Part 1 out of 2
This etext was produced by David Widger
By George Meredith
VIII. INTRODUCES AN ECCENTRIC
IX. THE COUNTESS IN LOW SOCIETY
X. MY GENTLEMAN ON THE ROAD AGAIN
XI. DOINGS AT AN INN
XII. IN WHICH ALE IS SHOWN TO HAVE ONE QUALITY OF WINE
XIII. THE MATCH OF FALLOW FIELD AGAINST BECKLEY
INTRODUCES AN ECCENTRIC
At the Aurora--one of those rare antiquated taverns, smelling of
comfortable time and solid English fare, that had sprung up in the great
coffee days, when taverns were clubs, and had since subsisted on the
attachment of steady bachelor Templars there had been dismay, and even
sorrow, for a month. The most constant patron of the establishment--an
old gentleman who had dined there for seven-and-twenty years, four days
in the week, off dishes dedicated to the particular days, and had grown
grey with the landlady, the cook, and the head-waiter--this old gentleman
had abruptly withheld his presence. Though his name, his residence, his
occupation, were things only to be speculated on at the Aurora, he was
very well known there, and as men are best to be known: that is to say,
by their habits. Some affection for him also was felt. The landlady
looked on him as a part of the house. The cook and the waiter were
accustomed to receive acceptable compliments from him monthly. His
precise words, his regular ancient jokes, his pint of Madeira and after-
pint of Port, his antique bow to the landlady, passing out and in, his
method of spreading his table-napkin on his lap and looking up at the
ceiling ere he fell to, and how he talked to himself during the repast,
and indulged in short chuckles, and the one look of perfect felicity that
played over his features when he had taken his first sip of Port--these
were matters it pained them at the Aurora to have to remember.
For three weeks the resolution not to regard him as of the past was
general. The Aurora was the old gentleman's home. Men do not play
truant from home at sixty years of age. He must, therefore, be seriously
indisposed. The kind heart of the landlady fretted to think he might
have no soul to nurse and care for him; but she kept his corner near the
fire-place vacant, and took care that his pint of Madeira was there. The
belief was gaining ground that he had gone, and that nothing but his
ghost would ever sit there again. Still the melancholy ceremony
continued: for the landlady was not without a secret hope, that in spite
of his reserve and the mystery surrounding him, he would have sent her a
last word. The cook and head-waiter, interrogated as to their dealings
with the old gentleman, testified solemnly to the fact of their having
performed their duty by him. They would not go against their interests
so much as to forget one of his ways, they said-taking oath, as it were,
by their lower nature, in order to be credited: an instinct men have of
one another. The landlady could not contradict them, for the old
gentleman had made no complaint; but then she called to memory that
fifteen years back, in such and such a year, Wednesday's, dish had been,
by shameful oversight, furnished him for Tuesday's, and he had eaten it
quietly, but refused his Port; which pathetic event had caused alarm and
inquiry, when the error was discovered, and apologized for, the old
gentleman merely saying, 'Don't let it happen again.' Next day he drank
his Port, as usual, and the wheels of the Aurora went smoothly. The
landlady was thus justified in averring that something had been done by
somebody, albeit unable to point to anything specific. Women, who are
almost as deeply bound to habit as old gentlemen, possess more of its
spiritual element, and are warned by dreams, omens, creepings of the
flesh, unwonted chills, suicide of china, and other shadowing signs, when
a break is to be anticipated, or, has occurred. The landlady of the
Aurora tavern was visited by none of these, and with that beautiful trust
which habit gives, and which boastful love or vainer earthly qualities
would fail in effecting, she ordered that the pint of Madeira should
stand from six o'clock in the evening till seven--a small monument of
confidence in him who was at one instant the 'poor old dear'; at another,
the 'naughty old gad-about'; further, the 'faithless old-good-for-
nothing'; and again, the 'blessed pet' of the landlady's parlour,
alternately and indiscriminately apostrophized by herself, her sister,
On the last day of the month a step was heard coming up the long alley
which led from the riotous scrambling street to the plentiful cheerful
heart of the Aurora. The landlady knew the step. She checked the
natural flutterings of her ribbons, toned down the strong simper that was
on her lips, rose, pushed aside her daughter, and, as the step
approached, curtsied composedly. Old Habit lifted his hat, and passed.
With the same touching confidence in the Aurora that the Aurora had in
him, he went straight to his corner, expressed no surprise at his welcome
by the Madeira, and thereby apparently indicated that his appearance
should enjoy a similar immunity.
As of old, he called 'Jonathan!' and was not to be disturbed till he did
so. Seeing that Jonathan smirked and twiddled his napkin, the old
gentleman added, 'Thursday!'
But Jonathan, a man, had not his mistress's keen intuition of the
deportment necessitated by the case, or was incapable of putting the
screw upon weak excited nature, for he continued to smirk, and was
remarking how glad he was, he was sure, and something he had dared to
think and almost to fear, when the old gentleman called to him, as if he
were at the other end of the room, 'Will you order Thursday, or not,
sir?' Whereat Jonathan flew, and two or three cosy diners glanced up
from their plates, or the paper, smiled, and pursued their capital
'Glad to see me!' the old gentleman muttered, querulously. 'Of course,
glad to see a customer! Why do you tell me that? Talk! tattle! might
as well have a woman to wait--just!'
He wiped his forehead largely with his handkerchief; as one whom Calamity
hunted a little too hard in summer weather.
'No tumbling-room for the wine, too!'
That was his next grievance. He changed the pint of Madeira from his
left side to his right, and went under his handkerchief again,
feverishly. The world was severe with this old gentleman.
'Ah! clock wrong now!'
He leaned back like a man who can no longer carry his burdens, informing
Jonathan, on his coming up to place the roll of bread and firm butter,
that he was forty seconds too fast, as if it were a capital offence, and
he deserved to step into Eternity for outstripping Time.
'But, I daresay, you don't understand the importance of a minute,' said
the old gentleman, bitterly. 'Not you, or any of you. Better if we had
run a little ahead of your minute, perhaps--and the rest of you! Do you
think you can cancel the mischief that's done in the world in that
minute, sir, by hurrying ahead like that? Tell me !'
Rather at a loss, Jonathan scanned the clock seriously, and observed that
it was not quite a minute too fast.
The old gentleman pulled out his watch. He grunted that a lying clock
was hateful to him; subsequently sinking into contemplation of his
thumbs,--a sign known to Jonathan as indicative of the old gentleman's
system having resolved, in spite of external outrages, to be fortified
with calm to meet the repast.
It is not fair to go behind an eccentric; but the fact was, this old
gentleman was slightly ashamed of his month's vagrancy and cruel conduct,
and cloaked his behaviour toward the Aurora, in all the charges he could
muster against it. He was very human, albeit an odd form of the race.
Happily for his digestion of Thursday, the cook, warned by Jonathan, kept
the old gentleman's time, not the Aurora's: and the dinner was correct;
the dinner was eaten in peace; he began to address his plate vigorously,
poured out his Madeira, and chuckled, as the familiar ideas engendered by
good wine were revived in him. Jonathan reported at the bar that the old
gentleman was all right again.
One would like here to pause, while our worthy ancient feeds, and indulge
in a short essay on Habit, to show what a sacred and admirable thing it
is that makes flimsy Time substantial, and consolidates his triple life.
It is proof that we have come to the end of dreams and Time's delusions,
and are determined to sit down at Life's feast and carve for ourselves.
Its day is the child of yesterday, and has a claim on to-morrow. Whereas
those who have no such plan of existence and sum of their wisdom to show,
the winds blow them as they list. Consider, then, mercifully the wrath
of him on whom carelessness or forgetfulness has brought a snap in the
links of Habit. You incline to scorn him because, his slippers
misplaced, or asparagus not on his table the first day of a particular
Spring month, he gazes blankly and sighs as one who saw the End. To you
it may appear small. You call to him to be a man. He is: but he is also
an immortal, and his confidence in unceasing orderly progression is
But the old gentleman has finished his dinner and his Madeira, and says:
'Now, Jonathan, "thock" the Port!'--his joke when matters have gone well:
meant to express the sound of the uncorking, probably. The habit of
making good jokes is rare, as you know: old gentlemen have not yet
attained to it: nevertheless Jonathan enjoys this one, which has seen a
generation in and out, for he knows its purport to be, 'My heart is
And now is a great time with this old gentleman. He sips, and in his
eyes the world grows rosy, and he exchanges mute or monosyllable salutes
here and there. His habit is to avoid converse; but he will let a light
remark season meditation.
He says to Jonathan: 'The bill for the month.'
'Yes, sir,' Jonathan replies. 'Would you not prefer, sir, to have the
items added on to the month ensuing?'
'I asked you for the bill of the month,' said the old gentleman, with an
irritated voice and a twinkle in his eye.
Jonathan bowed; but his aspect betrayed perplexity, and that perplexity
was soon shared by the landlady for Jonathan said, he was convinced the
old gentleman intended to pay for sixteen days, and the landlady could
not bring her hand to charge him for more than two. Here was the dilemma
foreseen by the old gentleman, and it added vastly to the flavour of the
Pleasantly tickled, he sat gazing at his glass, and let the minutes fly.
He knew the part he would act in his little farce. If charged for the
whole month, he would peruse the bill deliberately, and perhaps cry out
'Hulloa?' and then snap at Jonathan for the interposition of a remark.
But if charged for two days, he would wish to be told whether they were
demented, those people outside, and scornfully return the bill to
A slap on the shoulder, and a voice: 'Found you at last, Tom!' violently
shattered the excellent plot, and made the old gentleman start. He
beheld Mr. Andrew Cogglesby.
'Drinking Port, Tom?' said Mr. Andrew. 'I 'll join you': and he sat down
opposite to him, rubbing his hands and pushing back his hair.
Jonathan entering briskly with the bill, fell back a step, in alarm. The
old gentleman, whose inviolacy was thus rudely assailed, sat staring at
the intruder, his mouth compressed, and three fingers round his glass,
which it' was doubtful whether he was not going to hurl at him.
'Waiter!' Mr. Andrew carelessly hailed, 'a pint of this Port, if you
Jonathan sought the countenance of the old gentleman.
'Do you hear, sir?' cried the latter, turning his wrath on him. 'Another
pint!' He added: 'Take back the bill'; and away went Jonathan to relate
fresh marvels to his mistress.
Mr. Andrew then addressed the old gentleman in the most audacious manner.
'Astonished to see me here, Tom? Dare say you are. I knew you came
somewhere in this neighbourhood, and, as I wanted to speak to you very
particularly, and you wouldn't be visible till Monday, why, I spied into
two or three places, and here I am.'
You might see they were brothers. They had the same bushy eyebrows, the
same healthy colour in their cheeks, the same thick shoulders, and brisk
way of speaking, and clear, sharp, though kindly, eyes; only Tom was cast
in larger proportions than Andrew, and had gotten the grey furniture of
Time for his natural wear. Perhaps, too, a cross in early life had a
little twisted him, and set his mouth in a rueful bunch, out of which
occasionally came biting things. Mr. Andrew carried his head up, and
eyed every man living with the benevolence of a patriarch, dashed with
the impudence of a London sparrow. Tom had a nagging air, and a trifle
of acridity on his broad features. Still, any one at a glance could have
sworn they were brothers, and Jonathan unhesitatingly proclaimed it at
the Aurora bar.
Mr. Andrew's hands were working together, and at them, and at his face,
the old gentleman continued to look with a firmly interrogating air.
'Want to know what brings me, Tom? I'll tell you presently. Hot,--isn't
'What the deuce are you taking exercise for?' the old gentleman burst
out, and having unlocked his mouth, he began to puff and alter his
'There you are, thawed in a minute!' said Mr. Andrew. 'What's an
eccentric? a child grown grey. It isn't mine; I read it somewhere.
Ah, here's the Port! good, I'll warrant.'
Jonathan deferentially uncorked, excessive composure on his visage. He
arranged the table-cloth to a nicety, fixed the bottle with exactness,
and was only sent scudding by the old gentleman's muttering of:
'Eavesdropping pie!' followed by a short, 'Go!' and even then he must
delay to sweep off a particular crumb.
'Good it is!' said Mr. Andrew, rolling the flavour on his lips, as he put
down his glass. 'I follow you in Port, Tom. Elder brother !'
The old gentleman also drank, and was mollified enough to reply: 'Shan't
follow you in Parliament.'
'Haven't forgiven that yet, Tom?'
'No great harm done when you're silent.'
'Capital Port!' said Mr. Andrew, replenishing the glasses. 'I ought to
have inquired where they kept the best Port. I might have known you'd
stick by it. By the way, talking of Parliament, there's talk of a new
election for Fallow field. You have a vote there. Will you give it to
Jocelyn? There's talk of his standing.
'If he'll wear petticoats, I'll give him my vote.'
'There you go, Tom!'
'I hate masquerades. You're penny trumpets of the women. That tattle
comes from the bed-curtains. When a petticoat steps forward I give it my
vote, or else I button it up in my pocket.'
This was probably one of the longest speeches he had ever delivered at
the Aurora. There was extra Port in it. Jonathan, who from his place of
observation noted the length of time it occupied, though he was unable to
gather the context, glanced at Mr. Andrew with a sly satisfaction. Mr.
Andrew, laughing, signalled for another pint.
'So you've come here for my vote, have you?' said Mr. Tom.
'Why, no; not exactly that,' Mr. Andrew answered, blinking and passing it
Jonathan brought the fresh pint, and Tom filled for himself, drank, and
said emphatically, and with a confounding voice:
'Your women have been setting you on me, sir!'
Andrew protested that he was entirely mistaken.
'You're the puppet of your women!'
'Well, Tom, not in this instance. Here's to the bachelors, and brother
Tom at their head!'
It seemed to be Andrew's object to help his companion to carry a certain
quantity of Port, as if he knew a virtue it had to subdue him, and to
have fixed on a particular measure that he should hold before he
addressed him specially. Arrived at this, he said:
'Look here, Tom. I know your ways. I shouldn't have bothered you here;
I never have before; but we couldn't very well talk it over in business
hours; and besides you're never at the Brewery till Monday, and the
matter's rather urgent.'
'Why don't you speak like that in Parliament?' the old man interposed.
'Because Parliament isn't my brother,' replied Mr. Andrew. 'You know,
Tom, you never quite took to my wife's family.'
'I'm not a match for fine ladies, Nan.'
'Well, Harriet would have taken to you, Tom, and will now, if you 'll let
her. Of course, it 's a pity if she 's ashamed of--hem! You found it
out about the Lymport people, Tom, and, you've kept the secret and
respected her feelings, and I thank you for it. Women are odd in those
things, you know. She mustn't imagine I 've heard a whisper. I believe
it would kill her.'
The old gentleman shook silently.
'Do you want me to travel over the kingdom, hawking her for the daughter
of a marquis?'
'Now, don't joke, Tom. I'm serious. Are you not a Radical at heart?
Why do you make such a set against the poor women? What do we spring
'I take off my hat, Nan, when I see a cobbler's stall.'
'And I, Tom, don't care a rush who knows it. Homo--something; but we
never had much schooling. We 've thriven, and should help those we can.
We've got on in the world . . .'
'Wife come back from Lymport?' sneered Tom.
Andrew hurriedly, and with some confusion, explained that she had not
been able to go, on account of the child.
'Account of the child!' his brother repeated, working his chin
contemptuously. 'Sisters gone?'
'They're stopping with us,' said Andrew, reddening.
'So the tailor was left to the kites and the crows. Ah! hum!' and Tom
'You're angry with me, Tom, for coming here,' said Andrew. 'I see what
it is. Thought how it would be! You're offended, old Tom.'
'Come where you like,' returned Tom, 'the place is open. It's a fool
that hopes for peace anywhere. They sent a woman here to wait on me,
this day month.'
'That's a shame!' said Mr. Andrew, propitiatingly. 'Well, never mind,
Tom: the women are sometimes in the way.--Evan went down to bury his
father. He's there now. You wouldn't see him when he was at the
Brewery, Tom. He's--upon my honour! he's a good young fellow.'
'A fine young gentleman, I've no doubt, Nan.'
'A really good lad, Tom. No nonsense. I've come here to speak to you
Mr. Andrew drew a letter from his pocket, pursuing: 'Just throw aside
your prejudices, and read this. It's a letter I had from him this
morning. But first I must tell you how the case stands.'
'Know more than you can tell me, Nan,' said Tom, turning over the flavour
of a gulp of his wine.
'Well, then, just let me repeat it. He has been capitally educated; he
has always been used to good society: well, we mustn't sneer at it: good
society's better than bad, you'll allow. He has refined tastes: well,
you wouldn't like to live among crossing-sweepers, Tom. He 's clever and
accomplished, can speak and write in three languages: I wish I had his
abilities. He has good manners: well, Tom, you know you like them as
well as anybody. And now--but read for yourself.'
'Yah!' went old Tom. 'The women have been playing the fool with him
since he was a baby. I read his rigmarole? No.'
Mr. Andrew shrugged his shoulders, and opened the letter, saying: 'Well,
listen'; and then he coughed, and rapidly skimmed the introductory part.
'Excuses himself for addressing me formally--poor boy! Circumstances
have altered his position towards the world found his father's affairs in
a bad state: only chance of paying off father's debts to undertake
management of business, and bind himself to so much a year. But there,
Tom, if you won't read it, you miss the poor young fellow's character.
He says that he has forgotten his station: fancied he was superior to
trade, but hates debt; and will not allow anybody to throw dirt at his
father's name, while he can work to clear it; and will sacrifice his
pride. Come, Tom, that's manly, isn't it? I call it touching, poor
Manly it may have been, but the touching part of it was a feature missed
in Mr. Andrew's hands. At any rate, it did not appear favourably to
impress Tom, whose chin had gathered its ominous puckers, as he inquired:
'What's the trade? he don't say.'
Andrew added, with a wave of the hand: 'Out of a sort of feeling for his
sisters--I like him for it. Now what I want to ask you, Tom, is, whether
we can't assist him in some way! Why couldn't we take him into our
office, and fix him there, eh? If he works well--we're both getting old,
and my brats are chicks--we might, by-and-by, give him a share.'
'Make a brewer of him? Ha! there'd be another mighty sacrifice for his
'Come, come, Tom,' said Andrew, 'he's my wife's brother, and I'm yours;
and--there, you know what women are. They like to preserve appearances:
we ought to consider them.'
'Preserve appearances!' echoed Tom: 'ha! who'll do that for them better
than a tailor?'
Andrew was an impatient little man, fitter for a kind action than to
plead a cause. Jeering jarred on him; and from the moment his brother
began it, he was of small service to Evan. He flung back against the
partition of the compound, rattling it to the disturbance of many a quiet
'Tom,' he cried, 'I believe you're a screw!'
'Never said I wasn't,' rejoined Tom, as he finished his glass. 'I 'm a
bachelor, and a person--you're married, and an object. I won't have the
tailor's family at my coat-tails.'
Do you mean to say, Tom, you don't like the young fellow? The Countess
says he's half engaged to an heiress; and he has a chance of appointments
--of course, nothing may come of them. But do you mean to say, you don't
like him for what he has done?'
Tom made his jaw disagreeably prominent. ''Fraid I'm guilty of that
'And you that swear at people pretending to be above their station!'
exclaimed Andrew. 'I shall get in a passion. I can't stand this.
Here, waiter! what have I to pay?'
'Go,' cried the time-honoured guest of the Aurora to Jonathan advancing.
Andrew pressed the very roots of his hair back from his red forehead,
and sat upright and resolute, glancing at Tom. And now ensued a curious
scene of family blood. For no sooner did elderly Tom observe this
bantam-like demeanour of his brother, than he ruffled his feathers
likewise, and looked down on him, agitating his wig over a prodigious
frown. Whereof came the following sharp colloquy; Andrew beginning:
I 'll pay off the debts out of my own pocket.'
'You can make a greater fool of yourself, then?'
'He shan't be a tailor!'
'He shan't be a brewer!'
'I say he shall live like a gentleman!'
'I say he shall squat like a Turk!'
Bang went Andrew's hand on the table: 'I 've pledged my word, mind!'
Tom made a counter demonstration: 'And I'll have my way!'
'Hang it! I can be as eccentric as you,' said Andrew.
'And I as much a donkey as you, if I try hard,' said Tom.
Something of the cobbler's stall followed this; till waxing furious, Tom
sung out to Jonathan, hovering around them in watchful timidity, 'More
Port!' and the words immediately fell oily on the wrath of the brothers;
both commenced wiping their heads with their handkerchiefs the faces of
both emerged and met, with a half-laugh: and, severally determined to
keep to what they had spoken, there was a tacit accord between them to
drop the subject.
Like sunshine after smart rain, the Port shone on these brothers. Like a
voice from the pastures after the bellowing of the thunder, Andrew's
voice asked: 'Got rid of that twinge of the gout, Tom? Did you rub in
that ointment?' while Tom replied: 'Ay. How about that rheumatism of
yours? Have you tried that Indy oil?' receiving a like assurance.
The remainder of the Port ebbed in meditation and chance remarks. The
bit of storm had done them both good; and Tom especially--the cynical,
carping, grim old gentleman--was much improved by the nearer resemblance
of his manner to Andrew's.
Behind this unaffected fraternal concord, however, the fact that they
were pledged to a race in eccentricity, was present. They had been
rivals before; and anterior to the date of his marriage, Andrew had done
odd eclipsing things. But Andrew required prompting to it; he required
to be put upon his mettle. Whereas, it was more nature with Tom: nature
and the absence of a wife, gave him advantages over Andrew. Besides, he
had his character to maintain. He had said the word: and the first
vanity of your born eccentric is, that he shall be taken for infallible.
Presently Andrew ducked his head to mark the evening clouds flushing over
the court-yard of the Aurora.
'Time to be off, Tom,' he said: 'wife at home.'
'Ah!' Tom answered. 'Well, I haven't got to go to bed so early.'
'What an old rogue you are, Tom!' Andrew pushed his elbows forward on
the table amiably. 'Gad, we haven't drunk wine together since--by George!
we'll have another pint.'
'Many as you like,' said Tom.
Over the succeeding pint, Andrew, in whose veins the Port was merry,
favoured his brother with an imitation of Major Strike, and indicated his
dislike to that officer. Tom informed him that Major Strike was
'The ass eats at my table, and treats me with contempt.'
'Just tell him that you're putting by the bones for him. He 'll want
Then Andrew with another glance at the clouds, now violet on a grey sky,
said he must really be off. Upon which Tom observed: 'Don't come here
'You old rascal, Tom !' cried Andrew, swinging over the table: 'it's
quite jolly for us to be hob-a-nobbing together once more. 'Gad!--no, we
won't though! I promised--Harriet. Eh? What say, Tom?'
'Nother pint, Nan?'
Tom shook his head in a roguishly-cosy, irresistible way. Andrew, from a
shake of denial and resolve, fell into the same; and there sat the two
brothers--a jolly picture.
The hour was ten, when Andrew Cogglesby, comforted by Tom's remark, that
he, Tom, had a wig, and that he, Andrew, would have a wigging, left the
Aurora; and he left it singing a song. Tom Cogglesby still sat at his
table, holding before him Evan's letter, of which he had got possession;
and knocking it round and round with a stroke of the forefinger, to the
tune of, 'Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, 'pothecary, ploughboy, thief';
each profession being sounded as a corner presented itself to the point
of his nail. After indulging in this species of incantation for some
length of time, Tom Cogglesby read the letter from beginning to end, and
called peremptorily for pen, ink, and paper.
THE COUNTESS IN LOW SOCIETY
By dint of stratagems worthy of a Court intrigue, the Countess de Saldar
contrived to traverse the streets of Lymport, and enter the house where
she was born, unsuspected and unseen, under cover of a profusion of lace
and veil and mantilla, which only her heroic resolve to keep her beauties
hidden from the profane townspeople could have rendered endurable beneath
the fervid summer sun. Dress in a foreign style she must, as without it
she lost that sense of superiority, which was the only comfort to her in
her tribulations. The period of her arrival was ten days subsequent to
the burial of her father. She had come in the coach, like any common
mortal, and the coachman, upon her request, had put her down at the
Governor's house, and the guard had knocked at the door, and the servant
had informed her that General Hucklebridge was not the governor of
Lymport, nor did Admiral Combleman then reside in the town; which
tidings, the coach then being out of sight, it did not disconcert the
Countess to hear; and she reached her mother, having, at least, cut off
communication with the object of conveyance.
The Countess kissed her mother, kissed Mrs. Fiske, and asked sharply for
Evan. Mrs. Fiske let her know that Evan was in the house.
'Where?' inquired the Countess. 'I have news of the utmost importance
for him. I must see him.'
'Where is he, aunt?' said Mrs. Fiske. 'In the shop, I think; I wonder
he did not see you passing, Louisa.'
The Countess went bolt down into a chair.
'Go to him, Jane,' said Mrs. Mel. 'Tell him Louisa is here, and don't
Mrs. Fiske departed, and the Countess smiled.
'Thank you, Mama! you know I never could bear that odious, vulgar little
woman. Oh, the heat! You talk of Portugal! And, oh! poor dear Papa!
what I have suffered!'
Flapping her laces for air, and wiping her eyes for sorrow, the Countess
poured a flood of sympathy into her mother's ears and then said:
'But you have made a great mistake, Mama, in allowing Evan to put his
foot into that place. He--beloved of an heiress! Why, if an enemy
should hear of it, it would ruin him--positively blast him--for ever.
And that she loves him I have proof positive. Yes; with all her
frankness, the little thing cannot conceal that from me now. She loves
him! And I desire you to guess, Mama, whether rivals will not abound?
And what enemy so much to be dreaded as a rival? And what revelation so
awful as that he has stood in a--in a--boutique?'
Mrs. Mel maintained her usual attitude for listening. It had occurred to
her that it might do no good to tell the grand lady, her daughter;
of Evan's resolution, so she simply said, 'It is discipline for him,' and
left her to speak a private word with the youth.
Timidly the Countess inspected the furniture of the apartment, taking
chills at the dingy articles she saw, in the midst of her heat. That she
should have sprung from this! The thought was painful; still she could
forgive Providence so much. But should it ever be known she had sprung
from this! Alas! she felt she never could pardon such a dire betrayal.
She had come in good spirits, but the mention of Evan's backsliding had
troubled her extremely, and though she did not say to herself, What was
the benefit resulting from her father's dying, if Evan would be so base-
minded? she thought the thing indefinitely, and was forming the words on
her mouth, One Harrington in a shop is equal to all! when Evan appeared
'Why, goodness gracious! where's your moustache?' cried the Countess.
'Gone the way of hair!' said Evan, coldly stooping to her forehead.
'Such a distinction!' the Countess continued, reproachfully. 'Why, mon
Dieu! one could hardly tell you; as you look now, from the very
commonest tradesman--if you were not rather handsome and something of a
figure. It's a disguise, Evan--do you know that?'
'And I 've parted with it--that 's all,' said Evan. 'No more disguises
The Countess immediately took his arm, and walked with him to a window.
His face was certainly changed. Murmuring that the air of Lymport was
bad for him, and that he must leave it instantly, she bade him sit and
attend to what she was about to say.
While you have been here, degenerating, Evan, day by day--as you always
do out of my sight--degenerating! no less a word!--I have been slaving in
your interests. Yes; I have forced the Jocelyns socially to acknowledge
us. I have not slept; I have eaten bare morsels. Do abstinence and
vigils clear the wits? I know not! but indeed they have enabled me to
do more in a week than would suffice for a lifetime. Hark to me. I have
discovered Rose's secret. Si! It is so! Rose loves you. You blush;
you blush like a girl. She loves you, and you have let yourself be seen
in a shop! Contrast me the two things. Oh! in verity, dreadful as it
is, one could almost laugh. But the moment I lose sight of you, my
instructions vanish as quickly as that hair on your superior lip, which
took such time to perfect. Alas! you must grow it again immediately.
Use any perfumer's contrivance. Rowland! I have great faith in Rowland.
Without him, I believe, there would have been many bald women committing
suicide! You remember the bottle I gave to the Count de Villa Flor?
"Countess," he said to me, "you have saved this egg-shell from a crack by
helping to cover it"--for so he called his head--the top, you know, was
beginning to shine like an egg. And I do fear me he would have done it.
Ah! you do not conceive what the dread of baldness is! To a woman death
--death is preferable to baldness! Baldness is death! And a wig--
a wig! Oh, horror! total extinction is better than to rise again in a
wig! But you are young, and play with hair. But I was saying, I went to
see the Jocelyns. I was introduced to Sir Franks and his lady and the
wealthy grandmother. And I have an invitation for you, Evan--you
unmannered boy, that you do not bow! A gentle incline forward of the
shoulders, and the eyes fixed softly, your upper lids drooping
triflingly, as if you thanked with gentle sincerity, but were
indifferent. Well, well, if you will not! An invitation for you to
spend part of the autumn at Beckley Court, the ancestral domain, where
there will be company the nobles of the land! Consider that. You say it
was bold in me to face them after that horrible man committed us on board
the vessel? A Harrington is anything but a coward. I did go and because
I am devoted to your interests. That very morning, I saw announced in
the paper, just beneath poor Andrew's hand, as he held it up at the
breakfasttable, reading it, I saw among the deaths, Sir Abraham
Harrington, of Torquay, Baronet, of quinsy! Twice that good man has come
to my rescue! Oh! I welcomed him as a piece of Providence! I turned and
said to Harriet, "I see they have put poor Papa in the paper." Harriet
was staggered. I took the paper from Andrew, and pointed it to her. She
has no readiness. She has had no foreign training. She could not
comprehend, and Andrew stood on tiptoe, and peeped. He has a bad cough,
and coughed himself black in the face. I attribute it to excessive bad
manners and his cold feelings. He left the room. I reproached Harriet.
But, oh! the singularity of the excellent fortune of such an event at
such a time! It showed that our Harrington-luck had not forsaken us.
I hurried to the Jocelyns instantly. Of course, it cleared away any
suspicions aroused in them by that horrible man on board the vessel.
And the tears I wept for Sir Abraham, Evan, in verity they were tears of
deep and sincere gratitude! What is your mouth knitting the corners at?
Are you laughing?'
Evan hastily composed his visage to the melancholy that was no
counterfeit in him just then.
'Yes,' continued the Countess, easily reassured, 'I shall ever feel a
debt to Sir Abraham Harrington, of Torquay. I dare say we are related to
him. At least he has done us more service than many a rich and titled
relative. No one supposes he would acknowledge poor Papa. I can forgive
him that, Evan!' The Countess pointed out her finger with mournful and
impressive majesty, 'As we look down on that monkey, people of rank and
consideration in society look on what poor dear Papa was.'
This was partly true, for Jacko sat on a chair, in his favourite
attitude, copied accurately from the workmen of the establishment at
their labour with needle and thread. Growing cognizant of the infamy of
his posture, the Countess begged Evan to drive him out of her sight, and
took a sniff at her smelling-bottle.
She went on: 'Now, dear Van, you would hear of your sweet Rose?'
'Not a word!' Evan hastily answered.
'Why, what does this indicate? Whims! Then you do love?'
'I tell you, Louisa, I don't want to hear a word of any of them,' said
Evan, with an angry gleam in his eyes. 'They are nothing to me, nor I to
them. I--my walk in life is not theirs.'
'Faint heart! faint heart!' the Countess lifted a proverbial forefinger.
'Thank heaven, I shall have the consolation of not going about, and
bowing and smirking like an impostor!' Evan exclaimed.
There was a wider intelligence in the Countess's arrested gaze than she
chose to fashion into speech.
'I knew,' she said, 'I knew how the air of this horrible Lymport would
act on you. But while I live, Evan, you shall not sink in the sludge.
You, with all the pains I have lavished on you! and with your presence!--
for you have a presence, so rare among young men in this England! You,
who have been to a Court, and interchanged bows with duchesses, and I
know not what besides--nay, I do not accuse you; but if you had not been
a mere boy, and an English boy-poor Eugenia herself confessed to me that
you had a look--a tender cleaving of the underlids--that made her catch
her hand to her heart sometimes: it reminded her so acutely of false
Belmarafa. Could you have had a greater compliment than that? You shall
not stop here another day!'
'True,' said Evan, 'for I'm going to London to-night.'
'Not to London,' the Countess returned, with a conquering glance, 'but to
Beckley Court-and with me.'
'To London, Louisa, with Mr. Goren.'
Again the Countess eyed him largely; but took, as it were, a side-path
from her broad thought, saying: 'Yes, fortunes are made in London, if you
would they should be rapid.'
She meditated. At that moment Dandy knocked at the door, and called
outside: 'Please, master, Mr. Goren says there's a gentleman in the shop-
wants to see you.'
'Very well,' replied Evan, moving. He was swung violently round.
The Countess had clutched him by the arm. A fearful expression was on
'Whither do you go?' she said.
'To the shop, Louisa.'
Too late to arrest the villanous word, she pulled at him. 'Are you quite
insane? Consent to be seen by a gentleman there? What has come to you?
You must be lunatic! Are we all to be utterly ruined--disgraced?'
'Is my mother to starve?' said Evan.
'Absurd rejoinder! No! You should have sold everything here before
this. She can live with Harriet--she--once out of this horrible element
--she would not show it. But, Evan, you are getting away from me: you
are not going?--speak!'
'I am going,' said Evan.
The Countess clung to him, exclaiming: 'Never, while I have the power to
detain you!' but as he was firm and strong, she had recourse to her
woman's aids, and burst into a storm of sobs on his shoulder--a scene of
which Mrs. Mel was, for some seconds, a composed spectator.
'What 's the matter now?' said Mrs. Mel.
Evan impatiently explained the case. Mrs. Mel desired her daughter to
avoid being ridiculous, and making two fools in her family; and at the
same time that she told Evan there was no occasion for him to go,
contrived, with a look, to make the advice a command. He, in that state
of mind when one takes bitter delight in doing an abhorred duty, was
hardly willing to be submissive; but the despair of the Countess reduced
him, and for her sake he consented to forego the sacrifice of his pride
which was now his sad, sole pleasure. Feeling him linger, the Countess
relaxed her grasp. Hers were tears that dried as soon as they had served
their end; and, to give him the full benefit of his conduct, she said:
'I knew Evan would be persuaded by me.'
Evan pitifully pressed her hand, and sighed.
'Tea is on the table down-stairs,' said Mrs. Mel. 'I have cooked
something for you, Louisa. Do you sleep here to-night?'
'Can I tell you, Mama?' murmured the Countess. 'I am dependent on our
'Oh! well, we will eat first,' said Mrs. Mel, and they went to the table
below, the Countess begging her mother to drop titles in designating her
to the servants, which caused Mrs. Mel to say:
'There is but one. I do the cooking'; and the Countess, ever disposed to
flatter and be suave, even when stung by a fact or a phrase, added:
'And a beautiful cook you used to be, dear Mama!'
At the table, awaiting them, sat Mrs. Wishaw, Mrs. Fiske, and Mr. Goren,
who soon found themselves enveloped in the Countess's graciousness. Mr.
Goren would talk of trade, and compare Lymport business with London, and
the Countess, loftily interested in his remarks, drew him out to disgust
her brother. Mrs. Wishaw, in whom the Countess at once discovered a
frivolous pretentious woman of the moneyed trading class, she treated as
one who was alive to society, and surveyed matters from a station in the
world, leading her to think that she tolerated Mr. Goren, as a lady-
Christian of the highest rank should tolerate the insects that toil for
us. Mrs. Fiske was not so tractable, for Mrs. Fiske was hostile and
armed. Mrs. Fiske adored the great Mel, and she had never loved Louisa.
Hence, she scorned Louisa on account of her late behaviour toward her
dead parent. The Countess saw through her, and laboured to be friendly
with her, while she rendered her disagreeable in the eyes of Mrs. Wishaw,
and let Mrs. Wishaw perceive that sympathy was possible between them;
manoeuvring a trifle too delicate, perhaps, for the people present, but
sufficient to blind its keen-witted author to the something that was
being concealed from herself, of which something, nevertheless, her
senses apprehensively warned her: and they might have spoken to her wits,
but that mortals cannot, unaided, guess, or will not, unless struck in
the face by the fact, credit, what is to their minds the last horror.
'I came down in the coach, quite accidental, with this gentleman,' said
Mrs. Wishaw, fanning a cheek and nodding at Mr. Goren. 'I'm an old flame
of dear Mel's. I knew him when he was an apprentice in London. Now,
wasn't it odd? Your mother--I suppose I must call you "my lady"?'
The Countess breathed a tender 'Spare me,' with a smile that added,
Mrs. Wishaw resumed: 'Your mother was an old flame of this gentleman's,
I found out. So there were two old flames, and I couldn't help thinking!
But I was so glad to have seen dear Mel once more:
'Ah!' sighed the Countess.
'He was always a martial-looking man, and laid out, he was quite
imposing. I declare, I cried so, as it reminded me of when I couldn't
have him, for he had nothing but his legs and arms--and I married Wishaw.
But it's a comfort to think I have been of some service to dear, dear
Mel! for Wishaw 's a man of accounts and payments; and I knew Mel had
cloth from him, and, the lady suggested bills delayed, with two or three
nods, 'you know! and I'll do my best for his son.'
'You are kind,' said the Countess, smiling internally at the vulgar
creature's misconception of Evan's requirements.
'Did he ever talk much about Mary Fence?' asked Mrs. Wishaw. '"Polly
Fence," he used to say, "sweet Polly Fence!"'
'Oh! I think so. Frequently,' observed the Countess.
Mrs. Fiske primmed her mouth. She had never heard the great Mel allude
to the name of Fence.
The Goren-croak was heard
'Painters have painted out "Melchisedec" this afternoon. Yes,--ah!
In and out-as the saying goes.'
Here was an opportunity to mortify the Countess.
Mrs. Fiske placidly remarked: 'Have we the other put up in its stead?
It 's shorter.'
A twinge of weakness had made Evan request that the name of Evan
Harrington should not decorate the shopfront till he had turned his back
on it, for a time. Mrs. Mel crushed her venomous niece.
'What have you to do with such things? Shine in your own affairs first,
Ann, before you meddle with others.'
Relieved at hearing that ' Melchisedec' was painted out, and unsuspicious
of the announcement that should replace it, the Countess asked Mrs.
Wishaw if she thought Evan like her dear Papa.
'So like,' returned the lady, 'that I would not be alone with him yet,
for worlds. I should expect him to be making love to me: for, you know,
my dear--I must be familiar--Mel never could be alone with you, without!
It was his nature. I speak of him before marriage. But, if I can trust
myself with him, I shall take charge of Mr. Evan, and show him some
'That is indeed kind,' said the Countess, glad of a thick veil for the
utterance of her contempt. 'Evan, though--I fear--will be rather
engaged. His friends, the Jocelyns of Beckley Court, will--I fear--
hardly dispense with him and Lady Splenders--you know her? the
Marchioness of Splenders? No?--by repute, at least: a most beautiful and
most fascinating woman; report of him alone has induced her to say that
Evan must and shall form a part of her autumnal gathering at Splenders
Castle. And how he is to get out of it, I cannot tell. But I am sure
his multitudinous engagements will not prevent his paying due court to
As the Countess intended, Mistress Wishaw's vanity was reproved, and her
ambition excited: a pretty doublestroke, only possible to dexterous
The lady rejoined that she hoped so, she was sure; and forthwith (because
she suddenly seemed to possess him more than his son), launched upon
Mel's incomparable personal attractions. This caused the Countess to
enlarge upon Evan's vast personal prospects. They talked across each
other a little, till the Countess remembered her breeding, allowed Mrs.
Wishaw to run to an end in hollow exclamations, and put a finish to the
undeclared controversy, by a traverse of speech, as if she were taking up
the most important subject of their late colloquy. 'But Evan is not in
his own hands--he is in the hands of a lovely young woman, I must tell
you. He belongs to her, and not to us. You have heard of Rose Jocelyn,
the celebrated heiress?'
'Engaged?' Mrs. Wishaw whispered aloud.
The Countess, an adept in the lie implied--practised by her, that she
might not subject herself to future punishment (in which she was so
devout a believer, that she condemned whole hosts to it)--deeply smiled.
'Really !' said Mrs. Wishaw, and was about to inquire why Evan, with
these brilliant expectations, could think of trade and tailoring, when
the young man, whose forehead had been growing black, jumped up, and
quitted them; thus breaking the harmony of the table; and as the Countess
had said enough, she turned the conversation to the always welcome theme
of low society. She broached death and corpses; and became extremely
interesting, and very sympathetic: the only difference between the
ghostly anecdotes she related, and those of the other ladies, being that
her ghosts were all of them titled, and walked mostly under the burden of
a coronet. For instance, there was the Portuguese Marquis de Col. He had
married a Spanish wife, whose end was mysterious. Undressing, on the
night of the anniversary of her death, and on the point of getting into
bed, he beheld the dead woman lying on her back before him. All night
long he had to sleep with this freezing phantom! Regularly, every fresh
anniversary, he had to endure the same penance, no matter where he might
be, or in what strange bed. On one occasion, when he took the live for
the dead, a curious thing occurred, which the Countess scrupled less to
relate than would men to hint at. Ghosts were the one childish enjoyment
Mrs. Mel allowed herself, and she listened to her daughter intently,
ready to cap any narrative; but Mrs. Fiske stopped the flood.
'You have improved on Peter Smithers, Louisa,' she said.
The Countess turned to her mildly.
'You are certainly thinking of Peter Smithers,' Mrs. Fiske continued,
bracing her shoulders. 'Surely, you remember poor Peter, Louisa? An old
flame of your own! He was going to kill himself, but married a
Devonshire woman, and they had disagreeables, and SHE died, and he was
undressing, and saw her there in the bed, and wouldn't get into it, and
had the mattress, and the curtains, and the counterpanes, and everything
burnt. He told us it himself. You must remember it, Louisa?'
The Countess remembered nothing of the sort. No doubt could exist of its
having been the Portuguese Marquis de Col, because he had confided to her
the whole affair, and indeed come to her, as his habit was, to ask her
what he could possibly do, under the circumstances. If Mrs. Fiske's
friend, who married the Devonshire person, had seen the same thing, the
coincidence was yet more extraordinary than the case. Mrs. Fiske said it
assuredly was, and glanced at her aunt, who, as the Countess now rose,
declaring she must speak to Evan, chid Mrs. Fiske, and wished her and
Peter Smithers at the bottom of the sea.
'No, no, Mama,' said the Countess, laughing, 'that would hardly be
proper,' and before Mrs. Fiske could reply, escaped to complain to Evan
of the vulgarity of those women.
She was not prepared for the burst of wrath with which Evan met her.
'Louisa ,' said he, taking her wrist sternly, 'you have done a thing I
can't forgive. I find it hard to bear disgrace myself: I will not
consent to bring it upon others. Why did you dare to couple Miss
Jocelyn's name with mine?'
The Countess gave him out her arm's length. 'Speak on, Van,' she said,
admiring him with a bright gaze.
'Answer me, Louisa; and don't take me for a fool any more,' he pursued.
'You have coupled Miss Jocelyn's name with mine, in company, and I insist
now upon your giving me your promise to abstain from doing it anywhere,
'If she saw you at this instant, Van,' returned the incorrigible
Countess, 'would she desire it, think you? Oh! I must make you angry
before her, I see that! You have your father's frown. You surpass him,
for your delivery is more correct, and equally fluent. And if a woman is
momentarily melted by softness in a man, she is for ever subdued by
boldness and bravery of mien.'
Evan dropped her hand. 'Miss Jocelyn has done me the honour to call me
her friend. That was in other days.' His lip quivered. 'I shall not
see Miss Jocelyn again. Yes; I would lay down my life for her; but
that's idle talk. No such chance will ever come to me. But I can save
her from being spoken of in alliance with me, and what I am, and I tell
you, Louisa, I will not have it.' Saying which, and while he looked
harshly at her, wounded pride bled through his eyes.
She was touched. 'Sit down, dear; I must explain to you, and make you
happy against your will,' she said, in another voice, and an English
accent. 'The mischief is done, Van. If you do not want Rose Jocelyn to
love you, you must undo it in your own way. I am not easily deceived.
On the morning I went to her house in town, she took me aside, and spoke
to me. Not a confession in words. The blood in her cheeks, when I
mentioned you, did that for her. Everything about you she must know--how
you bore your grief, and all. And not in her usual free manner, but
timidly, as if she feared a surprise, or feared to be wakened to the
secret in her bosom she half suspects--"Tell him!" she said, "I hope he
will not forget me."'
The Countess was interrupted by a great sob; for the picture of frank
Rose Jocelyn changed, and soft, and, as it were, shadowed under a veil of
bashful regard for him, so filled the young man with sorrowful
tenderness, that he trembled, and was as a child.
Marking the impression she had produced on him, and having worn off that
which he had produced on her, the Countess resumed the art in her style
of speech, easier to her than nature.
'So the sweetest of Roses may be yours, dear Van; and you have her in a
gold setting, to wear on your heart. Are you not enviable? I will not--
no, I will not tell you she is perfect. I must fashion the sweet young
creature. Though I am very ready to admit that she is much improved by
this--shall I call it, desired consummation?'
Evan could listen no more. Such a struggle was rising in his breast: the
effort to quench what the Countess had so shrewdly kindled; passionate
desire to look on Rose but for one lightning flash: desire to look on
her, and muffled sense of shame twin-born with it: wild love and leaden
misery mixed: dead hopelessness and vivid hope. Up to the neck in
Purgatory, but his soul saturated with visions of Bliss! The fair orb of
Love was all that was wanted to complete his planetary state, and aloft
it sprang, showing many faint, fair tracts to him, and piling huge
As if in search of something, he suddenly went from the room.
'I have intoxicated the poor boy,' said the Countess, and consulted an
attitude by the evening light in a mirror. Approving the result, she
rang for her mother, and sat with her till dark; telling her she could
not and would not leave her dear Mama that night. At the supper-table
Evan did not appear, and Mr. Goren, after taking counsel of Mrs. Mel,
dispersed the news that Evan was off to London. On the road again, with
a purse just as ill-furnished, and in his breast the light that sometimes
leads gentlemen, as well as ladies, astray.
MY GENTLEMAN ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Near a milestone, under the moonlight, crouched the figure of a woman,
huddled with her head against her knees, and careless hair falling to the
summer's dust. Evan came upon this sight within a few miles of
Fallowfield. At first he was rather startled, for he had inherited
superstitious emotions from his mother, and the road was lone, the moon
full. He went up to her and spoke a gentle word, which provoked no
reply. He ventured to put his hand on her shoulder, continuing softly to
address her. She was flesh and blood. Evan stooped his head to catch a
whisper from her mouth, but nothing save a heavier fall of the breath she
took, as of one painfully waking, was heard.
A misery beyond our own is a wholesome picture for youth, and though we
may not for the moment compare the deep with the lower deep, we, if we
have a heart for outer sorrows, can forget ourselves in it. Evan had
just been accusing the heavens of conspiracy to disgrace him. Those
patient heavens had listened, as is their wont. They had viewed and had
not been disordered by his mental frenzies. It is certainly hard that
they do not come down to us, and condescend to tell us what they mean,
and be dumb-foundered by the perspicuity of our arguments the argument,
for instance, that they have not fashioned us for the science of the
shears, and do yet impel us to wield them. Nevertheless, they to whom
mortal life has ceased to be a long matter perceive that our appeals for
conviction are answered, now and then very closely upon the call. When
we have cast off the scales of hope and fancy, and surrender our claims
on mad chance, it is given us to see that some plan is working out: that
the heavens, icy as they are to the pangs of our blood, have been
throughout speaking to our souls; and, according to the strength there
existing, we learn to comprehend them. But their language is an element
of Time, whom primarily we have to know.
Evan Harrington was young. He wished not to clothe the generation. What
was to the remainder of the exiled sons of Adam simply the brand of
expulsion from Paradise, was to him hell. In his agony, anything less
than an angel, soft-voiced in his path, would not have satisfied the poor
boy, and here was this wretched outcast, and instead of being relieved,
he was to act the reliever!
Striving to rouse the desolate creature, he shook her slightly. She now
raised her head with a slow, gradual motion, like that of a wax-work,
showing a white young face, tearless,-dreadfully drawn at the lips.
After gazing at him, she turned her head mechanically to her shoulder, as
to ask him why he touched her. He withdrew his hand, saying:
'Why are you here? Pardon me; I want, if possible, to help you.'
A light sprang in her eyes. She jumped from the stone, and ran forward a
step or two, with a gasp:
'Oh, my God! I want to go and drown myself.'
Evan lingered behind her till he saw her body sway, and in a fit of
trembling she half fell on his outstretched arm. He led her to the
stone, not knowing what on earth to do with her. There was no sign of a
house near; they were quite solitary; to all his questions she gave an
unintelligible moan. He had not the heart to leave her, so, taking a
sharp seat on a heap of flints, thus possibly furnishing future
occupation for one of his craftsmen, he waited, and amused himself by
marking out diagrams with his stick in the thick dust.
His thoughts were far away, when he heard, faintly uttered:
'Why do you stop here?'
'To help you.'
'Please don't. Let me be. I can't be helped.'
'My good creature,' said Evan, 'it 's quite impossible that I should
leave you in this state. Tell me where you were going when your illness
'I was going,' she commenced vacantly, 'to the sea--the water,'
she added, with a shivering lip.
The foolish youth asked her if she could be cold on such a night.
'No, I'm not cold,' she replied, drawing closer over her lap the ends of
a shawl which would in that period have been thought rather gaudy for her
'You were going to Lymport?'
'Yes,--Lymport's nearest, I think.'
'And why were you out travelling at this hour?'
She dropped her head, and began rocking to right and left.
While they talked the noise of waggon-wheels was heard approaching. Evan
went into the middle of the road, and beheld a covered waggon, and a
fellow whom he advanced to meet, plodding a little to the rear of the
horses. He proved kindly. He was a farmer's man, he said, and was at
that moment employed in removing the furniture of the farmer's son, who
had failed as a corn-chandler in Lymport, to Hillford, which he expected
to reach about morn. He answered Evan's request that he would afford the
young woman conveyance as far as Fallowfield:
'Tak' her in? That I will.
'She won't hurt the harses,' he pursued, pointing his whip at the
vehicle: 'there's my mate, Gearge Stoakes, he's in there, snorin' his
turn. Can't you hear 'n asnorin' thraugh the wheels? I can; I've been
laughin'! He do snore that loud-Gearge do!'
Proceeding to inform Evan how George Stokes had snored in that
characteristic manner from boyhood, ever since he and George had slept in
a hayloft together; and how he, kept wakeful and driven to distraction by
George Stokes' nose, had been occasionally compelled, in sheer self-
defence, madly to start up and hold that pertinacious alarum in tight
compression between thumb and forefinger; and how George Stokes, thus
severely handled, had burst his hold with a tremendous snort, as big as a
bull, and had invariably uttered the exclamation, 'Hulloa!--same to you,
my lad!' and rolled over to snore as fresh as ever;--all this with
singular rustic comparisons, racy of the soil, and in raw Hampshire
dialect, the waggoner came to a halt opposite the stone, and, while Evan
strode to assist the girl, addressed himself to the great task of
arousing the sturdy sleeper and quieting his trumpet, heard by all ears
now that the accompaniment of the wheels was at an end.
George, violently awakened, complained that it was before his time, to
which he was true; and was for going off again with exalted contentment,
though his heels had been tugged, and were dangling some length out of
the machine; but his comrade, with a determined blow of the lungs, gave
another valiant pull, and George Stokes was on his legs, marvelling at
the world and man. Evan had less difficulty with the girl. She rose to
meet him, put up her arms for him to clasp her waist, whispering sharply
in an inward breath: 'What are you going to do with me?' and indifferent
to his verbal response, trustingly yielded her limbs to his guidance. He
could see blood on her bitten underlip; as, with the help of the
waggoner, he lifted her on the mattress, backed by a portly bundle, which
the sagacity of Mr. Stokes had selected for his couch.
The waggoner cracked his whip, laughing at George Stokes, who yawned and
settled into a composed ploughswing, without asking questions; apparently
resolved to finish his nap on his legs.
'Warn't he like that Myzepper chap, I see at the circus, bound athert
gray mare!' chuckled the waggoner. 'So he 'd 'a gone on, had ye 'a let
'n. No wulves waddn't wake Gearge till he 'd slept it out. Then he 'd
say, "marnin'!" to 'm. Are ye 'wake now, Gearge?'
The admirable sleeper preferred to be a quiet butt, and the waggoner
leisurely exhausted the fun that was to be had out of him; returning to
it with a persistency that evinced more concentration than variety in his
mind. At last Evan said: 'Your pace is rather slow. They'll be shut up
in Fallowfield. I 'll go on ahead. You'll find me at one of the inns-
the Green Dragon.'
In return for this speech, the waggoner favoured him with a stare,
followed by the exclamation:
'Oh, no! dang that!'
'Why, what's the matter?' quoth Evan.
'You en't goin' to be off, for to leave me and Gearge in the lurch there,
with that ther' young woman, in that ther' pickle!' returned the
Evan made an appeal to his reason, but finding that impregnable, he
pulled out his scanty purse to guarantee his sincerity with an offer of
pledgemoney. The waggoner waved it aside. He wanted no money, he said.
'Look heer,' he went on; 'if you're for a start, I tells ye plain, I
chucks that ther' young woman int' the road.'
Evan bade him not to be a brute.
'Nark and crop!' the waggoner doggedly ejaculated.
Very much surprised that a fellow who appeared sound at heart, should
threaten to behave so basely, Evan asked an explanation: upon which the
waggoner demanded to know what he had eyes for: and as this query failed
to enlighten the youth, he let him understand that he was a man of family
experience, and that it was easy to tell at a glance that the complaint
the young woman laboured under was one common to the daughters of Eve.
He added that, should an emergency arise, he, though a family man, would
be useless: that he always vacated the premises while those incidental
scenes were being enacted at home; and that for him and George Stokes to
be left alone with the young woman, why they would be of no more service
to her than a couple of babies newborn themselves. He, for his part, he
assured Evan, should take to his heels, and relinquish waggon, and
horses, and all; while George probably would stand and gape; and the end
of it would be, they would all be had up for murder. He diverged from
the alarming prospect, by a renewal of the foregoing alternative to the
gentleman who had constituted himself the young woman's protector. If he
parted company with them, they would immediately part company with the
young woman, whose condition was evident.
'Why, couldn't you tall that?' said the waggoner, as Evan, tingling at
the ears, remained silent.
'I know nothing of such things,' he answered, hastily, like one hurt.
I have to repeat the statement, that he was a youth, and a modest one.
He felt unaccountably, unreasonably, but horridly, ashamed. The thought
of his actual position swamped the sickening disgust at tailordom.
Worse, then, might happen to us in this extraordinary world! There was
something more abhorrent than sitting with one's legs crossed, publicly
stitching, and scoffed at! He called vehemently to the waggoner to whip
the horses, and hurry ahead into Fallowfield; but that worthy, whatever
might be his dire alarms, had a regular pace, that was conscious of no
spur: the reply of 'All right!' satisfied him at least; and Evan's chaste
sighs for the appearance of an assistant petticoat round a turn of the
road, were offered up duly, to the measure of the waggoner's steps.
Suddenly the waggoner came to a halt, and said 'Blest if that Gearge
bain't a snorin' on his pins!'
Evan lingered by him with some curiosity, while the waggoner thumped his
thigh to, 'Yes he be! no he bain't!' several times, in eager hesitation.
'It's a fellow calling from the downs,' said Evan.
'Ay, so!' responded the waggoner. 'Dang'd if I didn't think 'twere that
Gearge of our'n. Hark awhile.'
At a repetition of the call, the waggoner stopped his team. After a few
minutes, a man appeared panting on the bank above them, down which he ran
precipitately, knocked against Evan, apologized with the little breath
that remained to him, and then held his hand as to entreat a hearing.
Evan thought him half-mad; the waggoner was about to imagine him the
victim of a midnight assault. He undeceived them by requesting, in
rather flowery terms, conveyance on the road and rest for his limbs. It
being explained to him that the waggon was already occupied, he comforted
himself aloud with the reflection that it was something to be on the road
again for one who had been belated, lost, and wandering over the downs
for the last six hours.
'Walcome to git in, when young woman gits out,' said the waggoner. 'I'll
gi' ye my sleep on t' Hillford.'
'Thanks, worthy friend,' returned the new comer. 'The state of the case
is this--I'm happy to take from humankind whatsoever I can get. If this
gentleman will accept of my company, and my legs hold out, all will yet
Though he did not wear a petticoat, Evan was not sorry to have him. Next
to the interposition of the Gods, we pray for human fellowship when we
are in a mess. So he mumbled politely, dropped with him a little to the
rear, and they all stepped out to the crack of the waggoner's whip.
'Rather a slow pace,' said Evan, feeling bound to converse.
'Six hours on the downs makes it extremely suitable to me,' rejoined the
'You lost your way?'
'I did, sir. Yes; one does not court those desolate regions wittingly.
I am for life and society. The embraces of Diana do not agree with my
constitution. If classics there be who differ from me, I beg them to
take six hours on the downs alone with the moon, and the last prospect of
bread and cheese, and a chaste bed, seemingly utterly extinguished. I am
cured of my romance. Of course, when I say bread and cheese, I speak
figuratively. Food is implied.'
Evan stole a glance at his companion.
'Besides,' the other continued, with an inflexion of grandeur, 'for a man
accustomed to his hunters, it is, you will confess, unpleasant--I speak'
hypothetically--to be reduced to his legs to that extent that it strikes
him shrewdly he will run them into stumps.'
The stranger laughed.
The fair lady of the night illumined his face, like one who recognized a
subject. Evan thought he knew the voice. A curious struggle therein
between native facetiousness and an attempt at dignity, appeared to Evan
not unfamiliar; and the egregious failure of ambition and triumph of the
instinct, helped him to join, the stranger in his mirth.
'Jack Raikes?' he said: 'surely?'
'The man!' it was answered to him. 'But you? and near our old school--
Viscount Harrington? These marvels occur, you see--we meet again by
Evan, with little gratification at the meeting, fell into their former
comradeship; tickled by a recollection of his old schoolfellow's India-
Mr. Raikes stood about a head under him. He had extremely mobile
features; thick, flexible eyebrows; a loose, voluble mouth; a ridiculous
figure on a dandified foot. He represented to you one who was rehearsing
a part he wished to act before the world, and was not aware that he took
the world into his confidence.
How he had come there his elastic tongue explained in tropes and puns and
lines of dramatic verse. His patrimony spent, he at once believed
himself an actor, and he was hissed off the stage of a provincial
'Ruined, the last ignominy endured, I fled from the gay vistas of the
Bench--for they live who would thither lead me! and determined, the day
before the yesterday--what think'st thou? why to go boldly, and offer
myself as Adlatus to blessed old Cudford! Yes! a little Latin is all
that remains to me, and I resolved, like the man I am, to turn, hic, hac,
hoc, into bread and cheese, and beer: Impute nought foreign to me, in the
matter of pride.'
'Usher in our old school--poor old Jack!' exclaimed Evan.
'Lieutenant in the Cudford Academy!' the latter rejoined. 'I walked the
distance from London. I had my interview with the respected principal.
He gave me of mutton nearest the bone, which, they say, is sweetest; and
on sweet things you should not regale in excess. Endymion watched the
sheep that bred that mutton! He gave me the thin beer of our boyhood,
that I might the more soberly state my mission. That beer, my friend,
was brewed by one who wished to form a study for pantomimic masks. He
listened with the gravity which is all his own to the recital of my
career; he pleasantly compared me to Phaethon, congratulated the river
Thames at my not setting it on fire in my rapid descent, and extended to
me the three fingers of affectionate farewell. "You an usher, a rearer
of youth, Mr. Raikes? Oh, no! Oh, no!" That was all I could get out of
him. 'Gad! he might have seen that I didn't joke with the mutton-bone.
If I winced at the beer it was imperceptible. Now a man who can do that
is what I call a man in earnest.'
'You've just come from Cudford?' said Evan.
'Short is the tale, though long the way, friend Harrington. From Bodley
is ten miles to Beckley. I walked them. From Beckley is fifteen miles
to Fallowfield. Them I was traversing, when, lo! near sweet eventide a
fair horsewoman riding with her groom at her horse's heels. "Lady," says
I, addressing her, as much out of the style of the needy as possible,
"will you condescend to direct me to Fallowfield?"--"Are you going to the
match?" says she. I answered boldly that I was. "Beckley's in," says
she, "and you'll be in time to see them out, if you cut across the downs
there." I lifted my hat--a desperate measure, for the brim won't bear
much--but honour to women though we perish. She bowed: I cut across the
downs. In fine, Harrington, old boy, I've been wandering among those
downs for the last seven or eight hours. I was on the point of turning
my back on the road for the twentieth time, I believe when I heard your
welcome vehicular music, and hailed you; and I ask you, isn't it luck for
a fellow who hasn't got a penny in his pocket, and is as hungry as five
hundred hunters, to drop on an old friend like this?'
Evan answered with the question:
'Where was it you said you met the young lady?'
'In the first place, O Amadis! I never said she was young. You're on
the scent, I see.'
Nursing the fresh image of his darling in his heart's recesses, Evan, as
they entered Fallowfield, laid the state of his purse before Jack, and
earned anew the epithet of Amadis, when it came to be told that the
occupant of the waggon was likewise one of its pensioners.
Sleep had long held its reign in Fallowfield. Nevertheless, Mr. Raikes,
though blind windows alone looked on him, and nought foreign was to be
imputed to him in the matter of pride, had become exceedingly solicitous
concerning his presentation to the inhabitants of that quiet little
country town; and while Evan and--the waggoner consulted the former with
regard to the chances of procuring beds and supper, the latter as to his
prospect of beer and a comfortable riddance of the feminine burden
weighing on them all--Mr. Raikes was engaged in persuading his hat to
assume something of the gentlemanly polish of its youth, and might have
been observed now and then furtively catching up a leg to be dusted. Ere
the wheels of the waggon stopped he had gained that ease of mind which
the knowledge that you have done all a man may do and circumstances
warrant, establishes. Capacities conscious of their limits may repose
even proudly when they reach them; and, if Mr. Raikes had not quite the
air of one come out of a bandbox, he at least proved to the discerning
intelligence that he knew what sort of manner befitted that happy
occasion, and was enabled by the pains he had taken to glance with a
challenge at the sign of the hostelry, under which they were now ranked,
and from which, though the hour was late, and Fallowfield a singularly
somnolent little town, there issued signs of life approaching to
DOINGS AT AN INN
What every traveller sighs to find, was palatably furnished by the Green
Dragon of Fallowfield--a famous inn, and a constellation for wandering
coachmen. There pleasant smiles seasoned plenty, and the bill was gilded
in a manner unknown to our days. Whoso drank of the ale of the Green
Dragon kept in his memory a place apart for it. The secret, that to give
a warm welcome is the breath of life to an inn, was one the Green Dragon
boasted, even then, not to share with many Red Lions, or Cocks of the
Morning, or Kings' Heads, or other fabulous monsters; and as if to show
that when you are in the right track you are sure to be seconded, there
was a friend of the Green Dragon, who, on a particular night of the year,
caused its renown to enlarge to the dimensions of a miracle. But that,
for the moment, is my secret.
Evan and Jack were met in the passage by a chambermaid. Before either of
them could speak, she had turned and fled, with the words:
'More coming!' which, with the addition of 'My goodness me!' were echoed
by the hostess in her recess. Hurried directions seemed to be
consequent, and then the hostess sallied out, and said, with a curtsey:
'Please to step in, gentlemen. This is the room, tonight.'
Evan lifted his hat; and bowing, requested to know whether they could
have a supper and beds.
'Beds, Sir!' cried the hostess. 'What am I to do for beds! Yes, beds
indeed you may have, but bed-rooms--if you ask for them, it really is
more than I can supply you with. I have given up my own. I sleep with
my maid Jane to-night.'
'Anything will do for us, madam,' replied Evan, renewing his foreign
courtesy. 'But there is a poor young woman outside.'
'Another!' The hostess instantly smiled down her inhospitable outcry.
'She,' said Evan, 'must have a room to herself. She is ill.'
'Must is must, sir,' returned the gracious hostess. 'But I really
haven't the means.'
'You have bed-rooms, madam?'
'Every one of them engaged, sir.'
'By ladies, madam?'
'Lord forbid, Sir!' she exclaimed with the honest energy of a woman who
knew her sex.
Evan bade Jack go and assist the waggoner to bring in the girl. Jack,
who had been all the time pulling at his wristbands, and settling his
coat-collar by the dim reflection of a window of the bar, departed,
after, on his own authority, assuring the hostess that fever was not the
young woman's malady, as she protested against admitting fever into her
house, seeing that she had to consider her guests.
'We're open to all the world to-night, except fever,' said the hostess.
'Yes,' she rejoined to Evan's order that the waggoner and his mate should
be supplied with ale, 'they shall have as much as they can drink,' which
is not a speech usual at inns, when one man gives an order for others,
but Evan passed it by, and politely begged to be shown in to one of the
gentlemen who had engaged bedrooms.
'Oh! if you can persuade any of them, sir, I'm sure I've nothing to say,'
observed the hostess. 'Pray, don't ask me to stand by and back it,
Had Evan been familiar with the Green Dragon, he would have noticed that
the landlady, its presiding genius, was stiffer than usual; the rosy
smile was more constrained, as if a great host had to be embraced, and
were trying it to the utmost stretch. There was, however, no asperity
about her, and when she had led him to the door he was to enter to prefer
his suit, and she had asked whether the young woman was quite common, and
he had replied that he had picked her up on the road, and that she was
certainly poor, the hostess said:
'I 'm sure you're a very good gentleman, sir, and if I could spare your
asking at all, I would.'
With that she went back to encounter Mr. Raikes and his charge, and prime
the waggoner and his mate.
A noise of laughter and talk was stilled gradually, as Evan made his bow
into a spacious room, wherein, as the tops of pines are seen swimming on
the morning mist, about a couple of dozen guests of divers conditions sat
partially revealed through wavy clouds of tobacco-smoke. By their
postures, which Evan's appearance by no means disconcerted, you read in a
glance men who had been at ease for so many hours that they had no
troubles in the world save the two ultimate perplexities of the British
Sybarite, whose bed of roses is harassed by the pair of problems: first,
what to do with his legs; secondly, how to imbibe liquor with the
slightest possible derangement of those members subordinate to his upper
structure. Of old the Sybarite complained. Not so our self-helpful
islanders. Since they could not, now that work was done and jollity the
game, take off their legs, they got away from them as far as they might,
in fashions original or imitative: some by thrusting them out at full
length; some by cramping them under their chairs: while some, taking
refuge in a mental effort, forgot them, a process to be recommended if it
did not involve occasional pangs of consciousness to the legs of their
neighbours. We see in our cousins West of the great water, who are said
to exaggerate our peculiarities, beings labouring under the same
difficulty, and intent on its solution. As to the second problem: that
of drinking without discomposure to the subservient limbs: the company
present worked out this republican principle ingeniously, but in a manner
beneath the attention of the Muse. Let Clio record that mugs and
glasses, tobacco and pipes, were strewn upon the table. But if the
guests had arrived at that stage when to reach the arm, or arrange the
person, for a sip of good stuff, causes moral debates, and presents to
the mind impediments equal to what would be raised in active men by the
prospect of a great excursion, it is not to be wondered at that the
presence of a stranger produced no immediate commotion. Two or three
heads were half turned; such as faced him imperceptibly lifted their
'Good evening, sir,' said one who sat as chairman, with a decisive nod.
'Good night, ain't it?' a jolly-looking old fellow queried of the
speaker, in an under-voice.
'Gad, you don't expect me to be wishing the gentleman good-bye, do you?'
retorted the former.
'Ha! ha! No, to be sure,' answered the old boy; and the remark was
variously uttered, that 'Good night,' by a caprice of our language, did
sound like it.
'Good evening's "How d' ye do?"--"How are ye?" Good night's "Be off, and
be blowed to you,"' observed an interpreter with a positive mind; and
another, whose intelligence was not so clear, but whose perceptions had
seized the point, exclaimed: 'I never says it when I hails a chap; but,
dash my buttons, if I mightn't 'a done, one day or another! Queer!'
The chairman, warmed by his joke, added, with a sharp wink: 'Ay; it would
be queer, if you hailed "Good night" in the middle of the day!' and this
among a company soaked in ripe ale, could not fail to run the electric
circle, and persuaded several to change their positions; in the rumble of
which, Evan's reply, if he had made any, was lost. Few, however, were
there who could think of him, and ponder on that glimpse of fun, at the
same time; and he would have been passed over, had not the chairman said:
'Take a seat, sir; make yourself comfortable.'
'Before I have that pleasure,' replied Evan, 'I--'
'I see where 'tis,' burst out the old boy who had previously superinduced
a diversion: 'he's going to ax if he can't have a bed!'
A roar of laughter, and 'Don't you remember this day last year?' followed
the cunning guess. For awhile explication was impossible; and Evan
coloured, and smiled, and waited for them.
'I was going to ask--'
'Said so!' shouted the old boy, gleefully.
'--one of the gentlemen who has engaged a bed-room to do me the extreme
favour to step aside with me, and allow me a moment's speech with him.'
Long faces were drawn, and odd stares were directed toward him, in reply.
'I see where 'tis'; the old boy thumped his knee. 'Ain't it now? Speak
up, sir! There's a lady in the case?'
'I may tell you thus much,' answered Evan, 'that it is an unfortunate
young woman, very ill, who needs rest and quiet.'
'Didn't I say so?' shouted the old boy.
But this time, though his jolly red jowl turned all round to demand a
confirmation, it was not generally considered that he had divined so
correctly. Between a lady and an unfortunate young woman, there seemed
to be a strong distinction, in the minds of the company.
The chairman was the most affected by the communication. His bushy
eyebrows frowned at Evan, and he began tugging at the brass buttons of
his coat, like one preparing to arm for a conflict.
'Speak out, sir, if you please,' he said. 'Above board--no asides--no
taking advantages. You want me to give up my bed-room for the use of
your young woman, sir?'
Evan replied quietly: 'She is a stranger to me; and if you could see her,
sir, and know her situation, I think she would move your pity.'
'I don't doubt it, sir--I don't doubt it,' returned the chairman. 'They
all move our pity. That's how they get over us. She has diddled you,
and she would diddle me, and diddle us all-diddle the devil, I dare say,
when her time comes. I don't doubt it, sir.'
To confront a vehement old gentleman, sitting as president in an assembly
of satellites, requires command of countenance, and Evan was not
browbeaten: he held him, and the whole room, from where he stood, under a
serene and serious eye, for his feelings were too deeply stirred on
behalf of the girl to let him think of himself. That question of hers,
'What are you going to do with me?' implying such helplessness and trust,
was still sharp on his nerves.
'Gentlemen,' he said, 'I humbly beg your pardon for disturbing you as I
But with a sudden idea that a general address on behalf of a particular
demand must necessarily fail, he let his eyes rest on one there, whose
face was neither stupid nor repellent, and who, though he did not look
up, had an attentive, thoughtful cast about the mouth.
'May I entreat a word apart with you, sir?'
Evan was not mistaken in the index he had perused. The gentleman seemed
to feel that he was selected from the company, and slightly raising his
head, carelessly replied: 'My bed is entirely at your disposal,' resuming
his contemplative pose.
On the point of thanking him, Evan advanced a step, when up started the
'I don't permit it! I won't allow it!' And before Evan could ask his
reasons, he had rung the bell, muttering: 'They follow us to our inns,
now, the baggages! They must harry us at our inns! We can't have peace
and quiet at our inns!--'
In a state of combustion, he cried out to the waiter:
'Here, Mark, this gentleman has brought in a dirty wench: pack her up to
my bed-room, and lock her in lock her in, and bring down the key.'
Agreeably deceived in the old gentleman's intentions, Evan could not
refrain from joining the murmured hilarity created by the conclusion of
his order. The latter glared at him, and added: 'Now, sir, you've done
your worst. Sit down, and be merry.'
Replying that he had a friend outside, and would not fail to accept the
invitation, Evan retired. He was met by the hostess with the reproachful
declaration on her lips, that she was a widow woman, wise in appearances,
and that he had brought into her house that night work she did not
expect, or bargain for. Rather (since I must speak truth of my
gentleman) to silence her on the subject, and save his ears, than to
propitiate her favour towards the girl, Evan drew out his
constitutionally lean purse, and dropped it in her hand, praying
her to put every expense incurred to his charge. She exclaimed:
'If Dr. Pillie has his full sleep this night, I shall be astonished'; and
Evan hastily led Jack into the passage to impart to him, that the extent
of his resources was reduced to the smallest of sums in shillings.
'I can beat my friend at that reckoning,' said Mr. Raikes; and they
entered the room.
Eyes were on him. This had ever the effect of causing him to swell to
monstrous proportions in the histrionic line. Asking the waiter
carelessly for some light supper dish, he suggested the various French,
with 'not that?' and the affable naming of another. 'Nor that? Dear me,
we shall have to sup on chops, I believe!'
Evan saw the chairman scrutinizing Raikes, much as he himself might have
done, and he said: 'Bread and cheese for me.'
Raikes exclaimed: 'Really? Well, my lord, you lead, and your taste is
A second waiter scudded past, and stopped before the chairman to say:
'If you please, sir, the gentlemen upstairs send their compliments, and
will be happy to accept.'
'Ha!' was the answer. 'Thought better of it, have they! Lay for three
more, then. Five more, I guess.' He glanced at the pair of intruders.
Among a portion of the guests there had been a return to common talk, and
one had observed that he could not get that 'Good Evening,' and 'Good
Night,' out of his head which had caused a friend to explain the meaning
of these terms of salutation to him: while another, of a philosophic
turn, pursued the theme: 'You see, when we meets, we makes a night of it.
So, when we parts, it's Good Night--natural! ain't it?' A proposition
assented to, and considerably dilated on; but whether he was laughing at
that, or what had aroused the fit, the chairman did not say.
Gentle chuckles had succeeded his laughter by the time the bread and
In the rear of the provision came three young gentlemen, of whom the
foremost lumped in, singing to one behind him, 'And you shall have little
They were clad in cricketing costume, and exhibited the health and
manners of youthful Englishmen of station. Frolicsome young bulls
bursting on an assemblage of sheep, they might be compared to. The
chairman welcomed them a trifle snubbingly. The colour mounted to the
cheeks of Mr. Raikes as he made incision in the cheese, under their eyes,
knitting his brows fearfully, as if at hard work.
The chairman entreated Evan to desist from the cheese; and, pulling out
his watch, thundered: 'Time!'
The company generally jumped on their legs; and, in the midst of a hum of
talk and laughter, he informed Evan and Jack, that he invited them
cordially to a supper up-stairs, and would be pleased if they would
partake of it, and in a great rage if they would not.
Raikes was for condescending to accept.
Evan sprang up and cried: 'Gladly, sir,' and gladly would he have cast
his cockney schoolmate to the winds, in the presence of these young
cricketers; for he had a prognostication.
The door was open, and the company of jolly yeomen, tradesmen, farmers,
and the like, had become intent on observing all the ceremonies of
precedence: not one would broaden his back on the other; and there was
bowing, and scraping, and grimacing, till Farmer Broadmead was hailed
aloud, and the old boy stepped forth, and was summarily pushed through:
the chairman calling from the rear, 'Hulloa! no names to-night!' to
which was answered lustily: 'All right, Mr. Tom!' and the speaker was
reproved with, 'There you go! at it again!' and out and up they hustled.
The chairman said quietly to Evan, as they were ascending the stairs:
'We don't have names to-night; may as well drop titles.' Which presented
no peculiar meaning to Evan's mind, and he smiled the usual smile.
To Raikes, at the door of the supper-room, the chairman repeated the
same; and with extreme affability and alacrity of abnegation, the other
rejoined, 'Oh, certainly!'
No wonder that he rubbed his hands with more delight than aristocrats and
people with gentlemanly connections are in the habit of betraying at the
prospect of refection, for the release from bread and cheese was rendered
overpoweringly glorious, in his eyes, by the bountiful contrast exhibited
on the board before him.
IN WHICH ALE IS SHOWN TO HAVE ONE QUALITY OF WINE
To proclaim that yon ribs of beef and yonder ruddy Britons have met, is
to furnish matter for an hour's comfortable meditation.
Digest the fact. Here the Fates have put their seal to something Nature
clearly devised. It was intended; and it has come to pass. A thing has
come to pass which we feel to be right! The machinery of the world,
then, is not entirely dislocated: there is harmony, on one point, among
the mysterious powers who have to do with us.
Apart from its eloquent and consoling philosophy, the picture is
pleasant. You see two rows of shoulders resolutely set for action: heads
in divers degrees of proximity to their plates: eyes variously twinkling,
or hypocritically composed: chaps in vigorous exercise. Now leans a
fellow right back with his whole face to the firmament: Ale is his
adoration. He sighs not till he sees the end of the mug. Now from one a
laugh is sprung; but, as if too early tapped, he turns off the cock, and
primes himself anew. Occupied by their own requirements, these Britons
allow that their neighbours have rights: no cursing at waste of time is
heard when plates have to be passed: disagreeable, it is still duty.
Field-Marshal Duty, the Briton's chief star, shines here. If one usurps
more than his allowance of elbow-room, bring your charge against them
that fashioned him: work away to arrive at some compass yourself.
Now the mustard ceases to travel, and the salt: the guests have leisure
to contemplate their achievements. Laughs are more prolonged, and come
from the depths.
Now Ale, which is to Beef what Eve was to Adam, threatens to take
possession of the field. Happy they who, following Nature's direction,
admitted not bright ale into their Paradise till their manhood was
strengthened with beef. Some, impatient, had thirsted; had satisfied
their thirst; and the ale, the light though lovely spirit, with nothing
to hold it down, had mounted to their heads; just as Eve will do when
Adam is not mature: just as she did--Alas!
Now, the ruins of the feast being removed, and a clear course left for
the flow of ale, Farmer Broadmead, facing the chairman, rises. He stands
in an attitude of midway. He speaks:
'Gentlemen! 'Taint fust time you and I be met here, to salbrate this
here occasion. I say, not fust time, not by many a time, 'taint. Well,
gentlemen, I ain't much of a speaker, gentlemen, as you know. Howsever,
here I be. No denyin' that. I'm on my legs. This here's a strange
enough world, and a man 's a gentleman, I say, we ought for to be glad
when we got 'm. You know: I'm coming to it shortly. I ain't much of a
speaker, and if you wants somethin' new, you must ax elsewhere: but what
I say is--Bang it! here's good health and long life to Mr. Tom, up
'No names !' shouts the chairman, in the midst of a tremendous clatter.
Farmer Broadmead moderately disengages his breadth from the seat. He
humbly axes pardon, which is accorded him with a blunt nod.
Ale (to Beef what Eve was to Adam) circulates beneath a dazzling foam,
fair as the first woman.
Mr. Tom (for the breach of the rules in mentioning whose name on a night
when identities are merged, we offer sincere apologies every other
minute), Mr. Tom is toasted. His parents, who selected that day sixty
years ago, for his bow to be made to the world, are alluded to with
encomiums, and float down to posterity on floods of liquid amber.
But to see all the subtle merits that now begin to bud out from Mr. Tom,
the chairman and giver of the feast; and also rightly to appreciate the
speeches, we require to be enormously charged with Ale. Mr. Raikes did
his best to keep his head above the surface of the rapid flood. He
conceived the chairman in brilliant colours, and probably owing to the
energy called for by his brain, the legs of the young man failed him
twice, as he tried them. Attention was demanded. Mr. Raikes addressed
The three young gentlemen-cricketers had hitherto behaved with a certain
propriety. It did not offend Mr. Raikes to see them conduct themselves
as if they were at a play, and the rest of the company paid actors. He
had likewise taken a position, and had been the first to laugh aloud at a
particular slip of grammar; while his shrugs at the aspirates transposed
and the pronunciation prevalent, had almost established a free-masonry
between him and one of the three young gentlemen-cricketers-a fair-haired
youth, with a handsome, reckless face, who leaned on the table,
humorously eyeing the several speakers, and exchanging by-words and
laughs with his friends on each side of him.
But Mr. Raikes had the disadvantage of having come to the table empty in
stomach--thirsty exceedingly; and, I repeat, that as, without experience,
you are the victim of divinely given Eve, so, with no foundation to
receive it upon, are you the victim of good sound Ale. He very soon lost
his head. He would otherwise have seen that he must produce a
wonderfully-telling speech if he was to keep the position he had taken,
and had better not attempt one. The three young cricketers were hostile
from the beginning. All of them leant forward, calling attention loudly
laughing for the fun to come.
'Gentlemen!' he said: and said it twice. The gap was wide, and he said,
This commencement of a speech proves that you have made the plunge, but
not that you can swim. At a repetition of 'Gentlemen!' expectancy
resolved into cynicism.
'Gie'n a help,' sang out a son of the plough to a neighbour of the
'Hang it!' murmured another, 'we ain't such gentlemen as that comes to.'
Mr. Raikes was politely requested to 'tune his pipe.'
With a gloomy curiosity as to the results of Jack's adventurous
undertaking, and a touch of anger at the three whose bearing throughout
had displeased him, Evan regarded his friend. He, too, had drunk, and
upon emptiness. Bright ale had mounted to his brain. A hero should be
held as sacred as the Grand Llama: so let no more be said than that he
drank still, nor marked the replenishing of his glass.
Raikes cleared his throat for a final assault: he had got an image, and
was dashing off; but, unhappily, as if to make the start seem fair, he
was guilty of his reiteration, 'Gentlemen.'
Everybody knew that it was a real start this time, and indeed he had made
an advance, and had run straight through half a sentence. It was
therefore manifestly unfair, inimical, contemptuous, overbearing, and
base, for one of the three young cricketers at this period to fling back
weariedly and exclaim: 'By the Lord; too many gentlemen here!'
Evan heard him across the table. Lacking the key of the speaker's
previous conduct, the words might have passed. As it was, they, to the
ale-invaded head of a young hero, feeling himself the world's equal, and
condemned nevertheless to bear through life the insignia of Tailordom,
not unnaturally struck with peculiar offence. There was arrogance, too,
in the young man who had interposed. He was long in the body, and, when
he was not refreshing his sight by a careless contemplation of his
finger-nails, looked down on his company at table, as one may do who
comes from loftier studies. He had what is popularly known as the nose
of our aristocracy: a nose that much culture of the external graces, and
affectation of suavity, are required to soften. Thereto were joined thin
lips and arched brows. Birth it was possible he could boast, hardly
brains. He sat to the right of the fair-haired youth, who, with his
remaining comrade, a quiet smiling fellow, appeared to be better liked by
the guests, and had been hailed once or twice, under correction of the
chairman, as Mr. Harry. The three had distinguished one there by a few
friendly passages; and this was he who had offered his bed to Evan for
the service of the girl. The recognition they extended to him did not
affect him deeply. He was called Drummond, and had his place near the
chairmen, whose humours he seemed to relish.
The ears of Mr. Raikes were less keen at the moment than Evan's, but his
openness to ridicule was that of a man on his legs solus, amid a company
sitting, and his sense of the same--when he saw himself the victim of it
--acute. His face was rather comic, and, under the shadow of
embarrassment, twitching and working for ideas--might excuse a want of
steadiness and absolute gravity in the countenances of others.
The chairman's neighbour, Drummond, whispered him 'Laxley will get up a
row with that fellow.'
'It 's young Jocelyn egging him on,' said the chairman.
'Um!' added Drummond: 'it's the friend of that talkative rascal that 's
dangerous, if it comes to anything.'
Mr. Raikes perceived that his host desired him to conclude. So, lifting
his voice and swinging his arm, he ended: 'Allow me to propose to you the
Fly in Amber. In other words, our excellent host embalmed in brilliant
ale! Drink him! and so let him live in our memories for ever!'
He sat down very well contented with himself, very little comprehended,
and applauded loudly.
'The Flyin' Number!' echoed Farmer Broadmead, confidently and with
clamour; adding to a friend, when both had drunk the toast to the dregs,
'But what number that be, or how many 'tis of 'em, dishes me! But that
's ne'ther here nor there.'
The chairman and host of the evening stood up to reply, welcomed by
thunders--'There ye be, Mr. Tom! glad I lives to see ye!' and ' No
names!' and 'Long life to him!'
This having subsided, the chairman spoke, first nodding. 'You don't want
many words, and if you do, you won't get 'em from me.'
Cries of 'Got something better!' took up the blunt address.
'You've been true to it, most of you. I like men not to forget a
'Good reason so to be,' and 'A jolly good custom,' replied to both
'As to the beef, I hope you didn't find it tough: as to the ale--I know
all about THAT!'
'Aha! good!' rang the verdict.
'All I can say is, that this day next year it will be on the table, and I
hope that every one of you will meet Tom--will meet me here punctually.
I'm not a Parliament man, so that 'll do.'
The chairman's breach of his own rules drowned the termination of his
speech in an uproar.
Re-seating himself, he lifted his glass, and proposed: