands to carry a bundle for her, and
set out without saying a word to any one. After she had proceeded a
little way, she was met by a man muffled up in a cloak, who took the
bundle from the boy, threw him a shilling, and told him to go home
directly. ~183~~Instead of doing so, however, he let them proceed for a
minute or two, and then followed them. They went at a quick pace along
one or two streets, and at length turned down a lane, not far from the
bottom of which a gig was waiting. Another man, also muffled up, was
seated in the gig, into which the girl was handed by her companion, who
said to the second man in a low tone, ‘All has gone well, and without
attracting notice’. He then added in a warning voice--‘Remember, honour
bright, no nonsense, or’--and here he sunk his voice so that the boy
could not catch what he said; but the other replied, ‘On my word, on my
honour!’ They then shook hands; the second man gathered up the reins,
drew the whip across the horse, which sprang forward at speed, and they
were out of sight in a moment. The person who was left gazed after them
for a minute or so, and then, turning briskly on his heel, walked away
without perceiving the boy, who stood under the shadow of a doorway. On
being questioned as to what the men were like, he said that the first
kept his face entirely concealed, but he was rather tall, and had black
hair; the second was a stout man, with light hair and a high colour--for
a dark lantern which he had in the gig with him happened to throw its
light on his face as he was lighting it.”

“At what time in the evening did all this take place?” inquired
Oaklands.

“Between nine and ten,” replied Archer. Oaklands and I exchanged
glances; the same idea had evidently struck us both.

“Has any one seen Wilford this morning?” asked Oaklands.

“Seen him!” returned Archer; “yes, to be sure, he and Wentworth have
been parading about arm and arm all over the town: they were with me
when I met poor old Maurice, and asked him all sorts of questions about
the affair. Wilford seemed quite interested for him.”

“Strange!” observed Oaklands musing. “I don’t make it out. I would
not willingly wrong, even in thought, an innocent man. Archer,” he
continued, “you have a shrewd keen wit and sound judgment; tell me in
confidence, man, who do you think has done this?”

“Nay, I am no diviner to guess other men’s secrets,” replied Archer;
“and these are subjects about which it is not over safe to hazard
conjectures. I have told you all I can learn about it, and it is for you
to draw your own conclusions, It is no use repeating things to you of
~184~~which you are already aware; I might as well tell you dogs bark
and cats mew--that Wilford has black hair, and Wentworth is a stout man
with a high colour--or any other well-known truism. But I am detaining
you--good-morning.” So saying, he shook hands with us and left us.

After walking some distance in silence Oaklands exclaimed abruptly: “It
must be so! it is Wilford who has done this thing--you think as I do, do
you not, Frank?”

“I am sure we have not evidence enough to prove it,” replied I; “but I
confess I am inclined, as a mere matter of opinion, to agree with you,
though there are difficulties in the way for which it is not easy to
account. For instance, why should Wilford have gone to that party last
night and have incurred the risk of entrusting the execution of his
schemes to another, instead of remaining to carry them out himself?”

“That is true,” said Oaklands thoughtfully, “I do not pretend to
understand it all clearly; but, somehow, I feel a conviction that
Wilford is at the bottom of it.”

“You should recollect, Harry, that you greatly dislike this man--are,
as I conceive, prejudiced against him--and are therefore, of course,
disposed to judge him harshly.”

“Yes I know all that; still you’ll see it will come out, sooner or
later, that Wilford is the man. Her poor old father! I have often
observed how he appeared to doat upon that girl, and how proud he was
of her: his pride will be converted into mourning now. It is fearful
to think,” continued Oaklands, “of what crimes men are guilty in their
reckless selfishness! Here is the fair promise of an innocent girl’s
life blighted, and an old man’s grey hairs brought down with sorrow
to the grave, in order to gratify the passing fancy of a heartless
libertine.” He paused, and then continued, “I suppose one can do nothing
in the matter, having no stronger grounds than mere suspicion to go
upon?”

“I should say nothing likely to be of the slightest benefit,” replied I.

“Then the sooner we get to horse the better,” returned Oaklands;
“hearing of a thing of this kind always annoys me, and I feel disposed
to hate my species: a good gallop may shake me into a better humour.”

“And the _dolce-far-niente_?” I inquired.

“Oh! don’t imagine me inconsistent,” was the reply. “Only somehow, just
at present, in fact ever since the ~185~~breeze last night, I’ve found
it more trouble to remain quiet than to exert myself; so, if you would
not tire me to death, walk a little faster, there’s a good fellow.”

After a brisk ride of nearly two hours along cross-roads, we came out
upon a wild heath or common of considerable extent.

“Here’s a famous place for a gallop,” exclaimed Oaklands; “I never can
make up my mind which is the fastest of these two horses; let’s have a
race and try their speed. Do you see that tall poplar tree which seems
poking its top into the sky on the other side the common? that shall be
the winning-post. Now, are you ready?”

“All right, go ahead,” replied I, bending forward and giving my horse
the rein. Away we went merrily, the high-couraged animals bounding
beneath us, and the fresh air whistling round our ears as we seemed to
cut our way through it. For some time we kept side by side. The horse
Oaklands rode was, if anything, a finer, certainly a more powerful
animal than the one on which I was mounted; but this advantage was fully
compensated by the fact of his riding nearly a stone heavier than I did.
We were, therefore, on the whole, very fairly matched.

After riding at speed, as well as I could reckon, about two miles,
Oaklands, to his great delight, had gained nearly a horse’s length in
advance of me--a space which it seemed beyond my powers of jockeyship to
recover. Between us, however, and the tree he had fixed on as our goal
lay a small brook or water-course near the banks of which the ground
became soft and marshy. In crossing this the greater weight of man and
horse told against Oaklands, and gradually I began to creep up to him.
As we neared the brook it struck me that his horse appeared to labour
heavily through the stiff clay. Now or never, then, was my opportunity;
and shouting gaily, “Over first, for a sovereign--good-bye, Harry,” I
gave my horse the spur, and, putting him well at it, cleared the brook
splendidly, and alighted safely on the farther bank.

Determined, if possible, not to be outdone, Harry selected a point, by
crossing at which he could contrive to cut off a corner, and thus gain
upon me considerably. In order to accomplish this it was necessary for
him to take his leap at a spot where the brook was some feet wider than
ordinary. Relying, however, on the known good qualities of the animal he
rode, he resolved to attempt it. Settling himself firmly in his saddle,
he got his horse well together, and then throwing up his whip-hand and
(as Lawless ~186~~would have termed it) “sticking in the persuaders,” he
charged the brook at speed.

It was a well-imagined and bold attempt, and, had his horse been
fresher, would have succeeded in winning the race; but we had kept up
a fair pace during the whole of our ride, and now our gallop across the
common, and more particularly the severe pace over the marshy ground,
had tried his horse’s wind considerably. Still, however, the noble
animal strove to the utmost of its power to answer the call made upon
it, and by a vigorous effort succeeded in clearing the brook; but
the ground on the other side was rugged and broken, and, apparently
exhausted by the exertion he had made, he stumbled, and after a slight
struggle to preserve his footing fell heavily forward, pitching Harry
over his head as he did so.

Fortunately the ground was soft and clayey, and neither man nor horse
seemed to have sustained any injury, for I had scarcely time to draw
rein ere they were on their legs again, and, as Harry’s first act was to
spring lightly into the saddle, I determined to secure the race at once;
and cantering up to the poplar tree, which was now within a hundred
yards of me, I snapped off a bough in token of victory. As I turned back
again I observed that Harry had dismounted and was examining his horse’s
foot.

“Nothing wrong, is there?” asked I, as I rejoined him.

“Yes, everything’s wrong,” was the reply; “you’ve been and gone and won
the race, you villain you--I’ve tumbled nose and knees into a mud-hole,
and spoiled my white cord oh-no-we-never-mention-ums--and ‘the Cid’ has
wrenched off one of his front shoes in the scrimmage.”

“And that’s the worst of all the misfortunes,” said I, “for here we are
some ten or twelve miles from Cambridge at least, in a region utterly
unknown, and apparently devoid of inhabitants; so where we are to find a
smith passes my poor skill to discover.”

“You’re wrong about the inhabitants, I flatter myself,” replied Harry.
“Do you see the faint white mist curling above those trees to the right?
I take that to be smoke; where there’s smoke there must be fire; fire
must have been kindled by some human being or other--through that
individual we will endeavour to obtain an introduction to some
blacksmith, conjointly with sufficient topographical information to
enable us to reach our destination in time for a certain meal called
dinner, which has acquired an unusual degree of importance in my eyes
within the last hour or so. I have spoken!”

“Like a book,” replied I; “and the next thing is to ~187~~bring your
sapient deductions to the test of experiment. There is a cart-track here
which appears to lead towards the smoke you observed; let us try that.”
 So saying, I also dismounted, and throwing my horse’s bridle over my arm
we proceeded together on foot in the direction Oaklands had indicated.

Ten minutes’ walking brought us into a rough country lane, winding
picturesquely between high banks and green hedges, affording an
agreeable contrast to the flat, unenclosed tracts of corn-land so
general throughout Cambridgeshire. After following this lane about a
quarter of a mile, we came upon a small, retired ale-house, surrounded
by trees. As we approached the door a stout, vulgar-looking woman,
dressed in rather tawdry finery, ran out to meet us; on coming nearer,
however, she stopped short as if surprised, and then re-entered the
house as quickly as she had left it, calling to some one within as she
did so. After waiting for a minute or two she came back, accompanied by
a tall, disagreeable-looking man in a velveteen shooting-jacket, with a
remarkably dirty face, and hands to match.

“Is there a blacksmith living anywhere near here, my good man?” inquired
Oaklands.

“Mayhap there is,” was the reply in a surly tone. “Can you direct us how
to find him?” continued Oaklands.

“What might you want with him when you’ve found him?” was the rejoinder.

“My horse has cast a shoe, and I want one put on immediately,’” replied
Oaklands, who was getting impatient at the man’s unsatisfactory, not to
say insolent, manner.

“Mayhap you won’t get it done in quite such a hurry as you seems to
expect! There’s a blacksmith lives at Stony End, about five miles
farther on. Go straight up the lane for about three miles, then turn
to the right, then twice to the left, and then you’ll see a finger-post
that ain’t got nothing on it--when you come to that----”

“Which I never shall do, depend upon it,” replied Oaklands. “My good
man, you don’t imagine I’m going to fatigue myself and lame my horse by
walking five miles up this unlucky lane, do you? If things really are
as bad as you would make them out to be, I shall despatch a messenger
to summon the smith, and employ myself in the meanwhile in tasting your
ale, and consuming whatever you may happen to have in the house fit to
eat.” I observed that the landlord and his wife, as I presumed
~188~~her to be, exchanged very blank looks when Oaklands announced this
determination. When he ceased speaking she whispered a few words into
the ear of the man, who gave a kind of surly grunt in reply, and then,
turning to Harry, said, “Mayhap I’ll shoe your horse for you myself if
you’ll make it worth my while”.

“_You_ will? why, I thought you said there was not a smith within five
miles?”

“No more there ain’t, only me.”

“And you’ve been worrying me, and tiring my patience all this time,
merely to secure yourself a better bargain? Oh, the needless trouble
people give themselves in this world! Shoe the horse, man, and make your
own charge; be sure I’ll not complain of it, only be quick,” replied
Oaklands.

“P’r’aps that worn’t all,” returned the fellow gruffly; “but if ye be in
such a mighty hurry, bring ‘un along here, and I’ll clap a shoe on ‘un
for ye in a twinkling.”

So saying, he led the way through an old gate, and down a stable-yard
behind the public-house, at the bottom of which, under a kind of
half-barn, half-shed, was a blacksmith’s shop, fitted up with a forge
and other appliances for shoeing. Our conductor (who having divested
himself of the velveteen jacket, which he replaced with a leather apron,
seemed now much more in his proper element) displayed greater quickness
and skill in making and applying the shoe, than from his previous
conduct I should have anticipated; and I began to flatter myself that
our difficulties were in a fair way to be overcome.

I was drawing up the girths of my horse’s saddle, which had become
somewhat loosened from our gallop, when Oaklands, who had been sitting
on a gate near, industriously flogging his boot with his riding-whip,
jumped down, saying, “If you’ll keep an eye to the horses, Prank, I’ll
go and see if I can get some of the worst of this mud brushed off”.

“Better stay where you are! I shall a done direc’ly,” observed the
smith; “you ain’t wanted at ther house, I tell yer.”

“You should stick to your original trade, for your manners as an
innkeeper are certainly not calculated to fascinate customers, my
friend,” replied Oaklands, walking towards the house.

The man muttered an oath as he looked after him, and then applied
himself to his work with redoubled energy. Above ten minutes had
elapsed, the shoe was made, ~189~~fitted to the hoof, and the process
of nailing on nearly concluded, but still Oaklands did not return. I was
tying my horse’s rein up to a hook in the wall, with the intention of
seeking him, when I heard the noise of wheels in the lane, followed
immediately by the clatter of a horse’s feet, ridden at speed--both
sounds at the moment ceased, as if the parties had stopped at the
inn-door. The blacksmith also heard them, and appeared for a moment
uncertain whether to continue his work or not; then, uttering an
impatient exclamation, he began twisting off and clenching the points
of the nails as though his life depended on his haste. Perceiving that
Oaklands’ horse would be ready for him to mount directly, I turned to
unfasten my own, when the sound of men’s voices raised high in angry
debate became audible; then a confused noise as of blows and scuffling
ensued, mingled with the screams of women; and immediately the
blacksmith’s wife ran out, calling to her husband to hasten in, for that
“_they_ had come back and quarrelled with the strange gentleman, and now
they were fighting, and there would be murder done in the house”.

Without waiting to hear more I ran hastily up the yard, followed by
the blacksmith and the woman. On reaching the front of the house I
perceived, waiting at the door, a gig, in which was seated a man,
dressed in a suit of rusty black, while under the shade of the trees a
boy was loading up and down a magnificent black mare, which I instantly
recognised as the identical animal Wilford had become possessed of in
the manner Archer had related to me. The sounds of blows and struggling
still continued, and proceeded, as I now ascertained, from the parlour
of the ale-house. As the readiest method of reaching the scene of
action, I flung open the window, which was not far from the ground, and
without a moment’s hesitation leaped into the room.



CHAPTER XXIV -- HOW OAKLANDS BROKE HIS HORSEWHIP

~190~~

     “Away to heav’n, respective lenity,
     And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now.”

     “Use every man after his desert, and who should ‘scape
     whipping?”

     “He swore that he did hold me dear
     As precious eyesight, and did value me
     Above this world, adding thereto moreover
     That he would wed me.”

     “Men’s vows are women’s traitors.”

     “To promise is most courtly and fashionable; performance
     is a kind of will or testament which argues a great sickness in
     his judgment that makes it.”

     --Shakspeare.

THE sight which met my eyes as I gazed around was one which time
can never efface from my memory. In the centre of the room, his brow
darkened by the flush of concentrated indignation, stood Oaklands, his
left hand clenching tightly the coat-collar of a man whom I at once
perceived to be Wilford, while with his right hand he was administering
such a horse-whipping as I hope never again to see a human being
subjected to. Wilford, who actually writhed with mingled pain and fury,
was making violent but ineffectual struggles to free himself. Near the
door stood Wentworth, the blood dropping from his nose, and his clothes
dusty and disordered, as if from a fall. Crouching in a corner at the
farther end of the room, the tears coursing down her fear-blanched
cheeks, and her hands clasped in an agony of terror and despair, was
a girl, about nineteen years of age, whom I had little difficulty in
recognising as Lizzie Maurice, the daughter of the old confectioner, of
whose elopement we had been that morning informed. On perceiving me
she sprang forward, and clasping my knees implored me to interfere and
endeavour to separate them. I was not, however, called upon to do so,
for, as she spoke, his riding-whip broke short in Oaklands’ hand, and
dashing down the fragments with an exclamation of impatience, he flung
Wilford from him with so much force that he staggered forward a few
paces, and would have fallen had not Wentworth caught him in his arms,
just in time to prevent it.

[Illustration: page190  The Roused Lion]

~191~~Oaklands then turned to the girl, whom I had raised from the
ground and placed on a chair, and addressing her in a stern impressive
manner, said: “I will now resume what I was saying to you when yonder
beaten hound dared to lay hands upon me. For the last time the choice is
offered to you--either return home, and endeavour, by devoting yourself
to your broken-hearted old father, to atone as best you may for the
misery you have caused him; or, by remaining here, commence a life of
infamy which will end sooner or later in a miserable death.” He paused;
then, as she made no reply, but sat with her face buried in her hands,
sobbing as if her heart would break, he continued, “You tell me, the
vile tempter who has lured you from your duty promised to meet you here
to-day, and, bringing a clergyman with him, to marry you privately; now
if this is the truth----”

“It is, it is,” she faltered.

“If so,” resumed Oaklands, “a knowledge of the real facts of the case
may yet save you. This scoundrel who has promised to marry you, and who
belongs to a rank immeasurably above your own, is already notorious for
what are termed, by such as himself, affairs of gallantry; while the
wretched impostor whom he has brought with him to act the part of
clergyman is the marker at a low billiard-table, and no more a clergyman
than I am.”

“Is this really so?” exclaimed the girl, raising her eyes, which
were swollen and red with weeping, to Wilford’s face; “would you have
deceived me thus, Stephen--you, whom I have trusted so implicitly?”

Wilford, who, since the severe discipline he had undergone, had remained
seated, with his head resting on his hand, as if in pain, apparently
unconscious of what was going on, glared at her ferociously with his
flashing eyes, but made no reply. The girl waited for a minute; but,
obtaining no answer, turned away with a half shudder, murmuring,
“Deceived, deceived!” Then addressing Oaklands, she said, “I will go
home to my father, sir; and if he will not forgive me, I can but lie
down and die at his feet--better so than live on, to trust, and be
deceived again”.

“You have decided rightly, and will not repent it,” remarked Oaklands
in a milder tone of voice; then, turning to the blacksmith (who had
made his appearance, accompanied by his wife, the moment the affray had
ended), he continued: “you must procure some conveyance immediately to
take this young person back to Cambridge, and your wife must accompany
her”. ~192~~Observing that the man hesitated, and cast an inquiring
glance towards Wilford, he added sternly, “If you would not be compelled
to answer for the share you have taken in this rascally business before
the proper authorities, do as I have told you without loss of time”.

The man having again failed in an attempt to attract Wilford’s
attention, asked in a surly tone, “Whether a spring-cart would do?” and,
being answered in the affirmative, left the room.

Lizzie Maurice withdrew to prepare for her return home, the woman
accompanied her; Oaklands strode to the window, and remained watching
the operation of harnessing the horse to the tax-cart. Wilford still
retained the same attitude, and neither spoke nor moved. Wentworth
having glanced towards him once or twice, as if to divine his wishes,
receiving no sign, lit a cigar, and leaning His back against the
chimney-piece began to smoke furiously, whilst I devoted myself to
the pages of an old sporting magazine. Thus passed five minutes, which
seemed as if they would never come to an end, at the expiration of which
time the tax-cart, driven by a stout country lad, drew up to the door,
and the two women making their appearance at the same moment, Oaklands
turned to leave the room. As he did so Wilford, for the first time,
raised his head, thereby disclosing a countenance which, pale as death,
was characterised by an expression of such intense malignity as one
might conceive would be discernible in that of a corpse reanimated by
some evil spirit. After regarding Oaklands fixedly for a moment, he
said, in a low, grating tone of voice, “You have foiled me once and
again--when next we meet, it wilt, be my turn!” Oaklands merely smiled
contemptuously, and quitted the house.

Having mounted our horses, we ordered the lad who drove the spring-cart
to proceed at his fastest pace, while we followed at a sufficient
distance to keep it in sight, so as to guard against any attempt which
might be made by Wilford to repossess himself of his victim, without
positively identifying ourselves with the party it contained. We rode in
silence for the first two or three miles; at length I could refrain
no longer, and, half uttering my thoughts aloud, half addressing my
companion, I exclaimed, “Oh, Harry, Harry, what is all this that you
have done?”

“Done!” replied Oaklands, with a heightened colour and flashing eyes,
“rescued an innocent girl from a villain who would have betrayed her,
and punished the scoundrel ~193~~about half so severely as he deserved;
but that was my misfortune, not my fault. Had not the whip broken----”

“You know that is not what I mean,” returned I; “but this man will
challenge you, will--you are aware of his accursed skill--will murder
you. Oh! that fiendish look of his as you left the room--it will haunt
me to my dying day.”

“And would you have had me leave the poor girl to her fate from a coward
fear of personal danger? You are strangely altered since you defied a
room full of men last night rather than allow Clara Saville’s name to
be uttered by their profane lips; or, which is nearer the truth,” he
continued with a kind smile, “your affection for me blinds you.”

“Not so, Harry,” replied I; “but it is the recollection of my own
feelings, when, while waiting for Lawless’s report last night, I
believed I should be forced to meet this Wilford--it is the misery, the
self-reproach, the bitter penitence of that moment, when, for the first
time, I was able to reflect on the fearful situation in which by my own
rashness I had placed myself, a situation in which crime seemed
forced upon me, and it appeared impossible to act rightly--it is the
remembrance of all these things which causes me to lament that you,
my more than brother, should have involved yourself in similar
difficulties.”

“But, Frank,” he began--then, interrupting himself, he seized my hand,
and pressing it warmly between his own, exclaimed, “My dear old fellow,
forgive me if I have spoken unkindly to you; but this man has maddened
me, I believe”. He paused, and then continued in a calmer voice, “Let me
tell you how it occurred, and you will see I could scarcely have acted
otherwise than I have done. You know I went into the public-house to
brush off the mud after my tumble. The instant my step sounded in the
passage, a girl tripped lightly down the stairs and ran towards me,
exclaiming joyfully, ‘You have come at last, then!’ On finding that it
was not the person she expected she stopped in alarm, and I perceived
to my astonishment that it was Lizzie Maurice. She recognised me at
the same moment, and apparently a new idea struck her, for she again
approached me, saying, ‘Mr. Oaklands, tell me, sir, for heaven’s sake,
has anything happened to Wilford?’ Then, with woman’s tact, perceiving
her mistake, she blushed deeply, adding in a timid voice, ‘I fancied you
might have been riding with that gentleman; and seeing you alone, I was
afraid some accident might ~194~~have befallen your companion’. All this
convinced me that my suspicions had not been misplaced; and the thought
occurred to me that possibly it might not yet be too late to endeavour
to restore her to her father, while the recollection of Archer’s account
of the old man’s distress determined me to make the attempt.

“Taking her, therefore, by the hand, I led her into the parlour, and,
begging her to listen to me for five minutes, told her I was aware of
her elopement, and entreated her to return home again, adding that her
father was brokenhearted at her loss. She shed tears when I mentioned
the old man’s grief, but positively refused to return home.

“Finding persuasion to be of no avail, I thought I would appeal to her
fears: so I informed her that I was aware of the name of the villain who
had enticed her away; that I would seek him out and expose him, and that
I should instantly acquaint her father with her place of refuge, and
advise him to come provided with proper powers to reclaim her. This
produced more effect, and, after some hesitation, she told me proudly
that I had done her foul wrong by my doubts; that Mr. Wilford meant
to make her his lawful wife; but that, in order to prevent his great
relations hearing of it till he could break it to them cautiously,
it was advisable to keep the affair quiet--(the old story, in short,
private marriage and all the rest of it)--a friend of Wilford’s,
therefore, to avoid exciting suspicion, had kindly driven her over there
the night before, and she was now expecting her lover to come, and bring
a clergyman with him, who would marry them by licence on the spot; when
she heard my step she thought they had arrived. The air of truth with
which she told her tale carried conviction with it.

“I was about to represent to her the improbability of Wilford’s
intentions being as honourable as she fondly imagined them, when a
gig drove up to the door, containing Wentworth and a fellow whom I
recognised as one of the billiard-markers in ---- Street, dressed in
a seedy suit of black for the occasion; immediately afterwards Wilford
arrived on horseback. The whole thing was now perfectly clear. Wilford,
having made the girl believe he intended to marry her, persuaded
Wentworth, who is completely his tool, to carry her off for him; after
which he went to Lawless’s wine-party, in order to show himself and
thereby avert suspicion. He then bribed the billiard-marker to play
parson, got Wentworth to bring him, and going out as if merely for a
ride had joined them here. I was considering what would be the best
~195~~course to pursue, and was just coming out to consult you, when
the door was flung open, and Wilford and Wentworth entered hastily. The
moment Wilford’s eyes fell upon me he started as if a serpent had stung
him, and his brow became black as night.

“Advancing a step or two towards me, he inquired, in a voice hoarse with
rage, what I was doing there. I replied, ‘Endeavouring to prevent some
of his evil designs from succeeding’. He tried to answer me, but his
utterance was literally choked by passion; and turning away, he strode
up and down the room gnashing and grinding his teeth like a maniac.
Having in some degree recovered his self-control, he again approached
me, drew himself up to his full height, and, pointing to the door,
desired me to leave the room.

“I replied I should not do so until I had given the young lady a piece
of information respecting the character of one of the party--and I
pointed to the billiard-marker, who had not yet alighted--I should then,
I added, learn from her own lips whether she still wished to remain
there, or would take my advice and return to her father.

“Again Wilford ground his teeth with rage, and desired me, in a voice of
thunder, to ‘leave the room instantly ‘; to which I replied flatly that
I would not.

“He then made a sign to Wentworth, and they both approached me, with the
intention of forcing me out. Fearing that their combined efforts might
overpower me (for Wentworth, though short, is a broad-shouldered, strong
man, and Wilford’s muscles are like iron), I avoided their grasp by
stepping backwards, and, hitting out with my right hand as I did so,
caught Wentworth full on the nose, tapping his claret for him, as the
pugilists call it, and sending him down like a shot. At the same moment
Wilford sprang upon me with a bound like a tiger, and seizing me by
the throat a short but severe struggle took place between us. I was too
strong for him, however; and finding this, he would gladly have ceased
hostilities and quitted me, kindly postponing my annihilation till some
future day, when it could be more conveniently accomplished by means of
a pistol-bullet. But, as you may imagine, my blood was pretty well up
by this time, and I determined he should not get off quite so easily.
Seizing, therefore, my whip in one hand, I detained him without much
trouble with the other--his strength being thoroughly exhausted by his
previous exertions--and administered such a thrashing as will keep him
out of mischief for a week to come, at ~196~~all events. It was while
this was going on that you made your appearance, I think; so now you are
_au fait_ to the whole affair--and pray, what else could I possibly have
done under the circumstances?”

“It is not easy to say,” replied I. “I think the horse-whipping might
have been omitted, though I suppose the result would have been the same
at all events, and it certainly was a great temptation. The brightest
side of the business is your having saved the poor girl, who I really
believe is more to be pitied than blamed, having only followed the
dictates of her woman’s nature, by allowing her feelings to overrule her
judgment.”

“You have used exactly the right expression there,” said Oaklands; “in
such cases as the present, it is not that the woman is weak enough to be
gulled by every plausible tale which may be told her, but that she has
such entire confidence, such pure and child-like faith in the man she
loves, that she will believe anything rather than admit the possibility
of his deceiving her.”

“The deeper villain he, who can betray such simple trust,” replied I.

“Villain, indeed!” returned Oaklands. “I would not have been in
Wilford’s place, to have witnessed that girl’s look when the conviction
of his baseness was forced upon her, for worlds; it was not a look of
anger nor of sorrow, but it seemed as if the blow had literally crushed
her heart within her---as if the brightness of her young spirit had fled
for ever, and that to live would only be to prolong the duration of her
misery. No; I would rather have faced death in its most horrible form,
than have met that look, knowing that my own treachery had called it
forth.”

We rode for some little distance in silence. At length I inquired how
he meant to arrange for Lizzie Maurice’s return to her home, as it would
not do for us, unless he wished the part we had taken in the affair to
be known all over Cambridge, to escort her to her father’s door in the
order of procession in which we were then advancing.

“No, I was just thinking of that,” replied Oaklands. “It appears to me
that the quietest way of managing the affair will be to pay the boy
for the horse and cart at once, telling him to set Lizzie Maurice down
within a short distance of her father’s shop, and then to drive back
with the woman. Lizzie can proceed on foot, and will probably at this
time of the evening (it was nearly seven o’clock) be able to enter the
house without attracting attention: we will, however, keep her in
sight, so as to be at hand to render her assistance should she require
~197~~it. I do not myself feel the slightest doubt that her father will
believe her tale, and treat her kindly. I shall, however, leave her
my direction, and should she require my testimony in support of her
veracity, or should the old man be unwilling to receive her, she must
inform me of it, and I will call upon him, and try to bring him to
reason.”

“That will not be necessary, depend upon it,” returned I; “he will only
be too glad to recover her.”

“So I think,” replied Oaklands.

“What course shall you take with regard to Wilford?” inquired I.

“I shall never mention the affair to any one, if he does not,” answered
Oaklands; “neither shall I take any step whatever in the matter. I am
perfectly satisfied, with the position in which I stand at present, and
if he should not enjoy an equal share of contentment, it is for him to
declare it--the next move must be his, and it will be time enough for me
to decide how to act when we see what it may be. I shall now tell Lizzie
Maurice of my plan for her, and inform her that as long as I hear she is
living quietly at home, and leading a respectable life, my lips will be
sealed with regard to the occurrences of to-day.” So saying, he put his
horse into a canter, and riding up to the side of the cart, conversed
with the girl in a low tone of voice for several minutes; then, drawing
out his purse, handed some money to the driver, and rejoined me. “She
is extremely grateful to me for my promise of silence,” he commenced;
“seems very penitent for her fault, and declares that this is a lesson
she shall never forget. She agrees to my plan of walking, and tells me
there is a side-door to the house, by which she can enter unobserved.
She promises to confess everything to her father, and hopes to obtain
his forgiveness; and appears altogether in ‘a very proper frame of
mind,’ as the good books say.”

“Long may she remain so,” returned I; “and now I am happy to say
there are some of the towers of Cambridge visible, for, like you, I am
becoming fearfully hungry.”

“And for the first time during the last twenty-four hours I am actually
beginning to feel as tired as a dog,” rejoined Harry, shrugging his
shoulders with an air of intense satisfaction.~198~~



CHAPTER XXV -- THE CHALLENGE

          “Patience perforce with wilful choler meeting
          Makes my flesh tremble in their different greeting.
          I will withdraw; but this intrusion shall,
          Now seeming sweet, convert to bitter gall.”

          “More matter for a May morning.”

          “Here’s the challenge, read it.”

          “If this letter move him not, his legs cannot.”

          “Ominous! he comes to kill my heart.”
           --_Shakspeare_.

OLD MAURICE, the pastry-cook, had welcomed his daughter gladly, as one
returned from the grave, and had learned from her own lips, with mingled
tears of joy and gratitude, how, thanks to noble Harry Oaklands, she had
escaped unscathed from the perils and temptations to which she had been
exposed; many days had elapsed, the Long Vacation had commenced, and the
ancient town of Cambridge, no longer animated by the countless throngs
of gownsmen, frowned in its unaccustomed solitude, like some City of the
Dead, and still no hostile message came from Wilford. Various reports
were circulated concerning the reappearance of Lizzie Maurice; but none
of them bore the faintest resemblance to the truth, and to no one had
the possibility of Oaklands’ interference in the matter occurred, save,
as it afterwards appeared, to Charles Archer.

For above a week Wilford was confined to his room, seeing only
Wentworth; and it was given out that he had met with a severe fall from
his horse, and was ordered to keep perfectly quiet. At the expiration
of that period he quitted Cambridge suddenly, leaving no clue to his
whereabouts. This strange conduct scarcely excited any surprise amongst
the set he moved in, as it was usually his habit to shroud all his
proceedings under a veil of secrecy, assumed, as some imagined, for
the purpose of enhancing the mysterious and unaccountable influence he
delighted to exercise over the minds of men.

Oaklands remained a few days at Cambridge after Wilford’s departure, as
he said, to pack up, but, as I felt certain, to prevent the possibility
of Wilford’s imagining that he was anxious in any way to avoid him.
Finding at length that his rooms were dismantled, and that he would
not in all probability return till the end of the Long Vacation, Harry
ceased to trouble his head any further about the matter, and we set off
for Heathfield, accompanied by Archer, whom Harry had invited to pay him
a visit.

We found all well at our respective homes; my mother appeared much
stronger, and was actually growing quite stout, for her; and Fanny
looked so pretty, that I was not surprised at the very particular
attentions paid her from the first moment of his introduction by the
volatile Archer (who, by the way, was a regular male flirt), attentions
which I was pleased to perceive she appreciated exactly at their proper
value. We soon fell into our old habits again, Oaklands and Archer
setting out after breakfast for a stroll, or on a fishing expedition,
which usually ended in Harry’s coming to an anchor under some spreading
oak or beech, where he remained, “doing a bit of the _dolce_,” as Archer
called it, till luncheon time; whilst I, who could not afford to be
idle, read hard till about three o’clock, and then joined in whatever
amusement was the order of the day.

“Frank, may I come in?” exclaimed Fanny’s silvery voice outside my study
door, one morning during my working hours when I had been at home about
a fortnight.

“To be sure you may, you little torment,” replied I; “are you coming to
learn mathematics, or to teach me crochet? for I see you are armed with
that vicious little hook with which you delight to torture the wool of
innocent lambs into strange shapes, for the purpose of providing your
friends with innumerable small anomalous absurdities, which they had
much rather be without.”

“No such thing, Mr. Impudence, I never make any article which is not
particularly useful as well as ornamental. But, Frank, dear,” she
continued, “I should not have interrupted you, only I wanted to tell you
something--it may be nothing to signify, and yet I cannot help feeling
alarmed about it.”

“What is it, darling?” said I, putting my arm round her taper little
waist, and drawing her towards me.

“Why, Mr. Oaklands has been here this morning; he came to bring mamma a
message from Sir John, inviting us all to dine with him to-morrow.”

“Nothing very alarming so far,” observed I; “go on.”

“Mamma said we should be extremely happy to do so, and quitted the room
to find a recipe she had promised to the housekeeper at the Hall.”

~200~~“And you were left alone with Harry--that was alarming certainly,”
 said I.

“Nonsense,” returned Fanny, while a very becoming blush glowed on her
cheek; “how you do interrupt me! Mr. Oaklands had kindly offered to
explain a difficult passage in Dante for me, and I was standing on a
chair to get down the book--”

“Which he could have reached by merely stretching out his arm, I
daresay, only he was too idle,” interposed I.

“Indeed he could not,” replied Fanny quickly, “for he was sitting in
the low easy-chair, and trying to fasten mamma’s spectacles on Donald’s
nose.” (Donald being a favourite Scotch terrier belonging to Harry, and
a great character in his way.) “Well, I had just found the book,” she
continued, “and we were going to begin when a note was given to Mr.
Oaklands, which had been brought by a groom from the Hall, with a
message that the gentleman who had left it was waiting at the inn in the
village for an answer. Mr. Oaklands began to read it in his usual quiet
way, but no sooner had he thrown his eye over the first few lines
than his cheeks flushed, his brow grew dark, and his face assumed that
fearfully stern expression which I have heard you describe, but had
never before seen myself. As soon as he had finished reading it he
crushed the paper in his hand, and sprung up, saying hurriedly, ‘Is
Frank------?’ He then took two or three steps towards the door, and I
thought he was coming to consult you. Suddenly, however, some new idea
seemed to cross his mind, and, stopping abruptly, he strode towards
the window, where he remained for a few moments, apparently buried in
thought. At length he muttered, ‘Yes, that will be better, better in
all respects’; and turning on his heel, he was about to quit the room,
leaving his hat on the table, when I ventured to hand it to him, saying,
‘You are going without your hat, Mr. Oaklands’. He started at the sound
of my voice, and seeming for the first time to recollect that I was in
the room, he took the hat from me, begging pardon for his inattention,
and adding, ‘You must allow me to postpone our Italian lesson
till----till to-morrow, shall we say? I find there is a gentleman
waiting to see me.’ He paused as if he wished to say more, but scarcely
knew how to express himself. ‘You saw,’ he continued, ‘that is--you may
have observed that--that in fact there was something in that note which
annoyed me--you need not say anything about it to Mrs. Fairlegh; she
is rather given to alarming herself unnecessarily, I fancy,’ he added
~201~~with a faint smile; ‘tell Frank I shall not be at home till dinner
time, but that I shall see him in the evening.’ He then shook my hand
warmly, and, holding it for a moment in his own, fixed his eyes on my
face with a strange, half-melancholy expression that frightened me,
and once more saying ‘good-bye,’ he pressed his hat over his brows, and
bounding across the lawn, was out of sight in an instant. His manner
was so very odd, so unlike what it generally is. Dear Frank, what is
the meaning of all this? I am sure there is something going to happen,
something--”

“You silly child,” replied I, affecting a careless composure I was
far from feeling, “how you frighten yourself about nothing. Harry has
probably received a threatening letter from a Cambridge dun, and your
lively imagination magnifies it into a--(challenge, I was going to add,
but I substituted)--into something dreadful.”

“Is that what you really think?” questioned Fanny, fixing her large blue
eyes upon my face inquiringly.

I am the worst hand in the world at playing the hypocrite, and with
ready tact she perceived at once that I was attempting to deceive her.

“Frank,” she resumed, “you have seen but little of me since we were
children together, and deem, possibly, that--I am a weak, silly girl,
unfit to be trusted with evil tidings; but indeed, dear brother, you
do me injustice; the sorrows we have gone through” (and her eyes filled
with tears as she spoke), “the necessity for exertion in order to save
mamma as much as possible, have given me more strength of character and
firmness of purpose than girls of my age in general possess; tell me the
truth, and fear not that power will be given me to bear it, be it what
it may; but, if I think you are trying to hide it from me--and do not
hope to deceive me; your face proves that you are as much alarmed
at what you have heard as I am myself, and probably with far better
reason--I shall be unable to forget it, and it will make me miserable.”

“Well then,” replied I, “thus far I will trust you. I do fear, from what
you have told me, that Oaklands has received some evil tidings relative
to a disagreeable affair in which he was engaged at Cambridge, the
results of which are not fully known at present, and which, I am afraid,
may yet occasion him much care and anxiety.”

“And I had fancied him so light-hearted and happy,” said Fanny
thoughtfully; “and is this all I am to know about it then?”

“All that I feel myself at liberty to tell at present,” ~202~~replied I;
“recollect, darling, it is my friend’s secret, not my own, or you should
hear everything.”

“Then you will tell me all your secrets if I ask you?” inquired Fanny
archly.

“Whom should I trust or confide in, if not my own dear little sister?”
 said I, stroking her golden locks caressingly. “And now,” continued I,
rising, “I will go and see whether I can do any good in this affair; but
when Master Harry is in one of his impetuous moods he gets quite beyond
my management.”

“Oh! but you can influence him,” exclaimed Fanny, her bright eyes
sparkling with animation; “you can calm his impetuosity with your own
quiet good sense and clear judgment--you can appeal to his high and
generous nature--you can tell him how dear he is to you, how you love
him with more than a brother’s love: you can and will do all this--will
you not, dear Frank?”

“Of course I shall do everything that I am able, my dear child,” replied
I, somewhat astonished at this sudden outburst; “and now go, and be
quiet, this business seems rather to have excited you. If my mother asks
for me, tell her I am gone up to the Hall.”

“What warm-hearted creatures women are!” thought I, as I ran, rather
than walked, through the park; “that little sister of mine, now--no
sooner does she hear that _my_ friend has got into a scrape, of the very
nature of which she is ignorant (a pretty fuss she would be in if she
were aware that it was a duel, of which I am afraid), than she becomes
quite excited, and implores me, as if she were pleading for her life, to
use my influence with Harry to prevent his doing--something, she has not
the most remote notion what. I wish she did not act quite so much from
impulse. It’s lucky she has got a brother to take care of her; though it
does not become me to find fault with her, for it all proceeds from her
affection for me; she knows how wretched I should be if anything were
to go wrong with Harry,”--and then I fell into a train of thought as to
what it could be which had so suddenly excited him: something connected
with Wilford, no doubt; but what?--my fears pointed to a challenge,
and my blood ran cold at the thought. He _must_ accept it; neither my
influence, were it increased a hundredfold, nor that of any one else,
could make him apologise; besides, it is not very easy to imagine a
satisfactory apology for horse-whipping a man till he cannot stand. And
what course likely to be of any use could I take? On one point I was
resolved--nothing ~203~~should induce me to become his second. What
would be my feelings in case of a fatal result were I to reflect that I
had made all the arrangements for the murder of the friend I loved
best in the world--that I had actually stationed him opposite the
never-failing pistol of his most bitter enemy, and placed in his hand a
deadly weapon wherewith to attempt the life of a fellow-creature, when
the next moment he might be called upon to answer before the Judge of
all mankind for the deeds which he had done in the flesh? No! I could
not be his second. As my meditations reached this point, I overtook
the groom who had brought the eventful note, and who was leisurely
proceeding on foot towards the Hall with that peculiar gait observable
in men who spend much of their time on horseback, which consists of a
compromise between walking and riding, and is strongly suggestive of
their inability to realise the fact that they have not at all times and
seasons a perpetual horse between their legs.

“Have you seen Mr. Oaklands, Harris?” inquired I, as the man touched his
hat respectfully.

“Yes, sir, I may say I’ve seen him, and that’s all,” was the reply. “I
brought him a note to the cottage, and was a waiting for orders, when
he came tearing out, ordered me to get off, sprang into my saddle, and
without stopping for me to let down the stirrups, drove his heels into
‘Tom Trot’--that’s the new grey horse, sir, if you please--and was out
of sight like old boots.”

Not having time to institute an inquiry into the amount of velocity with
which the ancient articles referred to by Mr. Harris were accustomed to
vanish, I asked if he knew who brought the note.

“A groom in a dark, claret-coloured livery, mounted on a splendid
coal-black mare, nearly thorough-bred, but with more bone and substance
about her than you generally see in them sort, and as clean on her pins
as an unbroke colt. Sir John ain’t got such a horse in his stables, nor
Mr. Harry neither,” was the reply.

This was conclusive evidence; the livery and the mare were alike
Wilford’s.

Leaving the groom to conjecture what he pleased, I hurried on, and,
reaching the Hall, inquired of the old butler whether Harry was at home.

“No, sir,” was the reply, “they ain’t any of them at home. Mr. Harry
came home a horseback about a quarter of an hour ago, and called Mr.
Archer into his own room, and they had a confab, and then Mr. Archer
went out a ~204~~riding on the same horse Mr. Harry came back upon, and
would not take any o’ the grooms with him--and afore that Sir John had
ordered the phaeton, and Mr. Henry being come home he asked him to go
with him; so you see, Mr. Fairlegh, they’re none of ‘em at home, sir.”

“I’ll go into the library and write a note, Edmonds,” said I, as a new
idea entered my head. “You know Sir John is kind enough to let me order
a horse whenever I require one--will you tell Harris to have one saddled
for me in ten minutes’ time?”

“Certainly, Mr. Fairlegh; we all of us have Sir John’s orders to attend
to you, sir, the same as to Mr. Henry, and you’re a young gent as it’s a
pleasure to serve too, if you’ll excuse me taking the liberty of telling
you so,” replied the good old man, as he showed me into the library.

The idea which had come into my head (and it was more for the sake of
doing _something_ that I determined on it, than from any great hope
I entertained of its proving of much avail) was to ride over to
Hillingford, and consult Freddy Coleman on the subject. Perhaps his
clear head and quick wit might enable him to devise some scheme by
which, without betraying Harry’s confidence, or bringing the slightest
imputation on his honour, this duel might be prevented. What else could
I do? It was quite clear to me that the note Harry had received was a
challenge from Wilford, and that the gentleman waiting at the inn was
some one whom he had prevailed upon to act as his second, probably
Wentworth. Harry’s first impulse had evidently been to come to me, and
ask me to be his second; but, doubtless, guessing the distaste I should
have to the office, and reflecting on the difficulties in which, if
anything serious were to ensue, I might be involved, he had determined
on asking Archer instead. Archer, by instantly setting off on horseback
alone, had clearly agreed to his request, and was gone to make the
necessary arrangements; and Harry had gladly accompanied Sir John, in
order to be out of the way, and so avoid my questions and any attempts I
might have made to induce him to alter his purpose. Were I to inform
Sir John on his return, it would be an unpardonable breach of confidence
towards Harry; were I to give notice to the authorities, so as to enable
them to take measures for preventing the duel, it would always be said
by Wilford that I did so with Harry’s connivance, because he was afraid
to meet him: thus my hands were tied in every way, and, as I said
before, I could think of nothing better than to ride over and consult
Coleman, whose powers of ~205~~getting out of a scrape I had seen pretty
well tested in the affair of the bell-ringing. I therefore scrawled a
hasty note to my mother, telling her that I was going to take a long
ride, and she had better not wait dinner for me; and leaving a message
for Oaklands with the servant who announced the horse, that I should see
him in the evening, flung myself into the saddle, rode quietly till
I was out of sight of the house, and then started at a gallop for
Hillingford. Unwilling to meet any of the Coleman family, I left my
horse at the inn, and, pulling my hat over my brows, to avoid, if
possible, being recognised by their servant, rang the bell, and desired
him to tell Mr. Frederic that a gentleman wanted to speak with him on
particular business.



CHAPTER XXVI -- COMING EVENTS CAST THEIR SHADOWS BEFORE

     “If you think your mystery in stratagem can bring this instru-
     ment of honour again into his native quarter, be magnanimous
     in the enterprise, and go on; I will grace the attempt for a
     worthy exploit if you speed well in it.”

     “Now I see the bottom of your purpose.”

     “You see it lawful then.”

     “I love him, sir,
     Dearer than eyesight, space and liberty,
     Beyond what can be valued rich or rare,
     No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour;
     A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable--”

     “Adieu! these foolish drops do somewhat drown my manly
     spirit.”
      --_Shakspeare_.

“FREDDY, can I have half an hour’s private conversation with you?” asked
I, as soon as we had exchanged salutations.

“To be sure you can; but,” he added, catching a glimpse of the anxious
expression of my face, “there is nothing wrong, is there?”

I made a gesture indicative of silence, and he opened a door into a sort
of lawyer’s office, saying, in a low voice:--

“Come in here, we shall not be interrupted; the governor’s in London,
and the women are out walking”. “So much the better,” replied I, “for
the business I am come upon is strictly private, and will not brook
delay.” I then told him as concisely as possible the whole affair
~206~~from beginning to end; he listened attentively to my recital,
merely asking a question now and then to elucidate any particular point
he did not clearly understand. I fancy he made a gesture of surprise
when I first mentioned Wilford’s name, and when I had concluded, he
asked,

“Wilford, you say, this man’s name is? What is his Christian name?”

“Stephen.”

“And he’s a young fellow?”

“About three or four and twenty.”

“And you want to prevent his being able to shoot Harry Oaklands at five
o’clock to-morrow morning?”

“I do not know the hour, but I conclude the meeting will probably
take place to-morrow morning. Wilford would not wish to remain in the
neighbourhood longer than necessary, lest he should attract attention.”

Coleman mused for some minutes, and then muttering as though he were
thinking aloud--

“It might be done, so; yes, that would do. I suppose,” he said, at
length addressing me, “if Master Wilford were taken into custody on a
magistrate’s warrant at half-past four a.m., that would suit your ideas
very nicely? I can so arrange the matter that Wilford will never be able
to trace the laying the information to our door.”

“But how can you avoid that?” inquired I.

“Why, if you must know,” replied Freddy, “I am acquainted with a man
who would give a hundred pounds any day to stop our friend Stephen from
fighting a duel.”

“What, do you know Wilford then?” asked I.

“_Ray-ther_,” was the reply, accompanied by a very significant
wink--“just a _very few_--I should say we’re not entire strangers,
though I have never enjoyed the honour of much personal intercourse with
him; but I do not so deeply regret that, as, from your account, it seems
rather a dangerous privilege.”

“How in the world do you know anything about him?”

“Oh! it’s a long story, but the chief points of it are these:
The aforesaid Mr. Wilford, if he can continue to exist till he is
five-and-twenty, comes into five thousand pounds a year; but if we don’t
interfere, and Harry Oaklands has the luck to send a bullet into him
to-morrow morning, away it all goes to the next heir. Wilford is now
three-and-twenty, and the trustees make him a liberal allowance of eight
hundred pounds per annum, on the strength of which he spends between two
thousand pounds and three thousand pounds: of course, in order ~207~~to
do this, he has to raise money on his expectancies. About two months
ago he wanted to sell the contingent reversion of a large estate in
Yorkshire, from which the greater part of his future income is to be
derived; and a client of ours thought of buying it--ergo, we were set to
work upon the matter: whilst we were investigating his right, title, and
all that sort of thing, lo and behold! a heavy claim, amounting to some
thousands, is made upon the property--by whom, do you think, of all
people in the world?--none other than our old acquaintance, Richard
Cumberland!”

“Good heavens!” exclaimed I, “how strange!”

“Cumberland,” continued Freddy, “has become somehow connected with a
lot of bill-brokers,--low stock-jobbers,--in fact, a very shady set of
people, with whom, however, in our profession, we cannot avoid being
sometimes brought into contact; he appears, indeed, himself to be a sort
of cross between black-leg and money-lender, improved by a considerable
dash of the gambler, and presenting altogether a very choice specimen of
the thorough and complete blackguard. Somehow or other he contrives to
have cash at command, and, instead of being pigeoned, has now taken to
pigeoning others; and, to give the devil his due, I fancy he does a very
pretty stroke of business in that line. He is a good deal improved in
manner and appearance since you remember him; and among people who don’t
know him very intimately, he affects the man about town: in short, he is
quite at the top of his profession. Wilford became acquainted with him
at one of the Newmarket meetings, lost money to him, and borrowed money
of him, giving him as security a contingent charge upon the estate of
double the amount--ergo, don’t you see, if Wilford should by any chance
get his quietus from Harry’s pistol, he won’t live to come into his
property, in which case Master Dicky Cumberland is minus some thousands.
Now, if I contrive to give him a hint, depend upon it he stops the duel.
I will caution him not to let my name appear--he will not hear yours; so
in this way I think we may manage the affair, and defy the old gentleman
himself, though he’s a very cunning lawyer, to trace it to us.”

“Well,” said I, “as I see no other means of saving Oaklands’ life--for
this Wilford is a noted duellist, and no doubt thirsts to wash out the
insult he has received in blood--I suppose we must do it; but it is an
underhand proceeding which I do not at all like.”

“There you go with your chivalric, high-flown, romantic ~208~~notions,
you would stand coolly by, and see the best friend you have in the world
butchered before your eyes, rather than avail yourself of a splendid
chance of saving him, which Fortune has thrown in your way, because,
forsooth, it involves a little innocent manoeuvring!--for heaven’s sake,
my dear boy, get off your stilts, and give common sense fair play.”

“I can only repeat what I have just said,” replied I; “I will do it,
because I believe it is the only thing to save Harry; but I do not like
it, and never shall.”

“I cry you mercy, Signor Francisco dc Fairlegh, the veritable Don
Quixote of the nineteenth century,” laughed Freddy; “and now, most
chivalrous sir, where do you imagine it probable that this evil
_faiteur_, this man of powder and pistols, hangs out?”

“He is most likely at the inn at Carsley, a village on the London road,
about four miles from us,” replied I; “I don’t know of any other place
in the neighbourhood where he could be lodged. But I’ll tell you what
I’ll do--the name of the inn is the White Horse--if I should prove
wrong in fancying he is there, I will send a message to that inn to say
where he may be found.”

“Exactly,” returned Freddy, entering the White Horse, Carsley, in his
tablets; “now I think I know all about it, and it shall not be my fault
if this duel comes off to-morrow morning. Good-bye, old fellow! I wish
you did not look quite so grumpy about it, but it’s all those mediæval
prejudices of yours. I daresay you’d think it a much more manly way of
stopping the business to electrotype yourself in brass and steel, throw
yourself across a cart-horse plated to match, and shouting, ‘Fairlegh
to the rescue!’ run a long pole, pointed with iron, through Wilford’s
jugular. Now, I consider mine much the most philosophical way of doing
the trick; in fact, conducting a dodge of this kind always affords me
intense satisfaction, and puts me into the highest possible
spirits. Have you ever seen the war dance, in which the
Hotto-potto-cum-from-the-wash-ki Indians usually indulge before they set
out on an expedition?--A quarter to three,” he continued, pulling out
his watch, “the coach to London passes in five minutes, I shan’t have
time to show it you--it begins so.” Thus saying, he flung himself into a
perfectly indescribable attitude, and commenced a series of evolutions,
more nearly resembling the contortions of a dancing bear, than any other
Terpsichorean exhibition with which I was acquainted. Having continued
this until he had made himself very ~209~~unnecessarily hot, he wound
up the performance by flinging a summerset, in doing which he overturned
himself and the coal-scuttle into a box of deeds; whereby becoming
embarrassed, he experienced much difficulty in getting right end
upwards again. “There,” he exclaimed, throwing himself into an
arm-chair commonly occupied by his father’s portly form--“There! talk of
accomplishments--show me a fashionable young lady who can do that,
and I’ll say she _is_ accomplished. It’s rather warm work, though,” he
continued, wiping his brow, “unless one wears the appropriate costume,
which, I believe, consists of a judicious mixture of red and yellow
paint, three feathers, and the scalp of your opposite neighbour.
Pleasant that,” he added, pointing to the reversed coal-scuttle--“that’s
a new addition, not of ‘Coke upon Littleton,’ but of Coal upon--what’s
the suit? aye, Buffer _versus_ Stoker. I shall have to make out a case
of circumstantial evidence against the cat, or I’m safe for a rowing
from the governor. Good-bye, old boy! don’t fancy I’m mad; I’m not
the fool I seem, though I confess appearances are against me just at
present. There’s the coach, by Jingo, three bays and a grey--no chance
of the box--is this a hat? off we go.” So saying, he shook my hand
warmly, bounded down the steps, and the next moment was rattling away
towards London as fast as four horses could hurry him.

It was with a heavy heart, and a foreboding of coming evil, that
I mounted my horse, and slowly retraced my way towards Heathfield.
Coleman’s exuberant spirits, which, I believe, were partly assumed with
a view to cheer me by diverting my attention from the painful subject
which engrossed it, had produced an effect diametrically opposite to
that which he had intended, and I felt dissatisfied with the step I
had taken, doubtful of the success of his mission, anxious to a degree,
which was absolutely painful, about the fate of Harry, and altogether
thoroughly miserable. I reached home in time for dinner, during which
meal my abstracted manner and low spirits were so apparent as to set my
mother speculating on the chances of my having over-heated myself and
“got a chill,” whilst Fanny’s anxious questioning glances, to which I
was well aware I could furnish no satisfactory reply, produced in me a
degree of nervous excitement which was unbearable, and, the moment the
cloth was withdrawn, I left the room and rambled forth into the wildest
parts of the park. The quiet peaceful beauty of the scene, and the
refreshing coolness of the ~210~~evening air, had, in a great measure,
calmed the excitement under which I laboured, and I was turning my steps
towards the Hall when I met Oaklands and Archer, who, finding I was not
at the cottage, had come in search of me. Half an hour’s conversation
served to render all my previous conjectures matters of certainty. The
challenge had been given and accepted, Wentworth was to be Wilford’s
second, and he and his principal were staying at the inn at Carsley.

The spot chosen for the scene of action was a plot of grass-land
situated about half-way between Carsley and Heathfield, so as to be
equally accessible to both parties; the time appointed was five o’clock
the following morning. Archer was to act as Oaklands’ second; everything
had been managed with the greatest caution, and they did not believe a
single creature, excepting themselves, had the slightest suspicion that
such an event was likely to take place. They had resolved not to tell me
till everything was settled, as they feared my opposition. Having thus
taken me into their confidence, Archer left us, saying, that “probably
Oaklands might like to have some private conversation with me, and he
would join us again in half an hour”. Rejoiced at this opportunity,
I entered at once upon the subject which most interested me, and used
every argument I could think of to induce Harry not to return Wilford’s
fire.

Oaklands heard me for some time in silence, and I began to fear my
efforts would be fruitless, when suddenly he turned towards me, and
said--his fine eyes beaming with an almost womanly expression of
tenderness as he spoke--“Would this thing make you happier in case I
fall?” A silent pressure of the hand was my only answer, and he added in
a low voice, “then it shall be as you wish”. A pause ensued for my
own part, the thought that this might be our last meeting completely
overpowered me; I did not know till that moment the strength and
intensity of my affection for him. The silence was at length interrupted
by Oaklands himself, and the low tones of his deep rich voice trembled
with emotion, as they fell mournfully on the stillness of the evening
air. “My father!” he said, “that kind old man, whose happiness is
wrapped up in my welfare--it will break his heart, for he has only me to
love. Frank, my brother!” he added, passing his arm round my neck, as he
had used to do when we were boys together, “you are young; your mind is
strong and vigorous, and will enable you to meet sorrow as a man should
confront and overcome whatever is ~211~~opposed to him in his path
through life. I will not disguise from you that, looking rationally
and calmly at the matter, I have but little hope of quitting the
field to-morrow alive. My antagonist, naturally a man of vindictive
disposition, is incensed against me beyond all power of forgiveness, and
his skill is fully equal to his malice: should I fall, I leave my father
to your care; be a son to him in the place of the one he will have lost.
This is not a light thing which I ask of you, Frank! I ask you to give
up your independence, your high hopes of gaining name and fortune by
the exercise of your own talents and industry, and to devote some of
the best years of your life to the weary task of complying with the
caprices, and bearing the sorrows, of a grief-stricken old man. Will you
do this for me, Frank?”

“I will,” replied I; “and may God help me, as I execute this trust
faithfully!”

“You have relieved my mind of half its burden,” returned Oaklands
warmly. “I have only one thing more to mention--When I came of age last
year my father’s liberality made over to me an ample income for a single
man to live on: excepting a few legacies to old servants, I have divided
this between your good little sister and yourself, which I thought you
would prefer to my leaving it to you alone.”

“Harry I indeed, I cannot allow you to do this; others must surely have
claims upon you.”

“There is not a being in the world who has a right to expect a farthing
at my death,” answered he; “the next heir to the entailed estates is a
distant relation in Scotland, already wealthy. My father has always been
a careful man, and, should he lose me, will have a larger income than he
can possibly be able to spend; besides, as the duties I have led you
to undertake must necessarily prevent you from engaging actively in any
profession, I am bound in common fairness to provide for you.”

“Be it so, then,” replied I--inwardly breathing a prayer that I never
might possess a sixpence of the promised fortune.

“One thing more,” added Harry. “When you return to Trinity--poor old
Trinity, shall I ever visit you again!--find out how Lizzie Maurice is
going on, and if she should marry respectably in her own rank, ask my
father to give you a hundred pounds as a wedding present for her; only
hint that it was my wish, and he would give twenty times the sum. And
now good--pshaw!” he continued, drawing his hand across his eyes, “I
shall ~212~~play the woman if I talk to you much more--good-night,
Frank--do you accompany us to the ground to-morrow morning?”

“I will go with you,” returned I, with difficulty overcoming a choking
sensation in my throat; “I may be able to be of some use.”

“Here comes Archer,” said Oaklands, “so once more good-night; I must get
home, or my father will wonder what is become of me.”

My heart was too full to speak, and pressing his hand I turned abruptly
away, and walked quickly in the opposite direction.



CHAPTER XXVII -- THE DUEL

          “The sun begins to gild the western sky,
          And now it is about the very hour.

          They will not fail,
          Unless it be to come before their time;
          So much they spur their expedition.”
           --_Shakspeare_.

          “Now go thy way: faintness constraineth me
          To measure out my length on this cold bed.”
           --_Shakspeare_.

          “And me they bore.....
          To one deep chamber shut from sound, and due
          To languid limbs and sickness.”
           --_Tennyson’s Princess_.

I DID not return to the cottage until the usual hour for going to bed,
as I did not dare subject myself to Fanny’s penetrating glance in my
present state of excitement. The moment family prayers were concluded I
took my candle, and, pleading fatigue, retired to my room. Knowing
that sleep was out of the question in my then frame of mind, I merely
substituted the clothes I intended to wear in the morning for those I
had on, and, wrapping my dressing-gown round me, flung myself on the
bed. Here I lay, tossing about, and unable to compose myself for an hour
or two, the one idea constantly recurring to me, “What if Coleman should
fail!” At length, feverish and excited, I sprang up, and throwing open
the window which was near the ground, enjoyed the fresh breeze as it
played around my heated temples. It was a lovely night; the stars, those
calm eyes of heaven, gazed down in their brightness on this world
of ~213~~sin and sorrow, seeming to reproach the stormy passions and
restless strife of men by contrast with their own impassive grandeur.
After remaining motionless for several minutes, I was about to close the
window when the sound of a footstep on the turf beneath caught my ear,
and a form, which I recognised in the moonlight as that of Archer,
approached.

“Up and dressed already, Fairlegh?” he commenced in a low tone as he
perceived me; “may I come in?”

In silence I held out my hand to him, and assisted him to enter.

“Like me,” he resumed, “I suppose, you could not sleep.”

“Utterly impossible,” replied I; “but what brings you here--has anything
occurred?”

“Nothing,” returned Archer; “Oaklands retired early, as he said he
wished to be alone, and I followed his example, but could not contrive
to sleep. I don’t know how it is, I was engaged in an affair of this
nature once before, and never cared a pin about the matter; but
somehow I have got what they call a presentiment that harm will come of
to-morrow’s business. I saw that man, Wilford, for a minute yesterday,
and I know by the expression of his eye that he means mischief; there
was such a look of fiendish triumph in his face when he found the
challenge was accepted--if ever there was a devil incarnate, he is one.”

A sigh was my only answer, for his words were but the echo of my
forebodings.

“Now I will tell you what brought me here,” he continued; “don’t you
think that we ought to have a surgeon on the ground, in case of anything
going wrong?”

“To be sure,” replied I; “I must have been mad to have forgotten that it
was necessary--what can be done?--it is not every man that would choose
to be mixed up with such an affair. Where is it that William Ellis’s
brother (Ellis of Trinity Hall, you know) has settled?--he told me he
had purchased a practice somewhere in our neighbourhood.”

“The very man, if we could but get him,” replied Archer; “the name of
the village is Harley End; do you know such a place?”

“Yes,” returned I, “I know it well; it is a favourite meet of the
hounds, about twelve miles hence. I’ll find him, and bring him
here--what time is it? just two--if I could get a horse I would do it
easily.”

“My tilbury and horse are up at the village,” said ~214~~Archer; “now
Harry’s horses are at home, they could not take mine in at the hall.”

“The very thing,” said I, “we shall not lose a moment in that case. Is
your horse fast? I shall have to try his mettle.”

“He’ll not fail you,” was the reply, “but don’t spare him--I would
rather you should ruin fifty horses than arrive too late.”

On reaching the inn we had to rouse a drowsy hostler in order to procure
the key of the stables, and it was half-past two before I was able, to
start.

The road to Harley End was somewhat intricate, more than once I took a
wrong turning, and was forced to retrace my steps; being aware also of
the distance I had to perform, I did not dare to hurry the horse
too much, so that it only wanted a quarter to four when I reached my
destination. Here, however, fortune favoured me. Mr. Ellis, it appeared,
being an ardent disciple of Isaac Walton, had resolved to rise at
day-break in order to beguile sundry trout, and, at the entrance of the
village, I met him strolling along, rod in hand. Two minutes sufficed to
make him acquainted with the object of my mission, and in less than
five minutes more (a space of time which I employed in washing out
the horse’s mouth at an opportune horse-trough, with which I took
the liberty of making free) he had provided himself with a case of
instruments and other necessary horrors, all of which he described to me
_seriatim_, as we returned, with an affectionate minuteness for which I
could have strangled him.

We started at a rattling pace on our homeward drive, hedgerow and fence
gliding by us like slides in a magic lantern. Archer’s horse did not
belie the character he had given of him. With head erect, and expanded
nostril, he threw his legs forward in a long slashing trot, whirling the
light tilbury along at the rate of at least eleven miles an hour;
and fortunate it was that he did not flinch from his work, for we
had between thirteen and fourteen miles to perform in an hour and ten
minutes in order to reach the appointed spot by five o’clock. In our way
we had to pass within a quarter of a mile of Heathfield Hall; all seemed
quiet as we did so, and I heard the old clock over the stables strike a
quarter to five.

“We shall be in capital time,” said I, drawing a long breath, as I felt
relieved from an anxious dread of being too late. “It was a near thing
though, and if I had not met you as I did, we should scarcely have done
it.”

“Famous horse,” replied Ellis; “but you’ve rather ~215~~over-driven him
the last two or three miles; if I were Archer, I should have a little
blood taken from him--nothing like venesection; it’s safe practice in
such cases as the present. You’ve a remarkably clear head, Fairlegh, I
know; now I’ll just explain to you the common sense of the thing: the
increased action of the heart forces the blood so rapidly through the
lungs, that proper time is not allowed for oxygenisation----”

“We shall be in sight of the place when we have advanced another hundred
yards,” interrupted I, as we turned down a green lane.

“Shall we?” replied my companion, standing up in the gig, and shading
his eyes with his hand. “Yes, I see them, they’re on the ground already,
and, by Jove, they are placing their men; they must have altered the
time, for it wants full ten minutes of five now.”

“If they have,” replied I, lashing the horse into a gallop, as I
remembered that this unhappy change would probably frustrate Coleman’s
scheme, “if they have, all is lost.”

My companion gazed upon me with a look of surprise, but had no time to
ask for an explanation, for at that moment we reached the gate leading
into the field, around which was collected a group, consisting of a gig
and a dog-cart (which had conveyed the respective parties, and a servant
attendant upon each, to the ground), and two or three labouring men,
whom the unusual occurrence had caused to leave their work, and who were
eagerly watching the proceedings--whilst, just inside the gate, a boy,
whom I recognised as Wilford’s tiger, was leading about a couple of
saddle-horses, one of them being the magnificent black thorough-bred
mare, of which mention has been already made.

Pulling up the horse with a jerk which threw him on his haunches, I
sprang out, and, placing my hand on the top rail of the gate, leaped
over it, gaining, as I did so, a full view of the antagonist parties,
who were stationed at about two hundred yards from the spot where I
alighted. Scarcely, however, had I taken a step or two towards the scene
of action when one of the seconds, Wentworth, I believe, dropped a white
handkerchief, and immediately the sharp report of a pistol rang in
my ear, followed instantaneously by a second. From the first moment
I caught sight of them my eyes had become riveted by a species of
fascination, which rendered it impossible to withdraw them, upon
Oaklands. As the handkerchief dropped I beheld him raise his arm, and
discharge his ~216~~pistol in the air, at the same moment he gave a
violent start, pressed his hand to his side, staggered blindly forward a
pace or two, then fell heavily to the ground (rolling partially over
as he did so), where he lay perfectly motionless, and to all appearance
dead.

[Illustration: page216 Result of Giving Satisfaction]

On finding all my worst forebodings thus apparently realised, I stood
for a moment horror-stricken by the fearful sight I had witnessed. I
was first roused to a sense of the necessity for action by Ellis, the
surgeon, who shouted as he ran past me:--

“Come on, for God’s sake, though I believe he’s a dead man!”’

In another moment I was kneeling on the turf, assisting Archer (who
trembled so violently that he could scarcely retain his grasp) to raise
and support Oaklands’ head.

“Leave him to me,” said I; “I can hold him without assistance; you will
be of more use helping Ellis.”

“Oh! he’s dead--I tell you he is dead!” exclaimed Archer in a tone of
the most bitter anguish.

“He is no such thing, sir,” returned Ellis angrily; “hand me that lint,
and don’t make such a fuss; you’re as bad as a woman.”

Though slightly reassured by Ellis’s speech, I confess that, as I looked
upon the motionless form I was supporting, I felt half inclined to fear
Archer might be correct in his supposition. Oaklands’ head, as it rested
against me, seemed to lie a perfectly dead weight upon my shoulder; the
eyes were closed, the lips, partly separated, were rapidly assuming a
blue, livid tint, whilst from a small circular orifice on the left side
of the chest the life-blood was gushing with fearful rapidity.

“Open that case of instruments, and take out the tenaculum. No, no! not
that; here, give them to me, sir; the man will bleed to death while
you are fumbling,” continued Ellis, snatching his instruments from the
trembling hands of Archer. “You are only in the way where you are,” he
added; “fetch some cold water, and sprinkle his face; it will help to
revive him.”

At this moment Wilford joined the group which was beginning to form
round us. He was dressed as usual in a closely-fitting suit of black,
the single-breasted frockcoat buttoned up to the neck, so as not to show
a single speck of white which might serve to direct his antagonist’s
aim. He approached with his wonted air of haughty indifference, coolly
fastening the button of his glove. On perceiving me he slightly raised
his hat, saying:--

“You are resolved to see this matter to its conclusion, ~217~~then, Mr.
Fairlegh; no one can be better aware than you are how completely your
friend brought his fate upon himself”.

He paused as if for an answer; but, as I remained silent, not being able
to trust myself to speak, he added, gazing sternly at the prostrate form
before him--“Thus perish all who dare to cross my path!” Then casting
a withering glance around, as he marked the indignant looks of the
by-standers, he turned on his heel and stalked slowly away.

“He’d best quicken his pace,” observed one of the countrymen who had
joined the group, “for there’s them a coming as may stop his getting
away quite so easy.”

As he spoke the gate of the field was thrown open, and a couple of men
on horseback rode hastily in. Wilford, however, as soon as he perceived
their approach, made a sign to the boy to bring his horse, and,
springing lightly into the saddle, waited quietly till they came near
enough for him to recognise their faces, when, raising his voice, he
said in a tone of the most cutting sarcasm:--

“As I expected, I perceive it is to Mr. Cumberland’s disinterested
attachment that I am indebted for this kind attempt to provide for my
safety; it so happens you are a quarter of an hour too late, sir. I have
the honour to wish you good-morning.”

Thus saying, he turned his horse’s head, and cantered across the field.
The man he had addressed, and in whom, though he was considerably
altered, I recognised the well-remembered features of Richard
Cumberland, paused, as if in doubt what to do; not so his companion,
however, who, shouting, “Come on, sir, we may nab him yet,” drove the
spurs into the stout roadster he bestrode and galloped furiously after
him, an example which Cumberland, after a moment’s hesitation, hastened
to follow, though at a more moderate rate. Wilford suffered the foremost
rider to come nearly up to him, and then, quickening his pace, led him
round the two sides of the field; but perceiving the gate was closed,
and that men had stationed themselves in front of it to prevent his
egress, he doubled upon his pursuers, and, putting the mare for the
first time to her full speed, galloped towards the opposite side of the
field, which was enclosed by a strong fence, consisting of a bank with
oak palings on the top and a wide ditch beyond. Slackening his pace as
he approached this obstacle, he held his horse cleverly together,
and, without a moment’s hesitation, rode at it. The beautiful animal,
gathering her legs well under her, ~218~~faced it boldly, rose to the
rail, and, clearing it with the greatest ease, bounded lightly over the
ditch, and continued her course on the further side with unabated speed.
Apparently determined not to be outdone, his pursuer, whipping and
spurring with all his might, charged the fence at the same spot where
Wilford had cleared it; the consequence was his horse rushed against the
rail, striking his chest with so much violence as to throw himself
down, pitching his rider over his head into the ditch beyond, whence he
emerged, bespattered with mud, indeed, but otherwise uninjured. As he
reappeared his companion rode up to him, and, after conversing with
him earnestly for a minute or so, turned and left the field, without
exchanging a word with any other person.

During this transaction, which did not occupy one-fourth of the time
it has taken us to describe, Ellis had in a great measure succeeded in
staunching the flow of blood, and a slight shade of colour became again
visible in Oaklands’ cheek.

“He will bear moving now,” said Ellis quickly, “but you must find
something to lay him upon; take that gate off its hinges, some of
you fellows--that will answer the purpose capitally. Come, bestir
yourselves; every moment is of importance.”

Thus urged, five or six sturdy labourers, who had been standing round,
gazing with countenances of rude but sincere commiseration on the
wounded man (for Harry’s kind-heartedness and liberality made him
very popular amongst the tenantry), started off, and returned in an
incredibly short space of time with the gate; upon this were spread our
coats and waistcoats, so as to form a tolerably convenient couch, upon
which, under Ellis’s direction, we lifted with the greatest caution the
still insensible form of Harry Oaklands.

“Now,” exclaimed Ellis, “raise him very slowly on your shoulders, and
take care to step together, so as not to jolt him;--if the bleeding
should break out again, the whole College of Surgeons could not save
him. Where’s the nearest house he can be taken to? He’ll never last out
till we reach the Hall.”

“Take him to our cottage,” said I eagerly; “it is more than half a mile
nearer than the Hall.”

“But your mother and sister?” asked Archer.

“Of course it will be a great shock to them,” replied I; “but I know
them both well enough to feel sure they would not hesitate a moment when
Harry’s life was in ~219~~the balance. Do you want me for anything, or
shall I go on and prepare them for your arrival?”

“Do so, by all means,” replied Ellis; “but stay--have you a bedroom on
the ground-floor?”

“Yes,” returned I, “my own.”

“Get the bed-clothes open,” continued Ellis, “so that we can put him in
at once; it will save me half an hour’s time afterwards, and is a thing
which should always be thought of on these occasions.”

“Anything else?” inquired I.

“Yes, send somebody for the nearest surgeon; two heads are better than
one,” said Ellis.

Remembering, as I approached the cottage, that the window of my room
by which Archer and I had quitted it the previous night would be
unfastened, I determined I would enter there, and, proceeding to my
mother’s door, call her up, and break the news as gently as the exigency
of the case would permit, leaving her to act by Fanny as she should
think best. Accordingly, I flung up the window, sprang in, and, throwing
myself on the nearest chair, sat for a moment, panting from the speed
at which I had come. As I did so, a timid knock was heard at the door. I
instinctively cried, “Come in!” and Fanny entered.

“I have been so anxious all night about what you told me yesterday, that
I could not sleep, so I thought I would come to see if you were up,” she
commenced; then, for the first time remarking my breathless condition
and disordered dress, she exclaimed, “Good Heavens! are you ill?
you pant for breath, and your hands and the sleeves of your coat are
saturated with water--with--oh! it is blood; you are wounded!” she
cried, sinking in a chair, and turning as pale as ashes.

“Indeed, darling, you are alarming yourself unnecessarily; I am
perfectly uninjured,” replied I soothingly.

“Something dreadful has happened!” she continued, fixing her eyes upon
me; “I read it in your face.”

“An accident has occurred,” I began; “Oaklands----”

“Stop!” she exclaimed, interrupting me, “the two shots I heard but
now--his agitation--his strange manner yesterday--oh! I see it all; he
has been fighting a duel.” She paused, pressed her hands upon her eyes,
as if to shut out some dreadful vision, and then asked, in a low, broken
voice, “Is he killed?”

“No,” replied I, “on my word, on my honour, I assure you he is not;
the bleeding had ceased when I left him, which is a very favourable
symptom.”

~220~~Fanny sighed heavily, as if relieved from some unbearable weight,
and, after remaining silent for about a minute, she removed her hands
from her face, and said, in a calm tone of voice:--

“And now, what is to be done? can I be of any use?”

Astonished at the rapidity with which she had regained her self-control
and presence of mind after the violent emotion she had so recently
displayed, I replied:--

“Yes, love, you can, the Hall is too far off, and they are bringing him
here”.

As I spoke these words she shuddered slightly, but seeing I was doubtful
whether to proceed, she said, “Go on, pray”.

“Would you,” I continued, “break this to my mother, and tell her I
believe--that is, I trust--there is no great danger--and--and--do that
first.”

With a sad shake of the head, as if she mistrusted my attempt to
reassure her, she quitted the room, whilst I obeyed Ellis’s instructions
by preparing the bed; after which I unclosed the hall-door, and,
despatching the gardener’s boy to fetch the surgeon, stood anxiously
awaiting the arrival of the party. I had not done so many minutes when
the measured tramp of feet gave notice of their approach, and in another
instant they came in sight.



CHAPTER XXVIII -- THE SUBSTANCE OF THE SHADOW

          “Recovery, where art thou?

          Daughter of Heaven, where shall we seek thy help?”

          “Come thou and chase away
          Sorrow and Pain, the persecuting Powers,
          Who make the melancholy day so long,
          So long the anxious night.”

          “I look for thy approach,
          O life-preserving Power! as one who strays
          Alone in darkness o’er the pathless marsh,
          Watches the dawn of day.”
           --_Southey_.

“ALL well so far,” replied Ellis, in answer to my look of inquiry; “the
bleeding has ceased, and he is fast recovering consciousness. Where is
the room? We must get him into bed at once.”

~221~~When we had placed him in the bed Oaklands lay for a short space
with his eyelids closed, uttering a low groan at intervals; at length
the quiet appeared in some measure to restore him, and, slowly opening
his eyes, he gazed languidly around, asking in a low voice, “Where am
I?”

“Let me beg you not to speak, Mr. Oaklands,” said Ellis; “your safety
depends upon your keeping silence; you are at the cottage of your friend
Fairlegh.”

As he heard these words Harry perceived me standing near the bed, and
smiled faintly in token of recognition; then, making a sign for me to
stoop down to him, he whispered, “My father--you must break this to
him--go, Frank”.

“This instant,” replied I, and I turned to leave the room, beckoning to
Ellis, as I did so, to follow me. “Tell me the truth,” exclaimed I, as
he closed the door behind him, “will he live or die?”

“It is too early in the business to pronounce a decided opinion,” was
the answer; “nor can I venture as yet to do so; everything depends
upon the course the ball may have taken, and that, as soon as the
other surgeon arrives, we must endeavour to ascertain; all I can say at
present is, that I have seen worse cases recover. There is one thing,”
 he added, “which may be a satisfaction for you to know--if you had not
brought me, or some one in my profession, to the ground, he would have
bled to death where he fell; no one but a surgeon could have stopped
that bleeding.”

“If we had been too late I should never have forgiven myself, and we
very nearly were so,” returned I. “I cannot understand how it was.”

“I can explain it,” said Archer, who now joined us. “You left me up
at the village, you remember, Fairlegh, when you started to fetch Mr.
Ellis; well, just as I was leaving it to return to the Hall, a boy
ran past me at the top of his speed, and began knocking at one of the
cottage doors hard by; surprised to see any one about at so early an
hour in the morning, I inquired what was the matter. ‘Master’s just had
word brought him that some gem’men is a going to fight a jewel at five
o’clock, and I be come to call the constable, for master to give him
a warrant to take ‘em hup.’ ‘And who is your master?’ questioned I.
‘Justice Bumbleby,’ was the answer. This was enough for me; I made the
best of my way to the Hall, woke Oaklands, who was sleeping as calmly as
a child, poor fellow! and he immediately sent his own ~222~~groom, the
lad who went with us to the field, to inform Wilford and his second of
what I had heard, and to propose that the meeting should take place a
quarter of an hour earlier than the time originally agreed on, to which
they willingly consented.”

“This then,” thought I, “is the reason why Coleman’s scheme failed, and
Cumberland arrived too late;--well, one good thing is, it will clearly
prove that neither Archer nor Oaklands connived at the intended
interruption.”

The deep, the agonising grief of Sir John Oaklands, on receiving from my
lips the account of his son’s danger, was most painful to witness, and
I was obliged to yield to his desire to return with me to the cottage,
although Ellis had strictly forbidden his being allowed to see Harry,
lest the excitement should prove injurious to the patient in the
precarious state in which he lay. On my return I found the surgeon
of the neighbourhood, Mr. (or as he was more commonly styled Dr.)
Probehurt, had arrived, and that they were endeavouring to extract
the ball, which, after a long and painful operation, they succeeded
in doing. From the marks on the coat and waistcoat, it appeared that
Wilford had aimed straight for the heart; but his deadly intentions
had been providentially frustrated by the accident of Oaklands having a
half-crown piece in a small pocket in his waist-coat, against which
the ball had struck, and, glancing off, passed between two of the
ribs, finally lodging amongst the muscles immediately under the
shoulder-blade. The great effusion of blood had been occasioned by its
having divided one of the smaller arteries, which Ellis had succeeded in
securing on the spot. The wound was, therefore, a very severe one;
but it was impossible to pronounce upon the exact amount of danger at
present, as the course which the ball had taken trenched closely on
so many important organs, that time alone could show the extent of the
injury sustained. With this opinion, in which (strange to say) both
doctors agreed, we were fain to content ourselves, and we passed
the rest of the day in alternately watching by the wounded man and
attempting to comfort and support Sir John, whom we had the greatest
difficulty in keeping out of Harry’s room, till Ellis asked him abruptly
“whether he wanted to murder his son?” after which nothing short of
force could have induced him to enter it. One of his first acts, having
consulted with Dr. Probehurt, who graciously approved of the measure,
was to enter into an arrangement with ~223~~Ellis, to induce him
to remain constantly with Harry till his health should be perfectly
re-established, if, indeed, that happy event was ever destined to
occur. As Sir John’s liberality was unbounded, and Ellis’s professional
prospects rather hazy--his practice at Harley End being chiefly confined
to the very poor, who went on the advice gratis system, and expected
to have medicine given them into the bargain--the negotiation was soon
concluded to the satisfaction of both parties.

Towards evening Harry became more restless; the pain of his wound
increased, and feverish symptoms began to make their appearance. As the
night advanced he grew delirious, and before morning was in a high state
of fever. For many days his life was despaired of. Ellis never left his
bedside, save to snatch an occasional hour’s sleep on a sofa, when I
took his place. Sir Benjamin Brodie was summoned from town, and held a
consultation with Dr. Probehurt and Ellis.

Sir John’s grief was something fearful to witness. Although naturally a
strong-minded man, this unlooked-for blow and the subsequent anxiety had
completely unnerved him. At times he would cry like a child; at others
he would sit for hours without opening his lips, his head resting
dejectedly on his hands, the image of despair: he could with difficulty
be prevailed upon to take sufficient nourishment for his support,
and appeared scarcely to notice anything that was going on. On these
occasions Fanny was the only person whose influence was of the slightest
avail; with her own hands she would prepare some delicacy of which
she knew he was fond, and when with a melancholy shake of the head he
rejected it, she would seat herself at his feet, and, taking his hand
within her own, whisper kind words of hope and consolation to him,
till the old man’s heart was softened, and he could refuse her nothing.
Sometimes even this failed, and then she would begin singing in a low
sweet voice some plaintive simple air that he loved to hear, till the
tears would steal down his grief-worn cheeks, and, laying his hand upon
her fair young brow, he would bless her, and say that the God who was
about to take his noble son from him, had sent an angel to be a daughter
to him in his stead. And so the weary days wore on--still vibrating
between life and death, the strong man, his matchless powers now reduced
to the weakness of infancy, lay stretched upon the couch of suffering,
whence it appeared too probable he might never be removed, save to the
last sad resting-place of frail humanity--the grave.

~224~~About the eighth day the ligature with which Ellis had tied
the artery came away, and the wound assumed a rather more favourable
appearance, but the fever remained unsubdued, and the delirium
continued. Each day which passed without improvement added to the length
of Dr. Probehurt’s solemn visage, and I could see that in his own mind
he had little or no hope of the patient’s recovery. Ellis was by far
the most sanguine of the party, and, whenever we urged our gloomy
forebodings upon him, invariably replied--“Yes, I know all that--it
would have killed’ any other man, but it won’t kill him. Wait a bit, and
you’ll see.”

A fortnight had now elapsed, and the continued burden of his grief began
to tell visibly upon Sir John. The ruddy hue of health faded from his
cheeks; his eyes grew dim with weeping, his hands shook, and his firm
manly step became feeble and uncertain; it seemed as if in that short
space of time he had grown ten years older. My mother also began to look
ill and harassed, and Fanny, though she still kept up wonderfully, and
was the life and soul of us all, waxed paler and thinner every day,
while, for my own part, I could neither eat, drink, nor sleep to any
efficient purpose, and divided my time between watching in the sick-room
and pacing up and down the garden, beyond the precincts of which I
never ventured, from a nervous dread lest anything might go wrong in my
absence.

On one occasion Ellis, completely wearied out, had thrown himself on
a sofa to snatch an hour’s repose, while I took his place by Harry’s
bedside. It was between two and three o clock in the morning, and the
first rays of early dawn, stealing in through the partially closed
shutters, and mingling with the faint glimmer of the night-lamp, threw a
pale and ghastly light over the surrounding objects, when I fancied that
I heard my name pronounced in a low, scarcely audible voice. I glanced
at Ellis, but his hard and regular breathing proved him to be sound
asleep. I next turned towards the bed where Harry lay, and, carefully
shading the lamp with my hand, advanced with noiseless step towards
it. As I approached I perceived the patient’s eyes were open, and, oh,
happiness I once more animated by the mild light of reason.

“Harry,” whispered I, “did you call? Do you know me?”

A faint smile passed across his pallid features as he replied in a voice
so weak and low, that I was obliged to ~225~~stoop my head almost to a
level with his lips, ere I could catch his words--“Know you, dear Frank!
why not?”

“Thank heaven,” murmured I, “he is no longer delirious!”

As I again turned towards him, he endeavoured to stretch out his hand to
me, but his strength was unequal even to that slight exertion, and his
arm dropped heavily by his side; as it did so, he spoke again--“Frank,
what is all this? I cannot--I am very weak--very tired.”

“Lie still, dear Harry, and do not try to talk--it may do you harm. You
have been very ill, but God in His mercy will soon, I trust, restore
you to health.” I then crossed over to Ellis’s sofa, and laid my hand
lightly upon his shoulder. “Oaklands is no longer delirious,” said I,
as he started up; “he knows me, and has spoken to me.”

“Is he?--does he?--has he?”--exclaimed Ellis in an eager whisper. “I
told you it would never kill him. Why didn’t you call me before? but
it’s always the way; if I do by any chance fall asleep once in a week,
there isn’t another head properly so called in the whole house, they
might as well be chair nobs--Yes, I know,” he continued, as I attempted
to get in a word of explanation, “if you couldn’t wake me before it
happened, that doesn’t prevent your giving me the medicine-chest now,
does it?”

I may as well take this opportunity of mentioning that Ellis, though in
the main one of the best-tempered fellows in the world, whenever he was
particularly interested or excited, became extremely cross and snappish,
and was certain at such times to scold every one who fell in his way,
without the slightest regard to age, sex, or station. However, it was
always over in two or three minutes, and I have seen him laugh till the
tears ran down his face, when the rude things he had said were repeated
to him afterwards. While he was staying with his brother at Cambridge,
it used to be a favourite amusement with some of the men to start a
subject which they knew would excite him, for the sake of “getting a
rise out of the doctor,” as they termed it. But I am digressing.

The medicine Ellis gave Harry threw him into a heavy sleep, from which
he did not awake until late in the morning, when he appeared perfectly
conscious. The fever had in great measure abated, and on Dr. Probehurt’s
arrival he was fain to confess a surprising improvement had taken place,
and that, if not positively out of danger, the patient was in a fair way
to become so. As for Ellis, he was exactly like one beside himself.
He ran all over the house--into bedrooms and all sorts of places where
~226~~he had not the slightest business, shaking hands with every one,
and repeating, “I knew it--I knew it--I always told you so--it would
have killed any other man, but it couldn’t kill him!”

Let us pass in silence over the first interview between Sir John
Oaklands and his son. There are some of the deeper feelings of our
nature, planted in our bosoms by the hand of God Himself, which, when
called forth to their fullest extent by the chances of life, reveal so
clearly their divine origin, that those who witness their display stand
reverently by, and, with throbbing hearts and averted eyes, bow the
head as in presence of some holy thing; and if such pure and sacred
influences shed their lustre over that meeting, and the old man wept
tears of deep and fervent thankfulness on the neck of the son whom
he had, as it were, received from the dead, far be it from us, with
sacrilegious hand, to remove the veil which shrouds the hallowed
mysteries of feeling.

From that day Oaklands began to amend slowly, and, at the end of another
week, even the cautious Dr. Probehurt declared all immediate danger
was over; for which admission, however, he took care fully to indemnify
himself, by detailing at length every possible evil which might accrue
for the future. The state of weakness to which Harry’s once herculean
frame was reduced was melancholy to witness; for many days he was unable
to turn in his bed without assistance, and even when he began to recover
his strength, it was by very slow and lingering degrees. Utterly unable
to support himself, he was lifted from his bed to a sofa, and wheeled
into the drawing-room, where all our powers of entertainment were called
into requisition to relieve the monotony of such a state of existence.
In doing this, Fanny made herself pre-eminently useful; by a sort of
intuition she appeared to divine everything he could possibly want
before he asked for it, and contrived to have it waiting his pleasure
as if by magic; and yet it was done so quietly, that I believe Harry had
not a notion to whom he was indebted for the forestalment of his every
wish. Did his lips appear parched and dry from the low fever which still
hung about him--unobserved by any one, Fanny would glide out of
the room, and in another minute his servant would enter with a tray
containing jelly, lemonade, or some refreshment of a like nature; and
Harry would say, with a languid smile, that the fairies must have been
at work, for that Wilson had brought him the very thing he was wishing
for. As he grew stronger, and ~227~~required less attention, I yielded
to his request, and once more resumed my studies, reading doubly hard in
order to make up for lost time. The duel had taken place early in June,
but it was not until the latter end of August that the surgeons would
allow of their patient’s removal to the Hall. Under Ellis’s directions
a kind of litter was prepared, drawn by a stout Shetland pony, and
hung upon a complicated arrangement of springs, by which means all
possibility of jolting was avoided. With the assistance of this vehicle,
Harry was enabled to take short airings in the park, and, when it was
found that no ill effects ensued, a fine day was chosen, and Heathfield
Hall flung wide its ample gates to receive once more within its walls
the heir of that noble property. It was a glad day for every one--the
old servants shed mingled tears of joy and sorrow; of joy that their
young master had been spared to come among them again, and of sorrow
when they gazed on his pallid cheeks and long thin hands, and thought
of the amount of suffering that manly frame must have undergone ere it
could have become such a wreck of its former self.

After his return home Oaklands progressed very slowly; he so far
recovered as to walk about the house and garden with the assistance of
Ellis’s arm; but the wound in his side still presented an unsatisfactory
appearance, and obstinately refused to heal. Ellis’s skill and attention
were unparalleled; he took the greatest interest in the case, and though
he pretended that his zeal was entirely professional, yet it was clear
the fascination which Harry seemed unconsciously to exercise over every
one who became intimate with him, had subdued even the sturdy doctor,
and that he had conceived the strongest affection for his patient.

The only one of the party on whom the fatigue and anxiety appeared
to have produced any lasting effect was dear little Fanny, and she
continued to look much more pale and thin than I liked to see her. Her
spirits, also, seemed less gay and buoyant than usual, and when Sir John
and Harry left us, and she had no longer any motive for exertion, a
kind of languor came over her, producing a listless distaste for all her
former employments; and she would sit for hours poring over one of the
Italian poets, without exchanging a word with any one. In order, if
possible, to rouse her from this state of apathy, I used every means in
my power to interest and amuse her; but, unfortunately, my time was
now so fully occupied that I had little leisure to bestow upon her. I
~228~~was to take my degree at the commencement of the new year; and,
as I had made up my mind to try for honours, I had not a moment to lose,
and read eight hours a day. The rest of my time was devoted to Sir John
and Harry (save an odd hour or two for a constitutional scamper with my
gun through the preserves to keep down the rabbits, or a gallop across
country to prevent the hunters from getting too fat), and our kind
friends were never so well pleased as when they could persuade us all
to come to them. My sister, however, seemed to prefer dreaming over her
book to the exertion of accompanying us to the Hall, and even when she
did so, appeared unequal to the labour of amusing Harry, and devoted
herself to the more easy task of pleasing Sir John, who, happy beyond
expression in the prospect of his son’s recovery, was in the highest
good humour with everybody and everything. Becoming at length far from
satisfied about Fanny, I mentioned my uneasiness to my mother, who
comforted me by the assurance, that she considered it merely the natural
consequences of the fatigue and anxiety she had undergone, a sort of
reaction of the spirits, for which time and rest would prove the most
effectual cure.

And once again the leaves upon the trees grew brown, presenting, in
their varied richness, those exquisite shades of colouring that gladden
a painter’s eye--and the swallows, those summer parasites, taking alarm
at the first sharp blast from the north, had departed to prosecute their
annual pursuit of sunshine under difficulties, leaving the honest
robin redbreast to renew his friendship with the race of men--when
I, dissatisfied and anxious about those I was leaving behind me, and
nervous in the highest degree as to the result of the struggle for
distinction in which I was about to engage, once more took up my abode
at Trinity.~229~~



CHAPTER XXIX -- THE STRUGGLE IN CHESTERTON MEADOW

          “Men
          Put forth their sons to seek preferment out.

          Some to the studious universities,
          For any or for all these exercises.”

          “Stand, sir, and throw us that you have about you;
          If not, we’ll make you sit, and rifle you.”

          “A rescue! a rescue! Good people bring a rescue or two!”

          “Construe me, art thou a gentleman?   What is thy name?
          Discuss!”
           --_Shakspeare_.

HAVING now no one to interfere with me, I determined to read as hard as
my powers, mental and bodily, would allow, so as to give my talents, be
they great or small, full scope, and endeavour to evince my gratitude to
my unknown benefactor in the only manner that lay open to me, _i.e._, by
proving to him that his liberality had not been thrown away. As the
men began to come up, I took care to let it be generally known among my
friends that I was reading steadily and in earnest, with a view of going
out in honours; and when they became convinced that this was the case,
and that whenever I “sported oak” there was positively “no admittance,”
 they left me to my fate, as one who, in the words of Lawless,
“having strayed from the paths of virtue and--eh!--what do you call it?
--jollity--had fallen a victim to the vice of mathematics--not a hope
of recovery--a regular case of hydrostatics on the brain--eh! don’t you
see?”

Besides the regular college tutor, I secured the assistance of what, in
the slang of the day, we irreverently termed “a coach,” which vehicle,
for the conveyance of heavy learning (from himself to his pupils),
consisted of a gentleman who, but few years older than those whom he
taught, possessed more practical knowledge, and a greater aptitude for
the highest scientific research, than it had ever before been my fate
to meet with combined in any one individual. Under his able tuition I
advanced rapidly, and reading men began to look upon me as a somewhat
formidable rival. Several of my opponents, however, were men of
first-rate talent, whose powers of mind, as I could not for a moment
disguise from myself, ~230~~were infinitely superior to my own, and with
whom my only chance of competing successfully would be by the exercise
of indefatigable perseverance and industry. Daylight, therefore (which
at this season did not make its appearance over early), found me book in
hand, and midnight saw me still seated at my desk--sometimes with a wet
towel bound round my head, to cool the throbbing of my heated brow; at
others, with a tea-pot of strong green tea by my side, to arouse and
stimulate my wearied faculties: conventional specifics, of which, by the
way, I very quickly discovered the fallacy.

A fear of completely knocking up, however, induced me to preserve some
little method in my madness. I laid down a rule to walk for a couple
of hours every day, and thus, although I grew pale and thin, no very
dangerous effects appeared likely to ensue from my exertions.

One evening, about a week before the examinations were to begin, I was
taking my usual constitutional after Hall; and, careless which way I
turned my steps, crossed the river at Moore’s, and followed the footpath
which led over the fields to the village of Chesterton. There had been a
cattle fair at some place in the neighbourhood, which had drawn together
a number of disreputable characters, and, in the course of my walk, I
passed two or three parties of rather suspicious-looking men. Having
nothing valuable about me, however, I continued my walk. I had advanced
some half mile or more, when I was roused from my meditations by a cry
of “Thieves I thieves! help! hoy! thieves, I say!” accompanied by the
noise of blows. When these sounds first reached me I was close to a
hedge and stile, across which the footpath led, and from the farther
side of which the cries proceeded. It was growing dark, but there still
remained light enough to distinguish objects at a moderate distance. To
bound over the stile and cast my eyes around was the work of a moment,
nor was I much longer in taking part in an affray which was going on.

The person whose cries I had heard was a stout little man, respectably
dressed, who was defending himself vigorously with what seemed in the
twilight a club, but which turned out eventually to be an umbrella,
against the attacks of a tall, strapping fellow, in a rough frieze
coat, who was endeavouring to wrest his weapon from him. A still more
formidable adversary was, however, approaching in the shape of a second
ruffian, who had armed himself with a thick stake out of the hedge,
and was creeping cautiously up behind the shorter man, with ~231~~the
evident intention of knocking him on the head. I instantly determined to
frustrate his benevolent design, nor was there much time to lose, if
I wished my assistance to prove of much avail. Shouting, therefore, as
well to intimidate the scoundrels as to let the person attacked know
that there was succour at hand, I sprang upon the man who held the
cudgel, and, seizing his uplifted arm, succeeded in averting the
coming blow from the head of the intended victim, who, ignorant of the
impending danger, was making most furious thrusts at his assailant
with the point of his umbrella, a novel mode of attack, which seemed to
perplex and annoy that individual in no small degree.

[Illustration: page231 Fairlegh to the Rescue]

I had, however, but little time allowed me to make observations, as the
fellow with whom I had interfered, as soon as he perceived that he had
only an unarmed man to deal with, appeared determined not to give up
his hopes of plunder without a struggle, and, freeing his wrist by a
powerful jerk, he aimed a blow at me with the bludgeon, which, had it
taken effect, would at once have ended all my anxieties, and
brought this veracious history to an abrupt and untimely conclusion.
Fortunately, however, for “my gentle public” and their humble servant, I
was able, by dodging on one side, to avoid the stroke; and, seeing that
matters had now become serious, I closed with him, and, after a short
but severe struggle, had the satisfaction of depositing him flat on his
back on the green sward. As he fell he dropped his stick, of which I
immediately possessed myself, and, planting my foot upon his chest
to prevent his rising, I turned to see how the other combatants were
getting on. Dame Fortune had not, in this instance, acted up to her
usual principle of favouring the brave, for the hero of the umbrella,
having struggled gallantly for the preservation of his property and
person, had apparently at length been overpowered, and, when I
turned towards him, was lying on the ground, while his assailant was
endeavouring to rifle his pockets, a matter which was rendered anything
but easy of accomplishment by reason of the energetic kicks and
struggles of the fallen warrior. It was clear that if I would not have
the unfortunate little man robbed before my very eyes, I must go to his
assistance. Giving, therefore, my prostrate foe a tap on the head with
the stake, by way of a hint to lie still, I advanced to the rescue with
uplifted weapon. No sooner did the rascal perceive my approach, than,
quitting the fallen man, he sprang up, and, without waiting to be
attacked, took to ~232~~his heels and ran off as fast as his legs would
carry him, an example which his companion, seeing the coast clear,
hastened to emulate.

My first act, as soon as the thieves had departed, was to assist the old
gentleman to rise. As soon as he was on his legs again he shook himself,
as if to ascertain that he was uninjured, and exclaimed:--

“Umph! they’re gone, are they? the scoundrels, high time they should, I
think; where’s my umbrella? umph! second I’ve lost this year--just like
me”.

The voice, the manner, but, above all, the emphatic grunts and the
final self-accusing soliloquy, “just like me,” could proceed but from
one person, my old Helmstone acquaintance, Mr. Frampton; though by what
strange chance he should be found wandering by owl-light in a meadow
near Cambridge passed my comprehension to conceive. Feeling secure from
the alteration which had taken place in me since I had last seen him--an
alteration rendered still more complete by my academical costume--that
he would be unable to recognise me, I determined to amuse myself a
little at his expense before I made myself known to him. In pursuance
of this plan I picked up his umbrella and handed it to him, saying in an
assumed voice as I did so, “Here is your umbrella, sir”.

“Thank ye, young man, thank ye, cost five-and-twenty shillings last
Friday week; umph! might have got a cotton one for less than one quarter
the money, that would have done just as well to thump thieves with--a
fool and his money--just like me, umph!”

“I hope you are not injured by your fall, or by the rough treatment you
have been subjected to?” inquired I.

“Umph! injured?” was the reply; “I’ve got a great bump on the back
of my head, and burst all the buttons off my waistcoat--I don’t know
whether you call that being injured; but I can tell you I got away from
the Thugs at Strangleabad without any such injuries: umph!”

“It was fortunate that I happened to come up just when I did,” observed
I.

“Umph! glad you think so,” was the answer; “if that stick had come down
upon your skull, as the blackguard meant it to do, you would not have
found it quite so fortunate, I’ve a notion. Umph! all the same, I’m much
obliged to you; I might have been robbed and murdered too, if it had
not been for you, young man, and if you’ll walk home with me to
the ‘Hoop’--there’s a name for an inn!--I’ll give you a couple of
sovereigns. ~233~~and that’s more than you’ve earned before to-day, I’ll
be bound--umph!”

“I shall be delighted to see you safe home, sir, but you will excuse my
declining your pecuniary offer, though I must plead guilty to the charge
of not having earned as much--I believe I might say, in my whole life
before.”

“Umph! I see--a gentleman, eh? and I to offer him money--just like me--a
lord, or a duke, I shouldn’t wonder--there are all sorts and sizes of
‘em here, they tell me--ask him to dinner. Umph! perhaps you’ll
do me the honour of dining with me, young man--my lord, I
mean--mulligatawny--cat smothered in rice, which they call
curry--kibobs, and kickshaws--the cook is not so bad for a white; but
you should go to India if you care about eating--that’s the place for
cookery, sir.”

“I shall have much pleasure in accepting your invitation,” replied I,
“if you will allow me to run away directly after dinner: I am reading for
my degree, and time is precious with me just now.”

“Umph! so it should be always. I see, now I come to look at you, you are
one of the cap-and-gown gentlemen.” (Then came an aside--“Cap, indeed!
it’s a fool’s cap would fit one half of ‘em best!”) “Pray, may I ask
what college you belong to, Mr. ----?”

“Legh is my name, sir--Legh of Trinity.”

“Umph! Trinity; just the man I wanted to get hold of. My name’s
Frampton, Mr. Lee: they know me well at the India House, sir. When we’ve
had a bit of dinner, and washed this horrid fog out of our throats with
a few glasses of wine, I shall be glad to ask you a question or two.
Umph!”

“Any information it may be in my power to afford you,” I began----

“That’ll do, sir, that’ll do,” was the reply. “Perhaps you won’t
be quite so ready when you hear what it is I want.” Then, in an
undertone--“Tell me a parcel of lies, most likely; I know how these
young scamps hang by one another, and think it high fun ‘to do the
governor,’ as they call it. Umph!”

On our arrival at the Hoop we were ushered into one of the best
sitting-rooms the inn afforded, where a blazing fire soon effaced
all traces of the wet-blanket-like fog in which we had been so lately
enveloped. I was shown into a comfortable dressing-room to get ready for
dinner, an opportunity of which I availed myself to render my appearance
as unlike what it had been in former days as circumstances would allow,
before again subjecting myself ~234~~to Mr. Framptqn’s scrutiny. For
this purpose, I combed my hair back from my face as far as possible, and
brushed my whiskers--an acquisition of which I had only lately become
possessed--as prominently forward as the growth of the crop permitted. I
poked my shirt-collar entirely out of sight, and tied my black neckcloth
stiffly up under my chin, and finally buttoned my coat, so as to show
off the breadth of my chest and shoulders to the greatest advantage.
Thus accoutred, and drawing myself up to my full height, I hastened to
rejoin Mr. Frampton. My arrangements seemed thoroughly to have answered
their purpose, for he gazed at me without evincing the slightest symptom
of recognition. He shook me by the hand, however, and thanked me more
cordially than he had yet done for the assistance rendered him, and then
rang for dinner. The bill of fare embraced all the Asiatic luxuries he
had enumerated, to which, on the strength of having invited a guest,
sundry European dishes were added; and with appetites sharpened by our
recent adventures, we did full justice to the good cheer that was set
before us.



CHAPTER XXX -- MR. FRAMPTON’S INTRODUCTION TO A TIGER

          “Had I been seized by a hungry tiger,
          I would have been a breakfast to the beast.”
           --_Shakspeare_.

          “He started
          Like one who sees a spectre, and exclaimed,
          ‘Blind that I was to know him not till now!’”
           --_Southey_.

          “Go to, you are a counterfeit knave!”--_Shakspeare_.

“I HOPE you feel no ill effects from your adventure, sir: you resisted
the fellow’s attack most spiritedly, and would have beaten him off,
I believe, if you had possessed a more serviceable weapon than an
umbrella,” observed I to Mr. Frampton, as we drew our chairs to the fire
after dinner.

“Umph! all right, sir, all right: a little stiff or so across the back,
but not so bad as the tiger at Bundleapoor. I’m not as young as I used
to be, and there’s a difference between young men and old ones. Young
men are all whalebone and whipcord, and it’s nothing but hopping,
skipping, and jumping with them all day long; when ~235~~you’re turned
of sixty-five, sir, the whalebone gets stiff, the whipcord wears
out, the skip and jump take their departure, and the hop becomes an
involuntary accompaniment to the rheumatism--confound it! Umph!”

“You have been in India, I presume; I think I heard you refer to some
adventure with a tiger,” returned I.

“I’ve been everywhere sir--north, south, east, and west. I ran away from
school at twelve years old, because the master chose to believe one of
the ushers rather than me, and flogged me for lying when I had spoken
the truth. I ran away, sir, and got aboard a ship that was bound for the
East Indies, and for five-and-forty years I never saw the white cliffs
of Old England; and, when I did return, I might as well have left it
alone, for all who knew and cared for me were dead and gone--all
dead and gone, dead and gone!” he repeated in a tone of sorrowful
earnestness. Then came an aside: “Umph! wonder what I told him that
for; something for him to go and make fun of with the other young
scapegraces, instead of minding their books:--just like me!”

“You must have seen many strange things, and met with various adventures
worthy of note, in the course of your wanderings,” remarked I.

“I must have been a fool if I hadn’t,” was the answer. “P’rhaps you
think I was--umph! Young folks always think old ones fools, they say.”

“Finish the adage, sir, that old folks know young ones to be so, and
then agree with me that it is a saying founded on prejudice, and at
variance with truth.”

“Umph! strong words, young gentleman, strong words. I will agree with
you so far, that there are old fools as well as young ones--old fools,
who, in their worldly wisdom, stigmatise the generous impulses and warm
affections of youth as folly, who may yet live to regret the feelings
they have crushed, and the affections they have alienated, and find out
that the things which they deemed folly may prove in the end the truest
wisdom.” Then came the soliloquy: “There I go again--just like me!
something else for him to laugh at; don’t think he will, though--seems
a good lad--wish t’other boy may be like him--umph!” He paused for
a minute, and then observed abruptly, “Umph! about the tiger at
Bundleapoor. You call to-night’s an adventure, sir: wonder what you’d
have said if you’d been there!”

“As I was not, would it be asking too great a favour, if I request you
to relate the anecdote?”

“Aye, boy, boy, I see you know how to come round an ~236~~old traveller:
set him gossiping about all the fine things he has seen and done in his
younger days, and you win his heart at once. Well, fill your glass, sir,
and we’ll see about it,” was the reply.

I obeyed, Mr. Frampton followed my example, and, after sipping his wine,
and grunting several times to clear his throat, began the following
recital:--

“Umph! ha! let me recollect. When I was a young shaver, having lived
in the world some twenty years or so, I was engaged as a sort of
supernumerary clerk in the house of Wilson and Brown at Calcutta; and,
having no one else who could be so easily spared, they determined to
despatch me on a business negotiation to one of the native princes,
about eight hundred miles up the country.

“I travelled with a party of the -- Dragoons, commanded
by a Captain Slingsby, a man about five years older than myself, and
as good a fellow as ever lived. Well, somehow or other, he took a great
fancy to me, and nothing would do but that I should accompany him in all
his sporting expeditions--for I should tell you that he was a thorough
sportsman, and, I believe, entertained some wild notion that he should
be able to make one of me. One unfortunate morning he came into my tent,
and woke me out of a sound sleep into which I had fallen, after being
kept awake half the night by the most diabolical howls and screams that
ever were heard out of bedlam, expecting every minute to see some of the
performers step in to sup, not with, but upon, me.

“‘Come, Frampton, wake up, man,’ cried Slingsby; ‘here’s great and
glorious news.’

“‘What is it?’ said I--‘have they found another hamper of ale among the
baggage?’

“‘Ale! nonsense,’ was the reply. ‘A shikkaree (native hunter) has just
come into camp to say that a young bullock was carried off yesterday,
and is lying half eaten in the jungle about a mile from this place; so
at last, my boy, I shall have the pleasure of introducing you to a real
live tiger.’

“‘Thank ye,’ said I, ‘you’re very kind; but if it’s at all inconvenient
to you this morning you can put it off: another day will do quite as
well for me--I’m not in the least hurry.’

“It was of no use, however; all I got for my pains was a poke in the
ribs, and an injunction to lose no time in getting ready.

“Before we had done breakfast the great man of the neighbourhood, Rajah
somebody or other, made his ~237~~appearance on his elephant, attended
by a train of tawnies, who were to undertake the agreeable duty of
beating. Not being considered fit to take care of myself--a melancholy
fact of which I was only too conscious--it was decreed that Slingsby and
I should occupy the same howdah. Accordingly, at the time appointed, we
mounted our elephant; and having a formidable array of guns handed up to
us, we started.

“As my companion, and, indeed, every one else concerned in the matter,
evidently considered it completely as a party of pleasure, and seemed
prepared to enjoy themselves to the utmost, I endeavoured to persuade
myself that I did so too; and, consoled by the reflection that if the
tiger had positively eaten half a bullock yesterday afternoon, it never
could be worth his while to scale our elephant, and run the risk of
being shot, for the sake of devouring me, I felt rather bold than
otherwise. After proceeding for some distance through the jungle, and
rousing, as it seemed to me, every beast that had come out of Noah’s
Ark, except a tiger, our elephant, who had hitherto conducted himself
in a very quiet and gentlemanly manner, suddenly raised his trunk and
trumpeted several times--a sure sign, as the mahout informed us, that a
tiger was somewhere close at hand.

“‘Now then, Frampton,’ cried my companion, cocking his double-barrel,
‘look out!’

“‘For squalls,’ returned I, finishing the sentence for him.--‘Pray, is
there any particular part they like to be shot in? whereabouts shall I
aim?’

“‘Wherever you can,’ replied Slingsby; ‘be ready--there he is, by
Jupiter!’ and, as he spoke, the long grass about a hundred yards in
front of us was gently agitated, and I caught a glimpse of what appeared
a yellow and black streak, moving swiftly away in an opposite direction.
--‘Tally ho!’ shouted Slingsby, saluting the tiger with both barrels. An
angry roar proved that the shots had taken effect, and in another moment
a large tiger, lashing his sides with his tail and his eyes glaring with
rage, came bounding towards us.

“‘Now what’s to be done?’ exclaimed I--‘if you had but left him alone,
he was going away as quietly as possible.’

“Slingsby’s only reply was a smile, and seizing another gun, he fired
again. On receiving this shot the tiger stopped for a moment, and then,
with a tremendous bound, sprang towards us, alighting at the foot of a
small tree not a yard from the elephant’s head.

~238~~“‘That last shot crippled him,’ said my companion, ‘or we should
have had the pleasure of his nearer acquaintance--now for the _coup
de grâce_--fire away!’ and as he spoke he leaned forward to take a
deliberate aim, when suddenly the front of the howdah gave way, and to
my horror Slingsby was precipitated over the elephant’s head, into,
as it seemed to me, the very jaws of the tiger. A fierce growl and a
suppressed cry of agony proved that the monster had seized his prey;
and I had completely given up my friend for lost, when the elephant,
although greatly alarmed, being urged on by the mahout, took a step
forward, and, twisting his trunk round the top of the young tree, bent
it down across the loins of the tiger, thus forcing the tortured animal
to quit his hold, and affording Slingsby an opportunity of crawling
beyond the reach of its teeth and claws. Forgetting my own fears in the
imminence of my friend’s danger, I only waited till I could get a shot
at the tiger without running the risk of hurting Slingsby, and then
fired both barrels at his head, and was lucky enough to wound it
mortally. The other sportsmen coming up at the moment, the brute
received its quietus, but poor Slingsby’s arm was broken where the tiger
had seized it with its teeth, and his shoulders and chest were severely
lacerated by its claws, nor did he entirely recover the shock for many
months.{1} And this was my first introduction to a royal tiger, sir.
I saw many of ‘em afterwards, during the time I spent in India, but I
can’t say I ever had much liking for their society--umph!”

This anecdote brought others in its train--minutes flew by apace, the
wine grew low in the decanters, and it became apparent to me that if
I would not lose the whole evening, and go home with my brains
muddled beyond all possibility of reading, I must take my departure.
Accordingly, pulling out my watch, I reminded Mr. Frampton of my
previous stipulation to be allowed to run away as soon as dinner was
concluded, adding that I had already stayed longer than was altogether
prudent. The reply to this announcement was, “Umph! sit still, sir, sit
still; I’m going to ring for another bottle of port”.

     1 The main facts of the foregoing anecdote are taken from
     Capt. Mundy’s very interesting _Pen and Pencil Sketches_.

Finding, however, that I was determined, he gave up the point, adding:
“Umph! well, if you must go, you must, I suppose--though you might refuse
a worse offer;--but, if you really are anxious about your studies
and ~239~~wish to distinguish yourself, I won’t be the man to hinder
you--it’s few enough of ‘em are like you here, I expect”; then, _sotto
voce_, “wish t’other young monkey might be”. “You hinted before
dinner at some information I might be able to give you?” said I
interrogatively.

“Umph! did I?--aye, so I did--you see, Mr. Lee, there’s a young fellow
at Trinity, about your age I should fancy, whom I used to know as a
boy,--and--he was a very good boy--and--and--his mother’s a widow;
poor thing--a very nice boy, I may say, he was--and as I feel a sort of
interest about him I thought that you might, perhaps, give one an idea
of how he’s going on--just a notion--you understand--umph!”

“Exactly, sir,” returned I, “and what may be the name of your friend?”

“Frank Fairlegh,” was the answer.

“You could not have applied to a better person,” replied I. “Frank
Fairlegh!--why, he was one of my most intimate friends.”

“_Was_--umph!”

“Why, yes, it’s more was than is, certainly--for since I’ve been reading
hard, it’s a positive fact that I’ve scarcely seen his face.”

“That looks as if he wasn’t over fond of reading, then, eh?--umph!”

“You may put that interpretation upon it, certainly,” replied I, “but
mind, I don’t say it’s the true one. I consider it would not be right
in me to tell tales out of school; besides there’s nothing to
tell--everybody knows Frank Fairlegh’s a good fellow--ask Lawless--ask
Curtis.”

“Umph! Lawless? what? that wild young scamp who goes tearing about the
country in a tandem, as if a gig with one horse wasn’t dangerous enough,
without putting on a second to make the thing positively terrific?
he must be badly off for something to do, if he can find no better
amusement than trying how nearly he can break a fool’s neck, without
doing it quite;--umph! Curtis--why, that’s the name of the young
gentleman--very gentle--who, the landlord tells me, has just been
rusticated for insulting Dr. Doublechin, and fastening a muzzle and
chain on one of the men they call ‘bull-dogs,’ saying, forsooth, that
it wasn’t safe to let such ferocious animals go about loose--nice
acquaintance Mr. Frank Fairlegh seems to choose, and you know the
quotation, ‘_Noscitur a sociis_’.”

“Oh,” replied I, “but he has others; I have seen him in company with Mr.
Wilford.”

~240~~“Wilford? the noted duellist, that scoundrel who has lately shot
the son of Sir John Oaklands, as fine a young man as ever I set eyes
upon?--for I have often seen him when I was living at Helmstone; if I
thought, sir, that Fairlegh was a friend of that man--I’d--I’d--well,
sir,” he exclaimed, seeing my eyes fixed upon him with a degree of
interest I could not conceal, “it’s nothing to you, I suppose, what I
may intend to do by Mr. Frank Fairlegh! I may be his grandfather for
anything you can tell to the contrary; and I may choose to cut him off
with a shilling, I imagine, without its affecting you in any way--umph?”

“Scarcely so, Mr. Frampton,” replied I, turning away to hide an
irrepressible smile, “if it is in consequence of what I have told you
that you are angry with poor Frank.”

“Angry, sir, angry”--was the answer--“I’m never angry--there’s nothing
worth being angry about in this world. Do you take snuff, sir? I’ve some
that came from--Umph! eh!” he continued, fumbling in all his
pockets--“hope I haven’t lost my box--given me by the Begum of
Cuddleakee--splendid woman--only complexion too strong of the
tawny--Umph! left it in the other room, I suppose--back in a moment,
sir--Umph! umph!” and, suiting the action to the word, he went out,
slamming the door behind him.

As the reader may suppose, I was equally surprised and pleased to find
that my old friend not only remembered our former intimacy, but felt so
warm an interest in my welfare as to have put himself quite in a rage on
hearing of my supposed delinquencies. Although it had been the means of
eliciting such strong indications of his continued regard for me, I felt
half sorry for the deception I had practised upon him--the only thing
that could be done now, however, was to make myself known to him without
delay, and his absence from the room enabled me to put in practice a
plan for doing so which I had had in my mind all along. Accordingly,
going up to the chimney-glass I shook my hair forward, so that it fell
in waving curls about my face and forehead--took the stiffener out of my
neckcloth and, knotting the latter closely round my throat, turned down
my shirt-collar, so as to resemble as nearly as possible the Byron-tie
of my boyhood--then unbuttoning and throwing open my coat I resumed my
seat, arranging the candles so as to throw the light full upon my face
as I did so. I had scarcely completed my arrangements when I heard
Mr. Frampton’s footstep in ~241~~the passage, and in another moment he
entered the room. “All right, Mr. Lee, all right, sir; I found the box
in my other coat-pocket; I was afraid the thieves might have forestalled
me; but--Umph!--eh!--why?--who?” Catching sight of me as he spoke, he
stopped short, and, shading his eyes with his hand, gazed earnestly at
me, with a look half-bewildered, half-incredulous. Taking advantage of
his silence I inquired in my natural tone and manner whether he had seen
Dr. Mildman lately.

“Umph! eh! Dr. Mildman?” was the reply--“why it can’t be--and yet
it is--the boy Frank Fairlegh himself! Oh! you young villain!” and
completely overcome by the sudden and unexpected nature of the surprise
he sank back into a chair, looking the picture of astonishment.

Springing to his side, and pressing his hand warmly between my own, I
exclaimed, “Forgive me for the trick I have played you, sir. I knew you
the moment I heard your voice, when I was helping you up to-night, and,
finding you did not recognise me, I could not resist the temptation of
preserving my incognito a little longer, and introducing myself as a
stranger.”

“Oh! you young scapegrace,” was the rejoinder, “if ever I forgive
you, I’ll--umph!--that I will”--then changing his tone to one of much
feeling, he continued, “So you hadn’t forgotten the old man then, Frank?
good boy, good boy”.

I had seated myself on a stool at his feet, and as he spoke he patted my
head with his hand, as if I had been a favourite dog.

“And all the things you said against yourself were so many lies, I
suppose? Umph! you are no friend to the homicide Wilford?”

“True to the ear, but false to the sense, sir,” replied I. “Harry
Oaklands is the dearest friend I have on earth; we love each other as
brothers--between the man whose hand was so lately raised to shed that
brother’s blood, and myself, there can be little friendship--if I do not
positively hate him, it is only because I would not willingly hate any
one. Lawless was an old fellow-pupil of mine, and, though he has many
follies about him, is at bottom more kind-hearted and well-disposed than
people give him credit for; we still continue friends, therefore, but,
our habits and pursuits being essentially different, I see very little
of him--with Curtis I never exchanged half a dozen words in my life.”

“Umph! I understand, I understand; and how is Harry Oaklands? better
again, eh?”

~242~~The reply to this query led to my being obliged to give Mr.
Frampton a succinct account of the duel, and it was not till I explained
my intention of trying for honours, and made him comprehend the
necessity of my being fully prepared for the ensuing examination, that
he would hear of my departure; and, when at last he did allow me to
go, he insisted on accompanying me to the gate of Trinity, and made
me promise to let him see me as often as I was able during his stay in
Cambridge, where, he informed me, he proposed remaining till after the
degrees wore conferred.



CHAPTER XXXI -- HOW I RISE A DEGREE, AND MR. FRAMPTON GETS ELEVATED IN
MORE WAYS THAN ONE

“This is as strange a thing as e’er I looked on.”--_The Tempest_.

“These news, my lords, may cheer our drooping spirits.”--_King Henry
VI_.

“And liquor, likewise, will I give to thee, And friendship shall
combine, and brotherhood.”--_King Henry V_.

THE week passed away like a dream, and with a beating heart and
throbbing pulse I went through the various examinations, and engaged
with my competitors in the struggle for honours. Anxious in the highest
degree as to the result of my labours, I scarcely ate, drank, or slept,
and, had the necessity for exertion been protracted much longer, my mind
could not have borne the continued strain, and I should probably have
had a brain fever. It was the eventful Friday morning on which the list
was to come out, and in the course of an hour or two my fate would be
known. Utterly worn out by a night which anxiety had rendered sleepless,
I had hastily swallowed a cup of tea, and, turning away from the
untasted eatables, flung myself, wrapped in a dressing-gown, on the
sofa. I had not, however, lain there above a quarter of an hour, when a
tap was heard at the door, and Mr. Frampton made his appearance, attired
as usual in the well-remembered blue coat, with brass buttons, drab
shorts, and gaiters, with the broad-brimmed hat, lined with green, fixed
sturdily on his head, as if it was not made to take off at any time.

~243~~“Umph! found my way up, you see! Fellow you call the gyp wanted to
make me believe you were out--thought I looked too like a governor to
be let in, I suppose; but it wouldn’t do, sir; old birds are not to be
caught with chaff; and he spoke with an air of such intense honesty that
I felt sure he was lying, and told him so.--Don’t get up, boy, don’t get
up; you look as jaded as a hunted antelope. Why, you’ve never touched
your breakfast; you’ll kill yourself if you go on at this rate.”

“It will not last much longer, sir,” said I; “in about another hour or
so my fate will be known. The list comes out this morning. Some of my
friends were to call for me, and we were to make a party to go down to
the Senate House together, for there is sure to be a crowd; but I shall
let them go without me, for I’m in such a state of nervous anxiety that
I feel fit for nothing.”

“Umph! I’ll go with them, if they’ve no objection,” returned Mr.
Frampton. “If I should happen to get knocked over in the scuffle, I
shall want somebody to pick me up again. I shall like to see how near
the tail of the list they stick your name, Frank--umph!”

At this moment the door was flung open, and Lawless, Archer, and one or
two more men of my acquaintance came tumbling over one another into the
room, laughing vociferously at some unknown jest. Owing to the shape of
the apartment, the place where Mr. Frampton had seated himself was not
easily to be seen as you entered, consequently none of them observed
him.

“Fairlegh, old boy!” began Archer--

“Eh! here’s such a tremendous go!” broke in Lawless. “Where’s the
smelling-bottle? Archer swears he has just seen the ghost of Noah’s
great-grandfather, as he appeared when dressed in his Sunday clothes!”

“‘Pon my word it’s true, and what will you lay it’s a lie?” sang Archer.
“Oh! if you had but seen him, Fairlegh; he looked like--hang me if I
know anything ugly enough to compare him to.”

“Was he at all like me, sir?--umph!” inquired Mr. Frampton in his
gruffest tone, putting on the broad-brimmed hat, and rising slowly from
his seat as he spoke.

“The very apparition itself, by Jingo!” exclaimed Archer, starting back
in alarm, half real, half affected, thereby nearly overturning Lawless,
who was just behind him.

~244~~“Hold hard there, young fellow; where are you jibbing to? You’ll
smash my panels in a minute, if you don’t look out--eh?--why surely
it’s the old boy from Helmstone,” continued Lawless aside; “Mr.
Frampton--sir, your most obedient.”

“Same to you, sir,” was the reply; “glad to see your spirits don’t seem
likely to fail you, Mr. Lawless--laughing at me, all of ‘em, impudent
young dogs--what’s t’other one’s name, Frank? the one that took me for a
ghost--umph!”

“Allow me to introduce you--Mr. Frampton, Mr. Archer, Mr. Green, Mr.
Lacy, Mr. Richards.”

The individuals named delivered themselves of a series of nods and jerks
as I pronounced their various patronymics, and Mr. Frampton took off
his hat, and made a polite bow to each man separately; then turning to
Archer, he said:--

“Pray, sir, may I inquire when and how you became so intimate with
Noah’s great-grandfather as to mistake me for him?--umph!”

“Well, sir,” said Archer, who was evidently taken somewhat aback by this
direct appeal, “it is an affair--that is, a circumstance--what I mean to
say is--the thing, as you must see, was completely--in fact it was quite
by accident, and promiscuously, so to speak, that I mistook you for the
respectable antediluvian--I should say, for his ghost.”

“Umph! don’t think I look much like a ghost, either. Not that there are
such things in reality; all humbug, sir. A man goes and eats beef and
pudding enough for two, has the night-mare, fancies next morning he has
seen a ghost, and the first fool he tells it to believes him. Well, Mr.
Lawless, not made a ghost of yourself by breaking your neck out of that
Infernal Machine of yours yet. Get his ex-majesty Louis Philippe to go
out for a ride with you in that, and his life would be in greater danger
than all the Fieschis in France could ever put it in. Umph!”

“The horses are in first-rate condition,” returned Lawless, “enough to
pull a fellow’s arms off till they’ve done about ten miles; that takes
the steel out of them a bit, and then a child may guide them. Happy to
take you a drive, Mr. Frampton, any time that suits you--eh?”

“Thank ye, sir, when that time comes I’ll let you know; but I hope
to live a few years longer yet, and therefore you’ll excuse my not
accepting your kind offer. Besides, if Mr. Archer was to see the ghost
of Noah’s great-grand-father ~245~~in a tandem, he’d never get over it.”
 Then came the aside: “Umph! had him there, the young jackanapes”.

“Well, Fairlegh, are you coming with us?” asked Lacy; “the list must be
out by this time.”

“No; ‘pon my word I can’t,” replied I. “I’m good for nothing this
morning.”

“Serve you right, too,” said Lawless, “for refusing the second bowl of
punch last night. I told you no good would come of it, eh?”

“Positively we ought to be going,” interposed Richards; “we’ll bring you
some news presently, Fairlegh, that will set you all right again in no
time.”

“I only wish you may prove a true prophet,” replied I. “Umph! if you’ll
allow me, I’ll accompany you, gentlemen,” said Mr. Frampton; “make one
of your party, umph!”

Several of those thus appealed to exchanged glances of horror, and at
last Archer, who was rather an exclusive, and particularly sensitive to
ridicule, began:--

“Why, really, sir, you must excuse--”

“Umph! excuse? no excuses are required, sir; when you’ve lived as long
as I have, you’ll learn not to care in what company you sail, so as it’s
honest company. Noah’s great-grandfather found out the truth of
that, sir, when he had to be hail-fellow-well-met with tiger-cats and
hippopotamuses in the ark--hippopotami, I suppose you classical men call
it--though, now I come to think of it, he never was there at all. But
you will let an old man go with you, there’s good boys,” continued Mr.
Frampton in a tone of entreaty; “not one of you feels more interest in
Frank Fairlegh’s success than I do.”

“Come along, governor,” exclaimed Lawless, taking him by the arm, “you
and I will go together, and if anybody gets in your way, down he goes if
he were as big as Goliath of Gath. You shall see the list as soon as any
one of them, for you’re a trump--a regular brick!”

“With a very odd tile on the top of it,” whispered Archer, pointing to
the broad brim.

“Now, then,” continued Lawless, “fall in there. Follow the governor.
To the right about face! March!” So saying, he flung open the door, and
arm-in-arm with Mr. Frampton hurried down the stairs, followed by the
others in double-quick time. When they were all gone I made an effort to
rouse myself from the state of lassitude and depression into which I had
fallen, and ~246~~succeeded so far as to recover sufficient energy
to attempt the labour of dressing, though my hands trembled to such a
degree that I could scarcely accomplish it, and was forced to postpone
the operation of shaving to some more favourable opportunity.

Having made my outer-man respectable, I re-entered the sitting-room, and
waited with impatience for the return of my friends. Oh! the horrors of
suspense! that tooth-ache of the mind, in which each moment of anxiety r
stretched on the rack of expectation, appears to the overwrought senses
an eternity of gnawing anguish!--of all the mental tortures with which I
am acquainted, defend me from suspense!

I had worked myself up into a thorough fever, and was becoming so
excited that I was on the point of rushing out to learn the worst at
once, when sundry shouts, mingled with peals of laughter, reached my
ear--sounds which assured me that news was at hand. And now, with the
inconsistency of human nature, I trembled at, and would willingly have
delayed, my friends’ arrival, lest it might bring me the certainty
of failure, to which even the doubt and suspense I had been so lately
chafing at appeared preferable. The sounds grew louder and louder--they
were approaching. Oh! how my heart beat! in another moment they would
be here. Sinking into a chair, for my knees trembled so that I could
scarcely stand, I remained with my eyes fixed upon the door in a state
of breathless anxiety. More shouting! surely that was a cheer--

“Hurrah! hurrah! out of the way there! room for the governor!”--a rush
of many feet up the stairs--more, cheering--the door is thrown open, and
a party of from fifteen to twenty undergraduates come pouring in, with
Mr. Frampton in the midst of them, carried in triumph on the shoulders
of Lawless and another man, and waving a list in one hand, and the
broad-brimmed hat in the other.

[Illustration: page246 Hurrah! Room for the Governor]

“Bravo, Fairlegh! all right, old fellow! never say die! hurrah!”
 exclaimed half a score voices, all at once, while both my hands
were seized and nearly shaken off, and I was almost annihilated by
congratulatory slaps on the back from my zealous and excited friends.

“Well,” exclaimed I, as soon as I could make myself audible amidst the
clamour, “I suppose by your congratulations I’m not plucked, but how
high do I stand?” “Silence there!” shouted Lawless. “Order! order! hear
the governor; he’s got the list. Fire away, sir.”

~247~~Thus appealed to, Mr. Frampton, who was still mounted on the
shoulders of his supporters, having cleared his throat and grunted
proudly, with an air of majesty read as follows:--

“Kushbrooke, Senior Wrangler--Crosby, second--Barham, third--Fairlegh,
fourth!”

“Nonsense,” exclaimed I, springing up, “the thing’s impossible!”

“What an unbelieving Jew it is,” said Archer; “hand him the list, and
let him read it himself. Seeing is believing, they say.”

Yes, there it was, beyond all possibility of doubt; with my own eyes
did I behold it. “Fairlegh, fourth Wrangler!” Why, even in my wildest
moments of hope my imagination had never taken so high a flight. Fourth
Wrangler! oh! it was too delightful to be real. So overcome was I by
this unexpected stroke of good fortune, that for a minute or two I was
scarcely conscious of what was going on around me, and returned rambling
and incoherent answers to the congratulations which were showered upon
me. The first thing that roused my attention was a shout from Lawless,
demanding a hearing, for that “the governor,” as he persisted in calling
Mr. Frampton, was going to make a speech. The cry was immediately taken
up by the others, who for some moments defeated their own purpose by
calling vociferously for “silence for the governor’s speech!” Having
at length, from sheer want of breath, obtained the required boon, Mr.
Frampton, waving his hand with a dignified gesture, began as follows:--

“Umph! on this happy occasion, gentlemen--set of noisy young scamps!--on
this happy occasion, I say”--(shouts of encore! bravo! etc.)--“what I
was going to say was--umph!” (a cry of “You have said it,” from a man
near the door, who thought he could not be seen, but was). “Much obliged
to you, sir, for your observation,” continued Mr. Frampton, fixing his
glance unmistakably on the Detected One, “but I have not said it,
nor does it seem very likely I ever shall say it, if you continue to
interrupt me with your wretched attempts at wit.” (Cries of “Hear!
hear! don’t interrupt the governor! Shame! shame!” and an aside from
Mr. Frampton, “Had him there, umph!” during all of which the detected
individual was striving to open the door, which several men, who had
perceived his design, held firmly against him.) “What I was going to
say,” resumed the speaker, “when that gentleman who is trying to leave
the room ~248~~interrupted me” (more cries of “Shame!”), “was, that I
beg, in the name of my friend, Frank Fairlegh, to invite you all to a
champagne breakfast in his rooms to-morrow,” (tremendous cheering, and a
cry of “Bravo, governor! you are a brick!” from Lawless), “and in my own
name to thank you all, except the gentleman near the door, who has not
yet, I see, had the grace to leave the room, for the patience with
which you’ve listened to me,” (laughter, and cries of “It was a shame to
interrupt him,” at which the Detected One, with a frantic gesture,
gives up the door, and, turning very pale, glances insanely towards the
window), “and for the very flattering attentions which you have all
of you generally, and Mr. Archer in particular, done me the honour of
paying me.”

A perfect tornado of cheers and laughter followed Mr. Frampton’s speech,
after which I thanked them all for the kind interest they had expressed
in my success, and begged to second Mr. Frampton’s invitation for the
following day. This matter being satisfactorily arranged, certain of
the party laid violent hands on the Detected One, who was a very shy
freshman of the name of Pilkington, and, despite his struggles, made him
go down on his knees and apologise in set phrase to Mr. Frampton for his
late unjustifiable conduct; whereupon that gentleman, who enjoyed the
joke, and entered into it with as much zest as the veriest pickle among
them, sternly, and with many grunts, rebuked and then pardoned him.

The champagne breakfast on the following morning who shall describe!
What pen, albeit accustomed to the highest nights imaginable, may
venture to depict the humours of that memorable entertainment! How,
when the company were assembled, it was discovered Mr. Pilkington was
missing, and a party, headed by Lawless, proceeded to his rooms, which
were on the same staircase, and brought him down, _vi et armis_, in
a state of mind bordering on distraction, picturesquely attired in
a dressing-gown, slippers, and smoking-cap, of a decidedly oriental
character; and how, when they had forced him into a seat of honour at
Mr. Frampton’s right hand, that gentleman discovered in him a striking
likeness to his particular friend the Rajah of Bundleoragbag, which
name, being instantly adopted by the company, he was invariably
addressed by ever after. How, as the champagne circulated, the various
members of the party began to come out strong, according to their
several idiosyncrasies, every man who had a peculiarity exhibiting it
for the benefit of the others; while those who had not ~249~~were even
more amusing, either from their aping the manners of somebody else, or
from the sheer absurdity of uttering insipid commonplaces in such an
atmosphere of fun and frolic. How, later in the day, after healths had
been drunk, and thanks returned, till every one, save Pilkington, was
hoarse with shouting, that individual was partly coaxed, partly coerced
into attempting to sing the only song he knew, which proved to be, “We
met”; in which performance, after making four false starts, and causing
a great many more meetings to take place than the author of the song
ever contemplated, he contrived, in a voice suggestive of a sudden
attack of cholera, to get as far as the words, “For thou art the cause
of this anguish, my mother,” when he was interrupted by such a chorus of
laughter as completely annihilated him for the rest of the day.

[Illustration: page249 Shy Young Gentleman]

How Mr. Frampton, without giving the slightest warning of his intention,
or there being anything in the subject of the conversation generally
to lead thereunto, began to relate his adventure with the tiger of
Bundleapoor; while Lawless favoured the company with a full, true and
particular account of a surprising run with the royal stag-hounds; and
Archer, who had grown sentimental, with tears in his eyes, entered into
a minute detail of certain passages in a romantic attachment he had
conceived for a youthful female branch of the aristocracy, whom he
designated as Lady Barbara B.; and how these three gentlemen continued
their various recitals all at one and the same time, edifying the
company by some such composite style of dialogue as the following:--

“So, sir, Slingsby roused me by a kick in the ribs, saying
--umph!”--“Fairest, loveliest of thy sex,”--“Shove on your boots and
buckskins, stick a cigar in your mouth, and clap your leg over,”--“An
elephant half as high again as this room; take a couple of
double-barrelled rifles, and”--“Slap at everything that comes in your
way; no craning, ram in the persuaders, and if you do get a purl”--“Look
upon it as the purest, brightest gem in your noble father’s coronet, for
true affection”--“Flung him clean into the tiger’s jaws, sir, and the
beast”--“Drew her handkerchief across her eyes, and said, in a voice
which quivered with emotion, ‘Love between two young creatures, situated
as we are, would be utter madness, Charles’. To which I replied,
‘Barbara, my own sweet girl,’”--“Mind your eye, and look out for
squalls, for that’s a rasper, and no mistake”.

How all this took place, together with much more notable merriment, not
many degrees removed from “tipsy mirth and jollity,” we will leave to
the fertile imagination of the reader to depict. Suffice it to say that,
ere we broke up, Mr. Frampton had distinctly pledged himself to ride one
of Lawless’s horses the next hunting-day, and to accompany Archer on
a three weeks’ visit to the country seat of Lady Barbara B.’s noble
father, with some ulterior views on his own account in regard to a
younger sister.~250~~



FRANK FAIRLEGH

Part II.



CHAPTER XXXII -- CATCHING SIGHT OF AN OLD FLAME

~250~~

          “Give me thy hand... I’m glad to find thee here.”
           _The Lover’s Melancholy_.

          “Half light, half shade,
          She stood, a sight to make an old man young.”
           _The Gardener’s Daughter_.

UTTERLY worn out, both in mind and body, by hard reading and
confinement, I determined to return to Heathfield forthwith, with “all
my blushing honours thick upon me,” and enjoy a few weeks’ idleness
before again engaging in any active course of study which might be
necessary to fit me for my future profession. When the post came in,
however, I received a couple of letters which rather militated against
my intention of an immediate return home. A note from Harry Oaklands
informed me, that having some weeks ago been ordered to a milder air, he
and Sir John had chosen Clifton, their decision being influenced by the
fact of an old and valued friend of Sir John’s residing there. He begged
me to let him hear all the Cambridge news, and hoped I should join him
as soon as Mrs. Fairlegh and my sister would consent to part with me.
For himself, he said, he felt somewhat stronger, but still suffered much
from the wound in his side. The second letter was from my mother,
saying she had received an invitation from an old lady, a cousin of my
father’s, who resided in London, and, as she thought change of scene
would do Fanny good, she had accepted it. She had been there already
one week, and proposed returning at the end of the next, which she hoped
would be soon enough to welcome me after the conclusion of my labours at
the university.

Unable to make up my mind whether to remain where I was for a week
longer, or to return and await my mother’s arrival at the cottage,
I threw on my cap and gown and ~251~~ strolled out, the fresh air
appearing quite a luxury to me after having been shut up so long. As
I passed through the street where old Maurice the pastry-cook lived I
thought I would call and learn how Lizzie was going on, as I knew Harry
would be anxious for information on this point. On entering the shop I
was most cordially received by the young lady herself, who had by
this time quite recovered her good looks, and on the present occasion
appeared unusually gay and animated, which was soon accounted for when
her father, drawing me aside, informed me that she was going to be
married to a highly respectable young baker, who had long ago fallen a
victim to her charms, and on whom she had of late deigned to take pity;
the severe lesson she had been taught having induced her to overlook his
intense respectability, high moral excellence, and round, good-natured
face--three strong disqualifications which had stood dreadfully in his
way when striving to render himself agreeable to the romantic Fornarina.
I was answering their inquiries after Oaklands, of whom they spoke in
terms of the deepest gratitude, when a young fellow, wrapped up in a
rough pea-jacket, bustled into the shop, and, without perceiving me,
accosted Lizzie as follows:--

“Pray, young lady, can you inform me--what glorious buns!--where
Mr.--that is to say, which of these funny old edifices may happen to be
Trinity College?”

On receiving the desired information, he continued, “Much obliged. I
really must trouble you for another bun. Made by your own fair hands, I
presume? You see, I’m quite a stranger to this quaint old town of yours,
where half the houses look like churches, and all the men like the
parsons and clerks belonging to them, taking a walk in their canonicals,
with four-cornered hats on their heads--abortive attempts to square the
circle, I conclude. Wonderful things, very. But when I get to Trinity,
how am I to find the man I want, one Mr. Frank Fairlegh?” Here I
took the liberty of interrupting the speaker, whom I had long since
recognised as Coleman--though what could have brought him to Cambridge I
was at a loss to conceive--by coming behind him, and saying, in a gruff
voice, “I am sorry you keep such low company, young man”.

“And pray who may you be that are so ready with your ‘young man,’ I
should like to know? I shall have to teach you something your tutors and
dons seem to have forgotten, and that is, manners, fellow!” exclaimed
Freddy, turning round with a face as red as a turkey-cock, ~252~~ and
not recognising me at first in my cap and gown; then looking at me
steadily for a moment, he continued, “The very man himself, by all
that’s comical! This is the way you read for your degree, is it?” Then
with a glance towards Lizzie Maurice, he sang:--

          “‘My only books
          Were woman’s looks,
          And folly all they taught me’.

It’s a Master of Hearts you’re striving to become, I suppose?”

“Nonsense,” replied I quickly, for I saw poor Lizzie coloured and looked
uncomfortable; “we don’t allow bad puns to be made at Cambridge.”

“Then, faith, unless the _genius loci_ inspires me with good ones,”
 returned Freddy, as we left the shop together, “the sooner I’m out of it
the better.”

Ten minutes’ conversation served to inform me that Freddy, having been
down to Bury St. Edmund’s on business, had stopped at Cambridge on
his way back in order to find me out, and, if possible, induce me to
accompany him home to Hillingford, and spend a few days there. This
arrangement suited my case exactly, as it nearly filled up the space of
time which must elapse before my mother’s return, and I gladly accepted
his invitation. In turn, I pressed him to remain a day or two with me,
and see the lions of Cambridge; but it appeared that the mission on
which he had been despatched was an important one, and would not brook
delay; he must therefore return at once to report progress. As he could
not stay with me, the most advisable thing seemed to be that I should go
back with him. Returning, therefore, to my rooms, I set Freddy to
work on some bread and cheese and ale, whilst I hastened to cram a
portmanteau and carpet-bag with various indispensables. I then ran to
the Hoop, and took an affectionate farewell of Mr. Frampton, making him
promise to pay me a visit at Heathfield Cottage; and, in less than
two hours from the time Coleman had first made his appearance, we were
seated together on the roof of a stage-coach, and bowling along merrily
towards Hillingford.

During our drive Coleman recounted to me his adventures in search of
Cumberland on the day preceding the duel, and gave me a more minute
description than I had yet heard of the disreputable nature of that
individual’s pursuits. From what Coleman could learn, Cumberland, after
having lost at the gaming-table large sums of ~253~~ money, of which he
had by some means contrived to obtain possession, had become connected
with a gambling-house not far from St. James’s Street, and was supposed
to be one of its proprietors. Just before Coleman left town, there had
been an _exposé_ of certain shameful proceedings which had taken place
at this house--windows had been broken, and the police obliged to make a
forcible entrance; but Cumberland had as yet contrived to keep his
name from appearing, although it was known that he was concerned in
the affair, and would be obliged to keep out of the way at present. “We
shall take the old lady by surprise, I’ve a notion,” said Freddy, as
the coach set us down within ten minutes’ walk of Elm Lodge. “I did not
think I should have got the Bury St. Edmund’s job over till to-morrow,
and wrote her word not to expect me till she saw me; but she’ll be glad
enough to have somebody to enliven her, for the governor’s in town, and
Lucy Markham is gone to stay with one of her married sisters.”

“I hope I shall not cause any inconvenience, or annoy your mother.”

“Annoy my grandmother! and she was dead before I was born!” exclaimed
Freddy disdainfully. “Why, bless your sensitive heart, nothing that I
can do annoys my mother: if I chose to bring home a mad bull in fits,
or half a dozen young elephants with the hooping-cough, she would not be
annoyed.” Thus assured, nothing remained for me but silent acquiescence,
and in a few minutes we reached the house.

“Where’s your mistress?” inquired Freddy of the man-servant who showed
us into the drawing-room.

“Upstairs, sir, I believe; I’ll send to let her know that you are
arrived.”

“Do so,” replied Coleman, making a vigorous attack upon the fire.

“Why, Freddy, I thought you said your cousin was away from home?”
 inquired I.

“So she is; and what’s more, she won’t be back for a fortnight,” was the
answer.

“Here’s a young lady’s bonnet, however,” said I.

“Nonsense,” replied he; “it must be one of my mother’s.”

“Does Mrs. Coleman wear such spicy affairs as this?” said I, holding up
for his inspection a most piquant little velvet bonnet lined with pink.

“By Jove, no!” was the reply; “a mysterious young lady! I say, Frank,
this is interesting.”

As he spoke the door flew open, and Mrs. Coleman ~254~~ bustled in, in
a great state of maternal affection, and fuss, and confusion, and
agitation.

“Why, Freddy, my dear boy, I’m delighted to see you, only I wish you
hadn’t come just now;--and you too, Mr. Fairlegh--and such a small loin
of mutton for dinner; but I’m so glad to see you--looking like a ghost,
so pale and thin,” she added, shaking me warmly by the hand; “but what
I am to do about it, or to say to him when he comes back--only I’m not a
prophet to guess things before they happen--and if I did I should always
be wrong, so what use would that be, I should like to know?”

“Why, what’s the row, eh, mother? the cat hasn’t kittened, has she?”
 asked Freddy.

“No, my dear, no, it’s not that; but, your father being in town, it has
all come upon me so unexpectedly; poor thing! and she looking so pretty,
too; oh, dear! when I said I was all alone, I never thought I shouldn’t
be; and so he left her here.”

“And who may her be?” inquired Freddy, setting grammar at defiance, “the
cat or the governor?”

“Why, my love, it’s very unlucky--very awkward indeed; but one comfort
is we’re told it’s all for the best when everything goes wrong--a very
great comfort that is if one could only believe it; but poor Mr. Vernor,
you see he was quite unhappy, I’m sure, he looked so cross, and no
wonder, having to go up to London all in a hurry, and such a cold day
too.”

At the mention of this name my attention, which had been gradually
dying a natural death, suddenly revived, and it was with a degree
of impatience, which I could scarcely restrain, that I awaited the
conclusion of Mrs. Coleman’s rambling account. After a great deal
of circumlocution, of which I will mercifully spare the reader the
infliction, the following facts were elicited:--About an hour before
our arrival, Mr. Vernor, accompanied by his ward, had called to see Mr.
Coleman, and, finding he was from home, had asked for a few minutes’
conversation with the lady of the house. His reason for so doing soon
appeared; he had received letters requiring his immediate presence in
London on business, which might probably detain him for a day or two;
and not liking to leave Miss Saville quite alone, he had called with the
intention of begging Mrs. Coleman to allow her niece, Lucy Markham, to
stay with her friend at Barstone Priory till his return, and to save her
from the horrors of solitude. This plan being rendered impracticable by
reason of Lucy’s absence.

~255~~ Mrs. Coleman proposed that Miss Saville should remain with
her till Mr. Vernor’s return, which, she added, would be conferring a
benefit on her, as her husband and son being both from home, she
was sadly dull without a companion. This plan having removed all
difficulties, Mr. Vernor proceeded on his journey without further delay.
Good Mrs. Coleman’s agitation on our arrival bad been produced by the
consciousness that Mr. Vernor would by no means approve of the addition
of two dangerous young men to the party; however, Freddy consoled her
by the ingenious sophism that it was much better for us to have
arrived together than for him to have returned alone, as we should
now neutralise each other’s attractions; and, while the young lady’s
pleasure in our society would be doubled, she would be effectually
guarded against falling in love with either of us, by reason of the
impossibility of her overlooking the equal merits of what Mrs. Coleman
would probably have termed “the survivor “. Having settled this knotty
point to his own satisfaction, and perplexed his mother into the belief
that our arrival was rather a fortunate circumstance than otherwise,
Freddy despatched her to break the glorious tidings, as he called it, to
the young lady, cautioning her to do so carefully, and by degrees, for
that joy was very often quite as dangerous in its effects as sorrow.

Having closed the door after her, he relieved his feelings by a slight
extempore hornpipe, and then slapping me on the back, exclaimed, “Here’s
a transcendent go! if this ain’t taking the change out of old Vernor,
I’m a Dutchman. Frank, you villain, you lucky dog, you’ve got it all
your own way this time; not a chance for me; I may as well shut up shop
at once, and buy myself a pair of pumps to dance in at your wedding.”

“My dear fellow, how can you talk such utter nonsense?” returned I,
trying to persuade myself that I was not pleased, but annoyed, at his
insinuations.

“It’s no nonsense, Master Frank, but, as I consider it, a very
melancholy statement of facts. Why, even putting aside your
‘_antécédents_,’ as the French have it, the roasted wrist, the burnt
ball-dress, and all the rest of it, look at your present advantages;
here you are, just returned from the university, covered with academical
honours, your cheeks paled by deep and abstruse study over the midnight
lamp; your eyes flashing with unnatural lustre, indicative of an
overwrought mind; a graceful languor softening the nervous energy
of your manner, and imparting additional tenderness to the ~256~~
fascination of your address; in fact, till you begin to get into
condition again you are the very beau ideal of what the women consider
interesting and romantic.”

“Well done, Freddy,” replied I, “we shall discover a hidden vein of
poetry in you some of these fine days; but talking of condition leads me
to ask what time your good mother intends us to dine?”

“There, now you have spoilt it all,” was the rejoinder; “however, viewed
abstractedly, and without reference to the romantic, it’s not such a bad
notion either. I’ll ring and inquire.”

He accordingly did so, and, finding we had not above half an hour to
wait, he proposed that we should go to our dressing-rooms and adorn
before we attempted to face “the enemy,” as he rudely designated Miss
Saville.

It was not without a feeling of trepidation, for which I should have
been at a loss to account, that I ventured to turn the handle of the
drawing-room door, where I expected to find the party assembled before
dinner. Miss Saville, who was seated on a low chair by Mrs. Coleman’s
side, rose quietly on my entrance, and advanced a step or two to meet
me, holding out her hand with the unembarrassed familiarity of an
old acquaintance. The graceful ease of her manner at once restored my
self-possession, and, taking her proffered hand, I expressed my pleasure
at thus unexpectedly meeting her again.

“You might have come here a hundred times without finding me, although
Mrs. Coleman is kind enough to invite me very often,” she replied. “But
I seldom leave home; Mr. Vernor always appears to dislike parting with
me.”

“I can easily conceive that,” returned I; “nay, although, in common with
your other friends, I am a sufferer by his monopoly, I can almost pardon
him for yielding to so strong a temptation.”

“I wish I could flatter myself that the very complimentary construction
you put upon it were the true one,” replied Miss Saville, blushing
slightly; “but I am afraid I should be deceiving myself if I were to
imagine my society were at all indispensable to my guardian. I believe
if you were to question him on the subject you would learn that his
system is based rather on the Turkish notion, that, in order to keep a
woman out of mischief, you must shut her up.”

“Really, Miss Saville,” exclaimed Coleman, who had entered the room in
time to overhear her speech, “I am shocked to find you comparing your
respectable and ~257~~ revered guardian to a heathen Turk, and
Frank Fairlegh, instead of reproving you for it, aiding, abetting,
encouraging, and, to speak figuratively, patting you on the back.”

“I’m sure, Freddy,” interrupted Mrs. Coleman, who had been aroused
from one of her customary fits of absence by the last few words, “Mr.
Fairlegh was doing nothing of the sort; he knows better than to think
of such a thing. And if he didn’t, do you suppose I should sit here
and allow him to take such liberties? But I believe it’s all your
nonsense--and where you got such strange ideas I’m sure I can’t tell;
not out of Mrs. Trimmer’s _Sacred History_, I’m certain, though you used
to read it with me every Sunday afternoon when you were a good little
boy, trying to look out of the window all the time, instead of paying
proper attention to your books.”

During the burst of laughter which followed this speech, and in which
Miss Saville, after an ineffectual struggle to repress the inclination,
out of respect to Mrs. Coleman, was fain to join, dinner was announced,
and Coleman pairing off with the young lady, whilst I gave my arm to the
old one, we proceeded to the dining-room.



CHAPTER XXXIII -- WOMAN’S A RIDDLE

          “Let mirth and music sound the dirge of care,
          But ask thou not if happiness be there.”
           _The Lord of the Isles_.

          “And here she came...
          And sang to me the whole Of those three stanzas.”
           _The Talking Oak._

          “Yet this is also true, that, long before,
          My heart was like a prophet to my heart,
          And told me I should love.”
           _Tennyson_.

“DON’T you consider Fairlegh to be looking very thin and pale, Miss
Saville?” inquired Coleman, when we joined the ladies after dinner,
speaking with an air of such genuine solicitude, that any one not
intimately acquainted with him must have imagined him in earnest. Miss
Saville, who was completely taken in, answered innocently, “Indeed
I have thought Mr. Fairlegh much altered since I had the pleasure of
meeting him before”; ~258~~ then, glancing at my face with a look of
unfeigned interest, which sent the blood bounding rapidly through my
veins, she continued: “You have not been ill, I hope?” I was hastening
to reply in the negative, and to enlighten her as to the real cause of
my pale looks, when Coleman interrupted me by exclaiming:--

“Ah! poor fellow, it is a melancholy affair. In those pale cheeks, that
wasted though still graceful form, and the weak, languid, and unhappy,
but deeply interesting _tout ensemble_, you perceive the sad results
of--am I at liberty to mention it?--of an unfortunate attachment.”

“Upon my word, Freddy, you are too bad,” exclaimed I half angrily,
though I could scarcely refrain from laughing, for the pathetic
expression of his countenance was perfectly irresistible. “Miss Saville,
I can assure you--let me beg of you to believe, that there is not a word
of truth in what he has stated.”

“Wait a moment, you’re so dreadfully fast, my dear fellow, you
won’t allow a man time to finish what he is saying,” remonstrated my
tormentor--“attachment to his studies I was going to add, only you
interrupted me.”

“I see I shall have to chastise you before you learn to behave yourself
properly,” replied I, shaking my fist at him playfully; “remember you
taught me how to use the gloves at Dr. Mildman’s, and I have not quite
forgotten the science even yet.”

“Hit a man your own size, you great big monster you,” rejoined Coleman,
affecting extreme alarm. “Miss Saville, I look to you to protect me from
his tyranny; ladies always take the part of the weak and oppressed.”

“But they do not interfere to shield evil-doers from the punishment due
to their misdemeanours,” replied Miss Saville archly.

“There now,” grumbled Freddy, “that’s always the way; every one turns
against me. I’m a victim, though I have not formed an unfortunate
attachment for--anything or anybody.”

“I should like to see you thoroughly in love for once in your life,
Freddy,” said I; “it would be as good as a comedy.”

“Thank ye,” was the rejoinder, “you’d be a pleasant sort of fellow to
make a confidant of, I don’t think. Here’s a man now, who calls himself
one’s friend, and fancies it would be ‘as good as a comedy’ to witness
the display of our noblest affections, and would have all the
tenderest emotions of our nature laid bare, for him to poke fun at--the
barbarian!” ~259~~ “I did not understand Mr. Fairlegh’s remark to apply
to _affaires du cour_ in general, but simply to the effects likely to be
produced in your case by such an attack,” observed Miss Saville, with a
quiet smile.

“A very proper distinction,” returned I; “I see that I cannot do better
than leave my defence in your hands.”

“It is quite clear that you have both entered into a plot against me,”
 rejoined Freddy; “well, never mind, _mea virtute me involvo_: I wrap
myself in a proud consciousness of my own immeasurable superiority, and
despise your attacks.”

“I have read, that to begin by despising your enemy, is one of the
surest methods of losing the battle,” replied Miss Saville.

“Oh! if you are going to quote history against me, I yield
at once--there is nothing alarms me so much as the sight of a
blue-stocking,” answered Freddy.

Miss Saville proceeded to defend herself with much vivacity against this
charge, and they continued to converse in the same light strain for some
time longer; Coleman, as usual, being exceedingly droll and amusing,
and the young lady displaying a decided talent for delicate and
playful _badinage_. In order to enter _con spirito_ into this style
of conversation, we must either be in the enjoyment of high health and
spirits, when our light-heartedness finds a natural vent in gay raillery
and sparkling repartee, or we must be suffering a sufficient degree of
positive unhappiness to make us feel that a strong effort is necessary
to screen our sorrow from the careless gaze of those around us. Now,
though Coleman had not been far wrong in describing me as “weak,
languid, and unhappy,” mine was not a positive, but a negative
unhappiness, a gentle sadness, which was rather agreeable than
otherwise, and towards which I was by no means disposed to use the
slightest violence. I was in the mood to have shed tears with the
love-sick Ophelia, or to moralise with the melancholy Jaques, but should
have considered Mercutio a man of no feeling, and the clown a “very poor
fool” indeed. In this frame of mind, the conversation appeared to me to
have assumed such an essentially frivolous turn, that I soon ceased to
take any share in it, and, turning over the leaves of a book of prints
as an excuse for my silence, endeavoured to abstract my thoughts
altogether from the scene around me, and employ them on some subject
less dissonant to my present tone of feeling. As is usually the result
in such cases, the attempt proved a dead failure, and I soon found
~260~~ myself speculating on the lightness and frivolity of women in
general, and of Clara Saville in particular.

“How thoroughly absurd and misplaced,” thought I, as her silvery laugh
rang harshly on my distempered ear, “were all my conjectures that she
was unhappy, and that, in the trustful and earnest expression of those
deep blue eyes, I could read the evidence of a secret grief, and a tacit
appeal for sympathy to those whom her instinct taught her were worthy of
her trust and confidence! Ah! well, I was young and foolish then (it was
not quite a year and a half ago), and imagination found an easy dupe in
me; one learns to see things in their true light as one grows older, but
it is sad how the doing so robs life of all its brightest illusions.”

It did not occur to me at that moment that there was a slight injustice
in accusing Truth of petty larceny in regard to a _bright_ illusion in
the present instance, as the fact (if fact it were) of proving that Miss
Saville was happy instead of miserable could scarcely be reckoned among
that class of offences.

“Come, Freddy,” exclaimed Mrs. Coleman, suddenly waking up to a sense of
duty, out of a dangerous little nap in which she had been indulging, and
which occasioned me great uneasiness, by reason of the opportunity it
afforded her for the display of an alarming suicidal propensity, which
threatened to leave Mr. Coleman a disconsolate widower, and Freddy
motherless.

As a warning to all somnolent old ladies, it may not be amiss to enter a
little more fully into detail. The attack commenced by her sitting bolt
upright in her chair, with her eyes so very particularly open, that
it seemed as if, in her case, Macbeth or some other wonder-worker had
effectually “murdered sleep”. By slow degrees, however, her eyelids
began to close; she grew less and less “wide awake,” and ere long was
fast as a church; her next move was to nod complacently to the company
in general, as if to demand their attention; she then oscillated gently
to and fro for a few seconds to get up the steam, and concluded the
performance by suddenly flinging her head back, with an insane jerk,
over the rail of the chair, at the imminent risk of breaking her neck,
uttering a loud snort of triumph as she did so.

Trusting the reader will pardon, and the humane society award me a medal
for this long digression, I resume the thread of my narrative.

“Freddy, my dear, can’t you sing us that droll Italian song your cousin
Lucy taught you? I’m sure poor Miss Saville must feel quite dull and
melancholy.”

~261~~ “Would to Heaven she did!” murmured I to myself. “Who is to play
it for me?” asked Coleman. “Well, my love, I’ll do my best,” replied his
mother; “and, if I should make a few mistakes, it will only sound all
the funnier, you know.”

This being quite unanswerable, the piano was opened, and, after Mrs.
Coleman’s spectacles had been hunted for in all probable places, and
discovered at last in the coal-scuttle, a phenomenon which that good
lady accounted for on the score of “John’s having flurried her so when
he brought in tea”; and when, moreover, she had been with difficulty
prevailed on to allow the music-book to remain the right way upwards,
the song was commenced.

As Freddy had a good tenor voice, and sang the Italian _buffa_ song with
much humour, the performance proved highly successful, although Mrs.
Coleman was as good as her word in introducing some original and
decidedly “funny” chords into the accompaniment, which would have
greatly discomposed the composer, if he had by any chance overheard
them.

“I did not know that you were such an accomplished performer, Freddy,”
 observed I; “you are quite an universal genius.”

“Oh, the song was capital!” said Miss Saville, “and Mr. Coleman sang it
with so much spirit.”

“Really,” returned Freddy, with a low bow, “you do me proud, as brother
Jonathan says; I am actually-- that is, positively--”

“My dear Freddy,” interrupted Mrs. Coleman, “I wish you would go and
fetch Lucy’s music; I’m sure Miss Saville can sing some of her songs;
it’s--let me see--yes, it’s either downstairs in the study, or in the
boudoir, or in the little room at the top of the house, or, if it isn’t,
you had better ask Susan about it.”

“Perhaps the shortest way will be to consult Susan at once,” replied
Coleman, as he turned to leave the room.

“I presume you prefer _buffa_ songs to music of a more pathetic
character?” inquired I, addressing Miss Saville.

“You judge from my having praised the one we have just heard, I
suppose?”

“Yes, and from the lively style of your conversation; I have been
envying your high spirits all the evening.”

“Indeed!” was the reply; “and why should you envy them?”

“Are they not an indication of happiness, and is not that an enviable
possession?” returned I.

“Yes, indeed!” she replied in a low voice, but with such passionate
earnestness as quite to startle me. “Is 262~~ laughing, then, such an
infallible indication of happiness?” she continued.

“One usually supposes so,” replied I.

To this she made no answer, unless a sigh can be called one, and,
turning away, began looking over the pages of a music-book.

“Is there nothing you can recollect to sing, my dear?” asked Mrs.
Coleman.

She paused for a moment as if in thought, ere she replied:--

“There is an old air, which I think I could remember; but I do not know
whether you will like it. The words,” she added, glancing towards me,
“refer to the subject on which we have just been speaking.”

She then seated herself at the instrument, and, after striking a few
simple chords, sang, in a sweet, rich soprano, the following stanzas;--

          I

          “Behold, how brightly seeming
          All nature shows:
          In golden sunlight gleaming,
          Blushes the rose.
          How very happy things must be
          That are so bright and fair to see!
          Ah, no! in that sweet flower,
          A worm there lies;
          And lo! within the hour,
          It fades--it dies.

          II

          “Behold, young Beauty’s glances
          Around she flings;
          While as she lightly dances,
          Her soft laugh rings:
          How very happy they must be,
          Who are as young and gay as she!
          ‘Tis not when smiles are brightest,
          So old tales say,
          The bosom’s lord sits lightest--
          Ah! well-a-day!

          III

          “Beneath the greenwood’s cover
          The maiden steals,
          And, as she meets her lover,
          Her blush reveals
          How very happy all must be
          Who love with trustful constancy.
          By cruel fortune parted,
          She learns too late,
          How some die broken-hearted--
          Ah! hapless fate!”

~263~~ The air to which these words were set was a simple, plaintive,
old melody, well suited to their expression, and Miss Saville sang with
much taste and feeling. When she reached the last four lines of the
second verse, her eyes met mine for an instant, with a sad, reproachful
glance, as if upbraiding me for having misunderstood her; and there was
a touching sweetness in her voice, as she almost whispered the refrain,
“Ah! well-a-day!” which seemed to breathe the very soul of melancholy.

“Strange, incomprehensible girl!” thought I, as I gazed with a feeling
of interest I could not restrain, upon her beautiful features, which
were now marked by an expression of the most touching sadness--“who
could believe that she was the same person who, but five minutes since,
seemed possessed by the spirit of frolic and merriment, and appeared to
have eyes and ears for nothing beyond the jokes and drolleries of Freddy
Coleman?”

“That’s a very pretty song, my dear,” said Mrs. Coleman; “and I’m very
much obliged to you for singing it, only it has made me cry so, it has
given me quite a cold in my head, I declare;” and, suiting the action
to the word, the tender-hearted old lady began to wipe her eyes, and
execute sundry other manoeuvres incidental to the malady she had named.
At this moment Freddy returned, laden with music-books. Miss Saville
immediately fixed upon a lively duet which would suit their voices,
and song followed song, till Mrs. Coleman, waking suddenly in a fright,
after a tremendous attempt to break her neck, which was very near
proving successful, found out that it was past eleven o’clock, and
consequently bed-time.

It can scarcely be doubted that my thoughts, as I fell asleep (for,
unromantic as it may appear, truth compels me to state that I never
slept better in my life), turned upon my unexpected meeting with Clara
Saville. The year and a half which had elapsed since the night of the
ball had altered her from a beautiful girl into a lovely woman. Without
in the slightest degree diminishing its grace and elegance, the outline
of her figure had become more rounded, while her features had acquired
a depth of expression which was not before observable, and which was the
only thing wanting to render them (I had almost said) perfect. In her
manner there was also a great alteration; the quiet reserve she had
maintained when in the presence of Mr. Vernor, and the calm frankness
displayed during our accidental meeting in Barstone ~264~~ Park, had
alike given way to a strange excitability, which at times showed
itself in the bursts of wild gaiety which had annoyed my fastidious
sensitiveness in the earlier part of the evening, at others in the deep
impassioned feeling she threw into her singing, though I observed that
it was only in such songs as partook of a melancholy and even despairing
character that she did so. The result of my meditations was, that the
young lady was an interesting enigma, and that I could not employ the
next two or three days to better advantage than in “doing a little bit
of OEdipus.” as Coleman would have termed it, or, in plain English,
“finding her out “;--and hereabouts I fell asleep.



CHAPTER XXXIV -- THE RIDDLE BAFFLES ME!

          “Your riddle is hard to read.”
           --_Tennyson_.

          ‘“Are you content?
          I am what you behold.
          And that’s a mystery.”
           _The Two Foscari_.

THE post next morning brought a letter from Mr. Vernor to say that,
as he found the business on which he was engaged must necessitate his
crossing to Boulogne, he feared there was no chance of his being able
to return under a week, but that, if it should be inconvenient for Mrs.
Coleman to keep Miss Saville so long at Elm Lodge, he should wish her
to go back to Barstone, where, if she was in any difficulty, she could
easily apply to her late hostess for advice and assistance. On being
brought clearly (though I fear the word is scarcely applicable to the
good lady’s state of mind at any time) to understand the position
of affairs, Mrs. Coleman would by no means hear of Miss Saville’s
departure; but, on the contrary, made her promise to prolong her stay
till her guardian should return, which, as Freddy observed, involved the
remarkable coincidence that if Mr. Vernor should be drowned in crossing
the British Channel, she (his mother) _would have put her foot in it_.
The same post brought Freddy a summons from his father, desiring him,
the moment he returned from Bury with the papers, to proceed to town
immediately. There was nothing left for him, therefore, but to deposit
himself upon the roof of the next coach, blue bag in hand, which he
accordingly did, after having spent the intervening time in reviling
~265~~ all lawyers, clients, deeds, settlements, in fact, every
individual thing connected with the profession, excepting fees.

“Clara and I are going for a long walk, Mr. Fairlegh, and we shall be
glad of your escort, if you have no objection to accompany us, and it is
not too far for you,” said Mrs. Coleman (who evidently considered me in
the last stage of a decline), trotting into the breakfast-room where
I was lounging, book in hand, over the fire, wondering what possible
pretext I could invent for joining the ladies.

“I shall be only too happy,” answered I, “and I think I can contrive to
walk as far as you can, Mrs. Coleman.” “Oh! I don’t know that,” was the
reply, “I am a capital walker, I assure you. I remember a young man,
quite as young as you, and a good deal stouter, who could not walk
nearly as far as I can; to be sure,” she added as she left the room, “he
had a wooden leg, poor fellow!”

I soon received a summons to start with the ladies, whom I found
awaiting my arrival on the terrace walk at the back of the house,
comfortably wrapped up in shawls and furs, for, although a bright sun
was shining, the day was cold and frosty.

“You must allow me to carry that for you,” said I, laying violent hands
on a large basket, between which and a muff Mrs. Coleman was in vain
attempting to effect an amicable arrangement.

“Oh, dear! I’m sure you’ll never be able to carry it--it’s so dreadfully
heavy,” was the reply.

“_Nous verrons_,” answered I, swinging it on my forefinger, in order to
demonstrate its lightness.

“Take care--you mustn’t do so!” exclaimed Mrs. Coleman in a tone of
extreme alarm; “you’ll upset all my beautiful senna tea, and it will get
amongst the slices of Christmas plum-pudding, and the flannel that I’m
going to take for poor Mrs. Muddles’s children to eat; do you know Mrs.
Muddles, Clara, my dear?”

Miss Saville replied in the negative, and Mrs. Coleman continued:--

“Ah! poor thing! she’s a very hard-working, respectable, excellent young
woman; she has been married three years, and has got six children--no!
let me see--it’s six years, and three children--that’s it--though I can
never remember whether it’s most pigs or children she has--four pigs,
did I say?--but it doesn’t much signify, for the youngest is a boy and
will soon be fat enough to kill--the pig I mean, and they’re all very
dirty, and have never ~266~~ been taught to read, because she takes in
washing, and has put a great deal too much starch in my night-cap this
week--only her husband drinks--so I mustn’t say much about it, poor
thing, for we all have our failings, you know.”

[Illustration: page266 An Unexpected Reverie]

With suchlike rambling discourse did worthy Mrs. Coleman beguile the
way, until at length, after a walk of some two miles and a half, we
arrived at the cottage of that much-enduring laundress, the highly
respectable Mrs. Muddles, where, in due form, we were introduced to the
mixed race of children and pigs, between which heads clearer than that
of Mrs. Coleman might have been at a loss to distinguish; for if the
pigs did not exactly resemble children, the children most assuredly
looked like pigs. Here we seemed likely to remain for some time, as
there was much business to be transacted by the two matrons. First, Mrs.
Coleman’s basket was unpacked, during which process that lady delivered
a long harangue, setting forth the rival merits of plum-pudding and
black draught, and ingeniously establishing a connexion between them,
which has rendered the former nearly as distasteful to me as the latter
ever since. Thence glancing slightly at the overstarched night-cap,
and delicately referring to the anti-teetotal propensities of the
laundress’s sposo, she contrived so thoroughly to confuse and interlace
the various topics of her discourse, as to render it an open question,
whether the male Muddles had not got tipsy on black draught, in
consequence of the plum-pudding having overstarched the night-cap;
moreover, she distinctly called the latter article “poor fellow!” twice.
In reply to this, Mrs. Muddles, the skin of whose hands was crimped
up into patterns like sea-weed, from the amphibious nature of her
employment, and whose general appearance was, from the same cause, moist
and spongy, expressed much gratitude for the contents of the basket,
made a pathetic apology to the night-cap, tried to ignore the imbibing
propensity of her better half; but, when pressed home upon the point,
declared that when he was not engaged in the Circe-like operation of
“making a beast of hisself,” he was one of the most virtuousest of men;
and finally wound up by a minute medical detail of Johnny’s chilblain,
accompanied by a slight retrospective sketch of Mary Anne’s departed
hooping-cough. How much longer the conversation might have continued,
it is impossible to say, for it was evident that neither of the speakers
had by any means exhausted her budget, had not Johnny, the unfortunate
proprietor of the chilblain above alluded to, seen fit to precipitate
himself, head-foremost, into a washing-tub ~267~~ of nearly scalding
water, whence his mamma, with great presence of mind and much
professional dexterity, extricated him, wrung him out, and set him on
the mangle to dry, where he remained sobbing, from a vague sense of humid
misery, till a more convenient season.

This little incident reminding Mrs. Coleman that the boiled beef,
preparing for our luncheon and the servants’ dinner, would inevitably be
overdone, induced her to take a hurried farewell of Mrs. Muddles, though
she paused at the threshold to offer a parting suggestion as to the
advisability, moral and physical, of dividing the wretched Johnny’s
share of plum-pudding between his brothers and sisters, and
administering a double portion of black draught by way of compensation,
an arrangement which elicited from that much-wronged child a howl of
mingled horror and defiance.

We had proceeded about a mile on our return, when Mrs. Coleman, who was
a step or two in advance, trod on a slide some boys had made, and would
have fallen had I not thrown my arm round her just in time to prevent
it.

“My dear madam,” exclaimed I, “you were as nearly as possible down; I
hope you have not hurt yourself.”

“No, my dear--I mean--Mr. Fairlegh; no! I hope I have not, except my
ankle. I gave that a twist somehow, and it hurts me dreadfully; but I
daresay I shall be able to go on in a minute.”

The good lady’s hopes, however, were not destined in this instance to be
fulfilled, for, on attempting to proceed, the pain increased to such an
extent, that she was forced, after limping a few steps, to seat herself
on a stone by the wayside, and it became evident that she must have
sprained her ankle severely, and would be utterly unable to walk home.
In this dilemma it was not easy to discover what was the best thing to
do--no vehicle could be procured nearer than Hillingford, from which
place we were at least two miles distant, and I by no means approved of
leaving my companions in their present helpless state during the space
of time which must necessarily elapse ere I could go and return. Mrs.
Coleman, who, although suffering from considerable pain, bore it with
the greatest equanimity and good nature, seeming to think much more
of the inconvenience she was likely to occasion us, than of her own
discomforts, had just hit upon some brilliant but totally impracticable
project, when our ears were gladdened by the sound of wheels, and
in another moment a little pony-chaise, drawn by a ~268~~ fat,
comfortable-looking pony, came in sight, proceeding in the direction of
Hillingford. As soon as the driver, a stout, rosy-faced gentleman, who
proved to be the family apothecary, perceived our party, he pulled
up, and, when he became aware of what had occurred, put an end to our
difficulties by offering Mrs. Coleman the unoccupied seat in his chaise.

“Sorry I can’t accommodate you also, Miss Saville,” he continued,
raising his hat; “but you see it’s rather close packing as it is. If I
were but a little more like the medical practitioner who administered a
sleeping draught to Master Romeo now, we might contrive to carry three.”

“I really prefer walking such a cold day as this, thank you, Mr.
Pillaway,” answered Miss Saville.

“Mind you take proper care of poor Clara, Mr. Fairlegh,” said Mrs.
Coleman, “and don’t let her sprain her ankle, or do anything foolish,
and don’t you stay out too long yourself and catch cold, or I don’t know
what Mrs. Fairlegh will say, and your pretty sister, too--what a
fat pony, Mr. Pillaway; you don’t give him much physic, I should
think--good-bye, my dears, good-bye--remember the boiled beef.”

As she spoke, the fat pony, admonished by the whip, described a circle
with his tail, frisked with the agility of a playful elephant, and then
set off at a better pace than from his adipose appearance I had deemed
him capable of doing.

“With all her oddity, what an unselfish, kind-hearted, excellent little
person Mrs. Coleman is!” observed I, as the pony-chaise disappeared at
an angle of the road.

“Oh! I think her charming,” replied my companion warmly, “she is so very
good-natured.”

“She is something beyond that,” returned I; “mere good-nature is a
quality I rate very low: a person may be good-natured, yet thoroughly
selfish, for nine times out of ten it is easier and more agreeable to
say ‘yes’ than ‘no’; but there is such an entire forgetfulness of self,
apparent in all Mrs. Coleman’s attempts to make those around her happy
and comfortable, that, despite her eccentricities, I am beginning to
conceive quite a respect for the little woman.”

“You are a close observer of character it seems, Mr. Fairlegh,” remarked
my companion.

“I scarcely see how any thinking person can avoid being so,” returned I;
“there is no study that appears to me to possess a more deep and varied
interest.”

“You make mistakes, though, sometimes,” replied ~269~~ Miss Saville,
glancing quickly at me with her beautiful eyes.

“You refer to my hasty judgment of last night,” said I, colouring
slightly. “The mournful words of your song led me to conclude that, in
one instance, high spirits might not be a sure indication of a light
heart; and yet I would fain hope,” added I in a half-questioning tone,
“that you merely sought to inculcate a general principle.”

“Is not that a very unusual species of heath to find growing in this
country?” was the rejoinder.

“Really, I am no botanist,” returned I, rather crossly, for I felt that
I had received a rebuff, and was not at all sure that I might not have
deserved it.

“Nay, but I will have you attend; you did not even look towards the
place where it is growing,” replied Miss Saville, with a half-imperious,
half-imploring glance, which it was impossible to resist.

“Is that the plant you mean?” asked I, pointing to a tuft of heath on
the top of a steep bank by the roadside.

On receiving a reply in the affirmative, I continued: “Then I will
render you all the assistance in my power, by enabling you to judge for
yourself “. So saying, I scrambled up the bank at the imminent risk of
my neck; and after bursting the button-holes of my straps, and tearing
my coat in two places with a bramble, I succeeded in gathering the
heath.

Elated by my success, and feeling every nerve braced and invigorated by
the frosty air, I bounded down the slope with such velocity, that, on
reaching the bottom, I was unable to check my speed, and only avoided
running against Miss Saville, by nearly throwing myself down backwards.

“I beg your pardon!” exclaimed I; “I hope I have not alarmed you by my
abominable awkwardness; but really the bank was so steep, that it was
impossible to stop sooner.”

“Nay, it is I who ought to apologise for having led you to undertake
such a dangerous expedition,” replied she, taking the heath which I had
gathered, with a smile which quite repaid me for my exertions.

“I do not know what could have possessed me to run down the bank in that
insane manner,” returned I; “I suppose it is this fine frosty morning
which makes one feel so light and happy.”

“Happy!” repeated my companion incredulously, and in a half-absent
manner, as though she were rather thinking aloud than addressing me.

~270~~ “Yes,” replied I, surprised; “why should I not feel so?”

“Is any one happy?” was the rejoinder.

“Very many people, I hope,” said I; “you do not doubt it, surely.”

“I well might,” she answered with a sigh.

“On such a beautiful day as this, with the bright clear sky above us,
and the hoar-frost sparkling like diamonds in the glorious sunshine, how
can one avoid feeling happy?” asked I.

“It is very beautiful,” she replied, after gazing around for a moment;
“and yet can you not imagine a state of mind in which this fair scene,
with all its varied charms, may impress one with a feeling of bitterness
rather than of pleasure, by the contrast it affords to the darkness and
weariness of soul within? Place some famine-stricken wretch beneath the
roof of a gilded palace, think you the sight of its magnificence would
give him any sensation of pleasure? Would it not rather, by increasing
the sense of his own misery, add to his agony of spirit?”

“I can conceive such a case possible,” replied I; “but you would make us
out to be all famine-stricken wretches at this rate: you cannot surely
imagine that every one is unhappy?”

“There are, no doubt, different degrees of unhappiness,” returned Miss
Saville; “yet I can hardly conceive any position in life so free from
cares, as to be pronounced positively happy; but I know my ideas on this
subject are peculiar, and I am by no means desirous of making a convert
of you, Mr. Fairlegh; the world will do that soon enough, I fear,” she
added with a sigh.

“I cannot believe it,” replied I warmly. “True, at times we must all
feel sorrow; it is one of the conditions of our mortal lot, and we must
bear it with what resignation we may, knowing that, if we but make a
fitting use of it, it is certain to work for our highest good; but if
you would have me look upon this world as a vale of tears, forgetting
all its glorious opportunities for raising our fallen nature to
something so bright and noble, as to be even here but little lower than
the angels, you must pardon me if I never can agree with you.”

There was a moment’s pause, when my companion resumed.

“You talk of opportunities of doing good, as being likely to increase
our stock of happiness; and, no doubt, you are right; but imagine
a situation, in which you are unable to take advantage of these
opportunities when ~271~~ they arise--in which you are not a free agent,
your will fettered and controlled on every point, so that you are alike
powerless to perform the good that you desire, and to avoid the evil you
both hate and fear--could you be happy in such a situation, think you?”

“You describe a case which is, or ought to be, impossible,” replied I;
“when I say ought to be, I mean that in these days, I hope and believe,
it is impossible for any one to be forced to do wrong, unless, from a
natural weakness and facility of disposition, and from a want of moral
courage, their resistance is so feeble, that those who seek to compel
them to evil are induced to redouble their efforts, when a little
firmness and decision clearly shown, and steadily adhered to, would have
produced a very different result.”

“Oh that I could think so!” exclaimed Miss Saville ardently: she paused
for a minute, as if in thought, and then resumed in a low mournful
voice, “But you do not know--you cannot tell; besides, it is useless to
struggle against destiny: there are people fated from childhood to grief
and misfortune--alone in this cold world”--she paused, then continued
abruptly, “you have a sister?”

“Yes,” replied I; “I have as good a little sister as ever man was
fortunate enough to possess--how glad I should be to introduce her to
you!”

“And you love each other?”

“Indeed we do, truly and sincerely.”

“And you are a man, one of the lords of the creation,” she continued,
with a slight degree of sarcasm in her tone. “Well, Mr. Fairlegh, I can
believe that you may be happy sometimes.”

“And what ami to conjecture about you?” inquired I, fixing my eyes upon
her expressive features.

“What you please,” returned she, turning away with a very becoming
blush--“or rather,” she added, “do not waste your time in forming any
conjectures whatever on such an uninteresting subject.”

“I am more easily interested than you imagine,” replied I, with a smile;
“besides, you know I am fond of studying character.”

“The riddle is not worth reading,” answered Miss Saville.

“Nevertheless, I shall not be contented till I have found it out; I
shall guess it before long, depend upon it,” returned I.

An incredulous shake of the head was her only reply, and we continued
conversing on indifferent subjects till we reached Elm Lodge.~272~~



CHAPTER XXXV -- A MYSTERIOUS LETTER

          “Good company’s a chess-board--there are kings,
          Queens, bishops, knights, rooks, pawns.
          The world’s a game.”
           _Byron_.

          “My soul hath felt a secret weight,
          A warning of approaching fate.”
           _Rokeby_.

          “Oh! lady, weep no more; lest I give cause
          To be suspected of more tenderness
          Than doth become a man.”
           _Shakspeare_.

THE next few days passed like a happy dream. Our little party remained
the same, no tidings being heard of any of the absentees, save a note
from Freddy, saying how much he was annoyed at being detained in town,
and begging me to await his return at Elm Lodge, or he would never
forgive me. Mrs. Coleman’s sprain, though not very severe, was yet
sufficient to confine her to her own room till after breakfast, and to
a sofa in the boudoir during the rest of the day; and, as a necessary
consequence, Miss Saville and I were chiefly dependent on each other for
society and amusement. We walked together, read Italian (Petrarch
too, of all the authors we could have chosen, to beguile us with his
picturesque and glowing love conceits), played chess, and, in short,
tried in turn the usual expedients for killing time in a country-house,
and found them all very “pretty pastimes” indeed. As the young lady’s
shyness wore off, and by degrees she allowed the various excellent
qualities of her head and heart to appear, I recalled Lucy Markham’s
assertion, that “she was as good and amiable as she was pretty,” and
acknowledged that she had only done her justice. Still, although her
manner was generally lively and animated, and at times even gay, I could
perceive that her mind was not at ease; and whenever she was silent,
and her features were in repose, they were marked by an expression of
hopeless dejection which it grieved me to behold. If at such moments
she perceived any one was observing her, she would rouse herself with
a sudden start, and join in the conversation with a degree of wild
vehemence and strange, unnatural gaiety, which to me had in it something
shocking. Latterly, however, as we became better acquainted, and felt
more at ease in ~273~~ each other’s society, these wild bursts of
spirits grew less frequent, or altogether disappeared, and she would
meet my glance with a calm melancholy smile, which seemed to say, “I am
not afraid to trust you with the knowledge that I am unhappy--you will
not betray me”. Yet, though she seemed to find pleasure in discussing
subjects which afforded opportunity for expressing the morbid and
desponding views she held of life, she never allowed the conversation to
take a personal turn, always skilfully avoiding the possibility of her
words being applied to her own case: any attempt to do so invariably
rendering her silent, or eliciting from her some gay piquant remark,
which served her purpose still better.

And how were my feelings getting on all this time? Was I falling in love
with this wayward, incomprehensible, but deeply interesting girl, into
whose constant society circumstances had, as it were, forced me? Reader,
this was a question which I most carefully abstained from asking myself.
I knew that I was exceedingly happy; and, as I wished to continue so,
I steadily forbore to analyse the ingredients of this happiness too
closely, perhaps from a secret consciousness, that, were I to do so,
I might discover certain awkward truths, which would prove it to be my
duty to tear myself away from the scene of fascination ere it was too
late. So I told myself that I was bound by my promise to Coleman to
remain at Elm Lodge till my mother and sister should return home, or,
at all events, till he himself came back: this being the case, I was
compelled by all the rules of good-breeding to be civil and attentive to
Miss Saville (yes, civil and attentive--I repeated the words over two or
three times; they were nice, quiet, cool sort of words, and suited the
view I was anxious to take of the case particularly well). Besides,
I might be of some use to her, poor girl, by combating her strange,
melancholy, half-fatalist opinions; at all events, it was my duty to
try, decidedly my duty (I said that also several times); and, as to my
feeling such a deep interest about her, and thinking of her continually,
why there was nothing else to think about at Elm Lodge--so that was
easily accounted for. All this, and a good deal more of the same nature,
did I tell myself; and, if I did not implicitly believe it, I was
much too polite to think of giving myself the lie, and so I continued
walking, talking, reading Petrarch, and playing chess with Miss Saville
all day, and dreaming of her all night, and being very happy indeed.

~274~~ Oh! it’s a dangerous game, by the way, that game of chess, with
its gallant young knights, clever fellows, up to all sorts of deep
moves, who are perpetually laying siege to queens, keeping them in
check, threatening them with the bishop, and, with his assistance,
mating at last; and much too nearly does it resemble the game of life
to be played safely with a pair of bright eyes talking to you from the
other side of the board, and two coral lips--mute, indeed, but in their
very silence discoursing such “sweet music” to your heart, that the
silly thing, dancing with delight, seems as if it meant to leap out of
your breast; and it is not mere seeming either--for hearts have been
altogether lost in this way before now. Oh! it’s a dangerous game, that
game of chess. But to return to my tale.

About a week after the expedition to Mrs. Muddles’s had taken place,
Freddy and his father returned, just in time for dinner. As I was
dressing for that meal Coleman came into my room, anxious to learn “how
the young lady had conducted herself” during his absence; whether I had
taken any unfair advantage, or acted honourably, and with a due regard
to his interest, with sundry other jocose queries, all of which appeared
to me exceedingly impertinent, and particularly disagreeable, and
inspired me with a strong inclination to take him by the shoulders and
march him out of the room; instead, however, of doing so, I endeavoured
to look amiable, and answer his inquiries in the same light tone in
which they were made, and I so far succeeded as to render the amount
of information he obtained exceedingly minute. The dinner passed off
heavily; Miss Saville was unusually silent, and all Freddy’s
sallies failed to draw her out. Mr. Coleman was very pompous, and so
distressingly polite, that everything like sociability was out of the
question. When the ladies left us, matters did not improve; Freddy,
finding the atmosphere ungenial to jokes, devoted himself to cracking
walnuts by original methods which invariably failed, and attempting to
torture into impossible shapes oranges which, when finished, were much
too sour for any one to eat; while his father, after having solemnly,
and at separate intervals, begged me to partake of every article of the
dessert twice over, commenced an harangue, in which he set forth the
extreme caution and reserve he considered it right and advisable for
young gentlemen to exercise in their intercourse with young ladies,
towards whom he declared they should maintain a staid deportment
of dignified ~275~~ courtesy, tempered by distant but respectful
attentions. This, repeated with variations, lasted us till the tea
was announced, and we returned to the drawing-room. Here Freddy made a
desperate and final struggle to remove the wet blanket which appeared to
have extinguished the life and spirit of the party, but in vain; it
had evidently set in for a dull evening, and the clouds were not to be
dispelled by any efforts of his;--nothing, therefore, remained for
him but to tease the cat, and worry and confuse his mother, to which
occupations he applied himself with a degree of diligence worthy a
better object. During a fearful commotion consequent upon the discovery
of the cat’s nose in the cream-jug, into the commission of which
delinquency Freddy had contrived to inveigle that amiable quadruped by
a series of treacherous caresses, I could not help remarking to Miss
Saville (next to whom I happened to be seated) the contrast between this
evening and those which we had lately spent together.

“Ah! yes,” she replied, in a half-absent manner, “I knew they were too
happy to last;” then seeing, from the flush of joy which I felt rise to
my brow, though I would have given worlds to repress it, that I had put
a wrong construction on her words, or, as my heart would fain have me
believe, that she had unconsciously admitted more than she intended,
she added hastily, “What I mean to say is, that the perfect freedom from
restraint, and the entire liberty to--to follow one’s own pursuits, are
pleasures to which I am so little accustomed, that I have enjoyed them
more than I was perhaps aware of while they lasted”.

“You are out of spirits this evening. I hope nothing has occurred to
annoy you?” inquired I.

“Do you believe in presentiments?” was the rejoinder.

“I cannot say I do,” returned I; “I take them to be little else than the
creations of our own morbid fancies, and attribute them in great measure
to physical causes.”

“But why do they come true, then?” she inquired. “I must answer your
question by another,” I replied, “and ask whether, except now and then
by accident, they do come true?”

“I think so,” returned Miss Saville, “at least I can only judge as one
usually does, more or less, in every case, by one’s own experience,--my
presentiments always appear to come true; would it were not so! for they
are generally of a gloomy nature.”

“Even yet,” replied I, “I doubt whether you do not ~276~~ unconsciously
deceive yourself, and I think I can tell you the reason; you remember
the times when your presentiments have come to pass, because you
considered such coincidences remarkable, and they made a strong
impression on your mind, while you forget the innumerable gloomy
forebodings which have never been fulfilled, the accomplishment being
the thing which fixes itself on your memory--is not this the case?”

“It may be so,” she answered, “and yet I know not--even now there is
a weight here,” and she pressed her hand to her brow as she spoke, “a
vague, dull feeling of dread, a sensation of coming evil, which tells
me some misfortune is at hand, some crisis of my fate approaching. I
daresay you consider all this very silly and romantic, Mr. Fairlegh; but
if you knew how everything I have most feared, most sought to avoid,
has invariably been forced upon me, you would make allowance for me--you
would pity me.”

What answer I should have made to this appeal, had not Fate interposed
in the person of old Mr. Coleman (who seated himself on the other side
of Miss Saville, and began talking about the state of the roads), it is
impossible to say. As it was my only reply was by a glance, which, if
it failed to convince her that I pitied her with a depth and intensity
which approached alarmingly near the kindred emotion, love, must have
been singularly inexpressive. And the evening came to an end, as all
evenings, however long, are sure to do at last; and in due course I went
to bed, but not to sleep, for Clara Saville and her forebodings ran riot
in my brain, and effectually banished the “soft restorer,” till such
time as that early egotist the cock began singing his own praises to his
numerous wives, when I fell into a doze, with a strong idea that I had
got a presentiment myself, though of what nature, or when the event
(if event it was) was likely to “come off,” I had not the most distant
notion.

The post-bag arrived while we were at breakfast the next morning; and
it so happened that I was the only one of the party for whom it did not
contain a letter. Having nothing, therefore, to occupy my attention, and
being seated exactly opposite Clara Saville, I could scarcely fail to
observe the effect produced by one which Mr. Coleman had handed to her.
When her eye first fell on the writing she gave a slight start, and a
flush (I could not decide whether of pleasure or anger) mounted to her
brow. As she perused the contents she grew deadly pale, and I feared
she was about to faint: recovering herself, ~277~~ however, by a strong
effort, she read steadily to the end, quietly refolded the letter, and,
placing it in a pocket in her dress, apparently resumed her breakfast--I
say apparently, for I noticed that, although she busied herself with
what was on her plate, it remained untasted, and she took the earliest
opportunity, as soon as the meal was concluded, of leaving the room.

“I’m afraid I must ask you to excuse me till after lunch, old fellow,”
 said Coleman, “you see we’re so dreadfully busy just now with this
confounded suit I went down to Bury about--‘Bowler _versus_ Stumps’;
but if you can amuse yourself till two o’clock we’ll go and have a jolly
good walk to shake up an appetite for dinner.”

“The very thing,” replied I; “I have a letter to Harry Oaklands which
has been on the stocks for the last four days, and which I particularly
wish to finish, and then I’m your man, for a ten-mile trot if you like
it.”

“So be it, then,” said Freddy, leaving the room as he spoke.

As soon as he was gone, instead of fetching my half-written epistle I
flung myself into an arm-chair, and devoted myself to the profitable
employment of conjecturing the possible cause of Clara Saville’s strange
agitation on receiving that letter. Who could it be from?--perhaps
her guardian;--but if so, why should she have given a start of
surprise?--nothing could have been more natural or probable than that he
should write and say when she might expect him home--she could not have
felt surprise at the sight of his handwriting--but if not from him, from
whom could it come? She had told me that she had no near relations, no
intimate friend. A lover perchance--well, and if it were so, what was
that to me?--nothing--oh yes! decidedly nothing--a favoured lover of
course, else why the emotion?--was this also nothing?--yes, I said
it was, and I tried to think so too: yet, viewing the matter so
philosophically, it was rather inconsistent to spring from my seat as if
an adder had stung me, and begin striding up and down the room as though
I were walking for a wager. In the course of my rapid promenade, my
coat-tail brushed against and nearly knocked down an inkstand, to which
incident I was indebted for the recollection of my unfinished letter
to Oaklands, and, my own thoughts being at that moment no over-pleasant
companions, I was glad of any excuse to get rid of them. On looking
about for my writing-case, however, I remembered that, when last I made
use of it, we were sitting in the boudoir, and that there it had ~278~~
probably remained ever since; accordingly, without further waste of
time, I ran upstairs to look for it.

As good Mrs. Coleman (although she most indignantly repelled the
accusation) was sometimes accustomed to indulge her propensity for
napping even in a morning, I opened the door of the boudoir, and closed
it again after me as noiselessly as possible. My precautions, however,
did not seem to have been necessary, for at first sight the room
appeared untenanted; but as I turned to look for my writing-case a
stifled sob met my ear, and a closer inspection enabled me to perceive
the form of Clara Saville, with her face buried in the cushions,
half-sitting, half-reclining on the sofa, while so silently had I
effected my entrance that as yet she was not aware of my approach. My
first impulse was to withdraw and leave her undisturbed, but unluckily
a slight noise which I made in endeavouring to do so attracted her
attention, and she started up in alarm, regarding me with a wild,
half-frightened gaze, as if she scarcely recognised me.

“I beg your pardon,” I began hastily, “I am afraid I have disturbed
you--I came to fetch--that is to look for--my--” and here I stopped
short, for to my surprise and consternation Miss Saville, after making
a strong but ineffectual effort to regain her composure, sank back upon
the sofa, and, covering her face with her hands, burst into a violent
flood of tears. I can scarcely conceive a situation more painful, or
in which it would be more difficult to know how to act, than the one
in which I now found myself. The sight of a woman’s tears must always
produce a powerful effect upon a man of any feeling, leading him to wish
to comfort and assist her to the utmost of his ability; but, if the fair
weeper be one in whose welfare you take the deepest interest, and yet
with whom you are not on terms of sufficient intimacy to entitle you
to offer the consolation your heart would dictate, the position becomes
doubly embarrassing. For my part, so overcome was I by a perfect chaos
of emotions, that I remained for some moments like one thunder-stricken,
while she continued to sob as though her heart were breaking. At length
I could stand it no longer, and scarcely knowing what I was going to
say or do, I placed myself on the sofa beside her, and taking one of her
hands, which now hung listlessly down, in my own, I exclaimed:--

“Miss Saville--Clara--dear Clara! I cannot bear to see you so unhappy,
it makes me miserable to look at you--tell me, what can I do to
help you--to comfort you--something must be possible--you have
no brother--let ~279~~ me be one to you--tell me why you are so
wretched--and oh! do not cry so bitterly!”

When I first addressed her she started slightly, and attempted to
withdraw her hand, but as I proceeded she allowed it to remain quietly
in mine, and though she still continued to weep, her tears fell more
softly, and she no longer sobbed in such a distressing manner. Glad to
find that I had in some measure succeeded in calming her, I renewed my
attempts at consolation, and again implored her to tell me the cause of
her unhappiness. Still for some moments she was unable to speak, but at
length making an effort to recover herself she withdrew her hand, and
stroking back her glossy hair, which had fallen over her forehead,
said:--

“This is very weak--very foolish. I do not often give way in this
manner, but it came upon me so suddenly--so unexpectedly; and now, Mr.
Fairlegh, pray leave me; I shall ever feel grateful to you for your
sympathy, for your offers of assistance, and for all the trouble you
have kindly taken about such a strange, wayward girl, as I am sure you
must consider me,” she added, with a faint smile.

“So you will not allow me to be of use to you,” returned I sorrowfully,
“you do not think me worthy of your confidence.”

“Indeed it is not so,” she replied earnestly; “there is no one of whose
judgment I think more highly; no one of whose assistance I would more
gladly avail myself; on whose honour I would more willingly rely; but
it is utterly impossible to help me. Indeed,” she added, seeing me still
look incredulous, “I am telling you what I believe to be the exact and
simple truth.”

“Will you promise me that, if at any time you should find that I could
be of use to you, you will apply to me as you would to a brother,
trusting me sufficiently to believe that I shall not act hastily, or
in any way which could in the slightest degree compromise or annoy you?
Will you promise me this?”

“I will,” she replied, raising her eyes to my face for an instant with
that sweet, trustful expression which I had before noticed, “though I
suppose such prudent people as Mr. Coleman,” she added with a slight
smile, “would consider me to blame for so doing; and were I like other
girls--had I a mother’s affection to watch over me--a father’s care to
shield me, they might be right; but situated as I am, having none to
care for me--nothing to rely on save my own weak heart and unassisted
judgment--while those who should guide and protect me ~280~~ appear only
too ready to avail themselves of my helplessness and inexperience--I
cannot afford to lose so true a friend, or believe it to be my duty to
reject your disinterested kindness.”

A pause ensued, during which I arrived at two conclusions--first, that
my kindness was not altogether so disinterested as she imagined; and
secondly, that if I sat where I was much longer, and she continued to
talk about there being nobody who cared for her, I should inevitably
feel myself called upon to undeceive her, and, as a necessary
consequence, implore her to accept my heart and share my patrimony--the
latter, deducting my sister’s allowance and my mother’s jointure,
amounting to the imposing sum of £90 14s. 6d. per annum, which,
although sufficient to furnish a bachelor with bread and cheese and
broad-cloth, was not exactly calculated to afford an income for
“persons about to marry”. Accordingly, putting a strong force upon
my inclinations, and by a desperate effort screwing my virtue to the
sticking point, I made a pretty speech, clenching, and thanking her for
her promise of applying to me to help her out of the first hopelessly
inextricable dilemma in which she might find herself involved, and rose
with the full intention of leaving the room.



CHAPTER XXXVI -- THE RIDDLE SOLVED

          “Think’st thou there’s virtue in constrained vows,
          Half utter’d, soulless, falter’d forth in fear?
          And if there is, then truth and grace are nought.”
           _Sheridan Knowles_.

          “For The contract you pretend with that base wretch,
          It is no contract--none.”
           _Shakspeare_.

          “Who hath not felt that breath in the air,
          A perfume and freshness strange and rare,
          A warmth in the light, and a bliss everywhere,
          When young hearts yearn together?
          All sweets below, and all sunny above,
          Oh! there’s nothing in life like making Love,
          Save making hay in fine weather!
          _Hood_.

UPON what trifles do the most important events of our lives turn! Had
I quitted the room according to my intention, I should not have had
an opportunity of seeing Miss Saville alone again (as she returned to
Barstone ~281~~ that afternoon), in which case she would probably have
forgotten, or felt afraid to avail herself of my promised assistance,
all communication between us would have ceased, and the deep interest I
felt in her, having nothing wherewith to sustain itself, would, as years
passed by, have died a natural death.

Good resolutions are, however, proverbially fragile, and, in nine
cases out of ten, appear made, like children’s toys, only to be broken.
Certain it is, that in the present instance mine were rendered of none
avail, and, for any good effect that they produced, might as well never
have been formed.

As I got up to leave the room Miss Saville rose likewise, and in doing
so accidentally dropped a, or rather the, letter, which I picked up,
and was about to return to her, when suddenly my eye fell upon the
direction, and I started as I recognised the writing--a second glance
served to convince me that I had not been mistaken, for the hand was a
very peculiar one; and, turning to my astonished companion, I exclaimed,
“Clara, as you would avoid a life of misery, tell me by what right this
man dares to address you!”

[Illustration: page281 The Discovery]

“What! do you know him, then?” she inquired anxiously.

“If he be the man I mean,” was my answer, “I know him but too well,
and he is the only human being I both dislike and despise. Was not that
letter written by Richard Cumberland?”

“Yes, that is his hateful name,” she replied, shuddering while she
spoke, as at the aspect of some loathsome thing; then, suddenly changing
her tone to one of the most passionate entreaty, she clasped her hands,
and advancing a step towards me, exclaimed:--

“Oh! Mr. Fairlegh, only save me from _him_, and I will bless you,
will pray for you!” and completely overcome by her emotion, she sank
backwards, and would have fallen had not I prevented it.

There is a peculiar state of feeling which a man sometimes experiences
when he has bravely resisted some hydra-headed temptation to do anything
“pleasant but wrong,” yet which circumstances appear determined to force
upon him: he struggles against it boldly at first; but, as each
victory serves only to lessen his own strength, while that of the enemy
continues unimpaired, he begins to tell himself that it is useless to
contend longer--that the monster is too strong for him, and he yields at
last, from a mixed feeling of fatalism and irritation--a sort of ~282~~
“have-it-your-own-way-then” frame of mind, which seeks to relieve itself
from all responsibility by throwing the burden on things in general--the
weakness of human nature--the force of circumstances--or any other
indefinite and conventional scapegoat, which may serve his purpose of
self-exculpation.

In much such a condition did I now find myself; I felt that I was
regularly conquered--completely taken by storm--and that nothing was
left for me but to yield to my destiny with the best grace I could. I
therefore seated myself by Miss Saville on the sofa, and whispered, “You
must promise me one thing more, Clara, dearest--say that you will
love me--give me but that right to watch over you--to protect you, and
believe me neither Cumberland, nor any other villain, shall dare for the
future to molest you”.

As she made no answer, but remained with her eyes fixed on the ground,
while the tears stole slowly down her cheeks, I continued--“You own that
you are unhappy--that you have none to love you--none on whom you can
rely;--do not then reject the tender, the devoted affection of one who
would live but to protect you from the slightest breath of sorrow--would
gladly die, if, by so doing, he could secure your happiness”.

“Oh! hush, hush!” she replied, starting, as if for the first time aware
of the tenor of my words; “you know not what you ask; or even you, kind,
noble, generous as you are, would not seek to link your fate with one
so utterly wretched, so marked out for misfortune as myself. Stay,”
 she continued, seeing that I was about to speak, “hear me out. Richard
Cumberland, the man whom you despise, and whom I hate only less than
I fear, that man have I promised to marry, and, ere this, he is on his
road hither to claim the fulfilment of the engagement.”

“Promised to marry Cumberland!” repeated I mechanically, “a low,
dissipated swindler--a common cheat, for I can call him nothing better;
oh, it’s impossible!--why, Mr. Vernor, your guardian, would never permit
it.”

“My _guardian_!” she replied, in a tone of the most cutting irony: “were
it not for him this engagement would never have been formed; were it
not for him I should even now hope to find some means of prevailing upon
this man to relinquish it, and set me free. Richard Cumberland is Mr.
Vernor’s nephew, and the dearest wish of his heart is to see us united.”

“He never shall see it while I live to prevent it!” ~283~~ replied I,
springing to my feet, and pacing the room with angry strides.

“Oh, it was all plain to me now! when I had fancied her guardian’s
features were not unfamiliar to me, it was his likeness to Cumberland
which had deceived me; his rudeness on the night of the ball; the
strange dislike he appeared to feel towards me;--all was now accounted
for. His opinion of me, formed from Cumberland’s report, was not likely
to be a very favourable one; and this precious uncle and nephew were
linked in a scheme to destroy the happiness of the sweetest girl living,
the brightness of whose young spirit was already darkened by the shade
of their vile machinations: but they had not as yet succeeded; and if
the most strenuous and unceasing exertions on my part could serve to
prevent it, I inwardly vowed they never should. Let Master Richard
Cumberland look to himself; I had foiled him once, and it would go hard
with me but I would do so again.”

Having half thought, half uttered the foregoing resolutions, I once more
turned towards Miss Saville, who sat watching me with looks of interest
and surprise, and said: “This is a most strange and unexpected affair;
but remember, dear Clara, you have appealed to me to save you from
Cumberland, and, to enable me to do so, you must tell me exactly how
matters stand between you, and, above all, how and why you were induced
to enter into this engagement, for I hope--I think--I am right in
supposing--that affection for him had nothing to do with it”.

“Affection!” she replied, in a tone of voice which, if any doubts still
lingered in my mind, effectually dispelled them; “have I not already
said that I hate this man as, I fear, it is sinful to hate any human
being? I disliked and dreaded him when we were boy and girl together,
and these feelings have gone on increasing year by year, till my
aversion to him has become one of the most deeply-rooted instincts of my
nature.”

“And yet you allowed yourself to be engaged to him?” inquired I. “How
could this have been brought about?”

“You may well ask,” was the reply; “it was folly; it was weakness; but
I was very young--a mere child in fact; and they made me believe that it
was my duty; then I hoped, I felt sure that I should die before the time
arrived to fulfil the engagement; I fancied it was impossible to be so
miserable, and yet to live: but Death is very cruel--he will not come to
those who pine for him.”

~284~~ “Clara,” interrupted I, “I cannot bear to hear you say such
things; it is not right to give way to these feelings of despair.”

“Is it wrong for the unhappy to wish to die?” she asked, with a calm
child-like simplicity which was most touching. “I suppose it is,” she
continued, “for I have prayed for death so often, that God would have
granted my prayer if it had been a right one. When I closed my eyes last
night, oh! how I hoped--how I longed--never to open them again in this
miserable world--for I felt that evil was at hand: you laughed at my
presentiment: it has come true, you see.”

“Believe me, you do wrong in giving way to these despairing thoughts--in
encouraging these morbid fancies,” returned I. “But time presses; will
you not tell me the particulars of this unhappy engagement, that I may
see how far you stand committed to this scoundrel Cumberland, and decide
what is best to be done for the future?”

“It is a long story,” she replied; “but I will tell it you as shortly as
I can.”

She then proceeded to inform me, that her mother having died when she
was an infant, she had become the idol of her surviving parent, who,
inconsolable for the loss of his wife, lavished all his tenderness upon
his little girl. She described her childhood as the happiest part of
her life, although it must have been happiness of a tranquil nature,
differing greatly from the boisterous merriment of children in general;
its chief ingredient being the strong affection which existed between
her father and herself. The only guest who ever appeared at the Priory
(which I now for the first time learned had been the property of Sir
Henry Saville) was his early friend, Mr. Vernor, who used periodically
to visit them, an event to which she always looked forward with
pleasure, not so much on account of the presents and caresses he
bestowed on herself, as that his society appeared to amuse and interest
her father. On one of these occasions, when she was about nine years of
age, Mr. Vernor was accompanied by a lad some years older than herself,
whom he introduced as his nephew. During his visit, the boy, who
appeared gifted with tact and cunning beyond his years, contrived so
much to ingratiate himself with Sir Henry Saville, that before he left
the Priory, his host, who had himself served with distinction in the
Peninsula, expressed his readiness to send him, on attaining a fit age,
to one of the military colleges, promising to use his interest at
the Horse Guards to procure a commission for him. These ~285~~ kind
intentions, however, were fated not to be carried out. An old wound
which Sir Henry had received at Vimiera broke out afresh, occasioning
the rupture of a vessel on the lungs, and in the course of a few hours
Clara was left fatherless. On examining the private papers of the
deceased, it appeared that Mr. Vernor was constituted sole executor,
trustee for the property, and guardian to the young lady. In these
various capacities he immediately took up his residence at Barstone, and
assumed the direction of everything. And now for the first time did his
true character appear--sullen and morose in temper, stern and inflexible
in disposition, cold and reserved in manner, implacable when offended,
requiring implicit obedience to his commands; he seemed calculated to
inspire fear instead of love, aversion rather than esteem. The only
sign of feeling he ever showed was in his behaviour towards Richard
Cumberland, for whom he evidently entertained a strong affection. The
idea of a military career having been abandoned at Sir Henry Saville’s
death, much of his time was now spent at the Priory. Although he was
apparently fond of his little companion, and endeavoured on every
occasion to render himself agreeable to her, all his habitual cunning
could not conceal from her his vile temper, or the unscrupulous means of
which he was always willing to avail himself in order to attain his own
ends. He had been away from the Priory on one occasion more than a
year, when he suddenly returned with his uncle, who had been in town on
business. He appeared sullen and uncomfortable, and she imagined that
they must have had a quarrel. She was at that time nearly fifteen, and
the marked devotion which Cumberland (who during his absence had greatly
improved both in manner and appearance) now paid her, flattered and
pleased her; and, partly for this reason, partly because she had already
learned to dread his outbreaks of temper, and was unwilling to do
anything which might provoke one of them, she allowed him to continue
his attentions unrepulsed. This went on for some weeks, and her old
dislike was beginning to return as she saw more of her companion, when
one morning Mr. Vernor called her into his study, and informed her
that he considered she had arrived at an age when it was right that
she should become aware of the arrangements he had made for her, in
accordance with the wishes of her late father. He then showed her a
letter in Sir Henry Saville’s handwriting, dated only a few weeks before
his death, part of which was to the following effect; “You urge ~286~~
the fact of your nephew’s residing with you as an objection to my
scheme for your living at Barstone, and assuming the guardianship of my
daughter, in the event (which, if I may trust my own sensations, is not
very far distant) of her being left an orphan. From what I have seen of
the boy, as well as on the score of our old friendship, my dear Vemor,
that which you view as an objection, I consider but an additional reason
why the arrangement should take place. A marriage with your nephew
would ensure my child (who as my sole heiress will be possessed of
considerable wealth) from that worst of all fates, falling a prey
to some needy fortune-hunter; and, should such a union ever be
contemplated, let me beg of you to remember, and to impress upon
Clara herself, that had I lived it would have met with my warmest
approbation.”

Having shown her this letter, Mr. Vemor went on to say that he had
noticed with pleasure Richard’s growing attachment, and the marked
encouragement she had given him, and that, although they were too young
to think of marrying for some years, and, as a general principle, he
was averse to long engagements, yet, under the peculiar circumstances in
which they were placed, he had yielded to his nephew’s importunity, and
determined not only to lay his offer before her, but to allow her to
accept it at once, if (as from her manner he could scarcely be mistaken
in supposing) her inclinations were in accordance with his.

Taken completely by surprise at this announcement, overpowered by
the idea that by the encouragement she had given Cumberland she had
irretrievably committed herself--strongly affected by her father’s
letter--having no one to advise her, what wonder that the persuasions
of the nephew, backed by the authority of the uncle, prevailed over
her youth and inexperience, and that the matter ended in her allowing
herself to be formally engaged to Richard Cumberland.

Little more remained for her to tell; reckoning that he had gained his
point, Cumberland became less careful in concealing the evil of his
disposition, and her dislike to him and fear of him increased every
day. At length this became evident to Mr. Vemor, but it appeared only
to render him still more determined to bring about the match; and when
once, nearly a twelvemonth before, she had implored him to allow her to
break off the engagement, he had exhibited so much violence, declaring
that he possessed the power of rendering her a beggar, and even
threatening to turn her out of doors, that she had never dared to recur
to the ~287~~subject. For many months, however, she had seen nothing
of her persecutor, and she had almost begun to hope that something had
rendered him averse to the match, when all her fears were again aroused
by a hint which Mr. Vemor had thrown out as he took leave of her at
Mrs. Coleman’s, desiring her to exercise great circumspection in her
behaviour, and to recollect that she was under a solemn engagement,
which she might before long be called upon to fulfil. The letter from
Cumberland, she added, spoke of his immediate return to claim her hand,
and a few lines from Mr. Vemor ordered her to await their arrival at
Barstone.

“And now,” she continued, looking up with that calm hopeless smile which
was so painful to behold, “have I not cause to be unhappy, and was I not
right in telling you that no one could be of any assistance to me, or
afford me help?”

“No!” replied I warmly; “I trust and believe that much may be done--nay,
everything; but you are unequal to contend with these men alone; only
allow me to hope that my affection is not utterly distasteful to you.
Would you but give me that right to interfere in your behalf!”

“This is ungenerous--unlike yourself,” she interrupted. “Have you
already forgotten that I am the promised bride of Richard Cumberland?
Were I free, indeed----”

“Oh! why do you pause?” exclaimed I passionately. “Clara, hear
me--you deem it ungenerous in me to urge my suit upon you at this
moment--perhaps think that I would take advantage of the difficulties
which surround you, to induce you to promise me your hand as the price
of my assistance. It is true that I love you deeply, devotedly, and the
happiness of my whole life is centred in the hope of one day calling
you my own; but I would use my utmost endeavours to save you from
Cumberland, even though I knew that by so doing I forfeited all chance
of ever seeing you again. Tell me, would you wish this to be so--am I to
believe that you dislike me?”

As she made no reply, merely blushing deeply, and casting down her eyes,
I ventured to continue: “Clara, dearest Clara, do you then love me?”

Well, reader, I think I’ve told you quite as much about it as you have
any business to know. Of course she did not say she loved me--women
never do upon such occasions; but I was just as well contented as it
was. Mendelssohn has composed songs without words (_Lieder ohne Worte_),
which tell their own tale very prettily, and there have been many
eloquent speeches made on a like silent system. ~288~~ Suffice it to
add, that the next ten minutes formed such a nice, bright, sunshiny
little piece of existence as might deserve to be cut out of the book
of time, and framed, glazed, and hung up for the inspection of all true
lovers; whilst no match-making mamma, fortune-hunting younger brother,
or girl of business on the look-out for a good establishment, should be
allowed a glimpse of it at any price.



CHAPTER XXXVII -- THE FORLORN HOPE

          “--Cumberland seeks thy hand;
          His shall it be--nay, no reply;
          Hence till those rebel eyes be dry.”
           _The Lord of the Isles_.

FREDDY COLEMAN was cheated of his walk that afternoon; for an old maiden
lady in the neighbourhood, having read in a Sunday paper that the plague
was raging with great fury at Constantinople, thought it as well to be
prepared for the worst, and summoned Mr. Coleman to receive directions
about making her will--and he, being particularly engaged, sent Freddy
in his stead, who set out on the mission in a state of comic ill-humour,
which bid fair to render Mrs. Aikinside’s will a very original document
indeed, and foreboded for that good old lady herself an unprecedented
and distracting afternoon.

I had assisted Mr. Coleman in conducting Clara Saville to the carriage
which arrived to convey her to Barstone, and had received a kind glance
and a slight pressure of the hand in return, which I would not have
exchanged for the smiles of an empress, when, anxious to be alone with
my own thoughts, I started off for a solitary walk, nor did I relax my
pace till I had left all traces of human habitation far behind me,
and green fields and leafless hedges were my only companions. I then
endeavoured in some measure to collect my scattered thoughts, and to
reflect calmly on the position in which I had placed myself, by the
avowal the unexpected events of the morning had hurried me into. But so
much was I excited, that calm reflection appeared next to impossible.
Feeling--flushed with the victory it had obtained over its old
antagonist, Reason--seemed, in every sense of the word, to have gained
the day, and, despite all the ~289~~ difficulties that lay before
me--difficulties which I knew must appear all but insurmountable,
whenever I should venture to look them steadily in the face--the one
idea that Clara Saville loved me was ever present with me, and rendered
me supremely happy.

The condition of loving another better than one’s self, conventionally
termed being “in love,” is, to say the least, a very doubtful kind of
happiness; and poets have therefore, with great propriety, described
it as “pleasing pain,” “delicious misery,” and in many other terms of
a like contradictory character; nor is it possible that this should
be otherwise: love is a passion, wayward and impetuous in its very
nature--agitating and disquieting in its effects, rendering its votary
the slave of circumstances--a mere shuttlecock alternating between the
extremes of hope and fear, joy and sorrow, confidence and mistrust--a
thing which a smile can exalt to the highest pinnacle of delight, or
a frown strike down to the depths of despair. But in the consciousness
that we are beloved, there is none of this questionable excitement; on
the contrary, we experience a sensation of deep calm joy, as we
reflect that in the true affection thus bestowed on us we have gained
a possession which the cares and struggles of life are powerless to
injure, and which death itself, though it may interrupt for awhile,
will fail to destroy. These thoughts, or something like them, having
entrenched themselves in the stronghold of my imagination, for some time
held their ground gallantly against the attacks of common sense; but at
length, repulsed on every point, they deemed it advisable to capitulate,
or (to drop metaphor, a style of writing I particularly abominate,
perhaps because I never more than half understand what it means) in
plain English, I, with a sort of grimace, such as one makes before
swallowing a dose of physic, set myself seriously to work to reflect
upon my present position, and decide on the best line of conduct to be
pursued for the future.

Before our conference came to an end, I had made Clara acquainted
with my knowledge of Cumberland’s former delinquencies, as well as the
reputation in which he was now held by such of his associates as had
any pretension to the title of gentlemen, and added my conviction, that,
when once these facts were placed before Mr. Vernor, he must see that
he could not, consistently with his duty as guardian, allow his ward to
marry a man of such character. Cumberland had no doubt contrived to keep
his uncle in ignorance of his mode of life, ~290~~ and it would only be
necessary to enlighten him on that point to ensure his consent to her
breaking off the engagement. Clara appeared less sanguine of success,
even hinting at the possibility of Mr. Vernor’s being as well informed
in regard to his nephew’s real character as we were; adding, that his
mind was too firmly set on the match for him to give it up lightly. It
was finally agreed between us, that she was to let me know how affairs
went on after Mr. Vernor’s return, and, in the meantime, I was to give
the matter my serious consideration, and decide on the best course
for us to follow. The only person in the establishment whom she could
thoroughly trust was the extraordinary old footman (the subject of
Lawless’s little bit of diplomacy), who had served under her father in
the Peninsula, and accompanied him home in the character of confidential
servant. He had consequently known Clara from a child, and was
strongly-attached to her, so that she had learned to regard him more
in the light of a friend than a servant. Through this somewhat original
substitute for a confidant, we arranged to communicate with each other.

As to my own line of conduct, I very soon decided on that. I would
only await a communication from Clara to assure me that Mr. Vernor’s
determination with regard to her remained unchanged, ere I would seek
an interview with him, enlighten him as to Cumberland’s true character,
acquaint him with Clara’s aversion to the match, and induce him to allow
of its being broken off. I should then tell him of my own affection for
her, and of my intention of coming forward to demand her hand, as soon
as, by my professional exertions, I should have realised a sufficient
independence to enable me to marry. As to Clara’s fortune, if fortune
she had, she might build a church, endow an hospital, or buy herself
bonnet ribbons with it, as she pleased, for not a farthing of it would
I ever touch on any consideration. No one should be able to say, that it
was for the sake of her money I sought to win her.

Well, all this was very simple, straightforward work;--where, then, were
the difficulties which had alarmed me so greatly? Let me see--Mr. Vernor
might choose to fancy that it would take some years to add to the
£90 14s. 6£d. sufficiently to enable me to support a wife, and might
disapprove of his ward’s engaging herself to me on that account. What if
he did? I wished for no engagement--let her remain free as air--her own
true affection would stand my friend, and on that I could rely, ~291~~
content, if it failed me, to--to--well, it did not signify what I might
do in an emergency which never could arise. No! only let him promise not
to force her inclinations--to give up his monstrous project of wedding
her to Cumberland--and to leave her free to bestow her hand on whom she
would--and I should be perfectly satisfied. But suppose, as Clara
seemed to fear, he should refuse to break off the engagement with his
nephew--suppose he should forbid mo the house, and, taking advantage
of my absence, use his authority to force on this hateful marriage! All
that would be extremely disagreeable, and I could not say I exactly saw,
at the moment, what means I should be able to employ, effectually to
prevent it. Still it was only a remote contingency--an old man like him,
with one foot, as you might say, in the grave (he could not have been
above sixty, and his constitution, like everything else about him,
appeared of cast-iron), must have some conscience, must pay some little
regard to right and wrong: it would only be necessary to open his eyes
to the enormity of wedding beauty and innocence such as Clara’s to
a scoundrel like Cumberland--aman destitute of every honourable
feeling--oh! he must see that the thing was impossible, and, as the
thought passed through my mind, I longed for the moment when I should be
confronted with him, and able to tell him so.

And Clara, too! sweet, bewitching, unhappy Clara! what must not she have
gone through, ere a mind, naturally buoyant and elastic as hers, could
have been crushed into a state of such utter dejection, such calm,
spiritless despair! her only wish, to die--her only hope, to find in the
grave a place “where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary
are at rest!” But brighter days were in store for her--it should be my
ambition to render her married life so happy, that, if possible, the
recollection of all she had suffered having passed away, her mind should
recover its natural tone, and even her lightness of heart, which the
chill atmosphere of unkindness for a time had blighted, should revive
again in the warm sunshine of affection.

Thus meditating, I arrived at Elm Lodge in a state of feeling containing
about equal parts of the intensely poetical and the very decidedly
hungry.

On the second morning after the events I have described, a note was
brought to me whilst I was dressing. With trembling fingers I tore open
the envelope, and read as follows:--

“I promised to inform you of what occurred on my ~292~~ return here, and
I must therefore do so, though what I have to communicate will only give
you pain. All that my fears pointed at has come to pass, and my
doom appears irrevocably sealed. Late on the evening of my return to
Barstone, Mr. Vernor and his nephew arrived. I shall never forget the
feeling of agony that shot through my brain, as Richard Cumberland’s
footstep sounded in the hall, knowing, as I too well did, the purpose
with which he was come. I fancied grief had in great measure deadened my
feelings, but that moment served to undeceive me--the mixture of horror,
aversion, and fear, combined with a sense of utter helplessness and
desolation, seemed, as it were, to paralyse me.

“But I know not why I am writing all this. The evening passed off
without anything particular taking place. Mr. Cumberland’s manner
towards me was regulated by the most consummate tact and cunning,
allowing the deep interest he pretends to feel in me to appear in every
look and action, yet never going far enough to afford me an excuse for
repulsing him. This morning, however, I have had an interview with Mr.
Vernor, in which I stated my repugnance to the marriage as strongly as
possible. He was fearfully irritated, and, at length, on my repeating
my refusal, plainly told me that it was useless for me to resist his
will--that I was in his power, and, if I continued obstinate, I must be
made to feel it. Oh! that man’s anger is terrible to witness: it is not
that he is so violent--he never seems to lose his self-control--but says
the most cutting things in a tone of calm, sarcastic bitterness, which
lends double force to all he utters. I feel that it is useless for us
to contend against fate: you cannot help me, and would only embroil
yourself with these men were you to attempt to do so. I shall ever look
back upon the few days we spent together as a bright spot in the dark
void of my life--that life which you preserved at the risk of your own.
Alas! you little knew the cruel nature of the gift you were bestowing.
And now, farewell for ever! That you may find all the happiness your
kindness and generosity deserve, is the earnest prayer of one, whom, for
her sake, as well as your own, you must strive to forget.”

“If I do forget her,” exclaimed I, as I pressed the note to my lips,
“may I----Well, never mind, I’ll go over and have it out with that old
brute this very morning, and we’ll see if he can frighten me.” And so
saying, I set to work to finish dressing, in a great state of virtuous
indignation. ~293~~ “Freddy,” inquired I, when breakfast was at length
concluded, “where can I get a horse?”

“Get a horse?” was the reply. “Oh! there are a great many places--it
depends upon what kind of horse you want: for race-horses,
steeple-chasers, and hunters, I would recommend Tattersall’s; for hacks
or machiners, there’s Aldridge’s, in St. Martin’s Lane; while Dixon’s,
in the Barbican, is the place to pick up a fine young carthorse--is it a
young cart-horse you want?”

“My dear fellow, don’t worry me,” returned I, feeling very cross,
and trying to look amiable; “you know what I mean; is there anything
rideable to be hired in Hilling-ford? I have a call to make which is
beyond a walk.”

“Let me see,” replied Freddy, musing; “you wouldn’t like a very little
pony, with only one eye and a rat-tail, I suppose--it might look absurd
with your long legs, I’m afraid--or else Mrs. Meek, the undertaker’s
widow, has got a very quiet one that poor Meek used to ride--a child
could manage it:--there’s the butcher’s fat mare, but she won’t stir a
step without the basket on her back, and it would be so troublesome
for you to carry that all the way. Tomkins, the sweep, has got a little
horse he’d let you have, I daresay, but it always comes off black on
one’s trousers: and the miller’s cob is just as bad the other way with
the flour. I know a donkey--”

“So do I,” was the answer, as, laughing in spite of myself, I turned to
leave the room.

“Here, stop a minute!” cried Freddy, following me, “you are so
dreadfully impetuous; there’s nothing morally wrong in being acquainted
with a donkey, is there? 1 assure you I did not mean anything personal;
and now for a word of sense. Bumpus, at the Green Man, has got a
tremendous horse, which nearly frightened me into fits the only time I
ever mounted him, so that it will just suit you; nobody but a _green_
man, or a knight-errant, which I consider much the same sort of thing,
would patronise such an animal--still, he’s the only one I know of.”

Coleman’s tremendous horse, which proved to be a tall, pig-headed,
hard-mouthed brute, with a very decided will of his own, condescended,
after sundry skirmishes and one pitched battle, occasioned by his
positive refusal to pass a windmill, to go the road I wished, and about
an hour’s ride brought me to the gate of Barstone Park. So completely
had I been hurried on by feeling in every stage of the affair, and so
entirely had all minor considerations given way to the paramount object
of ~294~~ securing Clara’s happiness, with which, as I now felt, my
own was indissolubly linked, that it was not until my eye rested on
the cold, grey stone of Barstone Priory, and wandered over the straight
walks and formal lawns of the garden, that I became fully aware of the
extremely awkward and embarrassing nature of the interview I was about
to seek. To force myself into the presence of a man more than double
my own age, and, from all I had seen or heard of him, one of the last
people in the world to take a liberty with, for the purpose of informing
hint that his nephew, the only creature on earth that he was supposed to
love, was a low swindler, the associate of gamblers and blacklegs, did
not appear a line of conduct exactly calculated to induce him, at my
request, to give up a scheme on which he had set his heart, or to look
with a favourable eye on my pretensions to the hand of his ward. Still,
there was no help for it; the happiness of her I loved was at stake,
and, had it been to face a fiend instead of a man, I should not have
hesitated.

My meditations were here interrupted by a cock-pheasant, which, alarmed
at my approach, rose immediately under my horse’s nose; an unexpected
incident which caused that brute to shy violently, and turn short round,
thereby nearly unseating me. Having by this manoeuvre got his head
towards home, he not only refused to turn back again, but showed very
unmistakable symptoms of a desire to run away. Fortunately, however,
since the days of “Mad Bess,” my arms had grown considerably stronger,
and, by dint of pulling and sawing the creature’s apology for a mouth
with the bit, I was enabled to frustrate his benevolent intentions, and
even succeeded in turning him round again; but here my power ceased--for
in the direction of the Priory by no possibility could I induce him to
move a step. I whipped and spurred, but in vain; the only result was a
series of kicks and plunges, accompanied by a retrograde movement and
a shake of the head, as if he were saying, No! I next attempted the
soothing system, and lavished sundry caresses and endearing expressions
upon him, of which he was utterly undeserving; but my attentions were
quite thrown away, and might as well, for any good they produced, have
been bestowed upon a rocking-horse. At length, after a final struggle,
in which we were both within an ace of falling into a water-course which
crossed the park in that direction, I gave the matter up as hopeless;
and with a sigh (for I love not to be foiled in anything I have
attempted, and, moreover, I could not help looking upon it as an unlucky
omen) dismounted, ~285~~ and leading my rebellious steed by the rein,
advanced on foot towards the house. As I did so a figure abruptly turned
the corner of a shrubbery walk, which ran at right angles to the road,
and I found myself face to face with Richard Cumberland!

For a moment he remained staring at me as if he scarcely recognised me,
or was unwilling to trust the evidence of his senses, so confounded was
he at my unexpected apparition; but as I met his gaze with a cold, stern
look, he seemed to doubt no longer and advancing a step towards me
said, in a tone of ironical politeness:--“Is it possible that I have the
pleasure of seeing Mr. Fairlegh?”

“None other, Mr. Cumberland,” returned I, “though I could hardly
have flattered myself that my appearance would have recalled any very
pleasurable associations, considering the last two occasions on which we
met.”

“Ah! you refer to that unfortunate affair with Wilford,” replied
Cumberland, purposely misunderstanding my allusion to Dr. Mildman’s. “I
had hoped to have been able to prevent the mischief which occurred,
but I was misinformed as to the time of the meeting--I trust our friend
Oaklands feels no ill effects from his wound.”

“Mr. Oaklands, I am sorry to say, recovers but slowly; the wound was a
very severe one,” returned I coldly. “Well, I will not detain you any
longer, it is a lovely morning for a ride,” resumed Cumberland; “can I
be of any assistance in directing you? the lanes in this neighbourhood
are somewhat intricate--you are not perhaps aware that the road you are
now following is a private one.” “Scarcely so private that those who
have business with Mr. Vernor may not make use of it, I presume,”
 rejoined I. “Oh! of course not,” was the reply--“I did not know that you
were acquainted with my uncle; though now I come to think of it, I do
recollect his saying that he had met you somewhere. He seldom receives
visitors in the morning;--in fact, when I came out, I left him
particularly engaged. Perhaps I can save you the trouble of going up to
the house; is there any message I can deliver for you?” “I thank you,”
 replied I, “but I do not think the business which has brought me here
could be well transacted through a third person; at all events, I will
take my chance of being admitted:”--I paused, but could not refrain from
adding, “besides, if my memory fails not, you were a somewhat heedless
messenger in days of yore.”

This allusion to his embezzlement of Oaklands’ letter stung him to the
quick: he turned as white as ashes, and ~296~~ asked, in a voice that
trembled with passion, “Whether I meant to insult him?”

“I spoke heedlessly, and without deliberate intention,” I replied; “but
perhaps it is only fair to tell you that for the future there can be
no friendly communication between us; we must either avoid each other
altogether, which would be the most desirable arrangement, or meet as
strangers. The disgraceful conduct of the boy I could have forgiven and
forgotten, had not its memory been revived by the evil deeds of the man.
Richard Cumberland, I know you thoroughly; it is needless for me to add
more.”

As I spoke his cheek flushed, then grew pale again with shame and anger,
while he bit his under lip so severely that a red line remained where
his teeth had pressed it. When I concluded, he advanced towards me with
a threatening gesture, but, unable to meet the steadfast look with which
I confronted him, he turned abruptly on his heel, and muttering, “You
shall repent this,” disappeared among the shrubs.



CHAPTER XXXVIII PACING THE ENEMY

          “‘Sir,’ said the Count, with brow exceeding grave,
          ‘Your unexpected presence here will make
          It necessary for myself to crave
          Its import? But perhaps it’s a mistake.
          I hope it is so; and at once, to waive
          All compliment, I hope so for your sake.
          You understand my meaning, or you shall.’”
           _Beppo_.

“IS your master--is Mr. Vernor at home?” inquired I of the grim-visaged
old servant, who looked, if possible, taller and more wooden than when I
had last seen him.

“Well, I suppose not, sir!” was the somewhat odd reply.

“You suppose!” repeated I; “if you have any doubt, had you not better go
and see?”

“That won’t be of no manner of use, sir,” was the rejoinder; “I should
not be none the wiser.”

It was clear that the old man was a complete original; but his affection
for Clara was a virtue which in my eyes would have atoned for any amount
of eccentricity; and as I was anxious to stand well in his good graces,
I ~297~~ determined to fall in with his humour; accordingly I replied
with a smile, “How do you make out that--did you never hear that seeing
is believing?”

“Not always, sir,” he answered, “for if I’d a trusted to my
eyesight--and it ain’t so bad neither for a man that’s no great way
off sixty--I should have fancied Muster Wernor was a sitting in the
liberrary; but he told me he was not at home hisself, and he ought to
know best.”

“Tell him I won’t detain him long,” returned I, “but that I am come on
business of importance.”

“‘Tain’t of no manner of use, young gentleman,” was the reply; “he told
me he wasn’t at home, and he said it uncommon cross too, as if he
meant it, and if I was to go to him twenty times he’d only say the same
thing.” “What’s your name, my good friend?” inquired I. “Peter Barnett,
at your service, sir,” was the answer. “Well, then, Peter, we must
contrive to understand one another a little better. You have known your
young mistress from a child, and have a sincere regard for her--is it
not so?”

“What, Miss Clara, God bless her!--why, I love her as if she was my own
flesh and blood; I should be a brute if I didn’t, poor lamb.”

“Well, then, when I tell you that her happiness is very nearly connected
with the object of my visit--when I say, that it is to prevent her from
being obliged to do something of which she has the greatest abhorrence
that I am anxious to meet Mr. Vernor--I am sure you will contrive that I
shall see him.”

As I concluded, the old man, muttering to himself, “That’s it, is it?”
 began to examine me from top to toe with a critical glance, as if I had
been some animal he was about to purchase; and when he reached my face,
gazed at me long and fixedly, as though striving to read my character.
Apparently the result of his scrutiny was favourable, for after again
saying in a low tone, “Well, I likes the looks of him,” he added, “This
way, young gentleman--you shall see him if that’s what you want--it
ain’t a hanging matter, after all”. As he spoke, he threw open the door
of the library, saying, “Gentleman says his business is wery partikler,
so I thought you’d better see him yourself”.

Mr. Vernor, who was seated at a table writing, rose on my entrance,
bowed stiffly to me, and, casting a withering glance on Peter Barnett,
signed to him to shut the door. As soon as that worthy had obeyed the
command, he ~298~~ resumed his seat, and, addressing me with the same
frigid politeness which he had shown on the occasion of my first visit
to him, said, “I am somewhat occupied this morning, and must therefore
be excused for inquiring at once what very particular business Mr.
Fairlegh can have with me”. His tone and manner, as he spoke, were such
as to render me fully aware of the pleasant nature of the task before
me; namely, to make the most disagreeable communication possible, to
the most disagreeable person to whom such a communication could be made.
Still, I was regularly in for it; there was nothing left for me but to
“go a-head”; and as I thought of Clara and her sorrows, the task seemed
to lose half its difficulty. However, it was not without some hesitation
that I began:--

“When you learn the object of my visit, sir, you will perceive that I
have not intruded upon you without reason”. I paused; but, finding he
remained silent, added--“As you are so much occupied this morning, I
had better perhaps enter at once upon the business which has brought me
here. You are probably aware that I have had the pleasure of spending
the last few days in the same house with Miss Saville.” As I mentioned
Clara’s name, his brow grew dark as night; but he still continued
silent, and I proceeded. “It is, I should conceive, impossible for
anyone to enjoy the privilege of that young lady’s society, without
experiencing the warmest feelings of admiration and interest. Towards
the termination of her visit, accident led me to the knowledge of her
acquaintance with Mr. Cumberland, who I then learned, for the first
time, was your nephew. I would not willingly say anything which might
distress or annoy you, Mr. Vernor,” continued I, interrupting myself,
“but I fear that, in order to make myself intelligible, I must advert to
an affair which I would willingly have forgotten.”

“Go on, sir,” was the reply, in a cold sarcastic tone of voice--“pray
finish your account without reference to my feelings; I am not likely to
alarm your sensibility by any affecting display of them.”

As the most sceptical could not have doubted for a moment the truth
of this assertion, I resumed: “From my previous knowledge of Mr.
Cumberland’s character, I could not but consider him an unfit
acquaintance for a young lady; and, on hinting this, and endeavouring to
ascertain the extent of Miss Saville’s intimacy with him, I was equally
shocked and surprised to learn that she was actually engaged to him, and
that you not only sanctioned the engagement, but were even desirous that
the match ~299~~ should take place. Feeling sure that this could only
proceed from your being ignorant of the character of the class of
persons with whom your nephew associates, and the more than questionable
reputation he has thereby acquired, I considered it my duty to afford
you such information as may enable you to ascertain for yourself the
truth of the reports which have reached my ear.”

“Exceedingly conscientious and praiseworthy: I ought to feel infinitely
indebted to you, young gentleman,” interrupted Mr. Vernor sarcastically;
“of course you made the young lady acquainted with your disinterested
and meritorious intentions ‘?”

“I certainly thought it right to inform Miss Saville of the facts I have
mentioned, and to obtain her permission, ere I ventured to interfere in
her behalf.”

As I spoke, the gloom on Mr. Vernor’s brow grew darker, and I expected
an outburst of rage, but his self-control was stronger than 1 had
imagined, for it was in the same cold ironical manner that he replied,
“And may I ask, supposing this iniquitous engagement to have been broken
off by your exertions, is Virtue to be its own reward? will you sit down
content with having done your duty? or have you not some snug little
scheme _in petto_, to console the disconsolate damsel for her loss? If I
am not mistaken, you were professing warm feelings of admiration for my
ward a few minutes since.”

“Had you waited till I had finished speaking, you would have perceived,
sir, that your taunt was undeserved. I have no wish to conceal anything
from you--on the contrary, one of my chief objects in seeking this
interview was to inform you of the deep and sincere affection I
entertain for Miss Saville, and of my intention of coming forward to
seek her hand, as soon as my professional prospects shall enable me to
support a wife.”

“And have you succeeded in inducing the lady to promise, that, in the
event of my allowing her to break off her present engagement, she will
wait for the somewhat remote and visionary contingency you have hinted
at?”

“I have never made the attempt, sir,” replied I, drawing myself up
proudly, for I began to think that I was carrying forbearance too far,
in submitting thus tamely to his repeated insults; “my only desire is
to convince you of the necessity of breaking off this preposterous
engagement, which is alike unsuitable in itself, and distasteful to
Miss Saville; for the rest, I must trust to time, and to the unshaken
constancy of my own affection (with ~300~~ which it is only fair to tell
you the young lady is acquainted), for the accomplishment of my hopes.
Had I the power to fetter your ward by a promise which she might
afterwards be led to repent, nothing should induce me to make use of
it.”

“Really, your moderation is quite unparalleled,” exclaimed Mr. Vernor;
“such generosity now might be almost calculated to induce a romantic
girl to persuade her guardian to allow her to marry at once, and devote
her fortune to the purpose of defraying the household expenses, till
such time as the professional expectations you mention should be
realised; and Clara Saville is just the girl who might do it, for I
am afraid I must distress your magnanimity by informing you of a
circumstance, of which, of course, you have not the slightest idea at
present, namely, that if Miss Saville should marry with her guardian’s
consent, she will become the possessor of a very considerable fortune:
what think you of such a plan?”

“Mr. Vernor,” replied I, “I was aware that the communication I had to
make to you was calculated to pain and annoy you, and that circumstances
obliged me to urge my suit at a moment most disadvantageous to its
success; I did not therefore imagine that our interview was likely to be
a very agreeable one; but I own I did expect to have credit given me for
honourable motives, and to be treated with the consideration due from
one gentleman to another.”

“It grieves me to have disappointed such moderate and reasonable
expectations,” was the reply; “but, unfortunately, I have acquired a
habit of judging men rather by their actions than their words, and
forming my opinion accordingly; and by the opinion thus formed I
regulate my conduct towards them.”

“May I inquire what opinion you can possibly have formed of me, which
would justify your treating me otherwise than as a gentleman?” asked
I, as calmly as I was able, for I was most anxious not to allow him to
perceive the degree to which his taunts irritated me.

“Certainly; only remember, if it is not exactly what you approve, that I
mention it in compliance with your own express request--but first, for
I am unwilling to do you injustice, let me be sure that I understand
you clearly:--you state that you are unable to marry till you shall
have realised by your profession an income sufficient to support a wife;
therefore, I presume that your patrimony is somewhat limited.”

~301~~ “You are right, sir; my poor father was too liberal a man to
die rich; my present income is somewhat less than a hundred pounds per
annum.”

“And your profession?”

“It is my intention to begin reading for the bar almost immediately.”

“A profession usually more honourable than lucrative for the first ten
years or so. Well, young gentleman, the case seems to stand very much as
I imagined, nor do I perceive any reason for altering my opinion of
your conduct. Chance throws in your way a young lady, possessing great
beauty, who is prospective heiress to a very valuable property, and it
naturally enough occurs to you, that making love is likely to be more
agreeable, and in the present instance more profitable also, than
reading law; accordingly, you commence operations, and for some time all
goes on swimmingly, Miss Saville, like any other girl in her situation,
having no objection to vary the monotony of a long engagement by a
little innocent flirtation; affairs of this kind, however, seldom run
smoothly long together, and at some moment, when you were rather more
pressing than usual, the young lady thinks it advisable to inform you,
that in accordance with her father’s dying wish, and of her own free
will, she has engaged herself to the nephew of her guardian, who
strangely enough happens to be an old schoolfellow of yours, against
whom you have always nourished a strong and unaccountable feeling of
dislike. Here, then, was a famous opportunity to display those talents
for plotting and manoeuvring which distinguished Mr. Fairlegh even in
his boyish days; accordingly, a master-scheme is invented, whereby
the guardian shall be cajoled and brow-beaten into giving his consent,
enmity satisfied by the rival’s discomfiture and overthrow, and talent
rewarded by obtaining possession of the young lady and her fortune. As
a first step you take advantage of a lover’s quarrel to persuade Miss
Saville that she is averse to the projected alliance, and trump up
an old tale of some boyish scrape to induce her to believe Cumberland
unworthy of her preference, ending, doubtless, by modestly proposing
yourself as a substitute. Inexperience, and the natural capriciousness
of woman, stand your friend; the young lady appears for the moment
gained over, and, flushed with success, the bold step of this morning is
resolved upon. Such, sir, is my opinion of your conduct. It only remains
for me to inform you that 1 have not the slightest intention of
breaking off the engagement in ~302~~ consequence of your disinterested
representations, nor, under any circumstances, would I allow my ward
to throw herself away upon a needy fortune-hunter. There can be nothing
more to say, I think; and as I have some important papers to look over
this morning, I dare say you will excuse my ringing the bell.”

“One moment, sir,” replied I warmly, “although your age prevents my
taking notice of the unprovoked insults you have seen fit to heap upon
me----”

“Really,” interposed Mr. Vernor, in a deprecating tone, “you must pardon
me; I have not time for all this sort of thing to-day.”

“You shall hear me!” exclaimed I passionately; “I have listened in
silence to accusations calculated to make the blood of any man, worthy
to be so called, boil in his veins--accusations which, at the very
moment you utter them, you know to be entirely false: you know well Miss
Saville’s just and deeply rooted aversion to this match, and you know
that it existed before she and I had ever met; you know the creditable
nature of what you term the ‘boyish scrape,’ in which your nephew was
engaged--a scrape which, but for the generous forbearance of others,
might have ended in his transportation as a convicted felon; and this
knowledge (even if you are ignorant of the dishonourable and vicious
course of life he now leads) should be enough to prevent your
sanctioning such a marriage. I pass over your insinuations respecting
myself in silence; should I again prefer my suit for Miss Saville’s hand
to you, it will be as no needy fortune-hunter that I shall do so; but
once more let me implore you to pause--reconsider the matter--inquire
for yourself into your nephew’s pursuits--ascertain the character of his
associates, and then judge whether he is a fit person to be entrusted
with the happiness of such a being as Clara Saville.”

“Vastly well, sir! exceedingly dramatic, indeed!” observed Mr. Vernor,
with a sneer; “you really have quite a talent for--genteel comedy, I
think they call it; you would be perfect in the line of character termed
the ‘walking gentleman’--have you ever thought of the stage?”

“I perceive,” replied I, “that by remaining here, I shall only subject
myself to additional insult: determined to carry out your own bad
purpose, you obstinately close your ears to the voice alike of reason
and of conscience; and now,” I added, in a stern tone, “hear my resolve:
I have promised Miss Saville to save her from Richard ~303~~ Cumberland;
as the fairest and most honourable way of doing so, I applied to you,
her lawful guardian and protector; I have failed, and you have insulted
and defied me. I now tell you, that I will leave NO MEANS untried to
defeat your nefarious project, and, if evil or disgrace should befal you
or yours in consequence, upon your own head be it. You may smile at
my words, and disregard them as idle threats which I am powerless to
fulfil, but remember, you have no longer a helpless girl to deal with,
but a determined man, who, with right and justice on his side, may yet
thwart your cunningly devised schemes;--and so, having given you fair
warning, I will leave you.”

“Allow me to mention one fact, young sir,” returned Mr. Vernor, “which
demands your serious attention, as it may prevent you from committing
a fatal error, and save you all further trouble. Should Clara Saville
marry without my consent, she does so penniless, and the fortune
devolves upon the next heir; ha!” he exclaimed, as I was unable to
repress an exclamation of pleasure, “have I touched you there?”

“You have indeed, sir,” was my reply; “for you have removed the only
scruple which stood in my way. No one can now accuse me of interested
motives; ‘needy fortune-hunters’ do not seek to ally themselves to
portionless damsels; allow me to offer you my best thanks for your
information, and to wish you good-morning, sir.”

So saying, I rose and quitted the room, leaving Mr. Vernor, in a state
of ill-suppressed rage, to the enjoyment of his own reflections.

On entering the hall, I found old Peter Barnett awaiting me. As I
appeared, his stiff features lighted up with a most sagacious grin of
intelligence, and approaching me, he whispered:--

“Did ye give it him strong?” (indicating the person he referred to by
an expressive jerk of his thumb towards the library door). “I heard ye
blowing of him up--but did ye give it him reg’lar strong?”

“I certainly told Mr. Vernor my opinion with tolerable plainness,”
 replied I, smiling at the intense delight which was visible in every
line of the strange old face beside me.

“No! Did ye?--did ye? That was right,” was the rejoinder. “Lor! how I
wish I’d a been there to see; but I heard ye though--I heard ye a giving
it to him,” and again he relapsed into a paroxysm of delight.

“Peter,” said I, “I want to have a little private conversation with
you--how is that to be managed? Is there any place near where you could
meet me?” ~304~~ “You come here from Hillingford, didn’t ye, sir?” I
nodded assent. He continued:--“Did you notice a hand-post which stands
where four roads meet, about a mile and a half from here?”

“I saw it,” returned I, “and even tried to read what was painted on it,
but of course, after the manner of all country direction posts, it was
totally illegible.”

“Well, when you get there, take the road to the left, and ride on till
ye see an ale-house on the right-hand side, and stay there till I come
to ye.”

“I will,” replied I, “but don’t keep me waiting longer than you can
help--there’s a good man.”

An understanding grin was his only answer; and mounting my unpleasant
horse (who seemed much more willing to proceed quietly when his head
was turned in a homeward direction), I rode slowly through the park, my
state of mind affording a practical illustration, that Quintus Horatius
Flaccus was about right in his conjecture that Care sometimes indulged
herself with a little equestrian exercise on a pillion.{1}

     1 “Post equitem sedet atra cura.”



CHAPTER XXXIX -- THE COUNCIL OF WAR

          “Oh! good old man: how well in thee, appears
          The constant service of the antique world!”
           --_As You Like It_.

          “Now will I deliver his letter; for the behaviour
          of the young gentleman gives him out to be of
          good capacity and breeding.”
           --_Twelfth Night_.

          “Farewell! be trusty, and I’ll quit thy pains.
          Farewell! commend me to thy mistress.”
           --_Romeo and Juliet_.

THE place of meeting appointed by Peter Barnett was easily discovered,
and having tied up my horse under a shed, which served the double
purpose of stable and coach-house, I took possession of a small
room with a sanded floor, and throwing myself back in a most uneasy
easy-chair, began to think over my late interview, and endeavour to
devise some practicable plan for the future. The first thing was to
establish some means of free communication with Clara, and this I hoped
to accomplish by the assistance of Peter Barnett. I should thus learn
Mr. Vernor’s proceedings, and be able to regulate my ~305~~ conduct
accordingly. If, as I dreaded, he should attempt to force on the
marriage immediately, would Clara, alone and unassisted, have sufficient
courage and strength of purpose to resist him? I feared not; and how
was I effectually to aid her? The question was more easily asked than
answered. It was clear that her fortune was the thing aimed at, for I
could not believe either Mr. Vernor or his nephew likely to be actuated
by disinterested motives;--and it was to their avarice, then, that Clara
was to be sacrificed--had she been portionless she would have been free
to marry whom she pleased. Of all sources of evil and misery, money
appears to be the most prolific; in the present case its action was
twofold--Clara was rendered wretched in consequence of possessing it,
while the want of it incapacitated me from boldly claiming her hand at
once, which appeared to be the only effectual method of assisting her.

My meditations were at this point interrupted by the arrival of my
future privy counsellor, Peter Barnett, who marched solemnly into the
room, drew himself up to his full height, which very nearly equalled
that of the ceiling, brought his hand to his forehead in a military
salute, and then, closing the door cautiously, and with an air of
mystery, stood at ease, evidently intending me to open the conversation.

“Well, Peter,” began I, by way of something to say, for I felt the
greatest difficulty in entering on the subject which then occupied my
thoughts before such an auditor. “Well, Peter, you have not kept me
waiting long; I scarcely expected to see you so soon: do you imagine
that Mr. Vernor will remark your absence?”

“He knows it already,” was the reply. “Why, bless ye, sir, he ordered me
to go out hisself.” “Indeed! how was that?”

“Why, as soon as you was gone, sir, he pulled the bell like mad. ‘Send
Mr. Richard here,’ says he. ‘Yes, sir,’ says I, ‘certingly; only he’s
not at home, sir.’ When he heard this he grumbled out an oath, or
sumthin’ of that nature, and I was going to take myself off, for I see
he wasn’t altogether safe, when he roars out ‘Stop!’ [‘You’d a said
“halt,” if you’d a been a officer or a gentleman, which you ain’t
neither,’ thinks I.) ‘What do you mean by letting people in when I have
given orders to the contrairy?’ says he. ‘Who was it as blowed me up for
sending away a gent as said he wanted to see you on partiklar business,
only yesterday?’ says I. That bothered him nicely, and he didn’t know
how to be down upon me; ~306~~ but at last he thought he’d serve me one
of his old tricks. So he says, ‘Peter, what are you doing to-day’?’ I
see what he was at, and I thought I’d ketch him in his own trap. ‘Very
busy a cleaning plate, sir,’ says I. This was enough for him: if I was
a cleaning plate, in course I shouldn’t like to be sent out; so says he,
‘Go down to Barnsley, and see whether Mr. Cumberland is there’. ‘But the
plate, sir?’ ‘Never mind the plate.’ ‘It won’t never look as it ought to
do, if I am sent about in this way,’ says I. ‘Do as you’re ordered,
and leave the room instantly,’ says he, grinding his teeth reg’lar
savage-like. So I took him at his word, and come away to see you as hard
as I could pelt; but you’ve put him into a sweet temper, Mr. Fairlegh.”

“Why, that I’m afraid was scarcely to be avoided,” replied I, “as my
business was to inform him that I considered his nephew an unfit person
to marry his ward.”

“Oh! did you tho’?--did you tell him that?” cried my companion, with a
chuckle of delight; “that was right: I wonder how he liked that!”

“As he did not exactly agree with me in this opinion, but, on the
contrary, plainly declared his intention of proceeding with the match
in spite of me, it is necessary for me to consider what means I can best
use to prevent him from accomplishing his object; it is in this that 1
shall require your assistance.”

“And what does Miss Clara say about it, young gentleman?” inquired the
old man, fixing his eyes on me with a scrutinising glance.

“Miss Saville dislikes Richard Cumberland, and dreads the idea of being
forced to marry him above everything.” “Ah! I know she does, poor lamb;
and well she may, for there ain’t a more dissipateder young scoundrel to
be found nowhere than Mr. Wernor’s precious ‘nephew,’ as he calls him,
tho’ it’s my belief he might call him ‘son’ without telling a lie.”

“Indeed! I was not aware that Mr. Vernor had ever been married.”

“No; I never heard that he was reg’lar downright married; but he may
be his son, for all that. Howsurn-ever, p’raps it is so, or p’raps it
ain’t; I’m only a tellin’ you what I fancies, sir,” was the reply. “But
what I wanted to know,” he continued, again fixing his eyes on my face,
“is, what does Miss Clara say to you? eh!”

“You put home questions, my friend,” replied I, colouring slightly;
“however, as Miss Saville tells me you are faithful and trustworthy, and
as half-confidences are never ~307~~ of any use, I suppose you must hear
all about it.” I then told him as concisely as possible of my love for
Clara, and my hopes of one day calling her my own; pointing out to him
the difficulties that stood in the way, and explaining to him that the
only one which appeared to me insurmountable was the probability of
Mr. Vernor’s attempting to force Clara into an immediate marriage with
Cumberland. Having thus given him an insight into the true state of
affairs, I showed him the necessity of establishing some means of
communication between Clara and myself, as it was essential that I
should receive the earliest possible information in regard to Mr.
Vernor’s proceedings.

“I understand, sir,” interrupted Peter, “you want to be able to write
to each other without the old ‘un getting hold of your letters: well,
that’s very easily managed; only you direct to Mr. Barnett, to be left
at the Pig and Pony, at Barstone; and anything you send for Miss Clara,
I’ll take care and give her when nobody won’t be none the wiser for
it; and any letters she writes I’ll put into the post myself. I’d do
anything rather than let that young villain Cumberland have her, and
make her miserable, which his wife is safe to be, if ever he gets
one; and if you likes her and she likes you, as seems wery probable,
considering you saved her from being burnt to death, as they tell me,
and is wery good-looking into the bargain--which goes a great way with
young ladies, if you’ll excuse the liberty I takes in mentioning of
it--why, the best thing as you can do, is to get married as soon as you
can.”

“Very pleasant advice, friend Peter,” returned I, “but not so easily
acted upon; people cannot marry nowadays without something to live
upon.”

“Well, ain’t Miss Clara got Barstone Priory, and plenty of money to keep
it up with? Won’t that do to live upon?”

“And do you imagine I could ever feel content to be the creature of
my wife’s bounty? prove myself a needy fortune-hunter, as that old man
dared to term me?” exclaimed I, forgetting the character of my auditor.

“Barstone Priory to live in, and more money than you know what to do
with, ain’t to be sneezed at neither,” was the answer; “though I likes
your independent spirit too, sir: but how do you mean to manage, then?”

“Why, Mr. Vernor hinted that if his ward married without his consent,
her fortune was to be forfeited.”

“Ah! I believe there was something of that nature in the will: my poor
master was so wrapped up in old Wernor that he wrote just wot he told
him; if he’d only ~308~~ a lived to see how he was going to use Miss
Clara, he’d a ordered me to kick him out of the house instead.”

“Perhaps that pleasure may be yet in store for you, Peter,” replied I,
laughing at the zest with which he uttered the last few words, and an
involuntary motion of the foot by which they were accompanied; “but this
power, which it seems Mr. Vernor really possesses, of depriving Miss
Saville of her fortune, removes my greatest difficulty; for in that
case, if he should attempt to urge on this match, I can at least make
her the offer of sharing my poverty: there is my mother’s roof to
shelter her, and, if her guardian refuses his consent to our marriage,
why, we must contrive to do without it, that is all. So now, Peter,
if you will wait a few minutes, I will give you a note for your young
mistress, and then get to horse without further loss of time;” and
calling for pen, ink, and paper, I hastily scribbled a few lines to
Clara, informing her of the events of the morning, and of my unalterable
determination to save her from a union with Cumberland; begging her, at
the same time, to continue firm in her opposition, to acquaint me with
everything that might occur, and to rely upon me for protection in the
event of anything like force being resorted to. I then entrusted my note
to old Peter, begged him to watch Master Richard Cumberland closely,
told him that upon his care and vigilance depended in great measure the
happiness of his young mistress’s life; tipped him handsomely, though
I had some trouble in making him take the money; and, mounting my
ill-disposed horse, rode back to Hillingford, on the whole tolerably
well satisfied with my morning’s work.

I found two letters awaiting my return: one from my mother, to say that
she should be at Heathfield Cottage on the following day, and begging
me to meet her; the other from Ellis, telling me that at length he hoped
Oaklands was in a fair way to recover, it having been ascertained that a
piece of the wadding of the pistol had remained behind when the ball was
extracted; this had now come away, and the wound was healing rapidly. As
his strength returned, Harry was growing extremely impatient to get back
to Heathfield; and Ellis concluded by saying that they might be expected
any day, and begging me at the same time to remember that from the first
he had always declared, in regard to his patient, that it would have
killed any other man, but that it could not kill him.

Days glided by, the absentees returned, and matters fell so completely
into their old train again that the occurrences ~309~~ of the last eight
months seemed like the unreal creations of some fevered dream, and there
were times when I could scarcely bring myself to believe them true.

Harry Oaklands had recovered sufficiently to resume his usual habits;
and, except that he was strictly forbidden to over-exert or fatigue
himself (an injunction he appeared only too willing to obey), he was
nearly emancipated from medical control. Fanny had in great measure
regained her good looks again; a slight delicacy of appearance, however,
still remained, giving a tone of spirituality to the expression of her
features, which was not before observable, and which to my mind rendered
her prettier than ever: the listlessness of manner which had made me
uneasy about her in the autumn had vanished, and her spirits seemed
good; still, she was in a degree altered, and one felt in talking to her
that she was a child no longer. Like Undine, that graceful creation of
La Motte Fouqué’s genius, she appeared to have changed from a “tricksy
sprite” into a thinking and feeling woman.

One morning Oaklands and Ellis came to the cottage together, the latter
in a great state of joy and excitement, produced by a most kind and
judicious exercise of liberality on the part of Sir John. About a month
before, the grave and pompous Dr. Probehurt had been seized with an
illness, from which in all probability he would have recovered had he
not steadily refused to allow a rival practitioner to be called in,
in order that he might test a favourite theory of his own, embodying
a totally novel mode of treatment for the complaint with which he was
attacked. Unfortunately, the experiment failed, and the doctor died. Sir
John, who had been long anxious to evince his gratitude to Ellis for
the skill and attention he had bestowed upon his patient, the moment
he heard of the event determined to purchase the business: he had that
morning completed the negotiation, and offered the practice to Ellis,
stating that he should consider his accepting it in the light of a
personal favour, as in that case he would be always at hand, should
Harry feel any lasting ill effects from his wound. Ellis’s joy was most
amusing to witness.

“I tell you what, sir,” he exclaimed, seizing me by a button of the
coat, “I’m a made man, sir! there isn’t a better practice in the county.
Why, poor Probehurt told me himself old Mrs. Croaker Crawley alone was
worth a hundred pounds per annum to him:--four draughts and two pills
everyday--prescription very simple--R. Pil. panis compos, ii. nocte
sum.; haust. aqua vitæ 1/2, aqua pura 1/2 ~310~~ saccar. viii. grs. pro
re nata. She’s a strong old girl, and on brandy-and-water draughts and
French-roll pills may last for the next twenty years. Noble thing of Sir
John, very; ‘pon my word, it has quite upset me--it’s a fact, sir, that
when Mr. Oaklandstold me of it I sat down and cried like a child. I’m
not over tender-hearted either: when I was at Guy’s I amputated the left
leg of a shocking accident, and dissected the porter’s mother-in-law
(whom he sold us cheap for old acquaintance’ sake) before breakfast one
morning, without finding my appetite in the slightest degree affected;
but when I learned what Sir John had done, I positively cried, sir.”

“I say, Ellis,” interrupted Harry, “I am telling Miss Fairlegh I shall
make you take her in hand; she has grown so pale and thin, I am afraid
she has never recovered all the trouble and inconvenience we caused
her.”

“If Miss Fairlegh would allow me, I should recommend a little more air
and exercise,” replied Ellis: “are you fond of riding on horseback?”

“Oh, yes!” replied Fanny, smiling, and blushing slightly at thus
suddenly becoming the topic of conversation; “that is, I used to delight
in riding Frank’s pony in days of yore; but he has not kept a pony
lately.”

“That is easily remedied,” returned Harry; “I am certain some of our
horses will carry a lady. I shall speak to Harris about it directly, and
we’ll have some rides together, Fanny; it was only this morning that I
obtained my tyrant’s permission to cross a horse once more,” he added,
shaking his fist playfully at Ellis.

“The tyrant will agree to that more willingly than to your first
request. What do you think, Fairlegh,” continued Ellis, appealing to me,
“of his positively wanting to go out hunting?”

“And a very natural thing to wish too, I conceive,” replied Harry; “but
what do you think of his declaring that, if I did not faithfully promise
I would not hunt this season, he would go into the stables and divide,
what he called in his doctor’s lingo, the _flexor metatarsi_ of every
animal he found there, which, being interpreted, means neither more nor
less than hamstring all the hunters.”

“Well, that would be better than allowing you to do anything which might
disturb the beautiful process of granulation going on in your side. I
remember, when I was a student at Guy’s----”

“Come, doctor, we positively cannot stand any more of your ‘Chronicles
of the Charnel-house’ this morning; ~311~~ you have horrified Miss
Fairlegh already to such a degree that she is going to run away. If I
should stroll down here again in the afternoon, Fanny, will you take
compassion on me so far as to indulge me with a game of chess? I am
going to send Frank on an expedition, and my father and Ellis are off
to settle preliminaries with poor Mrs. Probehurt, so that I shall
positively not have a creature to speak to. Reading excites me too much,
and produces a state of---- What is it you call it, doctor?”

“I told you yesterday I thought you were going into a state of coma,
when you fell asleep over that interesting paper of mine in the
_Lancet_, ‘Recollections of the Knife’; if that’s what you call
excitement,” returned Ellis, laughing----

“Nonsense, Ellis, how absurd you are!” rejoined Oak-lands, half-amused
and half-annoyed at Ellis’s remark; “but you have not granted my request
yet, Fanny.”

“I do not think we have any engagement--mamma will, I am sure, be very
happy”--began Fanny, with a degree of hesitation for which I could not
account; but as I was afraid Oaklands might notice it, and attribute
it to a want of cordiality, I hastened to interrupt her by exclaiming,
“Mamma will be very happy--of course she will; and each and all of us
are always only too happy to get you here, old fellow; it does one’s
heart good to see you beginning to look a little more like yourself
again. If Fanny’s too idle to play chess, I’ll take compassion upon you,
and give you a thorough beating myself.”

“There are two good and sufficient reasons why you will not do anything
of the kind,” replied Oaklands: “in the first place, while you have been
reading mathematics, I have been studying chess; and I think that I may,
without conceit, venture to pronounce myself the better player of the
two; and in the second place, as I told your sister just now, I am going
to send you out on an expedition.”

“To send me on an expedition!” repeated I--“may I be allowed to inquire
its nature--where I am to go to--when I am to start--and all other
equally essential particulars?”

“They are soon told,” returned Oaklands. “I wrote a few days since to
Lawless, asking him to come down for a week’s hunting before the season
should be over; and this morning I received the following characteristic
answer: ‘Dear Oaklands, a man who refuses a good offer is an ass (unless
he happens to have had a better one). Now, yours being the best offer
down in my book ~312~~ at present, I say, “done, along with you, old
fellow,” thereby clearly proving that I am no ass. Q. E. D.--eh? that’s
about the thing, isn’t it? Now, look here, Jack Basset has asked me down
to Storley Wood for a day’s pheasant shooting on Tuesday: if you could
contrive to send any kind of trap over about lunch-time, on Wednesday, I
could have a second pop at the long-tails, and be with you in time for a
half-past six o’clock feed as it is not more than ten miles from Storley
to Heathfield. I wouldn’t have troubled you to send for me, only the
tandem’s _hors de combat_. I was fool enough to lend it to Muffington
Spoffkins to go and see his aunt one fine day. The horses finding a
fresh hand on the reins, began pulling like steam-engines--Muffington
could not hold them--consequently they bolted; and after running over
two whole infant schools, and upsetting a retired grocer, they knocked
the cart into “immortal smash” against a turnpike-gate, pitching
Spoffkins into a horse-pond, with Shrimp a-top of him. It was a regular
sell for all parties: I got my cart broken to pieces, Shrimp was all but
drowned, and Muffington’s aunt cut him off with a shilling, because the
extirpated squadron of juveniles turned out, unfortunately, to have been
a picked detachment of infantry from her own village. If you could send
to meet me at the Feathers’ public-house, which is just at the bottom
of Storley great wood, it would be a mercy, for walking in cover doesn’t
suit my short legs, and I’m safe to be used up.--Remember us to Fairlegh
and all inquiring friends, and believe me to remain, very heartily,
yours, George Lawless.’”

“I comprehend,” said I, as Oaklands finished reading the note, “you wish
me to drive over this afternoon and fetch him: it will be a great deal
better than merely sending a servant.”

“Why, I had thought of going myself, but, ‘pon my word, these sort of
things are so much trouble--at least to me, I mean; and, though Lawless
is a capital, excellent fellow, and I like him extremely, yet I know
he’ll talk about nothing but horses all the way home; and not being
quite strong again yet, you’ve no notion how that kind of thing worries
and tires me.”

“Don’t say another word about it, my dear Harry; I shall enjoy the drive
uncommonly. What vehicle had I better take?”

“The phaeton, I think,” replied Oaklands, “and then you can bring his
luggage, and Shrimp, or any of his people he may have with him.”

~313~~ “So be it,” returned I; “I’ll walk back with you to the Hall, and
then start as soon as you please.



CHAPTER XL -- LAWLESS’S MATINÉE MUSICALE

          “I was deep in my tradesmen’s books, I’m afraid,
          But not in my own, by-the-by;
          And when rascally tailors came to be paid,
          There’ll be time enough for that, said I.”
           --_Song--The Old Bachelor._

          “Here’s a knocking, indeed! Knock, knock, knock.
          Who’s there? Faith, here’s an English tailor come hither.
          ----Come in, tailor----
          Knock, knock.    Never at quiet!
          What are you?   I had thought to have let in
          Some of all professions.    Anon--anon.”
           --_Macbeth._

I SCARCELY know any excitement more agreeable than driving, on a fine
frosty day, a pair of spirited horses, which demand the exercise of
all one’s coolness and skill to keep their fiery natures under proper
control. Some accident had happened to one of Sir John’s old phaeton
horses, and Harry, who fancied that, as he was not allowed to use any
violent exercise, driving would be an amusement to him, had taken the
opportunity of replacing them by a magnificent pair of young, nearly
thorough-bred chestnuts; and these were the steeds now entrusted to
my guidance. Not being anxious, however, to emulate the fate of the
unfortunate Muffington Spoffkins, I held them well in hand for the first
three or four miles, and as they became used to their work, gradually
allowed them to quicken their pace, till we were bowling along merrily
at the rate of ten miles an hour.

A drive of about an hour and a quarter brought me within sight of the
little roadside public-house appointed for my rendezvous with Lawless.
As I drew sufficiently near to distinguish figures, I perceived the
gentleman in question scientifically and picturesquely attired in
what might with great propriety be termed no end of a shooting jacket,
inasmuch as its waist, being prolonged to a strange and unaccountable
extent, had, as a necessary consequence, invaded the region of the
skirt to a degree which reduced that appendage to the most absurd and
infinitesimal proportions. This wonderful garment was ~314~~ composed
of a fabric which Freddy Coleman, when he made its acquaintance some few
days later, denominated the Mac Omnibus plaid, a gaudy _répertoire_ of
colours, embracing all the tints of the rainbow, and a few more besides,
and was further embellished by a plentiful supply of gent.’s sporting
buttons, which latter articles were not quite so large as cheese-plates,
and represented in bas-relief a series of moving incidents by flood and
field. His nether man exhibited a complicated arrangement of corduroys,
leather gaiters and waterproof boots, which were, of course, wet
through; while, to crown the whole, his head was adorned with one of
those round felt hats, which exactly resemble a boiled apple-pudding,
and are known by the sobriquet of “wide-awakes,” “cos they av’n’t got no
_nap_ about ‘em”. A stout shooting pony was standing at the door of
the ale-house, with a pair of panniers, containing a portmanteau and a
gun-case, slung across its back, upon which was seated in triumph the
mighty Shrimp, who seemed to possess the singular property of growing
older, and nothing else; for, as well as one could judge by appearances,
he had not increased an inch in stature since the first day of our
acquaintance. His attitude, as I drove up, was one which Hunt would
have delighted to perpetuate. Perched on a kind of pack-saddle, his legs
stretched so widely apart, by reason of the stout proportions of the
pony, as to be nearly at right angles with his upper man, he “held
aloft” (not a “snowy scarf,” but) a pewter pot, nearly as large as
himself, the contents of which he was transferring to his own throat,
with an air of relish and _savoir faire_, which would have done
credit to a seven-feet-high coalheaver. The group was completed by a
gamekeeper, who, seated on a low wooden bench, was dividing some bread
and cheese with a magnificent black retriever.

“By Jove! what splendid steppers!” was Lawless’s exclamation as I drove
up. “Now, that’s what I call perfect action; high enough to look well,
without battering the feet to pieces--the leg a little arched, and
thrown out boldly--no fear of their putting down their pins in the same
place they pick them up from. Ah!” he continued, for the first time
observing me, “Fairlegh, how are you, old fellow? Slap-up cattle you’ve
got there, and no mistake--belong to Sir John Oaklands, I suppose. Do
you happen to know where he got hold of them?”

“Harry wanted a pair of phaeton horses, and the coachman recommended
these,” replied I; “but I’ve no idea where he heard of them.”

~315~~ “Rising five and six,” continued Lawless, examining their mouths
with deep interest; “no do there--the tush well up in one, and nicely
through in the other, and the mark in the nippers just as it should be
to correspond: own brothers, I’ll bet a hundred pounds--good full eyes;
small heads, well set on; slanting shoulders; legs as clean as a colt’s;
hoofs a _leetle_ small, but that’s the breed. Whereabouts was the
figure, did you hear?--five fifties never bought them, unless they were
as cheap as dirt, eh?”

“That was about their price, if I remember correctly,” replied I. “Harry
thought it was too much to give; but Sir John, the moment he saw his
son would like to have them, wrote the cheque, and paid for them on the
spot.” “Well, I’ll give him all the money any day, if he’s tired of his
bargain,” rejoined Lawless; “but we won’t keep them standing now they’re
warm. Here, Shrimp, my greatcoat--get off that pony this instant, you
luxurious young vagabond. Never saw such a boy in my life to ride as
that is--if there is anything that can by possibility carry him, not a
step will he stir on foot--doesn’t believe legs were meant to walk with,
it’s my opinion. Why, this very morning, before they brought out the
shooting pony, he got on the retriever; and he has such a seat too, that
the dog could not throw him, till Basset thought of sending him into
the water: he slipped off in double-quick time then, for he has had a
regular hydrophobia upon him ever since his adventure in the horse-pond.
What, not down yet? I shall take a horsewhip to you, sir, directly.”

Thus admonished, Shrimp, who had taken advantage of his master’s
preoccupation to finish the contents of the pewter pot, tossed the
utensil to the gamekeeper, having previously attracted that individual’s
attention by exclaiming, in a tone of easy familiarity--“Look out,
Leggings!”--then, as the man, taken by surprise, and having some
difficulty in saving himself from a blow on the nose, allowed the pot
to slip through his hands, Shrimp continued, “Catch it, clumsy! veil, I
never--now mind, if you’ve gone and bumped it, it’s your own doing,
and you pays for dilapidations, as ve calls ‘em at Cambridge. Coming,
sir--d’rec’ly, sir--yes, sir.” So saying, he slipped down the pony’s
shoulder, shook himself to set his dress in order as soon as he reached
terra firma, and unbuckling Lawless’s driving coat, which was fastened
round his waist by a broad strap, jumped upon a horse-block, and held
out the garment at arm’s length for ~316~~ his master to put on. The
gun-case and carpet-bag were then transferred from the pony to the
phaeton, and, resigning the reins to Lawless, who I knew would be
miserable unless he were allowed to drive, we started. Shrimp being
installed in the hind seat, where, folding his arms, he leaned back,
favouring us with a glance which seemed to say, “You may proceed, I am
quite comfortable”.

“It was about time for me to take an affectionate farewell of Alma
Mater,” observed Lawless, after he had criticised and admired the
horses afresh, and at such length, that I could not help smiling at the
fulfilment of Oaklands’ prediction--“it was about time for me to be off,
for the duns were becoming rather too particular in their attentions. I
got a precious fright the other day, I can tell you. I was fool enough
to pay two or three bills, and that gave the rest of the fellows a
notion that I was about to bolt, I suppose, for one morning I was
regularly besieged by them. I taught them a trick or two, though, before
I had done with them: they won’t forget me in a hurry, I expect.”

“Indeed! and how did you contrive to fix yourself so indelibly in their
recollections?” asked I.

“Eh! ‘though lost to sight, to memory _dear_’--rather that style of
thing, you know. So you want to hear all about it, eh? Well, it was a
good lark, I must say; I was telling it to Basset last night, and it
nearly killed him. I don’t know whether you have seen him lately, but
he’s grown horribly fat. He has taken to rearing prize bullocks, and I
think he has caught it of ‘em; rides sixteen stone, if he rides a pound.
I tell him he’ll break his neck some of these days, if he chooses to go
on hunting--the horses can’t stand it. However, he went into such fits
of laughter when I told him about it, that he got quite black in the
face, and I rang the bell, and swore he was in an apoplexy, but the
servant seemed used to the sort of thing, and brought him a jug of beer,
which resuscitated him. Well, to return to my mutton, as the Mounseers
have it--the very day I intended to leave Cambridge, Shrimp came in
while I was breakfasting, with a great coarse-looking letter in his
hand.

“‘Please, sir, Mr. Pigskin has called with his little account, and would
be very glad if you could let him have the money.’

“Pleasant, thinks I. ‘Here, boy, let’s have a look at this precious
little account--hum! ha! hunting-saddle, gag-bit for Lamplighter,
head-piece and reins to ditto, ~317~~“racing-saddle for chestnut mare,’
etc., etc., etc.; a horrid affair as long as my arm--total £96 18s. 2d.;
and the blackguard had charged everything half as much again as he had
told me when I ordered it. Still, I thought I’d pay the fellow, and have
done with him, if I had got tin enough left; so I told Shrimp to show
him into the rooms of a man who lived over me, but was away at the time,
and there let him wait. Lo! and behold! when I came to look about the
tin, I found that, instead of having ninety pounds at the banker’s, I
had overdrawn my account some hundred pounds or more; so that paying was
quite out of the question, and I was just going to ring the bell, and
beg Mr. Pigskin to call again in a day or two, by which time I
should have been ‘over the hills and far away,’ when Shrimp made his
appearance.

“‘Please, sir, there’s ever so many more gents called for their money.
There’s Mr. Flanker, the whipmaker, and Mr. Smokem, from the cigar-shop,
and Trotter, the bootmaker, and--yes, sir, there’s a young man from Mr.
Tinsel, the jeweller: and, oh! a load more of ‘em, if you please, sir.’

“This was agreeable, certainly; what to be at I didn’t know, when
suddenly a bright idea came across me.

“‘What have you done with ‘em?’ asked I.

“‘Put ‘em all into Mr. Skulker’s rooms, sir.’

“‘That’s the ticket,’ said I. ‘Now, listen to me. Look out, and see if
there are any more coming;--if there are, show ‘em up to the others;
take ‘em a couple of bottles of wine and some glasses, and tell them
I must beg them to wait a quarter of an hour or so, while I look over
their bills; and as soon as the room is full, come and tell me.’

“In about ten minutes Shrimp reported that he could not see any more
coming, and that he thought ‘all the gents I dealt with was upstairs’.

“‘That’s the time of day!’ exclaimed I, and taking out the key of the
room, which Skulker had left with me, in case I might like to put a
friend to sleep there, I slipped off my shoes, and creeping upstairs as
softly as possible, I locked the door. ‘Now then, Shrimp,’ said I, ‘run
and fetch me some good stout screws, a gimblet and a screwdriver.’ He
was not long getting them, and in less than five minutes I had them all
screwed in as fast as if they had been in their coffins, for they were
kicking up such a row over their wine that they never heard me at work.
Well, as soon as I had bagged my game, Shrimp and I packed up the traps
and sent them to the coach-office--found a coach about to start in half
an hour, booked ~318~~ myself for the box, and then strolled back to
see how the caged birds were getting on. By this time they had come to a
sense of their ‘sitivation,’ and were hammering away, and swearing, and
going on like troopers; but all to no purpose, for the door was a famous
strong one, and they had no means of breaking it open. Well, after I had
had a good laugh at the row they were making, I tapped at the door,
and ‘discoursed’ ‘em, as Paddy calls it. I told them that I was so much
shocked by the want of consideration, and proper feeling, and all that
sort of thing, which they had shown, in coming and besieging me as they
had done, that I felt it was a duty I owed to society at large, and to
themselves in particular, to read them a severe lesson; therefore, on
mature deliberation, I had sentenced them to imprisonment for the term
of one hour, and to wait for their money till such time as I should
further decree, which I begged to assure them would not be until I might
find it perfectly convenient to myself to pay them; and I wound up by
telling them to make themselves quite at home, entreating them not to
fatigue themselves by trying to get out, for that they had not a chance
of succeeding; inquiring whether they had any commands for London, and
wishing them a very affectionate farewell for some time to come. And
then down I ran, leaving them roaring and bellowing like so many mad
bulls--got to the office just in time, and tipping the coachman, drove
three parts of the way to town, feeling as jolly as if I had won a
thousand pounds on the Derby.”

“And what became of the locked-up tradesmen?” inquired I.

“Oh! why they stayed there above two hours before anybody let them out,
amusing themselves by smashing the windows, breaking the furniture to
pieces (one of them was an upholsterer, and had an eye to business,
I dare say), and kicking all the paint off the door. However, I have
written to Skulker, to get it all set to rights, and send me the bill,
so no harm’s done--it will teach those fellows a lesson they won’t
forget in a hurry, and the next time they wish to bully a Cantab,
they’ll recollect my little ‘_Matinée musicale,_’ as I call it. Oh! they
made a sweet row, I can assure you, sir.”

The chestnuts trotted merrily on their homeward journey, and the noble
oaks of Heathfield Park, their leafless branches pointing like giant
arms to the cold blue sky above them, soon came in sight.

“You are a great deal too early for dinner, Lawless,” ~319~~ said I, as
we drove up; “suppose you walk down to our cottage, and let me introduce
you to my mother and sister; you’ll find Oaklands there most likely, for
he talked of going to play chess.”

“Eh! your mother and sister! by Jove, I never thought of them; I declare
I had forgotten there were any ladies in the case--I can’t go near them
in this pickle, I’m all over mud and pheasant feathers, they’ll take
me for a native of the Sandwich Islands, one of the boys that cooked
Captain Cook--precious tough work they must have had to get their teeth
through him, for he was no chicken; I wonder how they trussed him, poor
old beggar. No! I’ll make myself a little more like a Christian, and
then I’ll come down and be introduced to them if it’s necessary, but
I shall not be able to say half a dozen words to them: it’s a fact, I
never can talk to a woman, except that girl at old Coleman’s hop, Di
Clapperton; she went the pace with me, and no mistake. By the way, how’s
the other young woman, Miss Clara Sav----”

“If you really want to dress before you come to the cottage,”
 interrupted I hastily, “you have no time to lose.”

“Haven’t I? off we go then,” cried my companion. “Here, you lazy young
imp,” he continued, seizing Shrimp by the collar of the coat, and
dropping him to the ground, as one would a kitten, “find my room, and
get out my things directly--brush along.”

So saying, he sprang from the phaeton, and rushed into the hall, pushing
Shrimp before him, to the utter consternation of the dignified old
butler, who, accustomed to the graceful indolence which characterised
his young master’s every movement, was quite unprepared for such an
energetic mode of proceeding.

Forgetting that politeness required me to wait for my companion, I threw
the reins to a groom, and started off at a brisk walk in the direction
of the cottage.

Lawless’s concluding words had aroused a train of thought sufficiently
interesting to banish every other recollection. Sweet Clara! it was
quite a month since I had parted from her, but the soft tones of her
silvery voice still lingered on my ear--the trustful expression of her
bright eyes--the appealing sadness of that mournful smile, more touching
in its quiet melancholy, than many a deeper sign of woe, still presented
themselves to my imagination with a vividness which was almost painful.
I had received a note from her about a week before, in which she told me
that Cumberland had been absent from the Priory for some days, and,
as long as this was the case, ~320~~ she was comparatively free from
annoyance, but that Mr. Vernor’s mind was evidently as much set upon the
match as ever; nothing, however, she assured me, should induce her to
consent, for much as she had always disliked the scheme, she now felt
that death were far preferable to a union with a man she despised; and
she ended by saying, that whenever she felt inclined to give way to
despair, the remembrance of my affection came across her like a sunbeam,
and rendered her happy even in the midst of her distress.--Oh! what
would I not have given, to have possessed the dear privilege of
consoling her, to have told her that she had nothing to fear, that my
love should surround and protect her, and that, under the hallowing
influence of sympathy, happiness for the future would be increased
twofold, while sorrow shared between us would be deprived of half its
bitterness!--in fact, long before I arrived at the cottage, I had worked
myself up into a great state of excitement, and had originated more
romantic nonsense than is promulgated in a “seminary for young ladies,”
 in the interval between the time when the French teacher has put out the
candle, and the fair pupils have talked themselves to sleep, which, if
report does not belie them, is not until they have forfeited all chance
of adding to their attractions by getting a little beauty-sleep before
twelve o’clock.

“Ah, Frank! back already! what have you done with Lawless?” exclaimed
Oaklands, raising his eyes from the chessboard as I entered our little
drawing-room.

“He will be here shortly,” replied I, “but he positively refused to face
the ladies till he had changed his shooting costume, so I left him up at
the Hall to adonise. But how goes the game? who is winning?”

“As was certain to be the case, I am losing,” answered Fanny.

“Well, I won’t disturb you,” returned I, “and perhaps you will have
finished before Lawless makes his appearance; where is my mother,
by-the-by?”

“She only left the room just as you returned,” replied Fanny quickly;
“she has been sitting here ever since Mr. Oaklands came.”

“I do not wish to know where she has been, but where she is,” rejoined I;
“I want to tell her that Lawless is coming to be introduced to her; is
she upstairs?”

“I believe she is,” was the reply, “but you will only worry her if you
disturb her; mamma particularly dislikes being hunted about, you know:
you had better sit still, and she will be down again in a few minutes.”

~321~~ “There is no such thing as free-will in this world, I believe,”
 exclaimed I, throwing myself back in an easy-chair; “however, as you do
not very often play the tyrant, you shall have your own way this time.
Harry, the chestnuts did their work to admiration; Lawless was delighted
with them, and talked of nothing else half the way home.”

“I don’t doubt it--your queen’s in danger, Fanny,” was the answer.

Seeing that my companions appeared entirely engrossed by their game,
I occupied myself with a book till I heard the ominous sounds,
“Check! excuse me, the knight commands that square; you have but one
move--checkmate!”

“Who has won? though I need not ask. How dare you beat my sister, Master
Harry?”

“I had some trouble in doing it, I can tell you,” replied Oaklands; then
turning to Fanny, he continued, “had you but moved differently when
I castled my king to get out of your way, the game would have been
entirely in your own hands, for I was so stupid, that up to that moment
I never perceived the attack you were making upon me.”

“Really I don’t think I had a chance of beating you: Frank must take you
in hand next, he is a much better player than I am.”

“Indeed I am not going to be handed over to Frank, or any one else, in
that summary way, I can assure you; I intend to have another game of
chess with you tomorrow, after we come in from our ride.--I forgot
to tell you that Harris says the little grey Arab carries a lady
beautifully--however, 1 left orders for one of the boys to exercise her
well this afternoon, with a side-saddle and a horse-cloth, to enact the
part of a lady. At what hour shall we ride to-morrow? it is generally
fine before luncheon at this time of year, I think.”

“Oh! you are very kind,” replied Fanny hurriedly, “but I am afraid I
cannot ride to-morrow.”

“Why not? what are you going to do?” inquired Oaklands.

“I am not going to do anything particularly,” returned Fanny,
hesitating, “but I don’t know whether my habit is in wearable order,
and--well, I will talk to mamma about it. By-the-by, I really must go
and see what has become of her all this time,” she continued, rising to
leave the apartment.

“I thought there was nothing my mother disliked so ~322~~ much as being
hunted about,” rejoined I; “I wonder you can think of disturbing her.”

A playful shake of the head was her only reply, and she quitted the
room.



CHAPTER XLI -- HOW LAWLESS BECAME A LADY’S MAN

     “Doublet and hose should show itself courageous to petticoats.
     Therefore, courage!”
      --_As You Like It_.

     “From the crown of his head, to the sole of his foot, he is all mirth.
     He hath a heart as sound as a bell, and his tongue is the clapper;
     For what his heart thinks, his tongue speaks.
     “I hope he is in love.”
      --_Much Ado about Nothing_.

“FRANK, I am not at all satisfied about your sister,” began Oaklands,
as the door closed after her. “She does not look well, and she seems
entirely to have lost her spirits.”

“I thought as you do before I went up for my degree,” replied I; “but
since my return I hoped she was all right again. What makes you imagine
her out of spirits?”

“Oh! several things; she never talks and laughs as she used to do. Why,
all this afternoon I could scarcely get half a dozen words out of
her; and she seems to have no energy to do anything. How unwilling
she appeared to enter into my scheme about the riding! She evidently
dislikes the idea of exertion of any kind: I know the feeling well; but
it is not natural for her; she used to be surprisingly active, and was
the life and soul of the party. But what, perhaps, has caused me to
notice all this so particularly, and makes me exceedingly uncomfortable,
is, that I am afraid it is all owing to me.”

“Owing to you, my dear Harry! what can you mean?” inquired I.

“Why, I fear that business of the duel, and the great care she and your
mother took of me (for which--believing as I do that, under Providence,
it saved my life--I can never be sufficiently grateful), have been too
much for her. Remember, she was quite a girl; and no doubt seeing an
old friend brought to the house apparently dying, must have been a very
severe shock to her, and depend upon it, her nerves have never recovered
their proper tone. However, I shall make it my business to endeavour
to interest and amuse her, and you must do ~323~~ everything you can to
assist me, Frank; we’ll get all the new books down from London, and have
some people to stay at the Hall. She has shut herself up too much; Ellis
says she has; I shall make her ride on horseback every day.”

“Horseback, eh!” exclaimed Lawless, who had entered the cottage without
our perceiving him. “Ay, that’s a prescription better than all your
doctor’s stuff; clap her on a side-saddle, and a brisk canter for a
couple of hours every day across country will set the old lady up again
in no time, if it’s your mother that’s out of condition, Frank. Why,
Oaklands, man, you are looking as fresh as paint; getting sound again,
wind and limb, eh?”

“I hope so, at last,” replied Harry, shaking Lawless warmly by the hand;
“but I’ve had a narrow escape of losing my life, I can assure you.”

“No; really I didn’t know it had been as bad as that I By Jove, if
he had killed you, I’d have shot that blackhearted villain, Wilford,
myself, and chanced about his putting a bullet into me while I was doing
it.”

“My dear Lawless, I thank you for your kind feeling towards me; but I
cannot bear to hear you speak in that light way of duelling,” returned
Oaklands gravely; “if men did but know the misery they were entailing
on all those who cared for them by their rash acts, independently of all
higher considerations, duelling, and its twin brother, suicide, would be
less frequent than they are. When I have seen the tears stealing down
my father’s grief-worn cheeks, and witnessed the anxious, painful
expression in the faces of the kind friends who were nursing me, and
have reflected that it was by yielding to my own ungoverned passions
that I had brought all this sorrow upon them, my remorse has often been
far harder to bear than any pain my wound has caused me.”

At this moment, my mother and Fanny making their appearance, I hastened
to introduce Lawless, who, being greatly alarmed at the ceremony, grew
very red in the face, shuffled my mother into a corner of the room, and
upset a chair against her, stumbling over Harry’s legs, and knocking
down the chessboard in the excess of his penitence. Having, with my
assistance, remedied these disasters, after stigmatising himself as an
awkward dog, and comparing himself to a bull in a china-shop, he turned
to Fanny, exclaiming:--

“Delighted to have the pleasure of seeing you at last, Miss Fairlegh; it
is several years since I first heard of ~324~~ you. Do you remember the
writing-desk at old Mildman’s, eh, Frank? no end of a shame of me to
spoil it; I have often thought so since; but boys will be boys, eh, Mrs.
Fairlegh?”

My mother acquiesced in this obstinate adherence to their primary
formation on the part of the junior members of the nobler sex with so
much cordiality that Lawless was encouraged to proceed. “Glad to find
there’s a chance of seeing you out with us some of these days, ma’am;
shall we be able to persuade you to accompany us to-morrow?”

“Yes, I think it very likely that I may go,” returned my mother, who
imagined he was referring to some proposed drive; “in what direction
will it be, pray?”

“Direction, eh? Why that of course depends very much on what line he may
happen to take when he breaks cover,” returned Lawless. My mother, who
had been previously advised of Lawless’s sporting metaphors, concluding
that the “he” referred to Sir John Oaklands, calmly replied:--

“Yes, certainly, I was mentioning the ruins of Saworth Abbey to Sir John
yesterday; do you know them?”

“I should think I did--rather,” exclaimed Lawless, forgetting his
company manners in the interest of the subject. “Why, I have seen more
foxes run into in the fields round Saworth than in any other parish in
the country. Whenever the meet is either at Grinder’s End or Chorley
Bottom, the fox is safe to head for Saworth. Oh! I see you’re up to the
whole thing, Mrs. Fairlegh; we shall have you showing all of us the way
across country in fine style to-morrow. 1 expect there’ll be some pretty
stiff fencing though, if he should take the line you imagine, but
I suppose you don’t mind anything of that sort; with a steady,
well-trained hunter (and a lady should never ride one that is not),
there’s very little danger--take care to keep out of the crowd when
you’re getting away; don’t check your horse at his fences; have a little
mercy on his bellows over the heavy ground; and with a light weight like
yours you might lead the field. Why, Frank, you ought to be proud of
Mrs. Fairlegh. I tell you what--the first time the hounds meet near
Leatherly, I’ll have my mother out, whether she likes it or not. I’ll
stand no nonsense about it, you may depend; she shall see a run for once
in her life, at all events. Mrs. Fairlegh, ma’am,” he continued, rising
and shaking her warmly by the hand, “excuse my saying so, but you’re a
regular brick--you are indeed!”

~325~~ The scene at this moment would not have made a bad study for a
painter. Oaklands, having struggled in vain to preserve his gravity,
was in fits of laughter. Fanny, who had from the first perceived
the equivoque, was very little better, while my mother, completely
mystified, sat staring at Lawless, whom she evidently considered a
little insane, with an expression of bewildered astonishment, not
unmixed with fear. As soon as I could contrive to speak (for Lawless’s
face, when he had discovered the effect he had produced, completely
finished me, and I laughed till the tears ran down my cheeks), I
explained to him that it was my sister, and not my mother, who was
thinking of riding, while the notion of hunting originated wholly and
solely in his own fertile imagination.

“Eh? What! she doesn’t hunt?--ah! I see, put my foot in it pretty deep
this time; beg pardon, Mrs. Fairlegh--no offence meant, I assure you.
Well, I thought it was a very fast thing for an old----I--that is, for a
lady to do. I fancied you were so well up in the whole affair, too: most
absurd, really; I certainly am not fit for female society. I think, when
the hunting season’s over, I shall put myself to one of those tip-top
boarding-schools to learn manners for a quarter; the sort of shop, you
know, where they teach woman her mission--(how to get a rich husband,
eh, Frank?)--for three hundred pounds a year, washing and church
principles extra, and keep a ‘Professor’ to instruct the young ladies in
the art of getting out of a carriage on scientific principles, that is,
without showing their ankles. Didn’t succeed very well with my sister
Julia, though; the girl happens to be particularly clean about the
pasterns, so she declared it was infringing on the privileges of a
free-born British subject, vowed her ankles were her own property,
and she had a right to do what she liked with ‘em, and carried out her
principles by kicking the Professor’s shins for him. Plucky girl is
Julia; she puts me very much in mind of what I was when I was her age at
Eton, and pinned a detonating cracker to old Botherboy’s coat-tail, so
that, what between the pin and the explosion, it’s my belief he would
have found himself more comfortable in the battle of Waterloo, than he
felt the first time he sat down. Ah! those were happy days!”

Thus running on, Lawless kept us in a roar of laughter, till Oaklands,
pulling out his watch, discovered it was time to return to the Hall, and
prepare for dinner. It turned out, on examination, that the habit did
require altering, so the ride was put off till the necessary repairs
~326~~ should be executed. As the next day proved too frosty to hunt,
Lawless and I, under the auspices of the head-keeper, set to work to
slaughter the supernumerary pheasants, Sir John and Harry joining us for
a couple of hours, though Ellis would not allow the latter to carry a
gun. We had a capital day’s sport, and got home just in time to dress,
and Sir John having contrived in the course of the afternoon to carry
off my mother and Fanny, we were a very comfortable little party. Sir
John took my mother down to dinner, and Lawless paired off with Fanny,
an arrangement which, as his eccentricities evidently afforded her great
amusement, I was not sorry for.

“Why, Fanny,” whispered I, when we joined the ladies in the
drawing-room, “you are growing quite frisky; what a row you and Lawless
were making at dinner-time! I have not heard you talk and laugh so much
for many a day.”

“Oh! your friend is famous fun,” replied Fanny--“perfectly
irresistible; I assure you I am delighted with him--he is something
quite new to me.”

“I am so glad you have asked Lawless here,” observed I to Oaklands; “do
you see how much pleased and amused Fanny is with him?--he appears to
have aroused her completely--the very thing we were wishing for. He’ll
be of more use to her than all of us put together.”

“He seems to me to talk a vast deal of nonsense,” replied Harry, rather
crossly, as I fancied.

“And yet 1 can’t help being amused by it,” replied I; “I’m like Fanny in
that respect.”

“I was not aware your sister had a taste for that style of conversation.
I confess it’s a sort of thing which very soon tires me.”

“Splendid old fellow, Sir John,” observed Lawless in an undertone,
seating himself by Fanny; “I never look at him without thinking of
one of those jolly old Israelites who used to keep knocking about the
country with a plurality of wives and families, and an immense stud of
camels and donkeys: they read ‘em out to us at church, you know--what do
you call ‘em, eh?”

“One of the Patriarchs, I suppose you mean,” replied Fanny, smiling.

“Eh--yes, that’s the thing. Noah was rather in that line before he took
to the water system, wasn’t he? Well, now, if you can fancy one of
these ancients, decently dressed in a blue coat with brass buttons, knee
shorts and silk stockings, like a Christian, it’s my belief he’d be the
very moral (as the old women call it) of Sir John; uncommonly ~327~~
handsome he must have been--even better looking than Harry, when he was
his age.”

“Mr. Oaklands is so pale and thin now,” replied Fanny.

“Eh! isn’t he just?” was the rejoinder. “Many a man has been booked for
an inside place in a hearse for a less hurt than his; and I don’t know
that he is out of the wood, even yet.”

“Why, you don’t think him worse?” exclaimed Fanny anxiously. “Nothing
has gone wrong--you have not been told--are they keeping anything from
me?”

“Eh! no! ‘pon my word; Ellis, who is getting him into condition, say’s
he’s all right, and will be as fresh as a colt in a month or two. Why,
you look quite frightened.”

“You startled me for a moment,” replied Fanny, colouring slightly; “any
little relapse renders Sir John so uncomfortable that we are naturally
anxious on his account.”

“I am sure Lawless is boring your sister,” observed Oaklands, who had
been sitting quite at the farther end of the drawing-room, cutting open
the leaves of a new book. “I know that worried look of hers so well:--I
shall go and interpose on her behalf.--Lawless,” he continued, crossing
over to him, “the billiard-room is lighted up, if you like to challenge
Fairlegh to a game.”

“Billiards, eh?” returned Lawless; “why, really, if you had walked as
many miles to-day as I have, I don’t think you’d much fancy trotting
round a billiard-table. Besides, I’m very well off where I am,” he
added, with what was intended for a gallant glance towards Fanny;
“here’s metal more attractive, as the fellow says in the play.”

Oaklands’ only reply was a slight curl of the lip, and, turning to
Fanny, he said, “Are you at all inclined to take your revenge? We shall
have time for a good game if we begin at once; will you come into the
music-room, or shall I fetch the chess-men here?”

“Is it not rather late?” replied Fanny hesitatingly.

“Not if we begin now,” returned Oaklands.

“Mr. Lawless was offering to show me some tricks with cards; as they
will not take so long a time as a game of chess, perhaps that would be
most advisable this evening.”

“Whichever you prefer; I will ring for cards,” replied Oaklands coldly.
He then waited until the servant had executed the order, and, as soon as
Lawless had attracted public attention to his performance, left the room
unobserved.

~328~~ Wonderful things did the cards effect under Lawless’s able
management--very wonderful indeed, until he showed you how they were
done; and then the only wonder was that you had not found them out for
yourself, and how you could have been stupid enough to be taken in by so
simple a trick: and very great was Lawless on the occasion, and greater
still was Ellis, who was utterly sceptical as to the possibility of
performing any of the tricks beforehand, and quite certain, as soon
as he had seen it, that he knew all about it, and could do it easily
himself, and who, on trying, invariably failed; and yet, not profiting
one bit by his experience, was just as sceptical and just as confident
in regard to the next, which was of course attended by a like result.
Very wonderful and very amusing was it all, and much laughter did it
occasion; and the minutes flitted by on rapid wings, until my mother
discovered that it was time for us to start on our walk to the cottage,
a mode of progression of which Sir John by no means approved; he
therefore rang the bell, and ordered the carriage. While they were
getting it ready Harry’s absence was for the first time observed, and
commented on.

“Did anybody see when he left the room?” inquired Sir John.

“Yes,” replied I, “he went away just as Lawless began his performances.”

“Dear me! I hope he was not feeling ill,” said my mother.

“Ill, ma’am!” exclaimed Ellis, “impossible; you don’t know Mr. Oaklands’
constitution as well as I do, or such an idea could never have occurred
to you; besides, you can’t for a moment suppose he would think of being
taken suddenly ill without having consulted me on the subject. I must
go and see after him, ma’am, directly, but it’s quite impossible that he
should be ill;” and as he spoke he left the room with hurried steps.

“My dear Fanny, how you made me jump! I hope you haven’t done any
mischief,” exclaimed my mother, as Fanny, moving suddenly, knocked down
the card-box, and scattered the contents on the carpet.

“I am sadly awkward,” returned Fanny, stooping to pick up the box; “I do
not think it is injured.”

“My dear child, it does not in the least signify,” said Sir John, taking
her kindly by the hand; “why, you have quite frightened yourself, you
silly little thing; you are actually trembling; sit down, my dear, sit
down--never mind the cards. Frank, if you’ll ring the bell, Edmunds will
see to that.”

~329~~ “No, no! we’ll pick ‘em up,” exclaimed Lawless, going down on
all fours; “don’t send for the butler; he’s such a pompous old boy; if
I were to see him stooping down here, I should be pushing him over, or
playing him some trick or other. I shouldn’t be able to help it, he’s so
jolly fat. What a glorious confusion! kings and queens and little fishes
all mixed up together!--here’s the knave of clubs--hail-fellow-well-met
with a thing that looks like a salmon with a swelled face! Well, you
have been and gone and done it this time, Miss Fairlegh--I could not
have believed it of you, Miss Fairlegh, oh!”

“Mind you pick them up properly,” retorted Fanny; “if you really were
such a conjurer as you pretended to be just now, you would only have to
say ‘hocus pocus,’ and the cards would all jump into the box again in
proper order.”

“Then I should lose the pleasure of going on my knees in your service.
There’s a pretty speech for you, eh! I’ll tell you what--you’ll make
a lady’s man of me now, before you’ve done with me. I’m polishing
rapidly--I know I am.”

“It’s all right!” exclaimed Ellis, entering. “I found Mr. Oaklands lying
on the sofa in the library; he says he feels a little knocked up by his
walk this morning, and desired me to apologise for his absence, and wish
everybody good-night for him. I say, Fairlegh,” continued he, drawing me
a little on one side, “has anything happened to annoy him?”

“Nothing particular, that I know of,” replied I; “why do you ask?”

“I thought he looked especially cross; and he called our friend Lawless
an intolerable puppy, and wondered how any woman of common sense could
contrive to put up with him--that’s all,” rejoined Ellis.

“Fanny refused to play chess with him, because she thought it too late
in the evening;--that cannot have annoyed him?”

“Oh, no!” was the reply. “I see exactly what it is now: since the
granulating process has been going on so beautifully in the side, his
appetite has returned, and as he must not take any very active exercise
just yet, the liver is getting torpid. I must throw in a little blue
pill, and he’ll be as good-tempered as an angel again; for, naturally,
there is not a man breathing with a finer disposition, or a more
excellent constitution, than Mr. Oaklands. Why, sir, the other day,
when I had been relating a professional anecdote to him, he called me a
‘bloodthirsty butcher,’ and I honoured him for it--no hypocrisy there,
sir.”

~330~~ At this moment the carriage was announced, and we proceeded
to take our departure, Lawless handing Fanny in, and then standing
chattering at the window, till I was obliged to give him a hint that Sir
John would not like to have the horses kept standing in the cold.

“You’ve made a conquest, Miss Fan,” said I, as we drove off: “I never
saw Lawless pay such attention to any woman before; even Di Clapperton
did not produce nearly so strong an effect, I can assure you.”

“I am quite innocent of any intention to captivate,” replied Fanny. “Mr.
Lawless amuses me, and I laugh sometimes at, and sometimes with, him.”

“Still, my dear, you should be careful,” interposed my mother; “though
it’s play to you, it may be death to him, poor young man! I got into a
terrible scrape once in that way myself, when I was a girl; laughing and
joking with a young gentleman in our neighbourhood, till he made me an
offer one morning, and I really believe I should have been persuaded
into marrying him, though I did not care a bit about him, if I had not
been attached to your poor dear father at the time: now you have nothing
of that sort to save you; so, as I said before, my dear, mind what you
are about.”

“I don’t think Mr. Lawless’s heart will be broken while there is a pack
of hounds within reach, mamma dear,” replied Fanny, glancing archly at
me as she spoke.

As we were about to proceed to our several rooms for the night, I
contrived to delay my mother for a moment under pretext of lighting a
candle for her, and closing the door, I said:--

“My dear mother, if, by any odd chance, Fanny should be inclined to like
Lawless, don’t you say anything against it. Lawless is a good fellow;
all his faults lie on the surface, and are none of them serious; he is
completely his own master, and might marry any girl he pleased tomorrow,
and I need not tell you would be a most excellent match for Fanny.
He seems very much taken with her; and no wonder, for she is really
excessively pretty; and when she is in spirits, as she was to-night, her
manner is most piquante and fascinating.”

“Well, my dear boy,” was the reply, “you know your friend best, and if
he and Fanny choose to take a fancy to each other, and you approve of
it, I shall not say anything against it.”

Whereupon I kissed her, called her a dear, good old mother, and carried
up for her, in token of affection, her work-box, her reticule, her
candle and a basket, ~331~~ containing a large bunch of keys, sundry
halfpence and three pairs of my own stockings which wanted mending, a
process which invariably rendered them unwearable ever after.



CHAPTER XLII -- THE MEET AT EVERSLEY GORSE

          “We’ll make you some sport with the fox Ere we case him.”
           --_All’s Well that Ends Well_.

          “Oh! for a fall, if fall she must,
          On the gentle lap of Flora;
          But still, thank Heaven, she clings to her seat.”
           --_Hood_.

          “She held his drooping head,
          Till given to breathe the freer air,
          Returning life repaid their care;
          He gazed on them with heavy sigh--
          I could have wished e’en thus to die.”
           --_Rokeby_.

IT had been arranged between my mother and Oaklands, in the earlier part
of the evening on which the events described in the last chapter
took place, that Fanny should have her first ride on the day but one
following, by which time it was supposed that the habit would be fit for
service, and the young lady’s mind sufficiently familiarised with the
idea, to overcome a rather (as I considered) unnecessary degree of alarm
which I believe would have led her, had she been allowed to decide for
herself, to relinquish it altogether. The only stipulation my mother
insisted on was, that I should accompany my sister in the character of
chaperon, an arrangement to which, as it was quite evident that Lawless
intended to form one of the party, I made no objection. Accordingly,
on the day appointed, Oaklands made his appearance about ten o’clock,
mounted on his favourite horse, and attended by a groom, leading the
grey Arab which was destined to carry Fanny, as well as a saddle-horse
for me.

“Bravo, Harry! it does one good to see you and the ‘Cid’ together
again,” exclaimed I, patting the arched neck of the noble animal; “how
well he is looking!”

“Is he not?” replied Oaklands warmly; “the good old horse knew me as
well as possible, and gave a neigh of pleasure when first I spoke to
him. Is Fanny nearly ready?”

“She will be here directly,” replied I; and the words had ~332~~
scarcely escaped my lips when she made her appearance, looking so lovely
in her hat and habit, that I felt sure it would be all over with Lawless
as soon as he saw her.

“Why, Fanny,” exclaimed Oaklands, dismounting slowly and with effort,
for he was still lamentably weak, “I have not seen you in a habit so
long, I declare I should scarcely have known you; the effect is quite
magical.”

A smile and a blush were her only reply; and Oaklands continued, “Will
you not like to mount now? Lawless will join us; but he means’ to
abandon us again when we get near Eversley Gorse, for the superior
attractions of a run with the subscription pack.”

“Oh, I hope the hounds will not come in our way,” exclaimed Fanny;
“if you think there is any chance of their frightening my horse, I had
better not ride to-day.”

“I do not think you need feel the least alarm; though spirited, Rose
Alba is perfectly quiet; besides, we are not bound to ride towards
Eversley, unless you approve of doing so,” replied Oaklands.

As he spoke, Lawless rode up just in time to catch the last few words.
He was dressed in an appropriate hunting costume, and sat his horse (a
splendid black hunter, whose fiery temper rendered all those in whom the
bump of caution was properly developed remarkably shy of him) as easily
as if he formed part of the animal. As he checked his impatient steed,
and taking off his hat, bowed to Fanny, his eyes sparkling, and his
whole countenance beaming with pleasure and excitement, he really looked
quite handsome. The same idea seemed to strike Fanny, who whispered
to me, “If ever your friend has his picture taken, it should be on
horseback”.

“Good-morning, Miss Fairlegh!” cried Lawless, as flinging the rein to a
groom, he sprang from the saddle, and bounded towards us; “glad to see
you in what I consider the most becoming dress a lady can wear--very
becoming it is too,” he added, with a slight bend of the head to mark
the compliment. “What did I hear you say about not riding to Eversley?
You never can be so cruel as to deny me the pleasure of your company,
and I must go there to join the meet. I would not have hunted to-day,
though, if I had known you wished to ride in another direction.”

“It was only that Fanny was afraid the hounds might frighten her horse,”
 replied I.

“Oh, not the least danger; I’ll take care of all that,” returned
Lawless; “the little white mare is as gentle as ~333~~ a lamb: I
cantered her across the park myself yesterday on purpose to try--the
sweetest thing for a lady I ever set eyes on. You have got some good
cattle in your stables, Harry, I must own that.”

“Hadn’t we better think of mounting? Time will not stand still for us,”
 observed I.

“Let me assist you, Fanny,” said Oaklands, advancing towards her.

“Thank you,” replied Fanny, drawing back: “but I need not give you the
trouble; Frank will help me.”

“Here, get out of the way!” cried Lawless, as I hesitated, fancying
from the shade on Oaklands’ brow that he might not like to be interfered
with; “I see none of you know how to help a lady properly. Bring up that
mare,” he continued, “closer--that’s it; stand before her head. Now,
Miss Fairlegh, take a firm hold of the pummel; place your foot in my
hand--are you ready?--spring! there we are--famously done! Oh, you
know what you are about, I see. Let me give you the rein--between the
fingers; yes--the snaffle will manage her best; the curb may hang loose,
and only use it if it is necessary; let the groom stand by her till I am
mounted; the black horse is rather fidgety; soh! boy, soh! quiet!--stand
you brute!--there’s a good boy; steady, steady--off we go!”

As Lawless pushed by me at the beginning of this speech, Oaklands
advanced towards him, and his pale cheek flushed with anger. Apparently,
however, changing his intention, he drew himself up haughtily, and,
turning on his heel, walked slowly to his horse, mounted, and reining
him back a few paces, sat motionless as an equestrian statue, gazing
on the party with a gloomy brow until we had started, when, suddenly
applying the spur, he joined us in a couple of bounds, and took his
station at Fanny’s left hand. Lawless having appropriated the off side,
devoted himself to the double task of managing the Arab and doing the
agreeable to its fair rider, which latter design he endeavoured to
accomplish by chattering incessantly.

After proceeding a mile or two, Lawless sustaining the whole burden
of the conversation, while Oaklands never spoke a word, we came upon a
piece of level greensward.

“Here’s a famous place for a canter, Miss Fairlegh,” exclaimed Lawless;
“lean a little more towards me--that’s right. Are you ready?--just
tickle her neck with the whip--not too hard--jerk the rein
slightly--gently, mare, gently!--there’s a good horse, that’s it!
Eh! don’t ~334~~ you see she settles into her pace as quietly as a
rocking-horse--oh! she’s a sweet thing for a feather-weight;” and
restraining the plunging of the fiery animal he rode, he leaned over,
and patted the Arab’s arched neck, as they went off at an easy canter.

I was about to follow their example, but observing that Oaklands delayed
putting his horse in motion, it occurred to me that this being the first
ride he had taken since his illness, the exertion might possibly be too
much for his strength; I waited, therefore, till he joined me, when I
inquired whether he felt any ill effects from the unwonted exertion.

“No,” was the reply. “I feel an odd kind of fluttering in my side, but
it is only weakness.”

“Had you not better give it up for to-day, and let me ride back with you?
I dare say Lawless would not care about hunting for once, and would see
Fanny home.”

“I will not go back!” he replied sternly; then checking himself, he
added in a milder tone, “I mean to say it is not necessary--really I do
not feel ill--besides, it was only a passing sensation, and is already
nearly gone.”

He paused for a moment, and then continued, “How very dictatorial and
disagreeable Lawless has grown of late, and what absurd nonsense he
does talk when he is in the society of ladies! I wonder your sister can
tolerate it.” “She not only tolerates it,” returned I, slightly
piqued at the contemptuous tone in which he spoke of Lawless, “but
is excessively amused by it; why, she said last night he was quite
delightful.”

“I gave her credit for better taste,” was Oaklands’ reply; and striking
his horse impatiently with the spur, he dashed forward, and in a few
moments we had rejoined the others.

“I hope illness has not soured Harry’s temper, but he certainly appears
more prone to take offence than in former days,” was my inward comment,
as I pondered over his last words. “I am afraid Fanny has annoyed him;
I must speak to her, and give her a hint to be more careful for the
future.”

Half an hour’s brisk riding brought us to the outskirts of a broad
common, a great portion of which was covered by the gorse or furze from
which it took its name. Around the sides of this were gathered from
sixty to eighty well-mounted men, either collected in groups, to discuss
the various topics of local interest which occupy the minds of country
gentlemen, or riding up and down in parties of two and three together,
impatient for the ~335~~ commencement of their morning’s sport; while,
in a small clear space, nearly in the centre of the furze-brake, were
stationed the hounds, with the huntsman and whippers-in. “There!”
 exclaimed Lawless, “look at that! Talk about operas and exhibitions!
where will you find an exhibition as well worth seeing as that is? I
call that a sight for an empress. Now are not you glad I made you come,
Miss Fairlegh?”

“The red coats look very gay and picturesque, certainly,” replied Fanny;
“and what loves of horses, with their satin skins glistening in the
sunshine! But I wish Rose Alba would not prick up her ears in that way;
I’m rather frightened.”

While Lawless was endeavouring to convince her there was no danger, and
that he was able and willing to frustrate any nefarious designs which
might enter into the graceful little head of the white Arab, a young man
rode up to Oaklands, and shaking him warmly by the hand, congratulated
him on being once more on horseback.

“Ah, Whitcombe, it’s a long time since you and I have met,” returned
Harry; “you have been abroad, I think?” “Yes,” was the reply; “Charles
and I have been doing the grand tour, as they call it.” “How is your
brother?”

“Oh, he’s all right, only he has grown a great pair of moustaches, and
won’t cut them off; he has taken up a notion they make him look killing,
I believe. He was here a minute ago--yes, there he is, talking to
Randolph. Come and speak to him, he’ll be delighted to see you.” “Keep
your eye on Fanny’s mare,” said Oaklands, as he rode past me, “she seems
fidgety, and that fellow Lawless is thinking more about the hounds than
he is of her, though he does boast so much of the care he can take of
her. I shall be with you again directly.”

“Do you see the gentleman on the bright bay, Miss Fairlegh?” exclaimed
Lawless; “there, he’s speaking to Tom Field, the huntsman, now; he has
got his watch in his hand; that’s Mr. Rand, the master of the hounds;
you’ll see some fun directly. Ah! I thought so.”

As he spoke, at a signal from the huntsman, the hounds dashed into
cover, and were instantly lost to sight in a waving sea of gorse, save
when a head or neck became visible for a moment, as some dog more eager
than the rest sprang over a tangled brake, through which he was unable
to force his way.

“Oh, you beauties!” resumed Lawless ~336~~ enthusiastically, “only watch
them; they’re drawing it in first-rato style, and there’s rare lying
in that cover. Now see how the furze shakes--look at their sterns
nourishing; have at him there--have at him; that’s right, Tom--cheer ‘em
on, boy--good huntsman is Tom Field--there again!--a fox, I’ll bet
five hundred pounds to a pony--hark!--a whimper--now wait--a challenge!
another and another--listen to them--there’s music--watch the right-hand
corner--that’s where he’ll break cover for a thousand, and if he does,
what a run we shall have! Look at those fools,” he added, pointing to
a couple of cockney-looking fellows who were cantering towards the very
place he had pointed to, “they’ll head him back as sure as fate; hold
hard there--why does not somebody stop them? By Jove, I’ll give them a
taste of the double thong when I get up with them, even if it’s the Lord
Mayor of London and his brother. Look to your sister, Frank, I’ll be
back directly.”

“Wait one minute,” shouted I, but in vain; for before the words were
well out of my mouth, he had driven the spurs into his eager horse, and
was galloping furiously in the direction of the unhappy delinquents who
had excited his indignation. My reason for asking him to wait a minute
was, that just as the hounds began drawing the cover, I had made the
agreeable discovery that the strap to which one of my saddle-girths was
buckled had given way, and that there was nothing for it but to dismount
and repair the evil; and I had scarcely concluded the best temporary
arrangement I was able to effect, when Lawless started in pursuit of
the cockneys. Almost at the same moment a countryman, stationed at the
outside of the gorse, shouted “Tally-ho!” and the fox broke cover in
gallant style, going away at a rattling pace, with four or five couple
of hounds on his traces. In an instant all was confusion, cigars were
thrown away, hats pressed firmly down upon the brow, and, with a rush
like the outburst of some mighty torrent, the whole field to a man swept
rapidly onward.

In the meanwhile Fanny’s mare, which had for some minutes shown symptoms
of excitement, pawing the ground with her fore-foot, pricking up her
ears, and tossing her head impatiently, began, as Lawless rode off, to
plunge in a manner which threatened at every moment to unseat her rider,
and as several horsemen dashed by her, becoming utterly unmanageable,
she set off at a wild gallop, drowning in the clatter of her hoofs
Fanny’s agonised cry for help. Driven nearly frantic by the ~337~~ peril
in which my sister was placed, I was even yet prevented for a minute or
more from hastening to her assistance, as my own horse, frightened by
the occurrences I have described, struggled so violently to follow his
companions as to render it very difficult for me to hold, and quite
impossible to remount, him, so that when at length I succeeded in
springing on his back, the hounds were already out of sight, and Fanny
and her runaway steed so far ahead of me, that it seemed inevitable
some accident must occur before I could overtake them, and it was with
a sinking heart that I gave my horse the rein, and dashed forward in
pursuit.

The course which Lawless had taken when he started on his wildgoose
chase was down a ride cut through the furze, and it was along this turfy
track that Rose Alba was now hurrying in her wild career. The horse on
which I was mounted was a young thorough-bred, standing nearly sixteen
hands high, and I felt certain that in the pursuit in which I was
engaged, the length of his stride would tell, and that eventually we
must come up with the fugitives; but so fleet was the little Arab, and
so light the weight she had to carry, that I was sorry to perceive I
gained upon them but slowly. It was clear that I should not overtake
them before they reached the outskirts of the common, and then who could
say what course the mare might take--what obstacles might not be in her
way!

On--on we go in our headlong course, the turf reechoing to the muffled
strokes of the horses’ feet, while the furze, waving in the wind, seemed
to glide by us in a rapid stream. Onward--still onward; the edge of the
gorse appears a dark line in the distance--it is passed; we are crossing
the belt of turf that surrounds it--and now, in what direction will
the mare proceed? Will she take the broad road to the left, which leads
again to the open country by a gentle ascent, where she can be easily
overtaken and stopped; or will she turn to the right, and follow the
lane, which leads across the terrace-field to the brook, swollen by the
late rains into a river? See! she slackens her pace--she wavers, she
doubts--she will choose the road! No; by Heaven! she turns to the right,
and dashing down the lane like a flash of lightning, is for a moment
hidden from view. But the space of time, short as it was, when her speed
slackened, has enabled me to gain upon her considerably; and when
I again catch sight of her she is not more than fifty yards ahead.
Forward! good horse--forward! Life or death hangs upon thy ~338~~
fleetness. Vain hope! another turn brings us in sight of the brook,
swollen by the breaking up of the frost into a dark, turbulent stream.
Fanny perceives it too, and utters a cry of terror, which rings like a
death-knell on my ear. There seems no possibility of escape for her; on
the left hand an impenetrable hedge; on the right a steep bank, rising
almost perpendicularly to the height of a man’s head; in front the
rushing water; while the mare, apparently irritated to frenzy by my
pursuit, gallops wildly forward. Ha! what is that? a shout! and the
figure of a man on horseback appears on the high ground to the right,
between Fanny and the stream. He perceives the danger, and if he dare
attempt the leap from the bank, may yet save her. Oh! that I were in his
place. Hark! he shouts again to warn us of his intention, and putting
spurs to his horse, faces him boldly at it. The horse perceives the
danger, and will refuse the leap. No! urged by his rider, he will take
it yet--now he springs--it is certain destruction. A crash! a fall! they
are down! No; he has lifted his horse with the rein--they are apparently
uninjured. Rose Alba, startled by the sudden apparition, slackens her
pace--the stranger, taking advantage of the delay, dashes forward,
seizes the rein, and succeeds in stopping her; as he does so, I
approached near enough to recognise his features--

[Illustration: page338 Lovers Leap]

Unlooked for happiness! Fanny is saved, and Harry Oaklands is her
preserver!

My first act on joining them was to spring from my horse and lift Fanny
out of the saddle. “Are you really unhurt, my own darling?” exclaimed I;
“can you stand without assistance?”

“Oh yes!” she replied, “it was only the fright--that dreadful
river--but--” and raising her eyes timidly she advanced a step towards
Oaklands.

“But you would fain thank Harry for saving you. My dear Harry,”
 continued I, taking his hand and pressing it warmly, “if you only knew
the agony of mind I have suffered on her account, you would be able to
form some slight idea of the amount of gratitude I feel towards you for
having rescued her. I shudder to think what might have been the end had
you not so providentially interposed; but you do not listen to me--you
turn as pale as ashes--are you ill?”

“It is nothing--a little faint, or so,” was his reply, in a voice
so weak as to be scarcely audible; and as he spoke, his head dropped
heavily on his shoulder, and he would have fallen from his horse had not
I caught him in my arms and supported him.

~339~~ Giving the horses into the custody of a farming lad (who had
seen the leap, and run up, fearing some accident had occurred), I lifted
Oaklands from the saddle, and laying him on the turf by the roadside,
supported his head against my knee, while I endeavoured to loosen
his neckcloth. Neither its removal, however, nor the unfastening his
shirt-collar, appeared to revive him in the slightest degree, and being
quite unaccustomed to seizures of this nature, I began to feel a good
deal frightened about him. I suppose my face in some degree betrayed
my thoughts, as Fanny, after glancing at me for a moment, exclaimed,
wringing her hands in the excess of her grief and alarm, “Oh! he is
dead--he is dead; and it is I who have killed him!” Then, flinging
herself on her knees by his side, and taking his hand between both her
own, she continued, “Oh, Harry, look up--speak to me--only one word;--he
does not hear me--he will never speak again! Oh! he is dead!--he is
dead! and it is I who have murdered him--I, who would gladly have died
for him, as he has died for me.” As she said this, her voice failed
her, and, completely overcome by the idea that she had been the cause of
Harry’s death, she buried her face in her hands and wept bitterly.

At this moment it occurred to me that water might possibly revive him,
and rousing Fanny from the passion of grief into which she had fallen, I
made her take my place in supporting Oaklands’ head, and running to the
stream, which was not above fifty yards from the spot, filled my
hat with water, sprinkled his face and brow with it, and had the
satisfaction of seeing him gradually revive under the application.

As consciousness returned, he gazed around with a bewildered look, and
passing his hand across his forehead, inquired, “What is all this? where
am I? Ah! Frank, have I been ill?”

“You fainted from over-exertion, Harry,” replied I, “but all will be
well now.”

“From over-exertion?” he repeated, slowly, as if striving to recall what
had passed; “stay, yes, I remember, I took a foolish leap; why did I do
it?”

“To stop Fanny’s mare.”

“Yes, to be sure, the water was out at the brook, and I thought the mare
might attempt to cross it; but is Fanny safe? Where is she?”

“She is here,” replied I, turning towards the place where she still
knelt, her face hidden in her hands. “She is here to thank you for
having saved her life.”

~340~~ “Why, Fanny, was it you who were supporting my head? how very
kind of you! What! crying?” he continued, gently attempting to withdraw
her hands; “nay, nay, we must not have you cry.”

“She was naturally a good deal frightened by the mare’s running away,”
 replied I, as Fanny still appeared too much overcome to speak for
herself; “and then she was silly enough to fancy, when you fainted, that
you were actually dead, I believe; but I can assure you that she is not
ungrateful.”

“No, indeed,” murmured Fanny, in a voice scarcely audible from emotion.

“Why, it was no very great feat after all,” rejoined Harry. “On such a
jumper as the Cid, and coming down on soft marshy ground too, 1 would
not mind the leap any day; besides, do you think I was going to remain
quietly there, and see Fanny drowned before my eyes? if it had been
a precipice, I would have gone over it.” While he spoke, Harry had
regained his feet; and, after walking up and down for a minute or so,
and giving himself a shake, to see if he was all right, he declared
that he felt quite strong again, and able to ride home. And so, having
devised a leading-rein for Rose Alba, one end of which I kept in my
own possession, we remounted our horses, and reached Heathfield without
further misadventure.



CHAPTER XLIII -- A CHARADE--NOT ALL ACTING

     “And then, and much it helped his chance--
     He could sing, and play first fiddle, and dance--
     Perform charades, and proverbs of France.”
      --_Hood_.

     “I have often heard this and that and t’other pain mentioned
     as the worst that mortals can endure--such as the toothache,
     earache, headache, cramp in the calf of the leg, a boil, or
     a blister--now, I protest, though I have tried all these,
     nothing seems to me to come up to a _pretty sharp fit of
     jealousy_.”
      --_Thinks I to Myself_.

LAWLESS’S penitence, when he learned the danger in which Fanny had been
placed by his thoughtlessness and impetuosity, was so deep and sincere
that it was impossible to be angry with him; and even Oaklands, who at
first declared he considered his conduct unpardonable, was obliged to
confess that, when a man had owned his fault frankly, and told you he
was really sorry for it, ~341~~ nothing remained but to forgive and
forget it. And so everything fell into its old train once more, and the
next few days passed smoothly and uneventfully. I had again received a
note from Clara, in answer to one I had written to her. Its tenour was
much the same as that of the last she had sent me. Cumberland was still
absent, and Mr. Vernor so constantly occupied that she saw very little
of him. She begged me not to attempt to visit her at present; a request
in the advisability of which reason so fully acquiesced, that although
feeling rebelled against it with the greatest obstinacy, I felt bound
to yield. Harry’s strength seemed now so thoroughly re-established, that
Sir John, who was never so happy as when he could exercise hospitality,
had invited a party of friends for the ensuing week, several of whom
were to stay at the Hall for a few days; amongst others Freddy Coleman,
who was to arrive beforehand, and assist in the preparations; for
charades were to be enacted, and he was reported skilful in the
arrangement of these saturnalia of civilised society, or, as he himself
expressed it, he was “up to all the dodges connected with the minor
domestic enigmatical melodrama”. By Harry’s recommendation I despatched
a letter to Mr. Frampton, claiming his promise of visiting me at
Heathfield Cottage, urging as a reason for his doing so immediately,
that he would meet four of his old Helmstone acquaintance, viz.,
Oak-lands, Lawless, Coleman, and myself. The morning after Coleman’s
arrival, the whole party formed themselves into a committee of taste, to
decide on the most appropriate words for the charades, select dresses,
and, in short, make all necessary arrangements for realising a few of
the very strong and original, but somewhat vague, ideas, which everybody
appeared to have conceived on the subject.

“Now, ladies and gentlemen,” began Freddy, who had been unanimously
elected chairman, stage-manager, and commander-in-chief of the whole
affair, “in the first place, who is willing to take a part? Let all
those who wish for an engagement at the Theatre Royal, Heathfield, hold
up their hands.”

Lawless, Coleman, and I were the first who made the required signal, and
next the little white palms of Fanny and Lucy Markham (whom Mrs. Coleman
had made over to my mother’s custody for a few days) were added to the
number.

“Harry, you’ll act, will you not?” asked I.

“Not if you can contrive to do without me,” was the ~342~~ reply. “I did
it once, and never was so tired in my life before. I suppose you mean to
have speaking charades; and there is something in the feeling that one
has so many words to recollect, which obliges one to keep the memory
always on the stretch, and the attention up to concert pitch, in a way
that is far too fatiguing to be agreeable.”

“Well, as you please, most indolent of men; pray, make yourself quite at
home, this is Liberty Hall, isn’t it, Lawless?” returned Coleman, with
a glance at the person named, who, seated on the table, with his legs
twisted round the back of a chair, was sacrificing etiquette to comfort
with the most delightful unconsciousness.

“Eh? yes to be sure, no end of liberty,” rejoined Lawless; “what are
you laughing at?--my legs? They are very comfortable, I can tell you, if
they’re not over ornamental; never mind about attitude, let us get on to
business, I want to know what I’m to do?”

“The first thing is to find out a good word,” returned Coleman.

“What do you say to Matchlock?” inquired I. “You might as well have
Blunderbuss while you are about it,” was the reply. “No, both words are
dreadfully hackneyed; let us try and find out something original, if
possible.”

“Eh? yes, something original, by all means; what do you say to
Steeplechase?” suggested Lawless.

“Original, certainly,” returned Freddy; “but there might be difficulties
in the way. For instance, how would you set about acting a steeple?”

“Eh? never thought of that,” rejoined Lawless; “I really don’t know,
unless Oaklands would stand with a fool’s cap on his head to look like
one.”

“Much obliged, Lawless; but I’d rather be excused,” replied Harry,
smiling. “I’ve got an idea!” exclaimed I. “No, you don’t say so? you
are joking,” remarked Freddy in a tone of affected surprise. “Stay a
minute,” continued I, musing. “Certainly, as long as you and Sir John
like to keep me,” rejoined Coleman politely.

“Yes! that will do; come here, Freddy,” added I, and, drawing him on
one side, I communicated to him my ideas on the subject, of which,
after suggesting one or two improvements on my original design, he was
graciously pleased to approve. Of what this idea consisted, the reader
will be apprised in due time. Suffice it at present ~343~~ to add, that
Fanny having consented to perform the part of a barmaid, and it being
necessary to provide her with a lover, Lawless volunteered for the
character, and supported his claim with so much perseverance, not to say
obstinacy, that Coleman, albeit he considered him utterly unsuited to
the part, was fain to yield to his importunity.

For the next few days Heathfield Hall presented one continual scene of
bustle and confusion. Carpenters were at work converting the library
into an _extempore_ theatre. Ladies and ladies’-maids were busily
occupied in manufacturing dresses. Lawless spent whole hours in pacing
up and down the billiard-room, reciting his part, which had been
remodelled to suit him, and the acquisition of which appeared a labour
analogous to that of Sisyphus, as, by the time he reached the end of
his task, he had invariably forgotten the beginning. Every one was in a
state of the greatest eagerness and excitement about something--nobody
exactly knew what; and the interest Ellis took in the whole affair was
wonderful to behold. The unnecessary number of times people ran up-
and down-stairs was inconceivable, and the pace at which they did so
terrific. Sir John spent his time in walking about with a hammer and a
bag of nails, one of which he was constantly driving in and clenching
beyond all power of extraction, in some totally wrong place, a line of
conduct which reduced the head-carpenter to the borders of insanity.

On the morning of the memorable day when the event was to come off, Mr.
Frampton made his appearance in a high state of preservation, shook my
mother by both hands as warmly as if he had known her from childhood,
and saluted the young ladies with a hearty kiss, to their extreme
astonishment, which a paroxysm of grunting (wound up by the usual
soliloquy, “Just like me!”) did not tend to diminish. A large party was
invited in the evening to witness our performance, and, as some of the
guests began to arrive soon after nine, it was considered advisable that
the actors and actresses should go and dress, so that they might be in
readiness to appear when called upon.

The entertainments began with certain _tableaux-vivants_, in which both
Harry and I took a part; the former having been induced to do so by the
assurance that nothing would-be expected of him but to stand still and
be looked at--an occupation which even he could not consider very hard
work: and exceedingly well worth looking at he appeared when the
curtain drew up, and discovered him as the Leicester in Scott’s novel of
_Kenilworth_; the ~344~~ magnificent dress setting off his noble figure
to the utmost advantage; while Fanny, as Amy Robsart, looked prettier
and more interesting than I had ever seen her before. Various _tableaux_
were in turn presented, and passed off with much _éclat_, and then
there was a pause, before the charade, the grand event of the evening,
commenced. Oaklands and I, having nothing to do in it (Fanny having
coaxed Mr. Frampton into undertaking a short part which I was to have
performed, but which she declared was so exactly suited to him that she
would never forgive him if he refused to fill it), wished the actors
success, and came in front to join the spectators.

After about ten minutes of breathless expectation the curtain drew up
and exhibited Scene 1st, the Bar of a Country Inn; and here I shall
adopt the play-wright’s fashion, and leave the characters to tell their
own tale:--

Scene I.

Enter Susan Cowslip, the Barmaid (Fanny) and John Shortoats, the Ostler
(Lawless).

John. Well Susan, girl, what sort of a morning hast thee had of it?
how’s master’s gout to-day?

Susan. Very bad, John, very bad indeed; he has not got a leg to stand
upon; and as to his shoe, try everything we can think of, we can’t get
him to put his foot in it.

[Extempore soliloquy by Lawless. Precious odd if lie doesn’t, for he’s
not half up in his part, I know.]

John. Can’t thee, really? well, if that be the case, I needn’t ask how
his temper is?

Susan. Bad enough, I can tell you; Missus has plenty to bear, poor
thing!

John, Indeed she has, and she be too young and pretty to be used in
that manner. Ah! that comes of marrying an old man for his money; she be
uncommon pretty, to be sure; I only knows one prettier face in the whole
village.

Susan (with an air of forced unconcern). Aye, John, and whose may that
be, pray? Mary Bennett, perhaps, or Lucy Jones?

John. No, it ain’t either of them.

Susan. Who is it then?

John. Well, if thee must needs know, the party’s name is Susan.

Susan (still with an air of unconsciousness). Let me see, where is
there a Susan? let me think a minute. Oh! ~345~~ one of Darling the
blacksmith’s girls, I dare say; it’s Susan Darling!

John (rubbing his nose, and looking cunning). Well, ‘tis Susan, darling,
certainly; yes, thee be’st about right there--Susan, darling.

Susan (pouting). So you’re in love with that girl, are you, Mr. John? A
foolish, flirting thing, that cares for nothing but dancing and finery;
a nice wife for a poor man she’ll make, indeed--charming!

John. Now, don’t thee go and fluster thyself about nothing, it ain’t
that girl as I’m in love with; I was only a-making fun of thee.

[Illustration: page345 A Charade Not All Acting]

Susan (crossly). There, I wish you wouldn’t keep teasing of me so; I
don’t care anything about it--I dare say I’ve never seen her.

John. Oh! if that’s all, I’ll very soon show her to thee--come along.
(Takes her hand, and leads her up to the looking-glass.) There’s the
Susan I’m in love with, and hope to marry some day. Hasn’t she got a
pretty face? and isn’t she a darling? (Susan looks at him for a minute,
and then bursts into tears; bell rings violently, and a gruff voice
calls impatiently, Susan! Susan!)

Susan. Coming, sir, coming. (Wipes her eyes with her apron.)

John. Let the old curmudgeon wait! (Voice behind the scenes, John!--John
Ostler, I say!) Coming, sir; yes, sir. Sir, indeed--an old brute; but
now, Susan, what do’st thee say? wilt thee have me for a husband? (Takes
her hand.)

(Voice. John! John! I say. Susan! where are you? And enter Mr. Frampton,
dressed as the Landlord, on crutches, and with his gouty foot in a
sling.)

Landlord. John! you idle, good-for-nothing vagabond, why don’t you come
when you’re called--eh?

Susan. Oh, sir! John was just coming, sir; and so was I, sir, if you
please.

Landlord. You, indeed--ugh! you’re just as bad as he is, making love in
corners, (aside, Wonder whether she does really,) instead of attending
to the customers; nice set of servants I have, to be sure. If this is
all one gets by inn-keeping, it’s not worth having. I keep the inn, and
I expect the inn to keep me. (Aside. Horrid old joke, what made me put
that in, I wonder? just like me--umph.’) There’s my wife, too--pretty
hostess she makes.

John. So she does, master, sure-ly.

Landlord. Hold your tongue, fool--what do you know about it? (Bell
rings.) There, do you hear that? run ~346~~ and see who that is, or
I shall lose a customer by your carelessness next. Oh! the bother of
servants--oh! the trouble of keeping an inn! (Hobbles out, driving Susan
and John before him. Curtain falls.)

As the first scene ended the audience applauded loudly, and then began
hazarding various conjectures as to the possible meaning of what
they had witnessed. While the confusion of sounds was at the highest,
Oaklands drew me on one side, and inquired, in an undertone, what I
thought of Lawless’s acting. “I was agreeably surprised,” returned I, “I
had no notion he would have entered into the part so thoroughly, or have
acted with so much spirit.”

“He did it _con amore_, certainly,” replied Oaklands with bitterness;
“I considered his manner impertinent in the highest degree, I wonder you
can allow him to act with your sister; that man is in love with her--I
feel sure of it--he meant every word he said. I hate this kind of thing
altogether--I never approved of it; no lady should be subjected to such
annoyance.”

“Supposing it really were as you fancy, Harry, how do you know it would
be so great an annoyance? It is just possible Fanny may like him,”
 rejoined I.

“Oh, certainly! pray let me know when I am to congratulate you,” replied
Oaklands with a scornful laugh; and, turning away abruptly, he crossed
the room, joined a party of young ladies, and began talking and laughing
with a degree of recklessness and excitability quite unusual to him.
While he was so doing, the curtain drew up, and discovered


Scene II.--Best room in the inn.

Enter Susan, showing in Hyacinth Adonis Brown (Coleman), dressed as
a caricature of the fashion, with lemon-coloured kid gloves,
staring-patterned trousers, sporting-coat, etc.

Susan. This is the settin’-room, if you please, sir. Hyacinth (fixing
his glass in his eye, and scrutinising the apartment). This is the
settin’-woom, is it? to set, to incubate as a hen--can’t mean that, I
imagine--provincial idiom, pwobably--aw--ya’as--I dare say I shall
be able to exist in it as long as may be necessary--ar--let me have
dinnaar, young woman, as soon as it can be got weady.

Susan. Yes, sir. What would you please to like, sir?

~347~~ Hyacinth (looking at her with his glass still in his eye). Hem!
pwetty gal--ar--like, my dear, like?--(vewy pwetty gal!)

Susan. Beg pardon, sir, what did you say you would like?

Hyacinth. Chickens tender here, my dear?

Susan. Very tender, sir.

Hyacinth (approaching her). What’s your name, my dear?

Susan. Susan, if you please, sir.

Hyacinth. Vewy pwetty name, indeed--(aside, Gal’s worth
cultivating--I’ll do a little bit of fascination). Ahem! Chickens,
Susan, are not the only things that can be tendar. (Advances, and
attempts to take lier hand. Enter John hastily, and runs against
Hyacinth, apparently by accident.)

Hyacinth (angrily). Now, fellar, where are you pushing to, eh?

John. Beg parding, sir, I was a-looking for you, sir. (Places himself
between Susan and Hyacinth.)

Hyacinth. Looking for me, fellar?

John. I ha’ rubbed down your horse, sir, and I was a wishin’ to know
when you would like him fed. (Makes signs to Susan to leave the room.)

Hyacinth. Fed?--aw!--directly to be su-ar. (To Susan, who is going out.)
Ar--don’t you go.

John. No, sir, I ain’t a-going. When shall I water him, sir?

Hyacinth (aside, Fellar talks as if the animal were a pot of
mignonette). Ar--you’ll give him some wataar as soon as he’s eaten his
dinnaar.

John. Werry good, sir; and how about hay, sir?

Hyacinth (aside, What a bo-ar the fellar is; I wish he’d take himself
off). Weally, I must leave the hay to your discwession.

John. Werry well, sir; couldn’t do a better thing, sir. How about his
clothing? shall I keep a cloth on him, sir? (Winks at Susan, who goes
out laughing.)

Hyacinth. Yaas! You can keep a cloth on--ar--and--that will do. (Waves
his hand towards the door.)

John. Do you like his feet stopped at night, sir?

Hyacinth. Ar--I leave all these points to my gwoom--ar--would you go?

John. I suppose there will be no harm in water-brushing his mane?

Hyacinth (angrily). Ar--weally I--ar--will you go?

John. Becos some folks thinks it makes the hair come off.

~348~~ Hyacinth (indignantly). Ar--leave the woom, fellar! John. Yes,
sir; you may depend upon me takin’ proper care of him, sir; and if I
should think o’ anything else, I’ll be sure to come and ask you, sir.
(Goes out grinning.)

Hyacinth. Howwid fellar--I thought I should never get wid of him--it’s
evident he’s jealous--ar, good idea--I’ll give him something to be
jealous about. I’ll wing the bell and finish captivating Susan. (Rings.
Re-enter John.) John. Want me, sir? Here I am, sir--fed the horse, sir.

Hyacinth (waving his hand angrily towards the door). Ar--go away,
fellar, and tell the young woman to answaar that bell. (John leaves the
room, muttering, If I do I’m blessed. Hyacinth struts up to the glass,
arranges his hair, pulls up his shirt-collar, and rings again. Re-enter
Susan.) Hyacinth. Pway, Susan, are you going to be mawwied? Susan
(colouring). No, sir--a--yes, sir--I can’t tell, sir.

Hyacinth. No, sir--yes, sir--ar--I see how it is--the idea has occurred
to you--it’s that fellar John, I suppose? Susan. Yes, sir--it’s John,
sir, if you please. Hyacinth. Well--ar--perhaps I don’t exactly please.
Now, listen to me, Susan. I’m an independent gentleman, vewy wich
(aside, Wish I was)--lots of servants and cawwiages, and all that sort
of thing. I only want a wife, and--a-hem--captivated by your beauty, I’m
wesolved to mawwy you. (Aside. That will do the business.) Susan. La!
sir, you’re joking.

Hyacinth. Ar--I never joke--ar--of course you consent! Susan. To marry
you, sir? Hyacinth. Ar--yes--to mawwy me. Susan. What! and give up John?
Hyacinth. I fear we cannot dispense with that sacwifice.

Susan. And you would have me prove false to my true love; deceive a poor
lad that cares for me; wring his honest heart, and perhaps drive him to
take to evil courses, for the sake of your fine carriages and servants?
No, sir, if you was a duke, I would not give up John to marry you.

Hyacinth. Vewy fine, you did that little bit of constancy in vewy good
style; but now, having welievedyour feelings, you may as well do a
little bit of nature, and own that, womanlike, you have changed your
mind.

Susan. When I do, sir, I’ll be sure to let you know. ~349~~ (Aside. A
dandified fop! why, John’s worth twenty such as him.) I’ll send John in
with your dinner, sir. [Curtsies and exit, leaving Hyacinth transfixed
with astonishment.’]


Scene III.--Front of inn.

Enter Susan with black ribbons in her cap. Susan. Heigho! so the gout’s
carried off poor old master at last. Ah! well, he was always a great
plague to everybody, and it’s one’s duty to be resigned--he’s been dead
more than two months now, and it’s above a month since mistress went to
Broadstairs for a change, and left John and me to keep house--ah! it was
very pleasant--we was so comfortable. Now, if in a year or two mistress
was to sell the business, and John and me could save money enough to buy
it, and was to be married, and live here; la! I should be as happy as
the day’s long. I’ve been dull enough the last week though--for last
Monday--no, last Saturday--that is, the Saturday before last, John went
for a holiday to see his friends in Yorkshire, and there’s been nobody
at home but me and the cat--I can’t think what ailed him before he went
away, he seemed to avoid me like; and when he bid me goodbye, he told me
if I should happen to pick up a sweetheart while he was gone, he would
not be jealous--what could he mean by that? I dare say he only said
it to tease me. I ought to have a letter soon to say when mistress is
coming back. [Enter boy with letter, which he gives to Susan, and exit.]
Well, that is curious--it is from Broadstairs, I see by the post-mark.
Why, bless me, it’s in John’s handwriting--he can’t be at Broadstairs,
surely--I feel all of a tremble. (Opens the letter and reads.) “My dear
Seusan, Hafter i left yeu, I thort i should not ave time to go hall the
way to York, so by way of a change i cum down here, where I met poor
Mrs., who seemed quite in the dumps and low like, about old master being
dead, which is human natur cut down like grass, Seusan, and not having a
creetur to speak to, naturally took to me, which was an old tho’ humbel
friend, Seusan--and--do not think me guilty of hincon-stancy, which I
never felt, but the long and short of it is that we was married “(the
wretch!)” yesterday, and is comin’ home to-morrow, where I hopes to
remian very faithfully your affexionate Master and Mrs.

“John and Betsey Shortoats.”

[Susan tears the letter, bursts into tears, and sinks back into a chair
fainting--curtain drops.]~350~~



CHAPTER XLIV -- CONFESSIONS

          “....And sure the match Were rich and honourable.”
           --_Two Gentlemen of Verona_.

          “We that are true lovers run into strange capers.”
           --_As You Like It_.

          “....That which I would discover,
          The law of friendship bids me to conceal.”
           --_Two Gentlemen of Verona._

          “Tarry I here, I but attend on death;
          But fly I hence, I fly away from life.”

“DEAR me! what can it possibly mean? how I wish I could guess it!” said
the youngest Miss Simper.

“Do you know what it is, Mr. Oaklands?” asked the second Miss Simper.

“I’m sure he does, he looks so delightfully wicked,” added the eldest
Miss Simper, shaking her ringlets in a fascinating manner, to evince her
faith in the durability of their curl.

The eldest Miss Simper had been out four seasons, and spent the last
winter at Nice, on the strength of which she talked to young men of
themselves in the third person, to show her knowledge of the world,
and embodied in her behaviour generally a complete system of
“Matrimony-made-easy, or the whole Art of getting a good Establishment,”
 proceeding from early lessons in converting acquaintances into flirts,
up to the important final clause--how to lead young men of property to
propose.

“Really,” replied Oaklands, “my face must be far more expressive
and less honest than I was aware of, for I can assure you they have
studiously kept me in the dark as to the meaning.”

“But you have made out some idea for yourself; it is impossible that it
should be otherwise,” observed the second Miss Simper, who had rubbed
off some of her shyness upon a certain young Hebrew Professor at the
last Cambridge Installation, and become rather blue from the contact.

“Have you?” said the youngest Miss Simper, who, being as nearly a fool
as it is possible to allow that a pretty girl of seventeen can be,
rested her pretensions upon a plaintive voice and a pensive smile, which
went ~351~~ just far enough to reveal an irreproachable set of teeth,
and then faded away into an expression of gentle sorrow, the source of
which, like that of the Niger, had as yet remained undiscovered.

“Oh, he has!” exclaimed the eldest Miss Simper; “that exquisitely
sarcastic, yet tantalising curl of the upper-lip, tells me that it is
so.”

“Since you press me,” replied Oaklands, “I confess, I believe I have
guessed it.”

“I knew it--it could not have been otherwise,” exclaimed the blue belle
enthusiastically.

The youngest Miss Simper spoke not, but her appealing glance, and a
slight exhibition of the pearl-like teeth, seemed to hint that some
mysterious increase of her secret sorrow might be expected in the event
of Oaklands’ refusing to communicate the results of his penetration.

“As I make it out,” said Harry, “the first scene was Inn, the second
Constancy, and the third Inconstancy.”

“Ah! that wretch John, he was the Inconstancy,” observed the eldest Miss
Simper, “marrying for money!--the creature!--such baseness 1 but how
delightfully that dear, clever Mr. Lawless acted; he made love with such
_naïve_ simplicity, too; he is quite irresistible.”

“I shall take care to let him know your flattering opinion,” returned
Oaklands with a faint attempt at a smile, while the gloom on his brow
grew deeper, and the Misses Simper were in their turn deserted; the
eldest gaining this slight addition to her worldly knowledge, viz., that
it is not always prudent to praise one friend to another, unless you
happen to be a little more behind the scenes than had been the case in
the present instance.

“Umph! Frank Fairlegh, where are you? come here, boy,” said Mr.
Frampton, seizing one of my buttons, and towing me thereby into a
corner. “Pretty girl, your sister Fanny--nice girl, too--umph!”

“I am very glad she pleases you, sir,” replied I; “as you become better
acquainted with her, you will find that she is as good as she looks--if
you like her now, you will soon grow very fond of her--everybody becomes
fond of Fanny.”

“Umph! I can see one who is, at all events. Pray, sir, do you mean to
let your sister marry that good-natured, well-disposed, harum-scarum
young fool, Lawless?”

“This is a matter I leave entirely to themselves; if ~352~~ Lawless
wishes to marry Fanny, and she likes him well enough to accept him, and
his parents approve of the arrangement, I shall make no objection: it
would be a very good match for her.”

“Umph! yes--she would make a very nice addition to his stud,” returned
Mr. Frampton, in a more sarcastic tone than I had ever heard him use
before. “What do you suppose are the girl’s own wishes? is she willing
to be Empress of the Stable?”

“Really, sir, you ask me a question which I am quite unable to answer;
young, ladies are usually reserved upon such subjects, and Fanny is
especially so; but from my own observations, I am inclined to think that
she likes him.”

“Umph! dare say she does; women are always fools in these cases--men
too, for that matter--or else they would take pattern by me, and
continue in a state of single blessedness,” then came an aside, “Single
wretchedness more likely, nobody to care about one--nothing to love--die
in a ditch like a beggar’s dog, without a pocket-handkerchief wetted for
one--there’s single blessedness for you! ride in a hearse, and have
some fat fool chuckling in the sleeve of his black coat over one’s
hard-earned money. Nobody shall do that with mine, though; for I’ll
leave it all to build union work-houses and encourage the slave-trade,
by way of revenging myself on society at large. Wonder why I said that,
when I don’t think it! just like me--umph!”

“I am not at all sure but that this may prove a mere vision of our own
too lively imaginations, after all,” replied I, “or that Lawless looks
upon Fanny in any other light than as the sister of his old friend,
and an agreeable girl to talk and laugh with; but if it should turn out
otherwise, I should be sorry to think that it is a match which will not
meet with your approval, sir.”

“Oh! I shall approve--I always approve of everything--I dare say he’ll
make a capital husband--he’s very kind to his dogs and horses. Umph!
silly boy, silly girl--when she could easily do better, too. Umph 1
just like me, bothering myself about other people, when I might leave it
alone--silly girl though, very!”

So saying, Mr. Frampton walked away, grunting like a whole drove of
pigs, as was his wont when annoyed.

The next morning I was aroused from an uneasy sleep by the sun shining
brightly through my shutters, and, springing out of bed, and throwing
open the window, I perceived that it was one of those lovely winter days
~353~~ which appear sent to assure us that fogs, frost, and snow will
not last for ever, but that Nature has brighter things in store for us,
if we will bide her time patiently. To think of lying in bed on such
a morning was out of the question, so, dressing hastily, I threw on
a shooting jacket, and sallied forth for a stroll. As I wandered
listlessly through the park, admiring the hoar-frost which glittered
like diamonds in the early sunshine, clothing the brave old limbs of the
time-honoured fathers of the forest with a fabric of silver tissue,
the conversation I had held with Mr. Frampton about Fanny and Lawless
recurred to my mind. Strange that Harry Oaklands and Mr. Frampton--men
so different, yet alike in generous feeling and honourable
principle--should both evidently disapprove of such a union: was I
myself, then, so blinded by ideas of the worldly advantages it held
forth, that I was unable to perceive its unfitness? Would Lawless really
prize her, as Tennyson has so well expressed it in his finest poem, as

     “Something better than his dog, a little dearer than his horse”?

and was I about to sacrifice my sister’s happiness for rank and fortune,
those world-idols which, stripped of the supposititious attributes
bestowed upon them by the bigotry of their worshippers, appear, in
their true worth-lesaness, empty breath and perishable dross? But most
probably there was no cause for uneasiness; after all, I was very likely
worrying myself most unnecessarily: what proof was there that Lawless
really cared for Fanny? His attentions--oh! there was nothing in
that--Lawless was shy and awkward in female society, and Fanny had been
kind to him, and had taken the trouble to draw him out, therefore he
liked her, and preferred talking and laughing with her, rather than with
any other girl with whom he did not feel at his ease. However, even if
there should be anything more in it, it had not gone so far but that a
little judicious snubbing would easily put an end to it--I determined,
therefore, to talk to my mother about it after breakfast: she had now
seen enough of Lawless to form her own opinion of him; and if she agreed
with Oaklands and Mr. Frampton that his was not a style of character
calculated to secure Fanny’s happiness, we must let her go and stay with
the Colemans, or find some other means of separating them. I had just
arrived at this conclusion, when, on passing round the stem of an old
tree which stood in the path, I encountered ~354~~ some person who was
advancing rapidly in an opposite direction, meeting him so abruptly that
we ran against each other with no small degree of violence.

“Hold hard there I you’re on your wrong side, young fellow, and if
you’ve done me the slightest damage, even scratched my varnish, I’ll
pull you up.”

“I wish you had pulled up a little quicker yourself, Lawless,” replied
I, for, as the reader has doubtless discovered from the style of his
address, it was none other than the subject of my late reverie with whom
I had come in collision. “I don’t know whether I have scratched your
varnish, as you call it, but I have knocked the skin off my own knuckles
against the tree in the scrimmage.”

“Never mind, man,” returned Lawless, “there are worse misfortunes happen
at sea; a little sticking-plaster will set all to rights again. But look
here, Fairlegh,” he continued, taking my arm, “I’m glad I happened to
meet you; I want to have five minutes’ serious conversation with you.”

“Won’t it do after breakfast?” interposed I, for my fears construed
this appeal into “confirmation strong as holy writ” of my previous
suspicions, and I wished to be fortified by my mother’s opinion before
I in any degree committed myself. All my precautions were, however, in
vain.

“Eh! I won’t keep you five minutes, but you see this sort of thing will
never do at any price; I’m all wrong altogether--sometimes I feel as if
fire and water would not stop me, or cart-ropes hold me--then again I
grow as nervous as an old cat with the palsy, and sit moping in a
corner like an owl in fits. Last hunting-day I was just as if I was
mad--pressed upon the pack when they were getting away--rode over two or
three of the tail hounds, laid ‘em sprawling on their backs, like spread
eagles, till the huntsman swore at me loud enough to split a three-inch
oak plank--went slap at everything that came in my way--took rails,
fences, and timber, all flying, rough and smooth as nature made ‘em--in
short, showed the whole field the way across country at a pace which
rather astonished them, I fancy;--well, at last there was a check, and
before the hounds got on the scent again, something seemed to come over
me, so that I could not ride a bit, and kept cranning at mole-hills
and shirking gutters, till I wound up by getting a tremendous purl from
checking my horse at a wretched little fence that he could have stepped
over, and actually I felt so fainthearted that I gave it up as a bad
job, and rode home ~355~~ ready to eat my hat with vexation. But I
know what it is, I’m in love--that confounded Charade put me up to
that dodge. I fancied at first that I had got an ague, one of those
off-and-on affairs that always come just when you don’t want them, and
was going to ask Ellis to give me a ball, but I found it out just in
time, and precious glad I was too, for I never could bear taking physic
since I was the height of sixpenny worth of halfpence.”

“Really, Lawless, I must be getting home.”

“Eh! wait a minute; you haven’t an idea what a desperate state I’m in; I
had a letter returned to me yesterday, with a line from the post-office
clerk, saying no such person could be found, and when I came to look at
the address I wasn’t surprised to hear it. I had written to give some
orders about a dog-cart that is building for me, and directed my letter
to ‘Messrs. Lovely Fanny, Coachmakers, Long Acre’. Things can’t go on in
this way, you know--I must do something--come to the point, eh?--What do
you say?”

“Upon my word,” replied I, “this is a case in which I am the last person
to advise you.”

“Eh I no, it is not that--I’m far beyond the reach of advice, but what
I mean is, your governor being dead--don’t you see--I consider you to
stand _in propria quae maribus_, as we used to say at old Mildman’s.”

“_In loco parentis_ is what you are aiming at, I imagine,” returned I.

“Eh! Psha, it’s all the same!” continued Lawless impatiently; “but what
do you say about it? Will you give your consent, and back me up a bit in
the business?--for I’m precious nervous, I can tell you.”

“Am I to understand, then,” said I, seeing an explanation was
inevitable, “that it is my sister who has inspired you with this very
alarming attachment?”

“Eh! yes, of course it is,” was the reply; “haven’t I been talking about
her for the last ten minutes? You are growing stupid all at once; did
you think it was your mother I meant?”

“Not exactly,” replied I, smiling; “but have you ever considered
what Lord Cashingtown would say to your marrying a poor clergyman’s
daughter?”

“What! my governor? oh! he’d be so delighted to get me married at any
price, that he would not care who it was to, so that she was a lady. He
knows how I shirk female society in general, and he is afraid I shall
break my neck some of these fine days, and leave him the ~356~~ honour
of being the last Lord Cashingtown as well as the first.”

“And may I ask whether you imagine your suit likely to be favourably
received by the young lady herself?”

“Eh! why, you see it’s not so easy to tell; I’m not used to the ways of
women, exactly. Now with horses I know every action, and can guess what
they’d be up to in a minute; |for instance, if they prick up their ears,
one may expect a shy, when they lay them back you may look out for a
bite or a kick; but, unluckily, women have not got movable ears.”

“No,” replied I, laughing at this singular regret; “they contrive to
make their eyes answer nearly the same purpose, though. Well, Lawless,
my answer is this--I cannot pretend to judge whether you and my sister
are so constituted as to increase each other’s happiness by becoming
man and wife; that is a point I must leave to her to decide; she is no
longer a child, and her destiny shall be placed in her own hands; but I
think I may venture to say that if your parents are willing to receive
her, and she is pleased to accept you, you need not fear any opposition
on the part of my mother or myself.”

“That’s the time of day,” exclaimed Lawless, rubbing his hands with
glee, “this is something like doing business; oh! it’s jolly fun to be
in love, after all. Then everything depends upon Fanny now; but how am I
to find out whether she will have me or not? eh? that’s another sell.”

“Ask her,” replied I; and, turning down a different path, I left him to
deliberate upon this knotty point in solitude.

As I walked towards home my meditations assumed a somewhat gloomy
colouring. The matter was no longer doubtful, Lawless was Fanny’s
declared suitor; this, as he had himself observed, was something like
doing business. Instead of planning with my mother how we could prevent
the affair from going any farther, I must now inform her of his offer,
and find out whether she could give me any clue as to the state of
Fanny’s affections. And now that Lawless’s intentions were certain, and
that it appeared by no means improbable he might succeed in obtaining
Fanny’s hand, a feeling of repugnance came over me, and I began to think
Mr. Frampton was right, and that my sister was formed for better things
than to be the companion for life of such a man as Lawless. From a
reverie which thoughts like these had engendered, I was aroused by Harry
Oaklands’ favourite ~357~~ Scotch terrier, which attracted my attention
by jumping and fawning upon me, and on raising my eyes I perceived the
figure of his master, leaning, with folded arms, against the trunk of an
old tree. As we exchanged salutations I was struck by an unusual air of
dejection both in his manner and appearance. “You are looking ill
and miserable this morning, Harry; is your side painful?” inquired I
anxiously.

“No,” was the reply, “I believe it is doing well enough; Ellis says so;”
 he paused, and then resumed in a low hurried voice, “Frank, I am going
abroad.”

“Going abroad!” repeated I in astonishment, “where are you going to?
when are you going? this is a very sudden resolution, surely.”

“I know it is, but I cannot stay here,” he continued; “I must get
away--I am wretched, perfectly miserable.”

“My dear Harry,” replied I, “what is the matter? come tell me; as boys
we had no concealments from each other, and this reserve which appears
lately to have sprung up between us is not well: what has occurred to
render you unhappy?”

A deep sigh was for some minutes his only answer; then, gazing steadily
in my face, he said, “And have you really no idea?--But why should I
be surprised at the blindness of others, when I myself have only become
aware of the true nature of my own feelings when my peace of mind is
destroyed, and all chance of happiness for me in this life has fled for
ever!”

“What do you mean, my dear Harry?” replied I; “what can you refer to?”

“Have you not thought me very much altered of late?” he continued.

“Since you ask me, I have fancied that illness was beginning to sour
your temper,” I replied.

“Illness of mind, not body,” he resumed; “for now, when life has lost
all charm for me, I am regaining health and strength apace. You must
have observed with what a jaundiced eye I have regarded everything that
Lawless has said or done; what was the feeling, think you, which has led
me to do so? Jealousy!”

“Jealousy?” exclaimed I, as for the first time the true state of the
case flashed across me--“Oh! Harry, why did you not speak of this
sooner?”

“Why, indeed! because in my blindness I fancied the affection I
entertained for your sister was merely a brother’s love, and did not
know, till the chance of losing her for ever opened my eyes effectually,
that she had ~358~~ become so essential to my happiness that life
without her would be a void. If you but knew the agony of mind I endured
while they wore acting that hateful charade last night! I quite shudder
when I think how I felt towards Lawless; I could have slain him where
he stood without a shadow of compunction. No, I must leave this place
without delay; I would not go through what I suffered yesterday again
for anything--I could not bear it.”

“Oh! if we had but known this sooner,” exclaimed I, “so much might have
been done--I only parted from Lawless five minutes before I met you,
telling him that if Fanny approved of his suit, neither my mother nor
I would offer the slightest opposition. But is it really too late to do
anything? shall I speak to Fanny?”

“Not for worlds!” exclaimed Oaklands impetuously; “do not attempt to
influence her in the slightest degree. If, as my fears suggest, she
really love Lawless, she must never learn that my affection for her has
exceeded that of a brother--never know that from henceforth her image
will stand between me and happiness, and cast its shadow over the whole
future of my life.”

He stood for a moment, his hands pressed upon his brow as if to shut out
some object too painful to behold, and then continued abruptly, “Lawless
has proposed, then?”

“He has asked my consent, and his next step will of course be to do so,”
 replied I.

“Then my fate will soon be decided,” returned Oak-lands. “Now listen
to me, Frank; let this matter take its course exactly as if this
conversation had never passed between us. Should Fanny be doubtful, and
consult you, do your duty as Lawless’s friend and her brother--place the
advantages and disadvantages fairly before her, and then let her decide
for herself, without in the slightest degree attempting to bias her.
Will you promise to do this, Frank?”

“Must it indeed be so? can nothing be done? no scheme hit upon?”
 returned I sorrowfully.

“Nothing of the kind must be attempted,” replied Oaklands sternly;
“could I obtain your sister’s hand tomorrow by merely raising my finger,
I would not do so while there remained a possibility of her preferring
Lawless. Do you imagine that I could be content to be accepted out of
compassion? No,” he added, more calmly, “the die will soon be cast; till
then I will remain; and if, as I fear is only too certain, Lawless’s
suit is favourably received, I shall leave this place instantly--put it
on the score of health--make Ellis order me abroad--the German ~359~~
baths, Madeira, Italy, I care not, all places will be alike to me then.”

“And how miserable Sir John will be at this sudden determination,”
 returned I, “and he is so happy now in seeing your health restored!”

“Ah! this world is truly termed a vale of tears,” replied Harry
mournfully, “and the trial hardest to bear is the sight of the
unhappiness we cause those we love. Strange that my acts seem always
fated to bring sorrow upon my father’s grey head, when I would willingly
lay down my life to shield him from suffering. But do not imagine that
I will selfishly give way to grief--no; as soon as your--as soon as
Lawless is married, I shall return to England and devote myself to my
father; my duty to him, and your friendship, will be the only interests
that bind me to life.”

He paused, and then added, “Frank, you know me too well to fancy that I
am exaggerating my feelings, or even deceiving myself as to the strength
of them; this is no sudden passion, my love for Fanny has been the
growth of years, and the gentle kindness with which she attended on me
during my illness--the affectionate tact (for I believe she loves me as
a brother, though I have almost doubted even that of late) with which
she forestalled my every wish, proved to me how indispensable she has
become to my happiness. But,” he continued, seeing, I imagined, by the
painful expression of my face, the effect his words were producing on
me, “in my selfishness I am rendering you unhappy. We will speak no
more of this matter till my fate is certain; should it be that which
I expect, let us forget that this conversation ever passed; if, on the
contrary, Lawless should meet with a refusal--but that is an alternative
I dare not contemplate.--And now, farewell.”

So saying, he wrung my hand with a pressure that vouched for his
returning strength, and left me. In spite of my walk, I had not much
appetite for my breakfast that morning.~360~~



CHAPTER XLV -- HELPING A LAME DOG OVER A STILE

     “Marry, I cannot show it in rhyme;
     I have tried.... No, I was not born under a rhyming planet;
     Nor I cannot woo in festival terms.”
      --_Much Ado About Nothing_.

     “Now, let the verses be bad or good, it plainly amounts to a
     regular offer. I don’t believe any of the lines are an inch
     too long or too short; but if they were, it would be wicked
     to alter them, for they are really genuine.”
      --_Thinks I to Myself_.

     “We shall have a rare letter from him.”
      --_Twelfth Night_.

IT was usually my custom of an afternoon to read law for a couple of
hours, a course of training preparatory to committing myself to the
tender mercies of a special pleader; and as Sir John’s well-stored
library afforded me every facility for so doing, that was the _venue_ I
generally selected for my interviews with Messrs. Blackstone, Coke
upon Lyttelton, and other legal luminaries. Accordingly, on the day
in question, after having nearly quarrelled with my mother for
congratulating me warmly on the attainment of my wishes, when I
mentioned to her Lawless’s proposal, found fault with Fanny’s Italian
pronunciation so harshly as to bring tears into her eyes, and grievously
offended our old female domestic by disdainfully rejecting some pet
abomination upon which she had decreed that I should lunch, I sallied
forth, and, not wishing to encounter any of the family, entered the hall
by a side door, and reached the library unobserved. To my surprise I
discovered Lawless (whom I did not recollect ever to have seen there
before, he being not much given to literary pursuits) seated, pen in
hand, at the table, apparently absorbed in the mysteries of composition.

“I shall not disturb you, Lawless,” said I, taking down a book. “I am
only going to read law for an hour or two.”

“Eh! disturb me?” was the reply; “I’m uncommon glad to be disturbed, I
can tell you, for hang me if I can make head or tail of it! Here have I
been for the last three hours trying to write an offer to your sister,
and actually have not contrived to make a fair start of it yet. I wish
you would lend me a hand, there’s a good fellow--I know you are up to
all the right dodges--just give one a sort of notion, eh? don’t you
see?”

“What! write an offer to my own sister? Well, of all the quaint ideas I
ever heard, that’s the oddest--really you must excuse me.”

~~361~~ “Very odd, is it?” inquired Coleman, opening the door in time to
overhear the last sentence. “Pray let me hear about it, then, for I like
to know of odd things particularly; but, perhaps, I’m intruding?”

“Eh? no; come along here, Coleman,” cried Lawless, “you are just the
very boy I want--I am going to be married--that is, I want to be, don’t
you see, if she’ll have me, but there’s the rub; Frank Fairlegh is all
right, and the old lady says she’s agreeable, so everything depends on
the young woman herself--if she will but say ‘Yes,’ we shall go ahead in
style; but, unfortunately before she is likely to say anything one way
or the other, you understand, I’ve got to pop the question, as they call
it. Now, I’ve about as much notion of making an offer as a cow has of
dancing a hornpipe--so I want you to help us a bit--eh?”

“Certainly,” replied Freddy courteously; “I shall be only too happy, and
as delays are dangerous I had perhaps better be off at once--where is
the young lady?”

“Eh! hold hard there! don’t go quite so fast, young man,” exclaimed
Lawless aghast; “if you bolt away at that pace you’ll never see the end
of the run; why, you don’t suppose I want you to go and talk to her--pop
the question viva voce, do you? You’ll be advising me to be married
by deputy, I suppose, next. No, no, I’m going to do the trick by
letter--something like a Valentine, only rather more so, eh? but I can’t
exactly manage to write it properly. If it was but a warranty for a
horse, now, I’d knock it off in no time, but this is a sort of thing,
you see, I’m not used to; one doesn’t get married as easily as one
sells a horse, nor as often, eh? and it’s rather a nervous piece of
business--a good deal depends upon the letter.”

“You’ve been trying your hand at it already, I see,” observed Coleman,
seating himself at the table; “pretty consumption of paper! I wonder
what my governor would say to me if I were to set about drawing a deed
in this style; why, the stationer’s bill would run away with all the
profits.”

“Never mind the profits, you avaricious Jew,” replied Lawless. “Yes,
I’ve been trying effects, as the painters call it--putting down two
or three beginnings to find out which looked the most like the time of
day--you understand?”

“Two or three?” repeated Coleman, “six or seven rather, _voyons_. ‘Mr.
Lawless presents his affections to Miss Fairlegh, and requests the
hon....’ Not a bad ~362~~ idea, an offer in the third person--the only
case in which a third person would not be _de trop_ in such an affair.”

“Eh! yes, I did the respectful when I first started, you know, but I
soon dropped that sort of thing when I got warm; you’ll see, I stepped
out no end afterwards.”

“‘Honoured Miss,’” continued Coleman, reading, “‘My sentiments, that is,
your perfections, your splendid action, your high breeding, and the many
slap-up points that may be discerned in you by any man that has an eye
for a horse...’”

“Ah! that was where I spoiled it,” sighed Lawless.

“Here’s a very pretty one,” resumed Freddy. “‘Adorable and adored Miss
Fanny Fairlegh, seeing you as I do with the eyes’ (Why she would not
think you saw her with your nose, would she?)’ of fond affection,
probably would induce me to overlook any unsoundness or disposition to
vice...’”

“That one did not turn out civilly, you see,” said Lawless, “or else it
wasn’t such a bad beginning.”

“Here’s a better,” rejoined Coleman. “‘Exquisitely beautiful
Fanny, fairest of that lovely sex, which to distinguish it from us
rough-and-ready fox-hunters, who, when once we get our heads at any of
the fences of life, go at it, never mind how stiff it may be (matrimony
has always appeared to me one of the stiffest), and generally contrive
to find ourselves on the other side, with our hind legs well under
us;--a sex, I say, which to distinguish it from our own, is called
the fair sex, a stock of which I never used to think any great things,
reckoning them only fit to canter round the parks with, until I saw you
brought out, when I at once perceived that your condition--that is, my
feelings--were so inexpressible that...!’” “Ah!” interposed Lawless,
“that’s where I got bogged, sank in over the fetlocks, and had to give
it up as a bad job.”

“In fact your feelings became too many for you,” returned Coleman; “but
what have we here?--verses, by all that’s glorious!”

“No, no! I’m not going to let you read them,” exclaimed Lawless,
attempting to wrest the paper out of his hand.

“Be quiet, Lawless,” rejoined Coleman, holding him off, “sit down
directly, sir, or I won’t write a word for you: I _must see_ what all
your ideas are in order to get some notion of what you want to say;
besides, I’ve no doubt they’ll be very original.”

~363~~

          I

          “‘Sweet Fanny, there are moments
          When the heart is not one’s own,
          When we fain would clip its wild wing’s tip,
          But we find the bird has flown.

          II

          “‘Dear Fanny, there are moments
          When a loss may be a gain,
          And sorrow, joy--for the heart’s a toy,
          And loving’s such sweet pain.

          III

          “‘Yes, Fanny, there are moments
          When a smile is worth a throne,
          When a frown can prove the flower of love,
          Must fade, and die alone.’

--“Why, you never wrote those, Lawless?”

“Didn’t I?” returned Lawless, “but I know I did, though--copied them out
of an old book I found up there, and wrote some more to ‘em, because I
thought there wasn’t enough for the money, besides putting in Fanny’s
name instead of--what, do you think?--Phillis!--there’s a name for you;
the fellow must have been a fool. Why, I would not give a dog such an
ill name for fear somebody should hang him; but go on.”

“Ah, now we come to the original matter,” returned Coleman, “and very
original it seems.”

          IV

          “‘Dear Fanny, there are moments
          When love gets you in a fix,
          Takes the bit in his jaws, and, without any pause,
          Bolts away with you like bricks.

          V

          “‘Yes, Fanny, there are moments
          When affection knows no bounds,
          When I’d rather be talking with you out a-walking,
          Than rattling after the hounds.

          VI

          “‘Dear Fanny, there are moments
          When one feels that one’s inspired, And... and...’

--“It does not seem to have been one of those moments with you just
then,” continued Freddy, “for the poem comes to an abrupt and untimely
conclusion, unless three ~364~~ blots, and something that looks like a
horse’s head, may be a hieroglyphic mode of recording your inspirations,
which I’m not learned enough to decipher.”

“Eh! no; I broke down there,” replied Lawless; “the muse deserted me,
and went off in a canter for--where was it those young women used to
hang out?--the ‘_Gradus ad_’ place, you know?”

“The tuneful Nine, whom you barbarously designate young women,” returned
Coleman, “are popularly supposed to have resided on Mount Parnassus,
which acclivity I have always imagined of a triangular or sugar-loaf
form, with Apollo seated on the apex or extreme point, his attention
divided between preserving his equilibrium and keeping up his playing,
which latter necessity he provided for by executing difficult passages
on a golden (or, more probably, silver-gilt) lyre.”

“Eh! nonsense,” rejoined Lawless; “now, do be serious for five minutes,
and go ahead with this letter, there’s a good fellow; for, ‘pon my word,
I’m in a wretched state of mind--I am indeed. It’s a fact, I’m nearly
half a stone lighter than I was when I came here; I know I am, for there
was an old fellow weighing a defunct pig down at the farm yesterday, and
I made him let me get into the scales when he took piggy out. I tell you
what, if I’m not married soon I shall make a job for the sexton;
such incessant wear and tear of the sensibilities is enough to kill a
prize-fighter in full-training, let alone a man that has been leading
such a molly-coddle life as I have of late, lounging about drawing-rooms
like a lapdog.”

“Well, then, let us begin at once,” said Freddy, seizing a pen; “now,
what am I to say?”

“Eh! why, you don’t expect me to know, do you?” exclaimed Lawless
aghast; “I might just as well write it myself as have to tell you; no,
no, you must help me, or else I’d better give the whole thing up at
once.”

“I’ll help you, man, never fear,” rejoined Freddy, “but you must give
me something to work upon; why, it’s all plain sailing enough; begin by
describing your feelings.”

“Feelings, eh?” said Lawless, rubbing his ear violently, as if to arouse
his dormant faculties, “that’s easier said than done. Well, here goes
for a start: ‘My dear Miss Fairlegh’”.

“‘My dear Miss Fairlegh,’” repeated Coleman, writing rapidly, “yes.”

“Have you written that?” continued Lawless; “ar--let me think--‘I
have felt for some time past very ~365~~ peculiar sensations, and have
become, in many respects, quite an altered man’.” “‘Altered man,’”
 murmured Freddy, still writing. “‘I have given up hunting,’” resumed
Lawless, “‘which no longer possesses any interest in my eyes, though
I think you’d have said, if you had been with us the last time we were
out, that you never saw a prettier run in your life; the meet was at
Chorley Bottom, and we got away in less than ten minutes after the
hounds had been in cover, with as plucky a fox as ever puzzled a
pack--’”

“Hold hard there!” interrupted Coleman, “I can’t put all that in; nobody
ever wrote an account of a fox-hunt in a love-letter--no, ‘You’ve given
up hunting, which no longer possesses any interest in your eyes’; now go
on.”

“My eyes,” repeated Lawless reflectively; “yes: ‘I am become indifferent
to everything; I take no pleasure in the new dog-cart, King in Long Acre
is building for me, with cane sides, the wheels larger, and the seat, if
possible, still higher than the last, and which, if I am not very much
out in my reckoning, will follow so light--’”

“I can’t write all that trash about a dog-cart,” interrupted Freddy
crossly; “that’s worse than the fox-hunting; stick to your feelings,
man, can’t you?”

“Ah! you little know the effect such feelings produce,” sighed Lawless.

“That’s the style,” resumed Coleman with delight; “that will come in
beautifully--‘such feelings produce’; now, go on.”

“‘At night my slumbers are rendered distracting by visions of
you--as--as----’”

“‘The bride of another,’” suggested Coleman.

“Exactly,” resumed Lawless; “or, ‘sleep refusing to visit my----’”

“‘Aching eye-balls,’” put in Freddy. “‘I lie tossing restlessly from
side to side, as if bitten by----’”

“‘The gnawing tooth of Remorse;’ that will do famously,” added his
scribe; “now tell her that she is the cause of it.”

“‘All these unpleasantnesses are owing to you,’” began Lawless.

“Oh! that won’t do,” said Coleman; “no--‘These tender griefs’ (that’s
the term, I think) ‘are some of the effects, goods and chattels’--psha!
I was thinking of drawing a will--‘the effects produced upon me by----’”

~366~~ “‘The wonderful way in which you stuck to your saddle when the
mare bolted with you,’” rejoined Lawless enthusiastically; “what, won’t
that do either?”

“No, be quiet, I’ve got it all beautifully now, if you don’t interrupt
me: ‘Your many perfections of mind and person--perfections which have
led me to centre my ideas of happiness solely in the fond hope of one
day calling you my own’.”

“That’s very pretty indeed,” said Lawless; “go on.”

“‘Should I be fortunate enough,’” continued Coleman ‘“to succeed in
winning your affection, it will be the study of my future life to
prevent your every wish--’”

“Eh! what do you mean? not let her have her own way? Oh! that will never
pay; why, the little I know of women, I’m sure that, if you want to come
over them, you must flatter ‘em up with the idea that you mean to give
‘em their heads on all occasions--let ‘em do just what they like. Tell
a woman she should not go up the chimney, it’s my belief you’d see her
nose peep out of the top before ten minutes were over. Oh! that’ll never
do!”

“Nonsense,” interrupted Freddy; “‘prevent’ means to forestall in that
sense; however, I’ll put it ‘forestall,’ if you like it better.”

“I think it will be safest,” replied Lawless, shaking his head solemnly.

“‘In everything your will shall be law,’” continued Coleman, writing.

“Oh! I say, that’s coming it rather strong, though,” interposed Lawless,
“query about that?”

“All right,” rejoined Coleman, “it’s always customary to say so in these
cases, but it means nothing; as to the real question of mastery, that
is a matter to be decided post-nuptially; you’ll be enlightened on the
subject before long in a series of midnight discourses, commonly known
under the title of curtain-lectures.”

“Pleasant, eh?” returned Lawless; “well, I bet two to one on the grey
mare, for I never could stand being preached to, and shall consent to
anything for the sake of a quiet life--so move on.”

“‘If this offer of my heart and hand should be favourably received
by the loveliest of her sex,’” continued Coleman, “‘a line, a word, a
smile, a----’”

“‘Wink,’” suggested Lawless.

“‘Will be sufficient to acquaint me with my happiness.’”

“Tell-her to look sharp about sending an answer,” exclaimed Lawless; “if
she keeps me waiting long after ~367~~ that letter’s sent, I shall go
off pop, like a bottle of ginger-beer; I know I shall--string won’t hold
me, or wire either.”

“‘When once this letter is despatched, I shall enjoy no respite from the
tortures of suspense till the answer arrives, which shall exalt to the
highest pinnacle of happiness, or plunge into the lowest abysses of
despair, one who lives but in the sunshine of your smile, and who now,
with the liveliest affection, tempered by the most profound respect,
ventures to sign himself, Your devotedly attached--’”

“‘And love-lorn,’” interposed Lawless in a sharp, quick tone.

“Love-lorn!” repeated Coleman, looking up with an air of surprise;
“sentimental and ridiculous in the extreme! I shall not write any such
thing.”

“I believe, Mr. Coleman, that letter is intended to express my feelings,
and not yours?” questioned Lawless in a tone of stern investigation.

“Yes, of course it is,” began Coleman.

“Then write as I desire, sir,” continued Lawless authoritatively; “I
ought to know my own feelings best, I imagine; I feel love-lorn, and
‘love-lorn’ it shall be.”

“Oh! certainly,” replied Coleman, slightly offended, “anything you
please, ‘Your devotedly attached and lovelorn admirer’; here, sign it
yourself, ‘George Lawless’.”

“Bravo!” said Lawless, relapsing into his accustomed good humour
the moment the knotty point of the insertion of “love-lorn” had been
carried; “if that isn’t first-rate, I’m a Dutchman; why, Freddy, boy,
where did you learn it? how does it all come into your head?”

“Native talent,” replied Coleman, “combined with a strong and lively
appreciation of the sublime and beautiful, chiefly derived from my
maternal grandmother, whose name was Burke.”

“That wasn’t the Burke who wrote a book about it, was it?” asked
Lawless.

“Ah! no, not exactly,” replied Coleman; “she would have been, I believe,
had she been a man.”

“Very likely,” returned Lawless, whose attention was absorbed in
folding, sealing and directing the important letter, “Miss Fairlegh”.
“Now, if she does but regard my suit favourably.”

“You’ll be suited with a wife,” punned Coleman.

“But suppose she should say ‘No,’” continued Lawless, musing.

“Why, then, you’ll be non-suited, that’s all,” returned the incorrigible
Freddy; and making a face at me, which (as I was to all appearance
immersed fathoms deep in ~368~~ Blackstone) he thought I should not
observe, he sauntered out of the room, humming the following scrap of
some elegant ditty, with which he had become acquainted:--

          “‘If ever I marry a wife,
          I’ll marry a publican’s daughter,
          I ‘ll sit all day long in the bar,
          And drink nothing but brandy-and-water’”.

Lawless having completed his arrangements to his satisfaction, hastened
to follow Coleman’s example, nodding to me as he left the room, and
adding, “Good-bye, Fairlegh; read away, old boy, and when I see you
again, I hope I shall have some good news for you”.

Good news for me! The news that my sister would be pledged to spend her
life as the companion, or, more properly speaking, the plaything, of a
man who had so little delicacy of mind, so little self-respect, as to
have allowed his feelings (for that he was attached to Fanny, as far as
he was capable of forming a real attachment, I could not for a moment
doubt) to be laid bare to form a subject for Freddy Coleman to sharpen
his wit upon; and to reflect that I had in any way assisted in bringing
this result about, had thrown thorn constantly together--oh! as I
thought upon it, the inconceivable folly of which I had been guilty
nearly maddened me. Somehow, I had never until this moment actually
realised the idea of my sister’s marrying him; even that night, when
I had spoken to my mother on the subject, my motive had been more to
prevent her from lecturing and worrying Fanny than anything else. But
the real cause of my indifference was, that during the whole progress of
the affair my thoughts and feelings had been so completely engrossed
by, and centred in, my own position in regard to Clara Saville, that
although present in body, my mind was in great measure absent. I had
never given my attention to it; but had gone on in a dreamy kind of way,
letting affairs take their own course, and saying and doing whatever
appeared most consonant to the wishes of other people at the moment,
until the discovery of Oaklands’ unhappy attachment had fully aroused
me, when, as it appeared, too late to remedy the misery which my
carelessness and inattention had in a great measure contributed to bring
about.

The only hope which now remained (and when I remembered the evident
pleasure she took in his society, it appeared a very forlorn one) was
that Fanny might, of her own accord, refuse Lawless. ~369~~ By this time
the precious document produced by the joint exertions of Lawless and
Coleman must have reached its destination; and it was with an anxiety
little inferior to that of the principals themselves that I looked
forward to the result, and awaited with impatience the verdict which was
to decide whether joy should brighten, or sorrow shade, the future years
of Harry Oaklands.



CHAPTER XLVI -- TEARS AND SMILES

         “Our doubts are traitors;
         And make us lose the good we oft might win,
         By fearing to attempt.”
          --_Measure for Measure_.

         “‘Well, every one can master grief but he that has it.’
         ‘Yet say I he’s in love.’
         ‘The greatest note of it is his melancholy.’
         ‘Nay, but I know who loves him.’”
          --_Much Ado About Nothing_.

         “Joy, gentle friends! joy, and fresh days of love,
         Accompany your hearts.”
          --_Midsummer Night’s Dream_.

READING law did not get on very well that day. De Lolme on the
Constitution might have been a medical treatise, for aught I knew to the
contrary; Blackstone a work on geology. After a prolonged struggle to
compel my attention, from which I did not desist until I became suddenly
aware that, for the last half-hour, I had been holding one of the
above-named ornaments to the profession the wrong way upwards, I
relinquished the matter as hopeless, and, pulling my hat over my
brows, sallied forth, and turned my moody steps in the direction of the
cottage. Feeling unwilling in my then humour to encounter any of its
inmates, I walked round to the back of the house, and throwing open the
window of a small room, which was dignified by the name of the study,
and dedicated to my sole use and behoof, I leaped in, and closing
the sash, flung myself into an easy-chair, where, again involuntarily
resuming the same train of thought, I gave myself up a prey to
unavailing regrets. On my way I had encountered Freddy Coleman going
to shoot wild-fowl, and he had accosted me with the following agreeable
remark: “Why, Frank, old boy, you look as black as a crow at a funeral;
I can’t think what ails you all to-day. I met Harry Oaklands just now,
seeming as much down ~370~~ in the mouth as if the bank had failed; so I
told him your sister was going to marry Lawless, just to cheer him up a
bit, and show him the world was all alive and merry, when off he marched
without saying a word, looking more grumpy than ever.”

“Why did you tell him what was not true?” was my reply.

“Oh! for fun; besides, you know, it _may_ be true, for anything we can
tell,” was the unsatisfactory rejoinder.

In order the better to enable the reader to understand what is to
follow, I must make him acquainted with the exact _locale_ of the den
or study to which I have just introduced him. Let him imagine, then, a
small but very pretty little drawing-room, opening into a conservatory
of such minute dimensions, that it was, in point of fact, little more
than a closet with glazed sides and a skylight; this, again, opened
into the study, from which it was divided by a green baize curtain;
consequently, it was very possible for any one to overhear in one room
all that passed in the other, or even to hold a conversation with
a person in the opposite apartment. Seeing, however, was out of the
question, as the end of a high stand of flowers intervened--purposely so
placed, to enable me to lie perdu in the event of any visitors calling
to whom I might be unwilling to reveal myself. On the present occasion,
the possibility of any one in the drawing-room seeing me was wholly
precluded, by reason of the curtain already mentioned being partially
drawn.

I had not remained long in thought when my reverie was disturbed by some
one entering the outer room and closing the door. The peculiar rustle of
a lady’s dress informed me that the intruder was of the gentler sex;
and the sound of the footstep, so light as to be scarcely audible, could
proceed from no other inmate of the cottage but Fanny.

Even with the best intentions, one always feels a degree of shame in
playing the eaves-dropper; a natural sense of honour seems to forbid us,
unnoticed ourselves, to remark the actions of others; yet so anxious
was I, if possible, to gain some clue to the state of my sister’s
affections, that I could not resist the temptation of slightly changing
my position, so that, concealed by a fold of the curtain, and peeping
between two of the tallest camellias, I could command a view of the
drawing-room. My ears had not deceived me; on the sofa, up to which
she had drawn a small writing-table, was seated Fanny; her elbow was
supported by the table before her, and her head rested ~371~~ on one of
her little white hands, which was hidden amid the luxuriant tresses of
her sunny hair. Her countenance, which was paler than usual, bore traces
of tears. After remaining in this attitude for a few moments, motionless
as a statue, she raised her head, and throwing back her curls from her
face, opened the writing-case and wrote a hurried note; but her powers
of composition appearing to fail her before she reached the conclusion,
she paused, and, with a deep sigh, drew from a fold in her dress a
letter, which I instantly recognised as the remarkable document produced
by the joint talents of Lawless and Coleman. As she perused this
original manuscript, a smile, called forth by the singular nature of its
contents, played for an instant over her expressive features, but was
instantly succeeded by an expression of annoyance and regret.

At this moment a man’s footstep sounded in the passage, and Fanny had
scarcely time to conceal her letter ere the door was thrown open, and
Harry Oaklands entered.

The change of light was so great on first coming into the room out of
the open air, that, not until the servant had withdrawn, after saying,
“You will find Mr. Fairlegh in the study, sir,” was Harry able to
perceive that, excepting himself, Fanny was the sole occupant of the
apartment.

“I hope I am not disturbing you,” he began, after an awkward pause,
during which his cheek had flushed, and then again grown pale as marble.
“The servant told me I should find Frank here alone, and that you and
Mrs. Fairlegh were out walking.”

“Mamma is gone to see the poor boy who broke his leg the other day; but
I had a little headache, and she would not let me go with her.” “And
Frank?”

“Frank went out soon after breakfast, and has not yet returned; I think
he said he was going to the Hall--he wanted to find some book in the
library, I fancy--I wonder you did not meet him.”

“I have not been at home since the morning; my father carried me off to
look at a farm he thinks of purchasing; but, as Frank is out, I will
not interrupt you longer; I dare say I shall meet him in my way back.
Good--good-morning!”

So saying, he took up his hat, and turned abruptly to leave the room.
Apparently, however, ere he reached the door, some thought came
across him which induced him to relinquish this design, for he stood
irresolutely for a ~372~~ moment, with the handle in his hand, and
then returned, saying in a low voice, “No, I cannot do it!--Fanny,” he
continued, speaking rapidly, as if mistrusting his self-control, “I am
going abroad to-morrow; we may not meet again for years, perhaps (for
life and death are strangely intermingled) we may meet in this world
no more. Since you were a child we have lived together like brother
and sister and I cannot leave you without saying good-bye--without
expressing a fervent wish that in the lot you have chosen for yourself
you may meet with all the happiness you anticipate, and which you so
well deserve.”

“Going abroad?” repeated Fanny mechanically, as if stunned by this
unexpected intelligence.

“Yes; I start for the Continent early to-morrow morning: you know I am
always alarmingly hasty in my movements,” he added, with a faint attempt
at a smile.

“It must be on account of your health,” exclaimed Fanny quickly. “Ah!”
 she continued, with a start, as a new and painful idea occurred to her,
“the fearful leap you took to save me--the exertion was too much for
you; I knew--I felt at the time it would be so; better, far better, had
I perished in that dark river, than that you should have endangered your
valuable life.”

“Indeed, it is not so, Fanny,” replied Oaklands kindly, and, taking
her hand, he led her to the sofa, for she trembled so violently it was
evident she could scarcely stand; “I am regaining strength daily, and
Ellis will tell you that complete change of scene and air is the best
thing for me.”

“Is that really all?” inquired Fanny; “but why then go so suddenly?
Think of your father; surely it will be a great shock to Sir John.”

“I cannot stay here,” replied Harry impetuously, “it would madden me.”
 The look of surprise and alarm with which Fanny regarded him led him to
perceive the error he had committed, and, fearful of betraying himself,
he added quickly, “You must make allowance for the morbid fancies of an
invalid, proverbially the most capricious of all mortals. Six weeks ago
I was in quite as great a hurry to reach this place as I now am to get
away from it--”

He paused, sighed deeply, and then, with a degree of self-control for
which I had scarcely given him credit, added, in a cheerful tone, “But
I will not thrust my gloomy imaginings upon you; nothing dark or
disagreeable should be permitted to cloud the fair prospect which to-day
has opened before you. You must allow me,” he ~373~~ continued, in a
calm voice, though the effort it cost him to preserve composure must
have been extreme--“you must allow me the privilege of an old friend,
and let me be the first to tell you how sincerely I hope that the rank
and station which will one day be yours--rank which you are so well
fitted to adorn--may bring you all the happiness you imagine.”

“Happiness, rank and station! May I ask to what you refer, Mr.
Oaklands?” replied Fanny, colouring crimson. “I may have been premature
in my congratulations,” replied he; “I would not distress or annoy you
for the world; but under the circumstances--this being probably the only
opportunity I may have of expressing the deep interest I must always
feel in everything that relates to your happiness--I may surely be
excused; I felt I could not leave you without telling you this.”

“You are labouring under some extraordinary delusion, Mr. Oaklands,”
 rejoined Fanny, turning away her face, and speaking very quickly; “pray
let this subject be dropped.”

“You trifle with me,” replied Oaklands sternly, his self-control rapidly
deserting him, “and you know not the depth of the feelings you are
sporting with. Is it a delusion to believe that you are the affianced
bride of George Lawless?”

As he spoke, Fanny turned her soft blue eyes upon him with an expression
which must have pierced him to the very soul--it was not an expression
of anger--it was not exactly one of sorrow; but it was a look in which
wounded pride at his having for a moment believed such a thing possible,
was blended with tender reproach for thus misunderstanding her. The
former feeling, however, was alone distinguishable, as, drawing herself
up with an air of quiet dignity, which gave a character of severity to
her pretty little features of which I could scarcely have believed them
capable, she replied, “Since Mr. Lawless has not had sufficient delicacy
to preserve his own secret, it is useless for me to attempt to do so;
therefore, as you are aware that he has done me the honour of offering
me his hand, in justice to myself I now inform you that it is an honour
which I have declined, and, with it, all chance of attaining that ‘rank
and station’ on which you imagined I had placed my hopes of happiness.
You will, perhaps, excuse me,” she added, rising to leave the room;
“these events have annoyed and agitated me much.”

“Stay!” exclaimed Oaklands, springing up impetuously, “Fanny, for
Heaven’s sake, wait one moment! Am I ~374~~ dreaming? or did I hear you
say that you had refused Lawless?”

“I have already told you that it is so,” she replied: “pray let me pass;
you are presuming on your privileges as an old friend.”

“Bear with me for one moment,” pleaded Oaklands, in a voice scarcely
audible from emotion. “You have not refused him out of any mistaken
notions of generosity arising from difference of station? In a word--for
I must speak plainly, though at the risk of distressing you--do you love
him?”

“Really--” began Fanny, again attempting to quit the room, and turning
first red, then pale, as Oaklands still held his position between her
and the door.

“Oh! pardon me,” he continued in the same broken voice, “deem me
presuming--mad--what you will; but as you hope for happiness here or
hereafter, answer me this one question--Do you love him?”

“No, I do not,” replied Fanny, completely subdued by the violence of his
emotion.

“Thank God!” murmured Oaklands, and sinking into a chair, the strong
man, overcome by this sudden revulsion of feeling, buried his face in
his hands and wept like a child. There is no sight so affecting as that
of manhood’s tears. It seems natural for a woman’s feelings to find vent
in weeping; and though all our sympathies are enlisted in her behalf, we
deem it an April shower, which we hope to see ere long give place to the
sunshine of a smile; but tears are foreign to the sterner nature of man,
and any emotion powerful enough to call them forth indicates a depth and
intensity of feeling which, like the sirocco of the desert, carries all
before it in its resistless fury. Fanny must have been more than woman
if she could have remained an unmoved spectator of Harry Oaklands’
agitation.

Apparently relinquishing her intention of quitting the room, she stood
with her hands clasped, regarding him with a look of mixed interest and
alarm; but as his broad chest rose and fell, convulsed by the sobs he in
vain endeavoured to repress, she drew nearer to him, exclaiming:--

“Mr. Oaklands, are you ill? Shall I ring for a glass of water?” Then,
finding he was unable to answer her, completely overcome, she continued,
“Oh! what is all this? what have I said? what have I done? Harry, speak
to me; tell me, are you angry with me?” and laying her hand gently on
his shoulder, she gazed up in his face with a look of the most piteous
entreaty.

~375~~ Her light touch seemed to recall him to himself, and uncovering
his face, he made a strong effort to regain composure, which, after
a moment or two, appeared attended with success; and taking her hand
between his own, he said, with a faint smile:--

“I have frightened you--have I not? The last time I shed tears was at my
mother’s funeral, and I had never thought to weep again; but what
pain of body and anguish of mind were powerless to accomplish, joy has
effected in an instant. This must all seem very strange to you, dear
Fanny; even I myself am surprised at the depth and vehemence of my own
feelings; but if you knew the agony of mind I have undergone since the
night of that hateful charade--Fanny, did it never occur to you that I
loved you with a love different to that of a brother?”

As she made no reply, merely turning away her head, while a blush, faint
as the earliest glance of young-eyed Morning, mantled on her cheek, he
continued, “Yes, Fanny, I have known and loved you from childhood,
and your affection has become, unconsciously as it were, one of the
strongest ties that render life dear to me; still I frankly confess,
that till the idea of your loving another occurred to me, I was blind to
the nature of my own affection. To be with you, to see and talk to you
daily, to cultivate your talents, to lead you to admire the beauties
that 1 admire, to take interest in the pursuits which interested me, was
happiness enough--I wished for nothing more. Then came that business of
the duel, and the affectionate kindness with which you forestalled my
every wish; the delicate tenderness and ready tact which enabled you to
be more than a daughter--a guardian angel--to my father, in the days of
his heavy sorrow--sorrow which my ungoverned passions had brought upon
his grey head--all these things endeared you to me still more. Next
followed a period of estrangement and separation, during which, as I now
see, an undefined craving for your society preyed upon my spirits, and,
as I verily believe, retarded my recovery. Hence, the moment I felt
the slightest symptoms of returning health, my determination to revisit
Heathfield. When we again met, I fancied you were ill and out of
spirits.”

“It was no fancy,” murmured Fanny in a low voice, as though thinking
aloud.

“Indeed!” questioned Harry; “and will you not tell me the cause?”

“Presently; I did not mean to speak--to interrupt you.”

~376~~ “My sole wish and occupation,” he continued, “was to endeavour
to interest and amuse you, and to restore your cheerfulness, which
I believed the anxiety and fatigue occasioned by my illness to have
banished; and I nattered myself I was in some degree succeeding, when
Lawless’s arrival and his openly professed admiration of you seemed to
change the whole current of my thoughts--nay, my very nature itself. I
became sullen and morose; and the feeling of dislike with which I beheld
Lawless’s attentions to you gradually strengthened to a deep and settled
hatred; it was only by exercising the most unceasing watchfulness
and self-control that I refrained from quarrelling with him; but so
engrossed was I by the painful interest I felt in all that was passing
around me, that I never gave myself time to analyse my feelings; and
it was not until the night of the charade that I became fully aware
of their true character; it was not till then I learned that happiness
could not exist for me unless you shared it. Conceive my wretchedness
when, at the very moment in which this conviction first dawned upon
me, I saw from Lawless’s manner that in his attentions to you he was
evidently in earnest, and that, as far as I could judge, you were
disposed to receive those attentions favourably. My mind was instantly
made up; I only waited till events should prove whether my suspicions
were correct, and in case of their turning out so, feeling utterly unfit
to endure the sight of Lawless’s happiness, determined immediately to
start for the Continent. Prank, who taxing me with my wretched looks,
elicited from me an avowal of the truth, told me Lawless was about to
make you an offer; Coleman (probably in jest, but it chimed in too well
with my own fears for me to dream of doubting him) that it had been
accepted. The rest you know. And now, Fanny,” he continued, his voice
again trembling from the excess of his anxiety, “if you feel that you
can never bring yourself to look upon me in any other light than as a
brother, I will adhere to my determination of leaving England, and
trust to time to reconcile me to my fate; but if, by waiting months,
nay years, I may hope one day to call you my own, gladly will I do
so--gladly will I submit to any conditions you may impose. My happiness
is in your hands. Tell me, dear Fanny, must I go abroad to-morrow?”

And what do you suppose she told him, reader? That he must go? Miss
Martineau would have highly approved of her doing so; so would the late
Poor-law Commissioners, and so would many a modern Draco, who, with
~377~~ the life-blood that should have gone to warm his own stony
heart, scribbles a code to crush the kindly affections and genial
home-sympathies of his fellow-men. But Fanny was no female philosopher;
she was only a pure, true-hearted, trustful, loving woman; and so she
gave him to understand that he need not set out on his travels, thereby
losing a fine opportunity of “regenerating society,” and vindicating
the dignity of her sex. And this was not all she told him either; for,
having by his generous frankness won her confidence, he succeeded
in gaining from her the secret of her heart--a secret which, an hour
before, she would have braved death in its most horrible form rather
than reveal. And then her happy lover learned how her affection for
him, springing up in the pleasant days of childhood, had grown with her
growth, and strengthened with her strength; until it became a deep and
all-absorbing passion--the great reality of her spirit-life; for love
such as hers, outstripping the bounds of time, links itself even with
our hopes beyond the grave;--how, when he lay stretched upon the bed of
suffering, oscillating between life and death, the bitter anguish that
the thought of separation occasioned her, enlightened her as to the true
nature of her feelings; how, as his recovery progressed, to watch over
him, and minister to his comfort, was happiness beyond expression to
her;--how, when he left the cottage, everything seemed changed and dark,
and a gulf appeared to have interposed between them, which she deemed
impassable;--how, in the struggle to conceal, and, if possible, conquer
her attachment, she studiously avoided all intercourse with him, and how
the struggle ended in the loss of health and spirits;--how, during his
absence, she felt it a duty still to bear up against these feelings
of despair, and to endure her sad lot with patient resignation, and
succeeded in some degree, till his return once again rendered all her
efforts fruitless;--and how she then avoided him more studiously than
before, although she saw, and sorrowed over the evident pain her altered
manner caused him;--how, always fearing lest he should question her as
to her changed behaviour, and by word or sign she should betray the deep
interest she felt in him, she had gladly availed herself of Lawless’s
attentions as a means of avoiding Harry’s kind attempts to amuse and
occupy her--attempts which, at the very moment she was wounding him by
rejecting them, only rendered him yet dearer to her;--and how she had
gone on, thinking only of Harry and herself, until Lawless’s offer had
brought her unhappiness to a climax, by adding self-reproach to ~378~~
her other sources of unhappiness. All this, and much more, did she
relate; for if her coral lips did not frame every syllable, her
tell-tale blushes filled up the gaps most eloquently.

And Harry Oaklands?--Well, he did nothing desperate; but after his first
transports had subsided into a more deep and tranquil joy, he sat, with
her little white hand clasped in his own, and looked into her loving
eyes, and for one bright half-hour two of the wanderers in this vale of
tears were perfectly and entirely happy.



CHAPTER XLVII -- A CURE FOR THE HEARTACHE

     “One woman’s fair, yet I am well; another is wise, yet I am
     well; another virtuous, yet I am well; but till all graces
     be in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace. Rich
     she shall be, that’s certain; wise, or I’ll none; virtuous,
     or I’ll never cheapen her; fair, or I’ll never look on her;
     mild, or come not near me; noble, or not I for an angel; of
     good discourse, and an excellent musician.”
      --_Much Ado About Nothing_.

“YES! they were very happy, Fanny and Oaklands, as they revelled in the
bright certainty of their mutual love, and entranced by the absorbing
contemplation of their new-found happiness, forgot in the sunshine of
each other’s presence the flight of moments, whilst I, involuntarily
contrasting the fair prospect that lay open before them with the dark
cloudland of my own gloomy fortunes, had soon traversed in thought
the distance to Barstone Priory, and become immersed in fruitless
speculations as to what might eventually be the result of Mr. Vernor’s
sordid and cruel policy. It was now longer than usual since I had heard
from Clara; suspense and impatience were rapidly increasing into the
most painful anxiety, and I had all but determined, if the next day’s
post brought no relief, to disobey her injunctions to the contrary, and
once again make an attempt to see her. Oh! it is hard to be banished
from the presence of those we love--with an ear attuned to the gentle
music of some well-remembered voice, to be forced to listen to the cold,
unmeaning commonplaces of society--with the heart and mind engrossed by,
and centred on, one dear object, to live in a strange, unreal fellowship
with those around us, talking, moving, and acting mechanically--feeling,
as it ~379~~ were, but the outward form and shadow of one’s self, living
two distinct and separate existences, present, indeed, in body, but in
the only true vitality--the life of the spirit--utterly and completely
absent. From reflections such as these, I was aroused by observing the
deepening shades of evening, which were fast merging into night; and
collecting my ideas, I remembered that there were many things which must
be said and done in consequence of the unexpected turn events had taken.
No human being is so completely isolated that his actions do not in some
degree affect others, and in the present instance this was peculiarly
the case. Sir John and my mother must be let into the secret, and poor
Lawless must learn the unsuccessful termination of his suit. But now,
for the first time, the somewhat equivocal situation in which chance
had placed me presented itself to my mind, and I felt a degree
of embarrassment, almost amounting to shame, at having to make my
appearance, and confess that I had been lying _perdu_ during the whole
of the preceding scene. Accident, however, stood my friend.

“I wonder where Frank is all this time!” exclaimed Harry, in reply to a
remark of Fanny’s referring to the lateness of the hour: “I want to see
him, and tell him of my happiness; I made him almost as miserable as
myself this morning; he must be at the Hall, I suppose, but I’m sure
your servant told me he was at home.”

“She only spoke the truth if she did,” said I, entering the drawing-room
as coolly as if nothing unusual had occurred.

Fanny started up with a slight shriek, and then, glancing at me with a
countenance in which smiles and tears were strangely commingled, ran out
of the room to hide her confusion, while Harry Oaklands--well, I hardly
know what Harry did, but I have some vague idea that he hugged me, for I
recollect feeling a degree of oppression on my breath, and an unpleasant
sensation in my arms, for the next five minutes.

“So you have heard it all, you villain--have you?” he exclaimed, as soon
as his first transports had a little subsided. “O Frank! my dear old
fellow, I am so happy! But what a blind idiot I have been!”

“All’s well that ends well,” replied I, shaking him warmly by the hand;
“they say lookers-on see most of the game, but in this case I was as
blind as you were; it never for a moment occurred to me that Fanny cared
for you otherwise than as a sister. Indeed, I have ~380~~ sometimes been
annoyed that she did not, as I considered, properly appreciate you; but
I understand it all now, and am only too glad that her pale looks and
low spirits can be so satisfactorily accounted for.”

“Frank,” observed Oaklands gravely, “there is only one thing which
casts the slightest shade over my happiness; how are we to break this
to Lawless? I can afford to pity him now, poor fellow I I know by my own
feelings the pang that hearing of a rival’s success will cost him.”

“I don’t think his feelings are quite as deep and intense as yours,
Harry,” replied I, smiling involuntarily at my reminiscences of the
morning; “but I am afraid he will be terribly cut up about it; he was
most unfortunately sanguine: I suppose I had better break it to him.”

“Yes, and as soon as possible too,” said Oaklands, “for I’m sure my
manner will betray my happiness. I am the worst hand in the world at
dissimulation. Walk back with me and tell him, and then stay and dine
with us.”

“Agreed,” replied I; “only let me say half a dozen words to my mother;
“and, rushing upstairs, I dashed into her room, told her the whole
matter on the spot, incoherently, and without the slightest preparation,
whereby I set her crying violently, to make up for which I kissed her
abruptly (getting very wet in so doing), pulled down the bell-rope in
obedience to the dictates of a sudden inspiration that she would be
the better for a maid-servant, and left her in one of the most fearful
states of confusion on record, flurried into a condition of nerves
which set camphor-julep completely at defiance, and rendered trust in
sal-volatile a very high act of faith indeed.

While Oaklands and I were walking up to the Hall, we overtook Coleman
returning from shooting wild-fowl. As we came up with him, Oaklands
seized him by the shoulder, exclaiming:--

“Well, Freddy, what sport, eh?”

“My dear Oaklands,” returned he gravely, removing Harry’s hand as he
spoke, “that is a very bad habit of yours, and one which I advise you to
get rid of as soon as possible; nobody who had ever endured one of your
friendly gripes could say with truth that you hadn’t _a vice_ about
you.”

“For which vile pun it would serve you right to repeat the dose,”
 replied Oaklands, “only that I am not in a vindictive mood at present.”

“Then you must have passed the afternoon in some ~381~~ very mollifying
atmosphere,” returned Freddy, “for when I met you three hours ago,
you seemed as if you could have cut anybody’s throat with the greatest
satisfaction.”

The conscious half-cough, half-laugh, with which Oaklands acknowledged
this sally, attracted Coleman’s attention, and mimicking the sound,
he continued, “A--ha--hem! and what may that mean? I say, there’s some
mystery going on here from which I’m excluded--that’s not fair, though,
you know. Come, be a little more transparent; give me a peep into the
hidden recesses of your magnanimous mind; unclasp the richly bound
volume of your secret soul; elevate me to the altitude of the Indian
herb, or, in plain slang--Young England’s chosen dialect--make me ‘up to
snuff’.”

“May I enlighten him?” asked I.

“Yes, to be sure,” replied Oaklands; “I’ll go on, for I am anxious
to speak to my father. Freddy, old boy! shake hands; I’m the happiest
fellow in existence!” so saying, he seized and wrung Coleman’s hand with
a heartiness which elicited sundry grotesque contortions, indicative
of agony, from that individual, and, bounding forward, was soon lost to
sight in the deepening twilight.

“And so, you see,” continued I, after having imparted to Coleman as much
as I considered necessary of the state of affairs, a confidence which he
received with mingled exclamations of surprise and delight--“and so, you
see, we’ve not only got to tell Lawless that he is refused, poor fellow
I but that Fanny has accepted Oaklands; very awkward, isn’t it?”

“It would be with anybody else,” replied Coleman; “but I think there
are ways and means of managing the thing which will prevent any very
desperate consequences in the present instance; sundry ideas occur to
me; would you mind my being in the room when you tell him?”

“As far as I am concerned, I should be only too glad to have you,”
 returned I, “if you do not think it would annoy him.”

“I’m not afraid of that,” was the rejoinder; “as I wrote the offer
for him, it strikes me I’m the very person he ought to select for his
confidant.”

“Do you think,” he added, after a moment’s thought, “Harry would sell
those phaeton horses?”

“That’s the line of argument you intend to bring forward by way of
consolation, is it? Well, it is not such a bad notion,” replied I; “but
don’t be too sure of success, ‘_Equo ne crédite Tueri_’: I doubt its
being in the power ~382~~ of horse-flesh to carry such a weight of
disappointment as I fear this news will occasion him.”

“Well, I’ve other schemes to fall back upon if this should fail,”
 returned Freddy; “and now let us get on, for the sooner we put him out
of his misery the better.”

“Where’s the master?” inquired I, encountering Shrimp as we crossed the
hall.

“He’s upstairs, sir; in his own room, sir; a-going it like bricks, if
you please, sir; you can hear him down here, Gents.”

“Stop a minute--listen!” said Coleman; “I can hear him now.”

As he spoke, the sound of some one running quickly in the room overhead
was distinctly audible; then came a scuffling noise, and then a heavyish
fall.

“What’s he doing?” asked Coleman.

“He’s a-trainin’ of hisself for some match as must be a-coming off, sir;
leastways so I take it; he’s been a-going on like that for the last hour
and a quarter, and wery well he’s lasted out, I say; he’ll be safe to
win, don’t you think, Gents?”

“Out of the way, you imp!” exclaimed Coleman, seizing Shrimp by the
collar, and swinging him half across the hall, where, cat-like, he fell
upon his legs, and walked off, looking deeply insulted.

“I can’t make out what he can be doing,” continued Freddy. “Come along!”
 so saying, he sprang up the staircase, two steps at a time, an example
which I hastened to imitate.

“Come in!” cried the voice of Lawless, as Coleman rapped at the door;
and anxious to discover the occasion of the sounds which had reached our
ears in the hall, we lost no time in obeying the summons. On entering
the apartment a somewhat singular spectacle greeted our sight. All the
furniture of the room, which was a tolerably large one, was piled on two
lines on either side, so as to leave a clear course along the middle; in
the centre of the space thus formed were placed two chairs about a
yard apart, and across the backs of these was laid the joint of a
fishing-rod.

[Illustration: page382 A New Cure for the Heart-ache]

As we entered, Lawless--who was without shoes, coat, or
waistcoat--exclaiming, “Wait a minute, I’ve just done it”--started from
one end of the room, and, running up to the chairs in the centre, leaped
over the fishing-rod. “Ninety-nine!” he continued; then, proceeding to
the other end, he again ran up to and sprang over the barrier, shouting
as he did so, in a tone of triumph, “A hundred!” ~383~~ and dragging an
easy-chair out of the chaotic heap of furniture, he flung himself into
it to all appearance utterly exhausted.

“Why, Lawless, man!” cried Freddy, “what are you doing? Have you taken
leave of your senses all of a sudden?”

“Eh! I believe 1 should have, if I had not hit upon that dodge for
keeping myself quiet.”

“A somewhat Irish way of keeping quiet,” returned Freddy; “why, the
perspiration is pouring down your face--you look regularly used up.”

“Well, I am pretty nearly done brown--rather baked than otherwise,”
 replied Lawless; “let me tell you, it’s no joke to jump five hundred
times over a stick three feet high or more.”

“And why, in the name of all that’s absurd, have you been doing it
then?”

“Eh I why, you see, after I had sent our letter, I got into such a
dreadful state of impatience and worry, I didn’t know what to do with
myself; I could not sit still at any price, and, first of all, I thought
I’d have a good gallop, but I declare to you I felt so reckless and
desperate, that I fancied I should go and break my neck; well, then it
occurred to me to jump over that stick till I had tired myself out--five
hundred times have I done it, and a pretty stiff job it was, too. And
now, what news have you got for me, Frank?”

“My dear Lawless,” said I, laying my hand on his shoulder, “you must
prepare for a disappointment.”

“There, that will do,” interrupted Lawless; “as to preparation, if my
last hour’s work is not preparation enough for anything, it’s a pity.
What! she’ll have nothing to say to me at any price, eh?”

“Why, you see, we have all been labouring under a delusion,” I began.

“I have, under a most precious one,” continued Lawless--“regularly put
my foot in it--made a complete ass of myself--eh! don’t you see? Well,
I’m not going to break my heart about it after all; it’s only a woman,
and it’s my opinion people set a higher price upon those cattle than
they are worth--they are a shying, skittish breed, the best of them.”

“That’s the light to take it in,” exclaimed Coleman, coming forward;
“if one woman says ‘No,’ there are a hundred others will say ‘Yes’; and,
after all, it’s an open question whether a man’s not better off without
‘em.”

“Eh! Freddy boy, our fine letter’s been no go--turned out a regular
sell, you see, eh?”

~384~~ “Well, that only proves the young lady’s want of taste,” replied
Coleman; “but we had not exactly a fair start. You have more to bear
about it yet; the article you wished for was gone already--the damsel
had not a heart to bestow. Tell him how it was, Frank.”

Thus urged, I gave a hurried outline of the affair as it really stood,
dwelling much on the fact that Oaklands and Fanny had become attached
in bygone years, long ere she had ever seen Lawless--which I hoped might
afford some slight consolation to his wounded self-love. As I concluded,
he exclaimed: “So Fanny’s going to marry Harry Oak-lands--that’s the
long and short of it all. Well, I’m uncommonly glad to hear it--almost
as glad as if I was going to marry her myself; there is not a better
fellow in the world than Harry, though he has not regarded me with the
most friendly looks of late. I was beginning not to like it, I can tell
you, and meant to ask him why he did it; but I understand it all now.
What a bore I must have been to them both! I declare I’m quite sorry;
why, I would not have done it for any money, if I’d been up to the move
sooner. Oh! I must tell Harry.”

“You certainly are the most good-natured fellow breathing, Lawless,”
 said I.

“Eh! yes, take me in the right way, I am quiet enough, a child may guide
me with a snaffle; but stick a sharp bit in my mouth, and tickle my
sides with the rowels, and I rear up before, and lash out behind, so
that it would puzzle half the rough-riders in the country to back me.
I always mean to go ahead straight enough if I can see my way clearly
before me, but it’s awkward driving when one gets among women, with
their feelings, and sympathies, and all that style of article. I’m not
used to it, you see, so no wonder if I run foul of their sensibilites
and sentimentalities, and capsize a few of them. I’ve got pretty well
knocked over myself though this time. Misfortunes never come alone too,
they say; and I’ve just had a letter from Leatherley to tell me Spiteful
got loose when the groom was leading him out to exercise, and trying to
leap a fence staked himself so severely that they were obliged to have
him shot. I refused eighty guineas for him from Dunham of the Guards
only a month ago; I shall have my new tandem cart home, and no horses to
run in it.”

“How well those chestnuts would look tandem!” observed Coleman
carelessly; “I wonder whether Harry would sell them?”

“By Jove! I shouldn’t like to ask him,” exclaimed Lawless quickly; “it
is too much to expect of any man.”

~385~~ “Oh! as to that,” replied Coleman, “I dare say I could contrive
to find it out, without exactly asking him to sell them.”

“My dear fellow, if you would, I should be so much obliged to you,”
 replied Lawless eagerly; “if I could but get those horses to start the
new cart with, I should be as happy as a king--that is,” he continued,
checking himself, “I might become so; time, don’t you see, resignation,
and all that sort of thing--heigh ho!--By the way, how far is it from
dinner? for jumping over those confounded chairs has made me uncommonly
peckish, I can tell you.”

“He’ll do,” said Coleman, as we separated to prepare for dinner.

It was easy to see by Sir John’s beaming face, and the hearty squeeze he
gave my hand when I entered the drawing-room, that Harry would not have
to fear much opposition to his wishes on the part of his father. The
dinner passed off pleasantly enough, though even when the meal was
concluded, and the servants had left the room, no allusion was made (out
of delicacy to Lawless) to the subject which engrossed the thoughts of
many of the party. As soon, however, as the wine had gone the round
of the table, Lawless exclaimed: “Gentlemen! are you all charged?” and
receiving affirmatory looks from the company in general, he continued,
“Then I beg to propose a toast, which you must drink as such a toast
ought to be drunk, _con amore_. Gentlemen, I rise to propose the health
of the happy couple that is to be.”

“Umph! eh I what?--what are you talking about, sir?--what are you
talking about?” inquired Mr. Frampton, hastily setting down his wine
untasted, and speaking quickly, and with much excitement.

“Do you see that?” whispered Lawless, nudging me, “he’s off on a false
scent; he never could bear the idea of my marrying Fanny, he as good as
told me so one day; now be quiet, and I’ll get a rise out of him.” He
then continued, addressing Mr. Frampton: “You’re getting a little hard
of hearing, I’m afraid, sir; I was proposing the health of a certain
happy couple, or rather of two people, who will, I hope, become so, in
the common acceptation of the term, before very long”.

“Umph! I heard what you said, sir, plain enough (wish I hadn’t), and I
suppose I can guess what you mean. I’m a plain-spoken man, sir, and I
tell you honestly I don’t like the thing, and I don’t approve of the
thing--I never have, and so once for all--I--umph! I won’t drink your
toast, sir, that’s flat. Umph! umph!”

~386~~ “Well,” said Lawless, making a sign to Harry not to speak, “you
are a privileged person, you know; and if Sir John and my friend Harry
here don’t object to your refusing the toast, it’s not for me to take
any notice of it; but I must say, considering the lady is the sister of
your especial favourite Frank Fairlegh, and the gentleman one whom you
have known from boyhood, I take it as particularly unkind of you, Mr.
Frampton, not even to wish them well.”

“Eh! umph! it isn’t that, boy--it isn’t that,” returned Mr. Frampton,
evidently taken aback by this appeal to his kindly feeling. “But, you
see,” he added, turning to Sir John, “the thing is foolish altogether,
they are not at all suited to each other; and instead of being happy, as
they fancy, they’ll make each other miserable: the boy’s a very good boy
in his way, kind-hearted and all that, but truth is truth, and he’s no
more fit to marry Fanny Fairlegh than I am.”

“Sorry I can’t agree with you, Mr. Frampton,” replied Sir John Oaklands,
drawing himself up stiffly; “I thank Mr. Lawless most heartily for his
toast, and drink it without a moment’s hesitation. Here’s to the health
of the young couple!”

“Well, I see you are all against me,” exclaimed Mr. Frampton, “and I
don’t like to seem unkind. They say marriages are made in heaven, so I
suppose it must be all right. Here’s the health of the happy couple, Mr.
Lawless and Miss Fairlegh!”

It was now Lawless’s turn to look out of countenance, and for a moment
he did appear thoroughly disconcerted, more especially as it was next
to impossible to repress a smile, and Freddy Coleman grinned outright;
quickly recovering himself, however, he resumed, “Laugh away, Freddy,
laugh away, it only serves me right for playing such a trick. I’ve
been deceiving you, Mr. Frampton; Miss Fairlegh is indeed going to be
married, but she has had the good taste to choose a fitter bridegroom
than she would have found in such a harum-scarum fellow as I am.
So here’s a long life, and a merry one, to Fanny Fairlegh and Harry
Oaklands; you won’t refuse that toast, I dare say?”

“Umph! Harry Oaklands!” exclaimed Mr. Frampton aghast; “and I’ve been
telling Sir John he wasn’t good enough for Frank’s sister--just like me,
umph!”

“My dear Lawless,” said Harry, taking a seat next the person he
addressed, which movement he accomplished during an immense row
occasioned by Mr. Frampton, ~387~~ who was grunting forth a mixed
monologue of explanations and apologies to Sir John, by whom they were
received with such a hearty fit of laughing that the tears ran down his
cheeks--“My dear Lawless, the kind and generous way in which you take
this matter makes me feel quite ashamed of my behaviour to you lately,
but I think, if you knew how miserable I have been, you would forgive
me.”

“Forgive you! eh?” returned Lawless; “ay, a precious deal sooner than
I can forgive myself for coming here and making you all uncomfortable.
Nobody but such a thickheaded ass as I am would have gone on all this
time without seeing how the game stood. I hate to spoil sport; if I had
had the slightest idea of the truth, I’d have been off out of your way
long ago.”

“You are a noble fellow!” exclaimed Harry, “and your friendship is a
thing to be proud of. If there is any way in which I can testify my
strong sense of gratitude, only name it.”

“I’ll tell you,” said Coleman, who had caught the last few words--“I’ll
tell you what to do to make him all right--sell him your chestnuts.”

“The phaeton horses?” replied Harry. “No, I won’t sell them.”

“Ah! I thought he would not,” murmured Lawless, “it was too much to
expect of any man.”

“But,” continued Oaklands, “I am sure my father will join me in saying,
that if Lawless will do us the favour of accepting them, nothing would
give us greater pleasure than to see them in the possession of one who
will appreciate their affections as they deserve.”

“Nay, they are your property, Harry,” returned Sir John; “I shall be
delighted if your friend will accept them, but the present is all your
own.”

“Eh! give ‘em me, all free gratis, and for nothing!” exclaimed Lawless,
overpowered at the idea of such munificence. “Why, you’ll go and ruin
yourself--Queen’s Bench, whitewash, and all the rest of it! Recollect,
you’ll have a wife to keep soon, and that isn’t done for nothing they
tell me--pin-money, ruination-shops, diamonds, kid gloves, and bonnet
ribbons--that’s the way to circulate the tin; there are some losses
that may be gains, eh? When one comes to think of all these things,
it strikes me I’m well out of it, eh, Mr. Frampton?--Mind you, I don’t
think that really,” he added aside to me, “only I want Harry to fancy I
don’t care two straws about it; he’s such a feeling fellow is Harry, lie
would not be properly jolly if he thought I took it to heart much.”

~388~~ “Umph! if those are your ideas about matrimony, sir,” growled
Mr. Frampton, “I think you are quite right to leave it alone--puppy-dogs
have no business with wives.” “Now don’t be grumpy, governor,” returned
Lawless, “when you’ve had your own way about the toast and all. Take
another glass of that old port, that’s the stuff that makes your hair
curl and look so pretty” [Mr. Framp-ton’s _chevelure_ was to be likened
only to a grey scrubbing-brush], “we’ll send for the new dog-cart
to-morrow, and you shall be the first man to ride behind the chestnuts.”
 “Thank ye kindly, I’ll take your advice at all events,” replied Mr.
Frampton, helping himself to a glass of port; “and as to your offer, why
I’ll transfer that to him (indicating Coleman), ‘funny boy,’ as I used
to call him, when he _was_ a boy, and he doesn’t seem much altered in
that particular now. Umph!”

This, as was intended, elicited a repartee from Coleman, and the evening
passed away merrily, although I could perceive, in spite of his attempts
to seem gay, that poor Lawless felt the destruction of his hopes deeply.

On my return to the cottage, the servant informed me that a man had been
there, who wished very particularly to see me; that she had offered to
send for me, but that he had professed himself unable to wait.

“What kind of looking person was he?” inquired I. “He was an oldish
man, sir; very tall and thin, with grey hair, and he rode a little rough
pony.” “Did he leave no note or message?” “He left this note, sir.”

Hastily seizing it, I locked myself into my own room, and tearing open
the paper, read as follows:--

“Honoured Sir,--In case I should not see you, has my time will be short,
I takes the liburty of writin’ a line, and ham ‘appy to hinform you,
as things seem to me awl a-goin’ wrong, leastways I think you’ll say so
when you ‘ears my tail. Muster Richard’s been back above a week, and
he and the Old Un is up to their same tricks again; but that ain’t
awl--there’s a black-haired pale chap cum with a heye like a nork, as
seems to me the baddest of the lot, and that ain’t sayin’ a little.
But there’s worse news yet, for I’m afraid we ain’t only get to contend
hagainst the henemy, but there’s a traytur in the camp, _and that in a
quarter where you cares most_. Meet me tomorrow mornin’ at the old place
at seven o’clock, when you shall ‘ear more from, Your umbel servant, to
command,

“Peter Barnett, “late Sergeant in the --th Dragoons.”

~389~~ Reader, do you wish me a good-night?--many thanks for your
kindness, but if you have any hope that your wish will be realised, you
must be of a very sanguine temperament, or you have never been in love.



CHAPTER XLVIII -- PAYING OFF OLD SCORES

     “‘Oh most delicate fiend!
     Who is’t can read a woman?
     Is there more?’
     ‘More, sir, and worse.’”
      --_Cymbeline_.

     “The Chamberlain was blunt and true, and sturdily said he--
     ‘Abide, my lord, and rule your own, and take this rede from
     me, That  woman’s faith’s a brittle  trust.  Seven twelve-
     months didst thou say? I’ll pledge me for no lady’s truth
     beyond the seventh day.’”
      --_Ballad of the Noble Moringer_

IT is a weary thing to lie tossing restlessly from side to side,
sleepless, through the silent watches of the night, spirit and matter
warring against each other--the sword gnawing and corroding its
sheath. A weary and harassing thing it is even where the body is the
aggressor--when the fevered blood, darting like liquid fire through the
veins, mounts to the throbbing brow, and, pressing like molten lead
upon the brain, crushes out thought and feeling, leaving but a dull
consciousness of the racking agony which renders each limb a separate
instrument of torture. If, on the other hand, it be the mind that is
pestilence-stricken, the disease becomes well-nigh unbearable, as it
is incurable; and thus it was with me on the night in question. The
suspense and anxiety I had undergone during the preceding day had
indisposed me for sustaining any fresh annoyance with equanimity, and
now, in confirmation of my worst fears, that hateful sentence in old
Peter’s note, warning me of treachery in the quarter where I was most
deeply interested, rose up before me like some messenger of evil,
torturing me to the verge of distraction with vague doubts and
suspicions--fiends which the bright spirits of Love and Faith were
powerless to banish. The old man’s meaning was obvious; he imagined
Clara inconstant, and was anxious to warn me against some supposed
rival; this in itself was not agreeable; but I should have reckoned
at once that he must be labouring under ~390~~ some delusion, and
disregarded his suspicions as unworthy of a moment’s notice, had it not
been for Clara’s strange and unaccountable silence. I had written to her
above a week before--in fact, as soon as I became at all uneasy at not
having heard from her, urging her to relieve my anxiety, if but by half
a dozen lines. Up to this time I had accounted for not having received
any answer, by the supposition that Mr. Vernor had, by some accident,
detected our correspondence, and taken measures to interrupt it. But
this hypothesis was evidently untrue, or Peter Barnett would have
mentioned in his note such an easy solution of the difficulty. Yet, to
believe Clara false was treason against constancy. Oh! the thing was
impossible; to doubt her sincerity would be to lose my confidence in the
existence of goodness and truth on this side the grave! The recollection
of her simple, child-like confession of affection--the happiness my
love appeared to afford her--the tender glance of those honest, trustful
eyes--who could think of these things and suspect her for one moment?
But that old man’s letter! What did it--what could it mean? His allusion
to some dark, hawk-eyed stranger--ha!--and as a strange, improbable idea
glanced like lightning through my brain--like lightning, too, searing
as it passed--I half sprung from the bed, unable to endure the agony
the thought had costume. Reason, however, telling me that the idea was
utterly fanciful and without foundation, restrained me from doing--I
scarcely know what--something desperately impracticable, which should
involve much violent bodily action, and result in attaining some certain
confirmation either of my hopes and fears, being my nearest approach
to any formed scheme. Oh! that night--that weary, endless night! Would
morning never, never come! About five o’clock I arose, lighted a candle,
dressed myself, and then, sitting down, wrote a short note to my mother,
telling her that an engagement, formed the previous evening, to meet
a friend, would probably detain me the greater part of the day; and
another note to Oaklands, saying that I had taken the liberty of
borrowing a horse, begging him to speak of my absence as a thing of
course, and promising to tell him more when I returned. I then waited
till a faint grey tint in the eastern sky gave promise of the coming
dawn; when letting myself noiselessly out, I took my way towards the
Hall. It was beginning to get light as I reached the stables, and,
arousing one of the drowsy helpers, I made him saddle a bay mare, with
whose high courage, speed, ~391~~ and powers of endurance I was well
acquainted, and started on my expedition.

As it was nearly eighteen miles to the place of meeting, I could
scarcely hope to reach it by seven o’clock, the time mentioned in old
Peter’s note; but action was the only relief to my anxiety, and it may
easily be supposed I did not lose much time on the road, so that it was
but ten minutes after seven when I turned down the lane in which the
little alehouse appointed as our rendezvous was situated. I found old
Peter waiting to receive me, though the cloud upon his brow, speaking
volumes of dark mystery, did not tend to raise my spirits.

“Late on parade, sir,” was his greeting--“late on parade; we should
never have driven the Mounseers out of Spain if we’d been ten minutes
behind our time every morning.”

“You forget, my friend, that I have had eighteen miles to ride, and that
your notice was too short to allow of my giving orders about a horse
over night.”

“You do not seem to have lost much time by the way,” he added, eyeing my
reeking steed. “What a slap-up charger that mare would make! Here, you
boy, take her into the shed there, and throw a sack or two over her,
wash out her mouth, and give her a lock of hay to nibble; but don’t go
to let her drink, unless you want my cane about your shoulders--do ye
hear? Now, sir, come in.”

“What in the world did you mean by that note, Peter?” exclaimed I, as
soon as we were alone; “it has nearly driven me distracted--I have never
closed my eyes all night.”

“Then it’s done as I intended,” was the satisfactory reply; “it’s
prepared you for the worst.”

“Nice preparation!” muttered I, then added, “Worst! what do you refer
to? Speak out, man--you are torturing me!”

“You’ll hear it sooner than you like; try and take it easy, young
gentleman. Do you feel yourself quite prepared?”

I am afraid my rejoinder was more energetic than correct; but it
appeared to produce greater effect than my entreaties had done, for he
continued:--

“Well I see you will have it out, so you must, I suppose; only if you
ain’t prepared proper, don’t blame me. As far as I can see and hear--and
I keeps my eyes and ears open pretty wide, I can tell you--I feels
convinced that Miss Clara’s guv you the sack, and gone and taken ~392~~
up with another young man.” As he delivered himself of this pleasant
opinion, old Peter slowly approached me, and ended by laying his hands
solemnly on my shoulders, and, with an expression of fearful import
stamped on his grotesque features, nodded thrice in my very face.

“Nonsense!” replied I, assuming an air of indifference I was far from
feeling; “such a thing is utterly impossible--you have deceived yourself
in some ridiculous manner.”

“I only wish as I could think so, for all our sakes, Mr. Fairlegh; but
facts is like jackasses, precious stubborn things. Why are they always
a-walking together, and talking so loving like, that even the old un
hisself looks quite savage about it? And why ain’t she never wrote to
you since he cum--though she’s had all your letters--eh?”

“Then she _has_ received my letters?”

“Oh, yes! she’s always had them the same as usual.”

“And are you sure she has never written to me?”

“Not as I know on; I’ve never had one to send to you since she’s took up
with this other chap.”

“And pray who or what is this other chap, as you call him, and how comes
he to be staying at Barstone?”

“Well, sir, all as I can tell you about him is, that nigh upon a
fortnight ago Muster Richard come home, looking precious ill and seedy;
and the wery next morning he had a letter from this chap, as I take it.
I brought it to him just as they rung for the breakfast things to be
took away, so I had a chance of stopping in the room. Direc’ly he sot
eyes on the handwriting, he looked as black as night, and seemed all
of a tremble like as he hopened it. As he read he seemed to get less
frightened and more cross; and when he’d finished it, he ‘anded it to
the old un, saying, ‘It’s all smooth, but he’s taken it into his head to
come down here. What’s to be done, eh? ‘Mr. Vernor read it through, and
then said in an under tone,’ ‘Of course he must come if he chooses’.
He then whispered something of which I only caught the words, ‘Send
her away’; to which Richard replied angrily, ‘It shall not be; I’ll
shilly-shally no longer,--it must be done at once, I tell you, or I give
the whole thing up altogether’. They then went into the library, and I
heard no more; but the wery next day come this here hidentical chap--he
arrived in style too--britzska and post-horses. Oh! he’s a reg’lar
swell, you may depend; he looks something like a Spaniard, a
foreigneering style of physiography, only he ain’t so swarthy.”

~393~~ “Don’t you know his name?” inquired I.

“They call him Mr. Fleming, but I don’t believe that’s his right name;
leastways he had a letter come directed different, but I can’t remember
what it was: it was either--let me see--either a hess or a W; I think it
was a hess, but I can’t say for certain.”

“But what has all this to do with Miss Saville?” asked I impatiently.

“Fair and easy; fair and easy; I’m a-coming to her direc’ly--the world
was not made in a day; you’ll know sooner than you likes, I expects, now
sir. Well, I didn’t fancy him from the first; he looks more like Saytin
himself than any Christian as ever I set eyes on, except Boneypart,
which, being a Frenchman and a henemy, was not so much to be wondered
at: however, he was wery quiet and civil, and purlite to Miss Clara, and
said wery little to her, while Muster Richard and the old un was by, and
she seemed rather to choose to talk to him, as I thought, innocent-like,
to avoid the t’other one; but afore long they got quite friends
together, and I soon see that he meant business, and no mistake. He’s as
hartful and deep as Garrick; and there ain’t no means of inweigling and
coming over a woman as he don’t try on her: ay, and he’s a clever chap,
too; he don’t attempt to hurry the thing; he’s wery respectful and
attentive, and seems to want to show her the difference between his
manners and Muster Richard’s--not worreting her like; and he says sharp
things to make Muster Richard look like a fool before her. I can’t help
larfing to mysolf sometimes to hear him,--Muster Dickey’s met his match
at last.”

“And how does Cumberland brook such interference?”

“Why, that’s what I can’t make out; he don’t like it, that’s clear, for
I have seen him turn pale with rage; but he seems afraid to quarrel
with him, somehow. If ever he says a sharp word, Mr. Fleming gives him
a scowling look with his wicked eyes, and Muster Richard shuts up
direc’ly.”

“And you fancy Miss Saville appears disposed to receive this man’s
advances favourably? Think well before you speak; do not accuse
her lightly, for, by Heaven! if you have not good grounds for your
insinuations, neither your age nor your long service shall avail to
shield you from my anger! every word breathed against her is like a stab
to me.” As, in my grief and irritation, I threatened the old man, his
brow reddened, and his eye flashed with all the fire of youth. After a
moment’s reflection, however, his mood changed, and, advancing towards
me, he took ~394~~ my hand respectfully, and pressing it between his
own, said:--

“Forgive me this liberty, sir, but I honours you, young gentleman, for
your high spirit and generous feeling; your look and bearing, as you
said them words, reminded me of my dear old master. It can’t be no
pleasure to me, sir, to blame _his_ daughter, that I have loved for his
sake, as if she had been a child of my own--but truth is truth;” and
as he uttered these words, the big drops stood in his eyes, unfailing
witnesses of his sincerity. There is something in the display of real
deep feeling, which for the time appears to raise and ennoble those
who are under its influence; and as the old man stood before me, I
experienced towards him a mingled sentiment of admiration and respect,
and I hastily endeavoured to atone for the injustice I had done him.

“Forgive me, Peter!” exclaimed I; “I did not mean what I said,--sorrow
and annoyance made me unjust to you, but you will forgive it?”

“No need of that, sir,” was the reply; “I respects you all the more for
it. And now, in answer to your question, I will go on with the little
that remains to tell, and you can judge for yourself. Miss Clara, then,
avoids Mr. Richard more than hever, and talks kind and pleasant like
with this Mr. Fleming--walks out with him, sometimes alone--rides with
him--don’t seem so dull and mopish like since he’s been here, and
has never hanswered your letters since she took up with him.” As he
concluded his catalogue of proofs, I threw myself into a chair, and
sat with my hands pressed tightly on my brow for some minutes; my brain
seemed on fire.

At length, starting up abruptly, I exclaimed: “This is utterly
unbearable! I must have certainty, Peter; I must see her at once. How is
that to be done?”

“You may well ask,” was his reply; “better wait till I can find an
opportunity, and let you know.”

“Listen to me, old Peter,” continued I, laying my hand on his shoulder;
“there is that within me this day which can overcome all obstacles--I
tell you I must see her, and I WILL!”.

“Well, well, don’t put yourself into a passion; the only chance as I
knows of is to ketch Miss Clara out walking; and then ten to one Mr.
Fleming will be with her.”

“Let him!” exclaimed I; “why should I avoid him? I have not injured
him, though he may have done me foul and bitter wrong; it is for him to
shrink from the encounter.”

~395~~ “I know what the end of this will be,” returned Peter Barnett;
“you’ll quarrel; and then, instead of off coats and having it out like
Britons, there’ll be a purlite hinvitation given, as kind and civil
as if you was a-hasking him to dinner, to meet as soon as it’s light
to-morrow morning, and do you the favour of putting a brace of bullets
into you.”

“No, Peter, you do not understand my feeling on this subject; should
you be right in your suspicions (and, although my faith in your young
mistress is such that nothing but the evidence of my own senses can
avail to shake it, I am fain to own circumstances appear fully to
warrant them)--should these suspicions not prove unfounded, it is
_her_ falsehood alone that will darken the sunshine of my future life.
Fleming, or any other coxcomb who had taken advantage of her fickleness,
would be equally beneath my notice. But enough of this; where shall I be
most likely to meet her?”

“You knows the seat in the shrubbery walk under the old beeches, where
you saw Miss Clara the first time as ever you cum here?”

“Only too well,” answered I, as the recollection of that morning
contrasted painfully with my present feelings.

“Well, you be near there about eleven o’clock; and if Miss Clara don’t
walk that way, I’ll send down a boy with hinformation as to the henemy’s
movements. Keep out of sight as much as you can.”

“It shall be done,” replied I.

Old Peter paused for a moment; then, raising his hand to his forehead
with a military salute, turned away and left me.

Eight o’clock struck; a girl brought me in breakfast; nine and ten
sounded from an old clock in the bar, but the viands remained untasted.
At a quarter past ten I rang the bell, and asked for a glass of water,
drained it, and, pressing my hat over my brow, sallied forth. The
morning had been misty when I first started, but during my sojourn at
the inn the vapours had cleared away, and as, by the assistance of
an old tree, I climbed over the paling of Barstone Park, the sun was
shining brightly, wrapping dale and down in a mantle of golden light.
Rabbits sprung up under my feet as I made my way through the fern and
heather; and pheasants, their varied plumage glittering in the
sunlight, ran along my path, seeking to hide their long necks under
some sheltering furze brake, or rose heavily on the wing, scared at the
unwonted intrusion. At any other time the fair scene ~396~~ around me
would have sufficed to make me light-hearted and happy, but in the state
of suspense and mental torture in which I then was, the brightness of
nature seemed only to contrast the more vividly with the darkness of
soul within. And yet I could not believe her false. Oh, no! I should see
her, and all would be explained; and as this thought came across me, I
bounded eagerly forward, and, anxious to accelerate the meeting, chafed
at each trifling obstacle that opposed itself to my progress. Alas! one
short hour from that time, I should have been glad had there been a lion
in my path, so that I had failed to reach the fatal spot.

With my mind fixed on the one object of meeting Clara, I forgot the old
man’s recommendation to keep out of sight; and flinging myself at full
length on the bench, I rested my head upon my hand, and fell into a
reverie, distorting facts and devising impossible contingencies to
establish Clara’s innocence. From this train of thought I was aroused
by a muffled sound as of footsteps upon turf, and in another moment,
the following words, breathed in silvery accents, which caused my every
pulse to throb with suppressed emotion, reached my ear:--

“It is indeed an engagement of which I now heartily repent, and from
which I would willingly free myself; but--”

“But,” replied a man’s voice, in the cold sneering tone of which,
though now softened by an expression of courtesy, I had almost said
of tenderness, I instantly recognised that of Stephen Wilford,--“but,
having at one time encouraged the poor young man, your woman’s heart
will not allow you to say ‘No’ with sufficient firmness to show that he
has nothing further to hope.”

“Indeed it is not so,” replied the former speaker, who, as the reader
has doubtless concluded, was none other than Clara Saville; “you
mistake me, Mr. Fleming; if a word could prove to him that his suit was
hopeless, that word should soon be spoken.”

“It is not needed!” exclaimed I, springing to my feet, and suddenly
confronting them; “that of which the tongue of living man would have
failed to convince me, my ears have heard, and my eyes have seen! It is
enough. Clara, from this moment you will be to me as if the grave had
closed over you; yet not so, for then I could have loved your memory,
and deemed that an angel had left this false and cruel world to seek one
better fitted to her bright and sinless nature!--Farewell, Clara! may
you be as happy as the recollection (which will haunt you at ~397~~
times, strive as you may to banish it), that by your falsehood you have
embittered the life of one who loved you with a deep and true affection,
will permit!” and overcome by the agony of my feelings, I leaned against
the bench for support, my knees trembling so that I could scarcely
stand.

When I appeared before her so unexpectedly, Clara started back and
uttered a slight scream; after which, apparently overwhelmed by my
vehemence, she had remained perfectly silent; whilst her companion, who
had at first favoured me with one of his withering glances, perceiving
that I was so completely engrossed as to be scarcely conscious of his
presence, resumed his usual manner of contemptuous indifference. He was,
however, the first to speak.

“This gentleman, whom I believe I have the pleasure of recognising,”
 and here he slightly raised his hat, “appears, I can scarcely suppose,
a friend, but, at all events, an intimate of yours, Miss Saville; if you
wish me--that is, if I am at all _de trop_----” and he stepped back a
pace or two, as if only awaiting a hint from her to withdraw, while with
his snake-like glance riveted upon her features, he watched the effect
of his words.

“No, pray do not leave me, Mr. Fleming,” exclaimed Clara hurriedly; “Mr.
Fairlegh must see the impossibility of remaining here. I am momentarily
expecting Mr. Cumberland and my guardian to join us.”

“I leave you,” replied I, making an effort to recover myself; “I seek
not to pain you by my presence, I would not add to your feelings of
self-reproach by look or word of mine;” then, catching Wilford’s glance
fixed upon me with an expression of gratified malice, I continued, “For
you, sir, I seek not to learn by what vile arts you have succeeded thus
far in your iniquitous designs; it is enough for me that it should have
been possible for you to succeed; my happiness you have destroyed; but I
have yet duties to perform, and my life is in the hands of Him who
gave it, nor will I risk it by a fruitless quarrel with a practised
homicide.”

The look of concentrated hatred with which he regarded me during this
speech, changed again to scornful indifference, as he replied, with a
contemptuous laugh, “Really, sir, you are labouring under some singular
delusion; I have no intention of quarrelling; you appear to raise
phantoms for the pleasure of combating them. However, as far as I can
comprehend the affair, you are imputing to me an honour belonging rather
to my friend ~398~~ Cumberland; and here, in good time, he comes to
answer for himself. Cumberland, here’s a gentleman mistaking me for you,
I fancy, who seems labouring under some strange delusions about love
and murder; you had better speak to him.” As he concluded, Cumberland,
attended by a gamekeeper leading a shooting pony, came up, looking
flushed and angry.

“I should have been here sooner,” he said, addressing Wilford, “but
Browne told me he had traced poachers in the park; the footsteps can be
otherwise accounted for now, I perceive.” He then made a sign for
the keeper to approach, and, turning towards me, added, “You are
trespassing, sir”.

His tone and manner were so insolent and overbearing, that my blood
boiled in my veins. Unwilling, however, to bring on a quarrel in such
a presence, I restrained my indignation, and replied, “I know not what
devil sent you here at this moment, Richard Cumberland; I have been
sorely tried, and I warn you not to provoke me further”.

“I tell you, you are trespassing, fellow; this is the second time I have
caught you lurking about; take yourself off instantly, or--” as he spoke
he stepped towards me, raising his cane with a threatening gesture.

“Or what?” inquired I, at length thoroughly roused; and, drawing myself
up to my full height, I folded my arms across my chest, and stood before
him in an attitude of defiance.

As I did so, he turned deadly pale, and for a moment his resolution
seemed to fail him; but catching the sound of Wilford’s sneering laugh,
and relying on the assistance of the gamekeeper, who, having tied the
pony to a tree, was fast approaching the scene of action, he replied,
“Or receive the chastisement due to such skulking vagabonds!” and
springing upon me, he seized my collar with one hand, while with the
other he drew the cane sharply across my shoulders.

[Illustration: page398 A Striking Position]

To free myself from his grasp by a powerful effort was the work of a
moment, while almost at the same time I struck him with my full force,
and, catching him on the upper part of the nose, dashed him to the
ground, where he lay motionless, and apparently stunned, with the blood
gushing from his mouth and nostrils.~399~~



CHAPTER XLIX -- MR. FRAMPTON MAKES A DISCOVERY

     “In a tandem I see nothing to induce the leader to keep his
     course straightforward, but an address on the part of the
     charioteer as nearly as can be supernatural.... And, for my
     own part, I think leaders of tandems are particularly apt to
     turn short round. And the impudence with which they do it,
     in some instances, is past all description, staring all the
     while full in the faces of those in the carriage, as much as
     to say, ‘I must have a peep at the fools behind that are
     pretending to manage me’.”
      --_Thinks I to Myself_.

     “But he grew rich, and with his riches grew so
     Keen the desire to see his home again,
     He thought himself in duty bound to do so.
     Lonely he felt at times as Robin Crusoe.”
      --_Beppo_.

ALL that passed immediately after the events I have described left but
a succession of vague and confused images on my memory. I have some dim
recollection of seeing them raise Cumberland from the ground, and of
his showing symptoms of returning animation; but I remember nothing
distinctly till I again found myself a tenant of the little sanded
parlour in the village inn. My first act was to ring for a basin of cold
water and a towel, with which I well bathed my face and head; in some
degree refreshed by this process, I sat down and endeavoured to collect
my scattered senses.

I had succeeded in my immediate object, and suspense was at an end. I
had obtained certain proof of Clara’s falsehood; with her own lips I
had heard her declare that she repented her engagement, and wished to
be freed from it; and the person to whom she had confided this was a
man whose attentions to her were so marked that even the very servants
considered him an acknowledged suitor. What encouragement could be more
direct than this? Well, then, she was faithless, and the dream of my
life had departed. But this was not all; my faith in human nature was
shaken--nay, destroyed at a blow. If _she_ could prove false, whom could
I ever trust again? Alas! the grief--the bitter, crushing grief--when
the consciousness is forced upon us that one with whom we have held
sweet interchange of thought and feeling--with whom we have been linked
by all the sacred ties of mutual confidence--with whose sorrows we have
sympathised, and ~400~~ whose smiles we have hailed as the freed captive
hails the sunshine and the dews of heaven--that one whom for these
things we have loved with all the deepest instincts of an earnest and
impassioned nature, and for whose truth we would have answered as for
our own, is false and unworthy such true affection--oh! this is bitter
grief indeed! Deep sorrow, absorbing all the faculties of the soul,
leaves no room for any other emotion; and in the one idea, that Clara
Saville--Miss Clara Saville, whom my imagination had depicted the simple,
the loving, the true-hearted--was lost to me for ever, I forgot for
somç time the existence of Wilford or the fact that in my anger I had
stricken down and possibly seriously injured Cumberland. But as the
first agony of my grief began to wear off, I became anxious to learn
the extent of the punishment I had inflicted on him, and accordingly
despatched a boy to Peter Barnett, requesting him to send me word how
matters stood.

During his absence it occurred to me that, as Wilford had been
introduced to her under a feigned name, Clara must be utterly ignorant
of the evil reputation attaching to him, and that--although this did,
not in any way affect her heartless conduct towards me--it was only
right that she should be made aware of the true character of the man
with whom she had to deal; therefore, painful as it was to hold any
communication with her after what had passed, 1 felt that the time might
come when my neglect of this duty might afford me cause for the most
bitter self-reproach. Accordingly, asking for pen, ink, and paper, I sat
down and wrote the following note:--

“After the occurrences of this morning, I had thought never, either by
word or letter, to hold further communication with you; by your own act
you have separated us for ever; and I--yes, I can say it with truth--am
glad that it should be so--it prevents all conflict between reason and
feeling. But I have what I deem a duty to perform towards you--a duty
rendered all the more difficult, because my motives are liable to cruel
misconstruction; but it is a duty, and therefore must be done. You
are, probably, as little aware of the true character of the man calling
himself Fleming as of his real name; of him may be said, as of the
Italian of old, that ‘his hate is fatal to man, and his love to woman’;
he is alike notorious as a duellist and a libertine. My knowledge of him
arises from his having in a duel wounded, almost unto death, the dearest
friend I have on earth, who had saved an innocent girl from adding to
his list of victims. If you ~401~~ require proof of this beyond my word,
ask Mr. Stephen Wilford--for such is really his name--in your guardian’s
presence, whether he remembers Lizzie Maurice and the smart of Harry
Oaklands’ horsewhip. And now, having warned you, your fate is under your
own control. For what is past I do not reproach you; you have been an
instrument in the hands of Providence to wean my affections from this
world, and if it is His good pleasure that, instead of a field for high
enterprise and honest exertion, I should henceforth learn to regard it
as a scene of broken faith and crushed hopes, it is not for me to rebel
against His will. And so farewell for ever!--F. F.”

I had not long finished writing the above when the boy returned,
bringing the following missive from old Peter:--


“Honoured Sir,

“The topper as you’ve give Muster Richard ain’t done him no more harm,
only lettin’ hout a little of his mad blood, and teachin’ ‘im when he
speaks to a gemman to haddress ‘im as sich; ‘is face is swelled as big
as too, and he’ll ‘ave a sweet pair of black hyes to-morrer, please
goodness, which is a comfort to reflect on. Touchin’ uther matturs, I’ve
got scent of summut as may make things seeme not so black as we thort,
but it’s honly in the hegg at present, and may never come to a chickin,
so don’t go settin’ too much on it; but if you’ve nothin’ better to do,
ride over agen the day arter to-morrer, by which time I may have more to
communicate, “Your humbel servent to command,

“Peter Barnett.”


I pondered for some minutes on what this enigmatical document might
portend; but a little reflection served to convince me that neither
Peter nor any one else could discover aught affecting the only feature
of the whole affair which deeply interested me; on that point I had
obtained the information of my own senses, and there was nothing more to
hope or fear. I had learned the worst; the blow had fallen, and it only
remained for me to bear it with what fortitude I might. Accordingly I
enclosed my note to Clara in one to Peter Barnett, telling him I could
see no reason for coming there again, and that in all probability I
should not take the trouble of doing so, adding that if he had anything
new to communicate he had better do so in writing; and then, ordering my
horse, I rode slowly home, feeling more ~402~~ thoroughly miserable than
I had ever done before in the whole course of my life.

The next morning was so fine that all kinds of pleasurable schemes were
proposed and acceded to. Oaklands and Fanny rode out together in all
the unrestrained freedom of an engaged tête-à-tête. The new dog-cart
had arrived, and the chestnuts were to make their _début_; consequently,
Lawless spent the morning in the stable-yard, united by the closest
bonds of sympathy with the head-groom and an attendant harness-maker,
the latter being a young man whose distinguishing characteristics were a
strong personal savour of new leather, hands gloved in cobbler’s wax and
harness-dye, and a general tendency to come off black upon everything he
approached. Sir John and the rest of the party were to fill a britchska,
and the place of rendezvous was the ruins of an old abbey about eight
miles distant.

Feeling quite unfit for society, I had excused myself on the plea (not
altogether a false one) of a bad headache, and having witnessed their
departure from the library window, I drew an easy-chair to the fire, and
prepared to enjoy the luxury (in my then state of feeling an unspeakable
one) of solitude. But I was not fated to avail myself of even this small
consolation, for scarcely ten minutes had elapsed when the library door
was opened, and Mr. Frampton made his appearance.

“Umph! eh! umph!” he began; “I’ve been seeing that young fool Lawless
start in his new tandem, as he calls it. A pretty start it was too;
why, the thing’s as high as a stage-coach--ought to have a ladder to get
up--almost as bad as mounting an elephant! And then the horses, fiery
devils! two men at each of their noses, and enough to do to hold ‘em
even so! Well, out comes Master Lawless, in a greatcoat made like a
coal-sack, with buttons as big as five-shilling pieces, a whip as long
as a fishing-rod in his hand, and a cigar in his mouth. ‘There’s a
picture!’ says he. ‘A picture of folly,’ says I; ‘you’re never going to
be mad enough to trust yourself up there Behind those vicious brutes?’
‘Come, governor, jump in, and let’s be off,’ was all the answer I got.
‘Thank ye,’ says I; ‘when you see me jumping in that direction, pop me
into a strait-waistcoat, and toddle me off to Bedlam.’ ‘Eh! won’t you
go? Tumble in then, Shrimp!’ ‘Please, sir, it’s so high I can’t reach
it.’ ‘We’ll soon see about that!’ cries Lawless, flanking him with the
long whip. Well, the little wretch scrambled up somehow, like a monkey;
and as soon as he was ~403~~ safely landed, what does he do but lean
back, fold his arms, and winking at one of the helpers, squeak out, ‘Oh,
crickey! ain’t this spicy, just!’ ‘You’re never going to take that poor
child?’ says I; ‘only think of his anxious mother! ‘Well, sir, if you’ll
believe it, they every one of ‘em burst out laughing--helpers, brat and
all--as if I’d said something very ridiculous. ‘Never mind, governor,’
says Lawless; ‘depend upon it, his mother knows he’s out,’ and catching
hold of the reins, he clambers up into his seat, shouting, ‘Give ‘em
their heads! Stand clear! Chut! chut! ‘As soon as the brutes found
they were loose, instead of starting off at a jog-trot, as reasonable,
well-behaved horses ought to do, what do you suppose they did? The beast
they tied on in front turned short round, stared Lawless in the face,
and stood up on its hind legs like a kangaroo, while the other animal
would not stir a peg, but, laying down his ears, gave a sort of a
screech, and kicked out behind. ‘Pretty, playful things,’ said Lawless,
flipping the ashes off the end of his cigar. ‘Put his head straight,
William. Chut! chut! ‘But the more he chutted the more they wouldn’t go,
and began tearing and rampaging about the yard till I thought they’d be
over me, so I scrambled up a little low wall to get out of their way,
missed my footing, and tumbled over backwards on to a dung-heap, and
before I got up again they were off; but if that young jackanapes don’t
break his neck some of those days, I’m a Dutchman! Umph! umph!”

“Lawless is a capital whip,” replied I, “and the chestnuts, though
fiery, are not really vicious. I don’t think there is much danger.”

“Ah young men! young men! you’re all foolish alike. I don’t know how
you’d get on, if you hadn’t a few old stagers like me to think for you
and give you good advice.--And that puts me in mind that I want to have
half an hour’s serious conversation with you, Frank. Can you listen to
me now?”

“I am quite at your service, sir,” replied I, resigning myself to my
fate with the best grace I could command.

“Umph! Well, you see, Frank, I’ve no chick nor child of my own, and I’ve
taken a kind of a fancy to you from a boy; you were always a good boy
and a clever boy, and you’ve gone on well at college, and distinguished
yourself, and have been a credit to the man that sent you there.--By the
bye, didn’t you ever want to know who it was sent you there?”

“Often and often,” replied I, “have I longed to know ~404~~ to whose
disinterested kindness and generosity I was indebted for so great an
advantage.”

“Umph! Well, you must be told some day, I suppose, so you may as well
know now as at any other time. The man that sent you to college ain’t
very unlike me in the face. Umph!”

“My dear, kind friend,” replied I, seizing his hand and pressing it
warmly, “and is it indeed you who have taken such interest in me? How
can I ever thank you?”

“I want no thanks, boy; you did better than thank me when you came
out fourth wrangler; why, I felt as proud that day when they were all
praising you as if it had been my own son. Say no more about that; but
now you’ve left college, what are your wishes--what do you think of
doing? Umph!”

“I had thought of reading for the bar, deeming it a profession in which
a man stands a fair chance of distinguishing himself by honourable
exertion; I am aware it is somewhat uphill work at starting, but Mr.
Coleman has promised to introduce me to several men in his branch of the
profession, and to give me all the business he can himself, so I should
not be quite a briefless barrister. But if there is anything else you
wish to recommend, any other career you would advise me to pursue, I am
very indifferent, that is, I am not at all bigoted to my own opinion.”

“Umph! I never had any over-strong affection for lawyers--gentlemen that
eat the oysters themselves and leave their clients the shells! However,
I suppose there may be such things as honest lawyers to be met with, and
it’s better for every man to have a profession. Well, now, listen to me,
Frank, I--umph!--your sister’s going to be married, to be married to
a young man for whom I’ve a very great respect and affection; Sir John
Oaklands is a thorough specimen of a fine old English gentleman, and
his son bids fair to become just such another, or even a yet higher
character, for Harry’s got the better headpiece of the two. However,
I don’t like your sister to marry into such a family without a little
money of her own to buy a wedding-bonnet; so you give her this letter,
and tell her to mind and get a becoming one. We may trust a woman to
take care of that, though, eh, Frank? Umph!”

“Really, sir, your kindness quite overpowers me; we have no possible
claim upon your liberality.”

“Yes, you have, boy--yes, you have,” replied Mr. Frampton, “the
strongest claim that can be; you have ~405~~ saved me from falling a
victim to the worst disease a man can suffer under--you have saved me
from becoming a cold-hearted, soured misanthrope; you have given me
something to love, some pure unselfish interest in life. And now we
are on this subject, I may as well tell you all my plans and wishes in
regard to you: I have no soul belonging to me, not a relation in the
wide world that I am aware of, and I determined, from the time when
I first sent you to college, that if you conducted yourself well
and honourably, I would make you my heir.--Don’t interrupt me,” he
continued, seeing that I was about to speak, “let me finish what I have
to say, and then you shall tell me whether you approve of it. You not
only came up to, but far surpassed, my most sanguine expectations, and
I saw therefore no reason to alter my original intentions. But it is
stupid work for a man to wait till all the best days of his life are
passed, without funds sufficient to render him independent, to feel all
his energies cramped, his talents dwarfed, and his brightest
aspirations checked, by a servile dependence on the will and caprice of
another--waiting for dead men’s shoes--umph! and so, Frank, as I feel
pretty tough and hearty for sixty-five, and may live, if it please God,
another ten or fifteen years to plague you, it’s my wish to make
you your own master at once, and I’ll either assist you to enter any
profession you please, or if you like to settle down into a country
gentleman, and can pick up a nice wife anywhere, I can allow you one
thousand pounds a year to begin with, and yet have more than I shall
know how to spend during the rest of my days in the land of the living.
For my own part, this last plan would give me the greatest satisfaction,
for I should like to see you comfortably married and settled before I
die. Now, what do you say to it? Umph!”

What did I say?--what could I say? I got up, and having once again
pressed his hands warmly between my own, began pacing the room, quite
overcome by this unexpected liberality, and the conflicting nature of
my own feelings. But two short days ago, and such an offer would have
been--as I then fondly imagined--the only thing wanting to secure my
happiness; possessed of such ample means of supporting her, I could
at once have gone boldly to Mr. Vernor, and demanded Clara’s hand--nor
could he have found just cause for refusing my request; and now, when
what once appeared the only insurmountable obstacle to our union was
thus removed, the thought that, by her faithlessness and inconstancy,
she had placed ~406~~ a barrier between us for ever, was indeed bitter.
Surprised by the excess of my emotion, for which, of course, he was
totally unable to account, Mr. Frampton sat gazing at me with looks of
astonishment and dismay, till at length he broke out with the following
interrogatory, “Umph! eh? why, Frank--umph! anybody would think you had
just heard you were going to be arrested for debt, instead of having a
fortune given you--Umph!”

“My dear, kind friend,” replied I, “forgive me. Your unparalleled
liberality, and the generous interest you take in me, give you a
father’s right over me, and entitle you to my fullest confidence; such
an offer as you have now made me would have rendered me, but one short
week ago, the happiest of mortals; now, my only chance of regaining
anything like tranquillity of mind lies in constant and active
employment.”

I then gave him as briefly as I could an outline of my singular
acquaintance with Clara Saville, our engagement, and the events which
had led to my breaking it off, to all of which he listened with the
greatest interest and attention. In telling the tale I mentioned Wilford
and Cumberland by name, as he knew the former by reputation, and had
seen the latter when a boy at Dr. Mildman’s; but I merely spoke of Clara
as a young lady whom I had met at Mr. Coleman’s, and of Mr. Vernor
as her guardian. When I concluded, he remained for a moment buried in
thought, and then said, “And you are quite sure she is false? Are you
certain that what you heard her say (for that seems to me the strongest
point) referred to you?”

“Would I could doubt it!” replied I, shaking my head mournfully.

“Umph!--Well, I dare say--she’s only like all the rest of her sex: it’s
a pity the world can’t go on without any women at all,--what is her
name?--a jilt!”

“Her name,” replied I, shuddering as he applied the epithet of jilt to
her--for, deserved as I could not but own it was, it yet appeared to me
little short of profanation--“her name is Clara Saville.”

“Umph! eh? Saville!” exclaimed Mr. Frampton. “What was her mother’s
name? Umph!”

“I never heard,” replied I. “Her father, Colonel Saville, was knighted
for his gallant conduct in the Peninsula. Her mother, who was an
heiress, died abroad: her guardian, Mr. Vernor--”

“Umph! Vernor, eh! Vernor! Why that’s the fellow who wrote to me and
told me--Umph! wait a bit, I shall be back directly. I--eh!--umph! umph!
umph!”

~407~~ And so saying, Mr. Frampton rushed out of the room in a perfect
paroxysm of grunting. It was now my turn to be astonished, and I was so
most thoroughly. What could possibly have caused Mr. Frampton to be
so strangely affected at the mention of Clara’s name and that of her
guardian? Had he known Mr. Vernor in former days? Had he been acquainted
with Clara’s father or mother? Could he have been attached to her as I
had been to Clara, and like me, too, have become the dupe of a heartless
jilt? A jilt--how I hated the word! how the blood boiled within me when
that old man applied it to her! And yet it was the truth. But oh! the
heart-spasm that darts through our breast when we hear some careless
tongue proclaim, in plain intelligible language, the fault of one we
love--a fault which, even at the moment when we may be suffering from
it most deeply, we have striven sedulously to hide from others, and
scarcely acknowledged definitely to ourselves. In vague musings, such
as these, did I pass away the time till Mr. Frampton returned. As
he approached, the traces of strong emotion were visible on his
countenance; and when he spoke his voice sounded hoarse and broken.

“The ways of God are indeed inscrutable,” he said. “Information, which
for years I have vainly sought, and would gladly have given half my
wealth to obtain, has come to me when I least expected it; and, in place
of joy, has brought me deepest sorrow. Frank, my poor boy! she who has
thus wrung thy true heart by her cruel falsehood is my niece, the orphan
child of my sister!”

In reply to my exclamations of surprise, he proceeded to inform me
that his father, a man of considerable property in one of the midland
counties, had had three children: himself, an elder brother, and a
sister some years his junior, whose birth deprived him of a mother’s
love. His brother tyrannised over him; and on the occasion of his
father’s second marriage, he was sent to school, where he was again
unfortunate enough to meet with harsh treatment, against which his
high spirit rebelled; and having no better counsellors than his own
inexperience and impetuosity, he determined to run away and go to sea.
A succession of accidents conspired to prevent his return to his native
country, until, being taken as clerk in a merchant’s counting-house at
Calcutta, he was eventually admitted into partnership, and acquired a
large fortune. As he advanced beyond middle life, he felt a strong wish
to return to England, seek out his family, and revisit the scenes of his
boyhood; but on carrying ~408~~ his project into execution, he learned
that his father and brother had both paid the debt of nature, while
his sister, the only one of his relatives towards whom he had ever
entertained much affection, had married a Colonel Saville; and having
accompanied her husband to Spain, had died there without leaving any
offspring. The last piece of information he had acquired from a
Mr. Vernor, to whom he had been recommended to apply. His surprise,
therefore, when he heard of the existence of Clara, may easily be
imagined. A long conversation ensued between us, with the consequences
of which the reader will be better acquainted when he shall have read
the following chapter.



CHAPTER L -- A RAY OF SUNSHINE

     “When you shall please to play the thief for a wife, I’ll
     watch as long for _you_.”
      --_Shakspeare_.

     “Hold! give me a pen and ink! Sirrah, can you with a grace
     deliver a supplication?
     --_Titus Andronicus_.

THE result of my conversation with Mr. Frampton was, that I agreed to
ride over on the following day to the little inn at Barstone, see old
Peter Barnett, hear his report, and learn from him further particulars
concerning Clara Saville’s parentage, in order to establish beyond the
possibility of doubt the fact of her relationship to Mr. Frampton, who,
in the event of his expectations proving well-founded, was determined
to assert his claim, supersede Mr.Vernor in his office of guardian, and
endeavour, by every means in his power, to prevent his niece’s marriage
either with Wilford or Cumberland. The only stipulation I made was, that
when I had obtained the requisite information, he should take the
affair entirely into his own hands, and, above all, promise me never to
attempt, directly or indirectly, to bring about a reconciliation between
Clara and myself. Not that I bore her any ill-will for the misery she
had caused me. On the contrary, my feeling towards her had been from
the very first one of grief rather than of anger. But a girl who could
possibly have acted as Clara had done, was not one whom I ever should
wish to make my wife. I could not marry a woman I despised.

After Mr. Frampton had left me, I sat pondering on the singular train
of circumstances (chances, as we unwisely, if not sinfully, term them)
which occur in a ~409~~ man’s life--how events which change the whole
current of our existence appear to hang upon the merest trifles--the
strange, mysterious influence we exercise over the destinies of each
other--how by a word, a look, we may heal an aching heart or--break it.
It is, I think, in a poem of Faber’s that the following lines occur--(I
quote from memory, and therefore, perhaps, incorrectly):--

         “Perchance our very souls
          Are in each other’s hands.”

Life is, indeed, a fearful and wonderful thing--doubly fearful when we
reflect, that every moment we expend for good or evil is a seed sown to
blossom in eternity. As I thought on these things, something which Mr.
Frampton had said, and which at the time I let pass without reflection,
recurred to my mind. He had asked me whether I was certain that the
words I heard Clara address to Wilford referred to me. Up to this moment
I had felt perfectly sure they did; but after all, was it so certain?
might they not equally well apply to Cumberland? was there a chance, was
it even possible, that I had misunderstood her? Oh, that I dare hope it!
gladly would I seek her pardon for the injustice I had done her--gladly
would I undergo any probation she might appoint, to atone for my want of
faith in her constancy, even if it entailed years of banishment from her
presence, the most severe punishment my imagination could devise; but
then the facts, the stubborn, immovable facts, my letters received and
unanswered--the confidential footing she was on with Wilford--the--But
why madden myself by recapitulating the hateful catalogue? I had learned
the worst, and would not suffer myself to be again beguiled by the mere
phantom of a hope. And yet, so thoroughly inconsistent are we, that my
heart felt lightened of half its burden; and when the pleasure-seekers
returned from their expedition, I was congratulated by the whole party
upon the beneficial effects produced on my headache by perfect rest and
quiet. Lawless and Coleman made their appearance some half-hour after
the others, and just as Mr. Frampton had promulgated the cheering
opinion that they would be brought home on shutters, minus their brains,
if they ever possessed any. It seemed the chestnuts having at starting
relieved their minds by the little _ballet d’action_ which had excited
Mr. Frampton’s terrors, did their work in so fascinating a manner, that
Lawless, not being satisfied with Shrimp’s declaration that “they
~410~~ was the stunnin’est ‘orses as hever he’d sot hyes on,” determined
(wishing to display their perfections to a higher audience) that one of
the party should accompany him on his return; whereupon Freddy Coleman
had been by common consent selected, much against his will. However,
“the victim,” as he termed himself, escaped without anything very
tremendous happening to him, the chestnuts (with the slight exception of
running away across a common, rushing through a flock of geese, thereby
bringing a premature Michaelmas on certain unfortunate individuals
of the party in a very reckless and unceremonious manner, and dashing
within a few inches of a gravel-pit, in a way which was more exciting
than agreeable) having conducted themselves (or more properly speaking,
allowed themselves to be conducted) as well-bred horses ought to do.

When the party separated to prepare for dinner, I called Fanny on one
side, and gave her Sir. Frampton’s letter: on opening it a banker’s
order for three thousand pounds dropped out of it--a new instance of my
kind friend’s liberality, which really distressed more than it gratified
me.

During the course of the evening Harry Oaklands expressed so much
anxiety about my ill looks, appearing almost hurt at my reserve, that I
could hold out no longer, but was forced to take him into my confidence.

“My poor Frank!” exclaimed he, wringing my hand warmly, as I finished
the recital, “to think that you should have been suffering all this
sorrow and anxiety, while I, selfishly engrossed by my own feelings, had
not an idea of it; but you ought to have told me sooner.”

“Perhaps I should; but it has been, from the very beginning, such a
strange, melancholy affair, so unlikely ever to turn out happily, that I
have felt a strong repugnance to speak of it to any one; and even now I
must beg you not to mention it to Fanny, at all events till my last act
in the business is performed, and Mr. Frampton takes the matter into his
own hands.”

“After all,” rejoined Oaklands, “I feel there must be some mistake; she
never can be false to you--never love that villain Wilford. Oh, Frank!
how can you bear to doubt her?”

“It is indeed misery to do so,” replied I, sighing deeply; “and yet,
when one’s reason is convinced, it is weakness to give way to the
suggestions of feeling.”

“If Fanny were to prove false to me, I should lie down and die,”
 exclaimed Oaklands vehemently.

“You might wish to do so,” replied I; “but grief does ~411~~ not always
kill; if it did, in many cases it would lose half its bitterness.”

A look was his only answer, and we parted for the night.

Daylight the next morning found me again in the saddle, and I reached
the little inn by eight o’clock. On my arrival, I despatched a messenger
to old Peter Barnett, telling him I wished to see him, and then,
determining that I would not allow myself to hope, only again to be
disappointed, I rang for breakfast, and set resolutely to work to
demolish it; in which I succeeded very respectably, merely stopping
to walk round the room and look out of the window between every second
mouthful. At length my envoy returned, with a message to the effect that
Mr. Barnett would come down in the course of the morning, but that I was
by no means to go away without seeing him, and that he hoped I would be
careful not to show myself, as the enemy were out in great force, and
all the sentries had been doubled.

“What does he mean by that?” inquired I of the boy who delivered the
message--an intelligent little urchin, who was evidently well up in the
whole affair, and appeared highly delighted at the trust reposed in him,
to say nothing of the harvest of sixpences his various missions produced
him.

“Vy, sir, he means that the gamekeeper has had two extra assistants
allowed him since you vos there the other day, sir, and they has strict
orders to take hup anybody as they finds in the park, sir.”

“They need not alarm themselves,” replied I; “I shall not intrude upon
their domain again in a hurry. Now look out, and let me know when Peter
Barnett is coming.”

So saying, I gave him the wished-for sixpence, and with a grin of
satisfaction he departed.

With leaden feet the hours crawled along, and still old Peter Barnett
did not make his appearance; when, about twelve o’clock, a horseman
passed by, followed by a groom. As he rode at a very quiet pace, his
face was easily recognised, and I saw at a glance it was Mr. Vernor.
Fortunately he never looked towards the window at which I was standing,
or he must have seen me. Scarcely ten minutes had elapsed, when old
Peter arrived, breathless from the speed at which he had come; his
grotesque but expressive features gleaming with delight and sagacity,
while his merry little eyes danced and twinkled as if they would jump
out of their sockets. Reassured, in spite of myself, by his manner, I
exclaimed, as I closed the parlour ~412~~ door behind him, “Well, Peter;
speak out, man--what is it?”

“Oh! my breath!” was the reply, “running don’t suit old legs like it
does young uns. I say, sir, did ye see _him_ go by?”

“I saw Mr. Vernor pass a few minutes since,” replied I.

“Ah! that’s what I’ve been a-waiting for; we’re safe from him for the
next four hours: he didn’t see you, did he?”

“No,” returned I, “he was fortunately looking another way.”

“Well, it’s all right then, everything’s all right; oh! lor, I’m so
happy.”

“It’s more than I am,” replied I angrily; for feeling convinced that
nothing could have occurred materially to affect the position in which
Clara and I stood towards each other, the old man’s joy grated harshly
on my gloomy state of mind, and I began to attribute his excessive
hilarity to the influence of the ale-tap. “You will drive me frantic
with your ridiculous and unseasonable mirth. If you have anything to
communicate likely to relieve my sorrow and anxiety, in the name of
common sense speak out, man.”

“I beg your pardon, sir; I was so happy myself, I was forgetting you:
I’ve got so much to tell you, I don’t know where to begin rightly; but,
however, here goes--to the right-about face! March!” He then proceeded
to give me, with much circumlocution, which I will mercifully spare the
reader, the following account. After he had left me at the conclusion of
our last interview, feeling, as he said, “more wretcheder” than he had
ever done before, in going through the park, he observed two persons, a
man and a woman, in close conversation; on his approach they separated,
but not until he had been able to recognise Wilford, and one of the
female servants, Clara’s personal attendant. “This,” as he continued,
“set him a-thinking,” and the result of his cogitations occasioned the
mysterious hint thrown out to me in his note. On receiving my letter for
Clara, he found an opportunity of delivering it in person, inquiring,
when he did so, both when she had last heard from, and written to, me;
at the same time informing her that he had a very particular reason
for asking. He then learned what he had more than suspected from the
interview he had witnessed in the park, namely, that since Wilford had
been in the house, she had not only never received one of my letters,
but had written to me more than once to ascertain the ~413~~ cause of
such an unaccountable silence. These letters she had, as usual, given to
her maid to convey to Peter Barnett; and the girl, cajoled and bribed by
Wilford, had evidently given them to him instead. This induced Peter,
as he expressed it, “to open his heart to his young mistress,” and with
deep contrition he confessed to her the suspicions he had entertained
of her fickleness, how he had communicated them to me, and how
circumstances had forced me to believe them. Clara, naturally much
distressed and annoyed by this information, blamed him for not having
spoken to her sooner, assured him that he had wronged her deeply in
imagining such things, and desired him somewhat haughtily to lose no
time in undeceiving Mr. Fairlegh. He then inquired whether she wished
to send any answer to my note; on which she read it through with a
quivering lip, and replied, “Yes, tell him, that as he finds it so
easy to believe evil of me, I agree with him that it will be better our
acquaintance should terminate”. She then motioned to him to leave the
room, and he was obliged to obey; but, glancing at her as he closed the
door, he perceived that she had covered her face with her hands, and was
weeping bitterly. He next set to work with the waiting-maid, and by
dint of threats of taking her before Mr. Vernor, and promises, if she
confessed all, that he would intercede with Clara for her forgiveness,
he elicited from her the whole truth--namely, that by the joint
influence of bribes and soft speeches, Wilford had induced her to hand
over to him her mistress’s letters, and that he had detained every one
either to or from me. “Well, sir,” continued he, “that was not such a
bad day’s work altogether, but I ain’t been idle since. Mr. Fleming, or
Wilford, as you says he is, started off the first thing this morning for
London, and ain’t cumming back till the day after to-morrow; so, thinks
I, we’ll turn the tables upon you, my boy, for once--that ere letter
dodge was very near a-ruining us, I wonder how it will hact the t’other
way: and a lucky thought it was too, Muster Fairlegh, for sich a scheme
of willainy as I’ve descivered all dewised against poor dear Miss
Clara--”

“A scheme against Miss Saville!” exclaimed I; “what do you mean?”

“I’m a-going to tell you, sir, only you’re in such a hurry, you puts me
out. After the thought as I was a-mentioning cum into my head, off I w
 ~414~~ with you, ain’t ye?’ ‘Let’s look, my man,’ says I, peeping
over him as he sorted the letters. Presently he cum to one as seemed to
puzzle him. ‘W. I. L.,’ says he, ‘W.I. L. F.--’ ‘Oh!’ says I, ‘that’s
the gent as is a-stay-ing at our ‘ouse, give us ‘old on it.’ ‘And here’s
one for Mr. Wernor, and that’s all,’ says he, and he guv me the letter
and walked off. ‘That’s right, Peter,’ says I to myself, ‘we shall know
a little more of the henemy’s movements, now we’ve captivated some of
their private despatches, by a _coo-dur-mang_, as the Mounseers call it;
‘so I locks myself into the pantry, and sits down, and breaks the seal.”

“You opened the letter!” exclaimed I.

“In course I did; how was I to read it if I hadn’t? all’s fair in love
and war, you know--the blessed Duke of Wellington served Bony so many
a time, I’ll be bound; besides, hadn’t he opened Miss Clara’s, the
blackguard? Well, sir, I read it, and it’s lucky as I did; oh! he’s a
bad un, he’s a deal wickeder than Muster Richard hisself, and that’s
saying something--it’s from a Captain --”

“Really, Peter, I cannot avail myself of information obtained in such a
manner,” interrupted I.

“Ah! but you must though,” was the reply, “if you want to prevent this
black willain from carrying off Miss Clara, and marrying her, _nolus
bolus_.”

“Carrying off Miss Clara! what do you mean?”

“I was a-going to tell you,” returned old Peter, with a cunning grin,
producing a crumpled letter, “only’ you wouldn’t listen to me.”

As I (not being prepared with a satisfactory answer) remained silent, he
smoothed the letter with his hand, and read as follows:--

“My dear Sir,--I was unfortunately out of town when your letter arrived,
and it had to be sent after me; but I hope you will get this in time to
prevent your having to come to London., which is unnecessary, as I
have been able to carry out all your arrangements as you would wish. A
carriage, with four horses, will be kept in readiness, so that it can be
brought to any point you may direct at half an hour’s notice. I presume
you and I, with Wilson [that’s his valet], are sufficient to carry off
the girl--young lady, I mean, even if there be any papa or brother in
the case, who would be the better for a little knocking down; but if you
like more assistance, I can lay my hand on two or three sprightly lads,
who would be very glad to make themselves useful. You are flying at high
game this time. Do you really mean matrimony, or is it to be the ~415~~
old scheme, a mock marriage? I ask, because in the latter case I must
look out for somebody to play parson. Wishing you your usual luck,

“I remain, yours to command,

“Ferdinand Spicer, “_Captain in the Bilboa Fencibles_.”


“Spicer!” I exclaimed, as he concluded; “I knew a Captain Spicer once,
who was a person likely enough to lend himself to a scheme of this
vile nature. Well, Peter, the information is most important, however
questionable the means by which it has been acquired. The matter must
be looked to; but first, I want t