Part 3 out of 4
added the scribe, kindling, as one who should propose a
sentiment; 'and the attack was gross.'
Richard stood for half a minute digesting the answer; and
then the god of fair play came upper-most in his heart, and
murmuring 'Good morning,' he made his escape into the street.
His horse was not hurried on the way home, and he was late
for breakfast. The Squire was standing with his back to the
fire in a state bordering on apoplexy, his fingers violently
knitted under his coat tails. As Richard came in, he opened
and shut his mouth like a cod-fish, and his eyes protruded.
'Have you seen that, sir?' he cried, nodding towards the
'Yes, sir,' said Richard.
'Oh, you've read it, have you?'
'Yes, I have read it,' replied Richard, looking at his foot.
'Well,' demanded the old gentleman, 'and what have you to say
to it, sir?'
'You seem to have been misinformed,' said Dick.
'Well? What then? Is your mind so sterile, sir? Have you
not a word of comment? no proposal?'
'I fear, sir, you must apologise to Mr. Dalton. It would be
more handsome, indeed it would be only just, and a free
acknowledgment would go far - ' Richard paused, no language
appearing delicate enough to suit the case.
'That is a suggestion which should have come from me, sir,'
roared the father. 'It is out of place upon your lips. It
is not the thought of a loyal son. Why, sir, if my father
had been plunged in such deplorable circumstances, I should
have thrashed the editor of that vile sheet within an inch of
his life. I should have thrashed the man, sir. It would
have been the action of an ass; but it would have shown that
I had the blood and the natural affections of a man. Son?
You are no son, no son of mine, sir!'
'Sir!' said Dick.
'I'll tell you what you are, sir,' pursued the Squire.
'You're a Benthamite. I disown you. Your mother would have
died for shame; there was no modern cant about your mother;
she thought - she said to me, sir - I'm glad she's in her
grave, Dick Naseby. Misinformed! Misinformed, sir? Have
you no loyalty, no spring, no natural affections? Are you
clockwork, hey? Away! This is no place for you. Away!'
(waving his hands in the air). 'Go away! Leave me!'
At this moment Dick beat a retreat in a disarray of nerves, a
whistling and clamour of his own arteries, and in short in
such a final bodily disorder as made him alike incapable of
speech or hearing. And in the midst of all this turmoil, a
sense of unpardonable injustice remained graven in his
CHAPTER III - IN THE ADMIRAL'S NAME
THERE was no return to the subject. Dick and his father were
henceforth on terms of coldness. The upright old gentleman
grew more upright when he met his son, buckrammed with
immortal anger; he asked after Dick's health, and discussed
the weather and the crops with an appalling courtesy; his
pronunciation was POINT-DE-VICE, his voice was distant,
distinct, and sometimes almost trembling with suppressed
As for Dick, it seemed to him as if his life had come
abruptly to an end. He came out of his theories and
clevernesses; his premature man-of-the-worldness, on which he
had prided himself on his travels, 'shrank like a thing
ashamed' before this real sorrow. Pride, wounded honour,
pity and respect tussled together daily in his heart; and now
he was within an ace of throwing himself upon his father's
mercy, and now of slipping forth at night and coming back no
more to Naseby House. He suffered from the sight of his
father, nay, even from the neighbourhood of this familiar
valley, where every corner had its legend, and he was
besieged with memories of childhood. If he fled into a new
land, and among none but strangers, he might escape his
destiny, who knew? and begin again light-heartedly. From
that chief peak of the hills, that now and then, like an
uplifted finger, shone in an arrow of sunlight through the
broken clouds, the shepherd in clear weather might perceive
the shining of the sea. There, he thought, was hope. But
his heart failed him when he saw the Squire; and he remained.
His fate was not that of the voyager by sea and land; he was
to travel in the spirit, and begin his journey sooner than he
For it chanced one day that his walk led him into a portion
of the uplands which was almost unknown to him. Scrambling
through some rough woods, he came out upon a moorland
reaching towards the hills. A few lofty Scotch firs grew
hard by upon a knoll; a clear fountain near the foot of the
knoll sent up a miniature streamlet which meandered in the
heather. A shower had just skimmed by, but now the sun shone
brightly, and the air smelt of the pines and the grass. On a
stone under the trees sat a young lady sketching. We have
learned to think of women in a sort of symbolic
transfiguration, based on clothes; and one of the readiest
ways in which we conceive our mistress is as a composite
thing, principally petticoats. But humanity has triumphed
over clothes; the look, the touch of a dress has become
alive; and the woman who stitched herself into these material
integuments has now permeated right through and gone out to
the tip of her skirt. It was only a black dress that caught
Dick Naseby's eye; but it took possession of his mind, and
all other thoughts departed. He drew near, and the girl
turned round. Her face startled him; it was a face he
wanted; and he took it in at once like breathing air.
'I beg your pardon,' he said, taking off his hat, 'you are
'Oh!' she exclaimed, 'for my own amusement. I despise the
'Ten to one, you do yourself injustice,' returned Dick.
'Besides, it's a freemasonry. I sketch myself, and you know
what that implies.'
'No. What?' she asked.
'Two things,' he answered. 'First, that I am no very
difficult critic; and second, that I have a right to see your
She covered the block with both her hands. 'Oh no,' she
said; 'I am ashamed.'
'Indeed, I might give you a hint,' said Dick. 'Although no
artist myself, I have known many; in Paris I had many for
friends, and used to prowl among studios.'
'In Paris?' she cried, with a leap of light into her eyes.
'Did you ever meet Mr. Van Tromp?'
'I? Yes. Why, you're not the Admiral's daughter, are you?'
'The Admiral? Do they call him that?' she cried. 'Oh, how
nice, how nice of them! It is the younger men who call him
so, is it not?'
'Yes,' said Dick, somewhat heavily.
'You can understand now,' she said, with an unspeakable
accent of contented noble-minded pride, 'why it is I do not
choose to show my sketch. Van Tromp's daughter! The
Admiral's daughter! I delight in that name. The Admiral!
And so you know my father?'
'Well,' said Dick, 'I met him often; we were even intimate.
He may have mentioned my name - Naseby.'
'He writes so little. He is so busy, so devoted to his art!
I have had a half wish,' she added laughing, 'that my father
was a plainer man, whom I could help - to whom I could be a
credit; but only sometimes, you know, and with only half my
heart. For a great painter! You have seen his works?'
'I have seen some of them,' returned Dick; 'they - they are
She laughed aloud. 'Nice?' she repeated. 'I see you don't
care much for art.'
'Not much,' he admitted; 'but I know that many people are
glad to buy Mr. Van Tromp's pictures.'
'Call him the Admiral!' she cried. 'It sounds kindly and
familiar; and I like to think that he is appreciated and
looked up to by young painters. He has not always been
appreciated; he had a cruel life for many years; and when I
think' - there were tears in her eyes - 'when I think of
that, I feel incline to be a fool,' she broke off. 'And now
I shall go home. You have filled me full of happiness; for
think, Mr. Naseby, I have not seen my father since I was six
years old; and yet he is in my thoughts all day! You must
come and call on me; my aunt will be delighted, I am sure;
and then you will tell me all - all about my father, will you
Dick helped her to get her sketching traps together; and when
all was ready, she gave Dick her hand and a frank return of
'You are my father's friend,' she said; 'we shall be great
friends too. You must come and see me soon.'
Then she was gone down the hillside at a run; and Dick stood
by himself in a state of some bewilderment and even distress.
There were elements of laughter in the business; but the
black dress, and the face that belonged to it, and the hand
that he had held in his, inclined him to a serious view.
What was he, under the circumstances, called upon to do?
Perhaps to avoid the girl? Well, he would think about that.
Perhaps to break the truth to her? Why, ten to one, such was
her infatuation, he would fail. Perhaps to keep up the
illusion, to colour the raw facts; to help her to false
ideas, while yet not plainly stating falsehoods? Well, he
would see about that; he would also see about avoiding the
girl. He saw about this last so well, that the next
afternoon beheld him on his way to visit her.
In the meantime the girl had gone straight home, light as a
bird, tremulous with joy, to the little cottage where she
lived alone with a maiden aunt; and to that lady, a grim,
sixty years old Scotchwoman, with a nodding head,
communicated news of her encounter and invitation.
'A friend of his?' cried the aunt. 'What like is he? What
did ye say was his name?'
She was dead silent, and stared at the old woman darkling.
Then very slowly, 'I said he was my father's friend; I have
invited him to my house, and come he shall,' she said; and
with that she walked off to her room, where she sat staring
at the wall all the evening. Miss M'Glashan, for that was
the aunt's name, read a large bible in the kitchen with some
of the joys of martyrdom.
It was perhaps half-past three when Dick presented himself,
rather scrupulously dressed, before the cottage door; he
knocked, and a voice bade him enter. The kitchen, which
opened directly off the garden, was somewhat darkened by
foliage; but he could see her as she approached from the far
end to meet him. This second sight of her surprised him.
Her strong black brows spoke of temper easily aroused and
hard to quiet; her mouth was small, nervous and weak; there
was something dangerous and sulky underlying, in her nature,
much that was honest, compassionate, and even noble.
'My father's name,' she said, 'has made you very welcome.'
And she gave him her hand, with a sort of curtsy. It was a
pretty greeting, although somewhat mannered; and Dick felt
himself among the gods. She led him through the kitchen to a
parlour, and presented him to Miss M'Glashan.
'Esther,' said the aunt, 'see and make Mr. Naseby his tea.'
And as soon as the girl was gone upon this hospitable intent,
the old woman crossed the room and came quite near to Dick as
if in menace.
'Ye know that man?' she asked in an imperious whisper.
'Mr. Van Tromp?' said Dick. 'Yes, I know him.'
'Well, and what brings ye here?' she said. 'I couldn't save
the mother - her that's dead - but the bairn!' She had a
note in her voice that filled poor Dick with consternation.
'Man,' she went on, 'what is it now? Is it money?'
'My dear lady,' said Dick, 'I think you misinterpret my
position. I am young Mr. Naseby of Naseby House. My
acquaintance with Mr. Van Tromp is really very slender; I am
only afraid that Miss Van Tromp has exaggerated our intimacy
in her own imagination. I know positively nothing of his
private affairs, and do not care to know. I met him casually
in Paris - that is all.'
Miss M'Glashan drew along breath. 'In Paris?' she said.
'Well, and what do you think of him? - what do ye think of
him?' she repeated, with a different scansion, as Richard,
who had not much taste for such a question, kept her waiting
for an answer.
'I found him a very agreeable companion,' he said.
'Ay,' said she, 'did ye! And how does he win his bread?'
'I fancy,' he gasped, 'that Mr. Van Tromp has many generous
'I'll warrant!' she sneered; and before Dick could find more
to say, she was gone from the room.
Esther returned with the tea-things, and sat down.
'Now,' she said cosily, 'tell me all about my father.'
'He' - stammered Dick, 'he is a very agreeable companion.'
'I shall begin to think it is more than you are, Mr. Naseby,'
she said, with a laugh. 'I am his daughter, you forget.
Begin at the beginning, and tell me all you have seen of him,
all he said and all you answered. You must have met
somewhere; begin with that.'
So with that he began: how he had found the Admiral painting
in a cafe; how his art so possessed him that he could not
wait till he got home to - well, to dash off his idea; how
(this in reply to a question) his idea consisted of a cock
crowing and two hens eating corn; how he was fond of cocks
and hens; how this did not lead him to neglect more ambitious
forms of art; how he had a picture in his studio of a Greek
subject which was said to be remarkable from several points
of view; how no one had seen it nor knew the precise site of
the studio in which it was being vigorously though secretly
confected; how (in answer to a suggestion) this shyness was
common to the Admiral, Michelangelo, and others; how they
(Dick and Van Tromp) had struck up an acquaintance at once,
and dined together that same night; how he (the Admiral) had
once given money to a beggar; how he spoke with effusion of
his little daughter; how he had once borrowed money to send
her a doll - a trait worthy of Newton, she being then in her
nineteenth year at least; how, if the doll never arrived
(which it appeared it never did), the trait was only more
characteristic of the highest order of creative intellect;
how he was - no, not beautiful - striking, yes, Dick would go
so far, decidedly striking in appearance; how his boots were
made to lace and his coat was black, not cut-away, a frock;
and so on, and so on by the yard. It was astonishing how few
lies were necessary. After all, people exaggerated the
difficulty of life. A little steering, just a touch of the
rudder now and then, and with a willing listener there is no
limit to the domain of equivocal speech. Sometimes Miss
M'Glashan made a freezing sojourn in the parlour; and then
the task seemed unaccountably more difficult; but to Esther,
who was all eyes and ears, her face alight with interest, his
stream of language flowed without break or stumble, and his
mind was ever fertile in ingenious evasions and -
What an afternoon it was for Esther!
'Ah!' she said at last, 'it's good to hear all this! My
aunt, you should know, is narrow and too religious; she
cannot understand an artist's life. It does not frighten
me,' she added grandly; 'I am an artist's daughter.'
With that speech, Dick consoled himself for his imposture;
she was not deceived so grossly after all; and then if a
fraud, was not the fraud piety itself? - and what could be
more obligatory than to keep alive in the heart of a daughter
that filial trust and honour which, even although misplaced,
became her like a jewel of the mind? There might be another
thought, a shade of cowardice, a selfish desire to please;
poor Dick was merely human; and what would you have had him
CHAPTER IV - ESTHER ON THE FILIAL RELATION
A MONTH later Dick and Esther met at the stile beside the
cross roads; had there been any one to see them but the birds
and summer insects, it would have been remarked that they met
after a different fashion from the day before. Dick took her
in his arms, and their lips were set together for a long
while. Then he held her at arm's-length, and they looked
straight into each other's eyes.
'Esther!' he said; you should have heard his voice!
'Dick!' said she.
It was some time before they started for their walk; he kept
an arm about her, and their sides were close together as they
walked; the sun, the birds, the west wind running among the
trees, a pressure, a look, the grasp tightening round a
single finger, these things stood them in lieu of thought and
filled their hearts with joy. The path they were following
led them through a wood of pine-trees carpeted with heather
and blue-berry, and upon this pleasant carpet, Dick, not
without some seriousness, made her sit down.
'Esther!' he began, 'there is something you ought to know.
You know my father is a rich man, and you would think, now
that we love each other, we might marry when we pleased. But
I fear, darling, we may have long to wait, and shall want all
'I have courage for anything,' she said, 'I have all I want;
with you and my father, I am so well off, and waiting is made
so happy, that I could wait a lifetime and not weary.'
He had a sharp pang at the mention of the Admiral. 'Hear me
out,' he continued. 'I ought to have told you this before;
but it is a thought I shrink from; if it were possible, I
should not tell you even now. My poor father and I are
scarce on speaking terms.'
'Your father,' she repeated, turning pale.
'It must sound strange to you; but yet I cannot think I am to
blame,' he said. 'I will tell you how it happened.'
'Oh Dick!' she said, when she had heard him to an end, 'how
brave you are, and how proud. Yet I would not be proud with
a father. I would tell him all.'
'What!' cried Dick, 'go in months after, and brag that I had
meant to thrash the man, and then didn't. And why? Because
my father had made a bigger ass of himself than I supposed.
My dear, that's nonsense.'
She winced at his words and drew away. 'But when that is all
he asks,' she pleaded. 'If he only knew that you had felt
that impulse, it would make him so proud and happy. He would
see you were his own son after all, and had the same thoughts
and the same chivalry of spirit. And then you did yourself
injustice when you spoke just now. It was because the editor
was weak and poor and excused himself, that you repented your
first determination. Had he been a big red man, with
whiskers, you would have beaten him - you know you would - if
Mr. Naseby had been ten times more committed. Do you think,
if you can tell it to me, and I understand at once, that it
would be more difficult to tell it to your own father, or
that he would not be more ready to sympathise with you than I
am? And I love you, Dick; but then he is your father.'
'My dear,' said Dick, desperately, 'you do not understand;
you do not know what it is to be treated with daily want of
comprehension and daily small injustices, through childhood
and boyhood and manhood, until you despair of a hearing,
until the thing rides you like a nightmare, until you almost
hate the sight of the man you love, and who's your father
after all. In short, Esther, you don't know what it is to
have a father, and that's what blinds you.'
'I see,' she said musingly, 'you mean that I am fortunate in
my father. But I am not so fortunate after all; you forget,
I do not know him; it is you who know him; he is already more
your father than mine.' And here she took his hand. Dick's
heart had grown as cold as ice. 'But I am sorry for you,
too,' she continued, 'it must be very sad and lonely.'
'You misunderstand me,' said Dick, chokingly. 'My father is
the best man I know in all this world; he is worth a hundred
of me, only he doesn't understand me, and he can't be made
There was a silence for a while. 'Dick,' she began again, 'I
am going to ask a favour, it's the first since you said you
loved me. May I see your father - see him pass, I mean,
where he will not observe me?'
'Why?' asked Dick.
'It is a fancy; you forget, I am romantic about fathers.'
The hint was enough for Dick; he consented with haste, and
full of hang-dog penitence and disgust, took her down by a
backway and planted her in the shrubbery, whence she might
see the Squire ride by to dinner. There they both sat
silent, but holding hands, for nearly half an hour. At last
the trotting of a horse sounded in the distance, the park
gates opened with a clang, and then Mr. Naseby appeared, with
stooping shoulders and a heavy, bilious countenance,
languidly rising to the trot. Esther recognised him at once;
she had often seen him before, though with her huge
indifference for all that lay outside the circle of her love,
she had never so much as wondered who he was; but now she
recognised him, and found him ten years older, leaden and
springless, and stamped by an abiding sorrow.
'Oh Dick, Dick!' she said, and the tears began to shine upon
her face as she hid it in his bosom; his own fell thickly
too. They had a sad walk home, and that night, full of love
and good counsel, Dick exerted every art to please his
father, to convince him of his respect and affection, to heal
up this breach of kindness, and reunite two hearts. But
alas! the Squire was sick and peevish; he had been all day
glooming over Dick's estrangement - for so he put it to
himself, and now with growls, cold words, and the cold
shoulder, he beat off all advances, and entrenched himself in
a just resentment.
CHAPTER V - THE PRODIGAL FATHER MAKES HIS DEBUT AT HOME
THAT took place upon a Tuesday. On the Thursday following,
as Dick was walking by appointment, earlier than usual, in
the direction of the cottage, he was appalled to meet in the
lane a fly from Thymebury, containing the human form of Miss
M'Glashan. The lady did not deign to remark him in her
passage; her face was suffused with tears, and expressed much
concern for the packages by which she was surrounded. He
stood still, and asked himself what this circumstance might
portend. It was so beautiful a day that he was loth to
forecast evil, yet something must perforce have happened at
the cottage, and that of a decisive nature; for here was Miss
M'Glashan on her travels, with a small patrimony in brown
paper parcels, and the old lady's bearing implied hot battle
and unqualified defeat. Was the house to be closed against
him? Was Esther left alone, or had some new protector made
his appearance from among the millions of Europe? It is the
character of love to loathe the near relatives of the loved
one; chapters in the history of the human race have justified
this feeling, and the conduct of uncles, in particular, has
frequently met with censure from the independent novelist.
Miss M'Glashan was now seen in the rosy colours of regret;
whoever succeeded her, Dick felt the change would be for the
worse. He hurried forward in this spirit; his anxiety grew
upon him with every step; as he entered the garden a voice
fell upon his ear, and he was once more arrested, not this
time by doubt, but by indubitable certainty of ill.
The thunderbolt had fallen; the Admiral was here.
Dick would have retreated, in the panic terror of the moment;
but Esther kept a bright look-out when her lover was
expected. In a twinkling she was by his side, brimful of
news and pleasure, too glad to notice his embarrassment, and
in one of those golden transports of exultation which
transcend not only words but caresses. She took him by the
end of the fingers (reaching forward to take them, for her
great preoccupation was to save time), she drew him towards
her, pushed him past her in the door, and planted him face to
face with Mr. Van Tromp, in a suit of French country
velveteens and with a remarkable carbuncle on his nose.
Then, as though this was the end of what she could endure in
the way of joy, Esther turned and ran out of the room.
The two men remained looking at each other with some
confusion on both sides. Van Tromp was naturally the first
to recover; he put out his hand with a fine gesture.
'And you know my little lass, my Esther?' he said. 'This is
pleasant; this is what I have conceived of home. A strange
word for the old rover; but we all have a taste for home and
the home-like, disguise it how we may. It has brought me
here, Mr. Naseby,' he concluded, with an intonation that
would have made his fortune on the stage, so just, so sad, so
dignified, so like a man of the world and a philosopher, 'and
you see a man who is content.'
'I see,' said Dick.
'Sit down,' continued the parasite, setting the example.
'Fortune has gone against me. (I am just sirrupping a little
brandy - after my journey.) I was going down, Mr. Naseby;
between you and me, I was DECAVE; I borrowed fifty francs,
smuggled my valise past the concierge - a work of
considerable tact - and here I am!'
'Yes,' said Dick; 'and here you are.' He was quite idiotic.
Esther, at this moment, re-entered the room.
'Are you glad to see him?' she whispered in his ear, the
pleasure in her voice almost bursting through the whisper
'Oh yes,' said Dick, 'very.'
'I knew you would be,' she replied; 'I told him how you loved
'Help yourself,' said the Admiral, 'help yourself; and let us
drink to a new existence.'
'To a new existence,' repeated Dick; and he raised the
tumbler to his lips, but set it down untasted. He had had
enough of novelties for one day.
Esther was sitting on a stool beside her father's feet,
holding her knees in her arms, and looking with pride from
one to the other of her two visitors. Her eyes were so
bright that you were never sure if there were tears in them
or not; little voluptuous shivers ran about her body;
sometimes she nestled her chin into her throat, sometimes
threw back her head, with ecstasy; in a word, she was in that
state when it is said of people that they cannot contain
themselves for happiness. It would be hard to exaggerate the
agony of Richard.
And, in the meantime, Van Tromp ran on interminably.
'I never forget a friend,' said he, 'nor yet an enemy: of the
latter, I never had but two - myself and the public; and I
fancy I have had my vengeance pretty freely out of both.' He
chuckled. 'But those days are done. Van Tromp is no more.
He was a man who had successes; I believe you knew I had
successes - to which we shall refer no farther,' pulling down
his neckcloth with a smile. 'That man exists no more: by an
exercise of will I have destroyed him. There is something
like it in the poets. First, a brilliant and conspicuous
career - the observed, I may say, of all observers, including
the bum-bailie: and then, presto! a quiet, sly, old, rustic
BONHOMME, cultivating roses. In Paris, Mr. Naseby - '
'Call him Richard, father,' said Esther.
'Richard, if he will allow me. Indeed, we are old friends,
and now near neighbours; and, A PROPOS, how are we off for
neighbours, Richard? The cottage stands, I think, upon your
father's land - a family which I respect - and the wood, I
understand, is Lord Trevanion's. Not that I care; I am an
old Bohemian. I have cut society with a cut direct; I cut it
when I was prosperous, and now I reap my reward, and can cut
it with dignity in my declension. These are our little
AMOURS PROPRES, my daughter: your father must respect
himself. Thank you, yes; just a leetle, leetle, tiny -
thanks, thanks; you spoil me. But, as I was saying, Richard,
or was about to say, my daughter has been allowed to rust;
her aunt was a mere duenna; hence, in parenthesis, Richard,
her distrust of me; my nature and that of the duenna are
poles asunder - poles! But, now that I am here, now that I
have given up the fight, and live henceforth for one only of
my works - I have the modesty to say it is my best - my
daughter - well, we shall put all that to rights. The
Dick was understood to say that there were many good families
in the Vale of Thyme.
'You shall introduce us,' said the Admiral.
Dick's shirt was wet; he made a lumbering excuse to go; which
Esther explained to herself by a fear of intrusion, and so
set down to the merit side of Dick's account, while she
proceeded to detain him.
'Before our walk?' she cried. 'Never! I must have my walk.'
'Let us all go,' said the Admiral, rising.
'You do not know that you are wanted,' she cried, leaning on
his shoulder with a caress. 'I might wish to speak to my old
friend about my new father. But you shall come to-day, you
shall do all you want; I have set my heart on spoiling you.'
'I will just take ONE drop more,' said the Admiral, stooping
to help himself to brandy. 'It is surprising how this
journey has fatigued me. But I am growing old, I am growing
old, I am growing old, and - I regret to add - bald.'
He cocked a white wide-awake coquettishly upon his head - the
habit of the lady-killer clung to him; and Esther had already
thrown on her hat, and was ready, while he was still studying
the result in a mirror: the carbuncle had somewhat painfully
arrested his attention.
'We are papa now; we must be respectable,' he said to Dick,
in explanation of his dandyism: and then he went to a bundle
and chose himself a staff. Where were the elegant canes of
his Parisian epoch? This was a support for age, and designed
for rustic scenes. Dick began to see and appreciate the
man's enjoyment in a new part, when he saw how carefully he
had 'made it up.' He had invented a gait for this first
country stroll with his daughter, which was admirably in key.
He walked with fatigue, he leaned upon the staff; he looked
round him with a sad, smiling sympathy on all that he beheld;
he even asked the name of a plant, and rallied himself gently
for an old town bird, ignorant of nature. 'This country life
will make me young again,' he sighed. They reached the top
of the hill towards the first hour of evening; the sun was
descending heaven, the colour had all drawn into the west;
the hills were modelled in their least contour by the soft,
slanting shine; and the wide moorlands, veined with glens and
hazelwoods, ran west and north in a hazy glory of light.
Then the painter wakened in Van Tromp.
'Gad, Dick,' he cried, 'what value!'
An ode in four hundred lines would not have seemed so
touching to Esther; her eyes filled with happy tears; yes,
here was the father of whom she had dreamed, whom Dick had
described; simple, enthusiastic, unworldly, kind, a painter
at heart, and a fine gentleman in manner.
And just then the Admiral perceived a house by the wayside,
and something depending over the house door which might be
construed as a sign by the hopeful and thirsty.
'Is that,' he asked, pointing with his stick, 'an inn?'
There was a marked change in his voice, as though he attached
importance to the inquiry: Esther listened, hoping she should
hear wit or wisdom.
Dick said it was.
'You know it?' inquired the Admiral.
'I have passed it a hundred times, but that is all,' replied
'Ah,' said Van Tromp, with a smile, and shaking his head;
'you are not an old campaigner; you have the world to learn.
Now I, you see, find an inn so very near my own home, and my
first thought is my neighbours. I shall go forward and make
my neighbours' acquaintance; no, you needn't come; I shall
not be a moment.'
And he walked off briskly towards the inn, leaving Dick alone
with Esther on the road.
'Dick,' she exclaimed, 'I am so glad to get a word with you;
I am so happy, I have such a thousand things to say; and I
want you to do me a favour. Imagine, he has come without a
paint-box, without an easel; and I want him to have all. I
want you to get them for me in Thymebury. You saw, this
moment, how his heart turned to painting. They can't live
without it,' she added; meaning perhaps Van Tromp and Michel
Up to that moment, she had observed nothing amiss in Dick's
behaviour. She was too happy to be curious; and his silence,
in presence of the great and good being whom she called her
father, had seemed both natural and praiseworthy. But now
that they were alone, she became conscious of a barrier
between her lover and herself, and alarm sprang up in her
'Dick,' she cried, 'you don't love me.'
'I do that,' he said heartily.
'But you are unhappy; you are strange; you - you are not glad
to see my father,' she concluded, with a break in her voice.
'Esther,' he said, 'I tell you that I love you; if you love
me, you know what that means, and that all I wish is to see
you happy. Do you think I cannot enjoy your pleasures?
Esther, I do. If I am uneasy, if I am alarmed, if - . Oh,
believe me, try and believe in me,' he cried, giving up
argument with perhaps a happy inspiration.
But the girl's suspicions were aroused; and though she
pressed the matter no farther (indeed, her father was already
seen returning), it by no means left her thoughts. At one
moment she simply resented the selfishness of a man who had
obtruded his dark looks and passionate language on her joy;
for there is nothing that a woman can less easily forgive
than the language of a passion which, even if only for the
moment, she does not share. At another, she suspected him of
jealousy against her father; and for that, although she could
see excuses for it, she yet despised him. And at least, in
one way or the other, here was the dangerous beginning of a
separation between two hearts. Esther found herself at
variance with her sweetest friend; she could no longer look
into his heart and find it written with the same language as
her own; she could no longer think of him as the sun which
radiated happiness upon her life, for she had turned to him
once, and he had breathed upon her black and chilly, radiated
blackness and frost. To put the whole matter in a word, she
was beginning, although ever so slightly, to fall out of
CHAPTER VI - THE PRODIGAL FATHER GOES ON FROM STRENGTH TO
WE will not follow all the steps of the Admiral's return and
installation, but hurry forward towards the catastrophe,
merely chronicling by the way a few salient incidents,
wherein we must rely entirely upon the evidence of Richard,
for Esther to this day has never opened her mouth upon this
trying passage of her life, and as for the Admiral - well,
that naval officer, although still alive, and now more
suitably installed in a seaport town where he has a telescope
and a flag in his front garden, is incapable of throwing the
slightest gleam of light upon the affair. Often and often
has he remarked to the present writer: 'If I know what it was
all about, sir, I'll be - ' in short, be what I hope he will
not. And then he will look across at his daughter's
portrait, a photograph, shake his head with an amused
appearance, and mix himself another grog by way of
consolation. Once I heard him go farther, and express his
feelings with regard to Esther in a single but eloquent word.
'A minx, sir,' he said, not in anger, rather in amusement:
and he cordially drank her health upon the back of it. His
worst enemy must admit him to be a man without malice; he
never bore a grudge in his life, lacking the necessary taste
and industry of attention.
Yet it was during this obscure period that the drama was
really performed; and its scene was in the heart of Esther,
shut away from all eyes. Had this warm, upright, sullen girl
been differently used by destiny, had events come upon her
even in a different succession, for some things lead easily
to others, the whole course of this tale would have been
changed, and Esther never would have run away. As it was,
through a series of acts and words of which we know but few,
and a series of thoughts which any one may imagine for
himself, she was awakened in four days from the dream of a
The first tangible cause of disenchantment was when Dick
brought home a painter's arsenal on Friday evening. The
Admiral was in the chimney-corner, once more 'sirrupping'
some brandy and water, and Esther sat at the table at work.
They both came forward to greet the new arrival; and the
girl, relieving him of his monstrous burthen, proceeded to
display her offerings to her father. Van Tromp's countenance
fell several degrees; he became quite querulous.
'God bless me,' he said; and then, 'I must really ask you not
to interfere, child,' in a tone of undisguised hostility.
'Father,' she said, 'forgive me; I knew you had given up your
art - '
'Oh yes!' cried the Admiral; 'I've done with it to the
'Pardon me again,' she said firmly, 'but I do not, I cannot
think that you are right in this. Suppose the world is
unjust, suppose that no one understands you, you have still a
duty to yourself. And, oh, don't spoil the pleasure of your
coming home to me; show me that you can be my father and yet
not neglect your destiny. I am not like some daughters; I
will not be jealous of your art, and I will try to understand
The situation was odiously farcical. Richard groaned under
it; he longed to leap forward and denounce the humbug. And
the humbug himself? Do you fancy he was easier in his mind?
I am sure, on the other hand, that he was acutely miserable;
and he betrayed his sufferings by a perfectly silly and
undignified access of temper, during which he broke his pipe
in several pieces, threw his brandy and water in the fire,
and employed words which were very plain although the drift
of them was somewhat vague. It was of very brief duration.
Van Tromp was himself again, and in a most delightful humour
within three minutes of the first explosion.
'I am an old fool,' he said frankly. 'I was spoiled when a
child. As for you, Esther, you take after your mother; you
have a morbid sense of duty, particularly for others; strive
against it, my dear - strive against it. And as for the
pigments, well, I'll use them, some of these days; and to
show that I'm in earnest, I'll get Dick here to prepare a
Dick was put to this menial task forthwith, the Admiral not
even watching how he did, but quite occupied with another
grog and a pleasant vein of talk.
A little after Esther arose, and making some pretext, good or
bad, went off to bed. Dick was left hobbled by the canvas,
and was subjected to Van Tromp for about an hour.
The next day, Saturday, it is believed that little
intercourse took place between Esther and her father; but
towards the afternoon Dick met the latter returning from the
direction of the inn, where he had struck up quite a
friendship with the landlord. Dick wondered who paid for
these excursions, and at the thought that the reprobate must
get his pocket money where he got his board and lodging, from
poor Esther's generosity, he had it almost in his heart to
knock the old gentleman down. He, on his part, was full of
airs and graces and geniality.
'Dear Dick,' he said, taking his arm, 'this is neighbourly of
you; it shows your tact to meet me when I had a wish for you.
I am in pleasant spirits; and it is then that I desire a
'I am glad to hear you are so happy,' retorted Dick bitterly.
'There's certainly not much to trouble YOU.'
'No,' assented the Admiral, 'not much. I got out of it in
time; and here - well, here everything pleases me. I am
plain in my tastes. 'A PROPOS, you have never asked me how I
liked my daughter?'
'No,' said Dick roundly; 'I certainly have not.'
'Meaning you will not. And why, Dick? She is my daughter,
of course; but then I am a man of the world and a man of
taste, and perfectly qualified to give an opinion with
impartiality - yes, Dick, with impartiality. Frankly, I am
not disappointed in her. She has good looks; she has them
from her mother. So I may say I CHOSE her looks. She is
devoted, quite devoted to me - '
'She is the best woman in the world!' broke out Dick.
'Dick,' cried the Admiral, stopping short; 'I have been
expecting this. Let us - let us go back to the "Trevanion
Arms" and talk this matter out over a bottle.'
'Certainly not,' went Dick. 'You have had far too much
The parasite was on the point of resenting this; but a look
at Dick's face, and some recollection of the terms on which
they had stood in Paris, came to the aid of his wisdom and
'As you please,' he said; 'although I don't know what you
mean - nor care. But let us walk, if you prefer it. You are
still a young man; when you are my age - But, however, to
continue. You please me, Dick; you have pleased me from the
first; and to say truth, Esther is a trifle fantastic, and
will be better when she is married. She has means of her
own, as of course you are aware. They come, like the looks,
from her poor, dear, good creature of a mother. She was
blessed in her mother. I mean she shall be blessed in her
husband, and you are the man, Dick, you and not another.
This very night I will sound her affections.'
Dick stood aghast.
'Mr. Van Tromp, I implore you,' he said; 'do what you please
with yourself, but, for God's sake, let your daughter alone.'
'It is my duty,' replied the Admiral, 'and between ourselves,
you rogue, my inclination too. I am as matchmaking as a
dowager. It will be more discreet for you to stay away to-
night. Farewell. You leave your case in good hands; I have
the tact of these little matters by heart; it is not my first
All arguments were in vain; the old rascal stuck to his
point; nor did Richard conceal from himself how seriously
this might injure his prospects, and he fought hard. Once
there came a glimmer of hope. The Admiral again proposed an
adjournment to the 'Trevanion Arms,' and when Dick had once
more refused, it hung for a moment in the balance whether or
not the old toper would return there by himself. Had he done
so, of course Dick could have taken to his heels, and warned
Esther of what was coming, and of how it had begun. But the
Admiral, after a pause, decided for the brandy at home, and
made off in that direction.
We have no details of the sounding.
Next day the Admiral was observed in the parish church, very
properly dressed. He found the places, and joined in
response and hymn, as to the manner born; and his appearance,
as he intended it should, attracted some attention among the
worshippers. Old Naseby, for instance, had observed him.
'There was a drunken-looking blackguard opposite us in
church,' he said to his son as they drove home; 'do you know
who he was?'
'Some fellow - Van Tromp, I believe,' said Dick.
'A foreigner, too!' observed the Squire.
Dick could not sufficiently congratulate himself on the
escape he had effected. Had the Admiral met him with his
father, what would have been the result? And could such a
catastrophe be long postponed? It seemed to him as if the
storm were nearly ripe; and it was so more nearly than he
He did not go to the cottage in the afternoon, withheld by
fear and shame; but when dinner was over at Naseby House, and
the Squire had gone off into a comfortable doze, Dick slipped
out of the room, and ran across country, in part to save
time, in part to save his own courage from growing cold; for
he now hated the notion of the cottage or the Admiral, and if
he did not hate, at least feared to think of Esther. He had
no clue to her reflections; but he could not conceal from his
own heart that he must have sunk in her esteem, and the
spectacle of her infatuation galled him like an insult.
He knocked and was admitted. The room looked very much as on
his last visit, with Esther at the table and Van Tromp beside
the fire; but the expression of the two faces told a very
different story. The girl was paler than usual; her eyes
were dark, the colour seemed to have faded from round about
them, and her swiftest glance was as intent as a stare. The
appearance of the Admiral, on the other hand, was rosy, and
flabby, and moist; his jowl hung over his shirt collar, his
smile was loose and wandering, and he had so far relaxed the
natural control of his eyes, that one of them was aimed
inward, as if to watch the growth of the carbuncle. We are
warned against bad judgments; but the Admiral was certainly
not sober. He made no attempt to rise when Richard entered,
but waved his pipe flightily in the air, and gave a leer of
welcome. Esther took as little notice of him as might be.
'Aha! Dick!' cried the painter. 'I've been to church; I
have, upon my word. And I saw you there, though you didn't
see me. And I saw a devilish pretty woman, by Gad. If it
were not for this baldness, and a kind of crapulous air I
can't disguise from myself - if it weren't for this and that
and t'other thing - I - I've forgot what I was saying. Not
that that matters, I've heaps of things to say. I'm in a
communicative vein to-night. I'll let out all my cats, even
unto seventy times seven. I'm in what I call THE stage, and
all I desire is a listener, although he were deaf, to be as
happy as Nebuchadnezzar.'
Of the two hours which followed upon this it is unnecessary
to give more than a sketch. The Admiral was extremely silly,
now and then amusing, and never really offensive. It was
plain that he kept in view the presence of his daughter, and
chose subjects and a character of language that should not
offend a lady. On almost any other occasion Dick would have
enjoyed the scene. Van Tromp's egotism, flown with drink,
struck a pitch above mere vanity. He became candid and
explanatory; sought to take his auditors entirely into his
confidence, and tell them his inmost conviction about
himself. Between his self-knowledge, which was considerable,
and his vanity, which was immense, he had created a strange
hybrid animal, and called it by his own name. How he would
plume his feathers over virtues which would have gladdened
the heart of Caesar or St. Paul; and anon, complete his own
portrait with one of those touches of pitiless realism which
the satirist so often seeks in vain.
'Now, there's Dick,' he said, 'he's shrewd; he saw through me
the first time we met, and told me so - told me so to my
face, which I had the virtue to keep. I bear you no malice
for it, Dick; you were right; I am a humbug.'
You may fancy how Esther quailed at this new feature of the
meeting between her two idols.
And then, again, in a parenthesis:-
'That,' said Van Tromp, 'was when I had to paint those dirty
daubs of mine.'
And a little further on, laughingly said perhaps, but yet
with an air of truth:-
'I never had the slightest hesitation in sponging upon any
Thereupon Dick got up.
'I think perhaps,' he said, 'we had better all be thinking of
going to bed.' And he smiled with a feeble and deprecatory
'Not at all,' cried the Admiral, 'I know a trick worth two of
that. Puss here,' indicating his daughter, 'shall go to bed;
and you and I will keep it up till all's blue.'
Thereupon Esther arose in sullen glory. She had sat and
listened for two mortal hours while her idol defiled himself
and sneered away his godhead. One by one, her illusions had
departed. And now he wished to order her to bed in her own
house! now he called her Puss! now, even as he uttered the
words, toppling on his chair, he broke the stem of his
tobacco-pipe in three! Never did the sheep turn upon her
shearer with a more commanding front. Her voice was calm,
her enunciation a little slow, but perfectly distinct, and
she stood before him as she spoke, in the simplest and most
'No,' she said, 'Mr. Naseby will have the goodness to go home
at once, and you will go to bed.'
The broken fragments of pipe fell from the Admiral's fingers;
he seemed by his countenance to have lived too long in a
world unworthy of him; but it is an odd circumstance, he
attempted no reply, and sat thunderstruck, with open mouth.
Dick she motioned sharply towards the door, and he could only
obey her. In the porch, finding she was close behind him, he
ventured to pause and whisper, 'You have done right.'
'I have done as I pleased,' she said. 'Can he paint?'
'Many people like his paintings,' returned Dick, in stifled
tones; 'I never did; I never said I did,' he added, fiercely
defending himself before he was attacked.
'I ask you if he can paint. I will not be put off. CAN he
paint?' she repeated.
'No,' said Dick.
'Does he even like it?'
'Not now, I believe.'
'And he is drunk?' - she leaned upon the word with hatred.
'He has been drinking.'
'Go,' she said, and was turning to re-enter the house when
another thought arrested her. 'Meet me to-morrow morning at
the stile,' she said.
'I will,' replied Dick.
And then the door closed behind her, and Dick was alone in
the darkness. There was still a chink of light above the
sill, a warm, mild glow behind the window; the roof of the
cottage and some of the banks and hazels were defined in
denser darkness against the sky; but all else was formless,
breathless, and noiseless like the pit. Dick remained as she
had left him, standing squarely upon one foot and resting
only on the toe of the other, and as he stood he listened
with his soul. The sound of a chair pushed sharply over the
floor startled his heart into his mouth; but the silence
which had thus been disturbed settled back again at once upon
the cottage and its vicinity. What took place during this
interval is a secret from the world of men; but when it was
over the voice of Esther spoke evenly and without
interruption for perhaps half a minute, and as soon as that
ceased heavy and uncertain footfalls crossed the parlour and
mounted lurching up the stairs. The girl had tamed her
father, Van Tromp had gone obediently to bed: so much was
obvious to the watcher in the road. And yet he still waited,
straining his ears, and with terror and sickness at his
heart; for if Esther had followed her father, if she had even
made one movement in this great conspiracy of men and nature
to be still, Dick must have had instant knowledge of it from
his station before the door; and if she had not moved, must
she not have fainted? or might she not be dead?
He could hear the cottage clock deliberately measure out the
seconds; time stood still with him; an almost superstitious
terror took command of his faculties; at last, he could bear
no more, and, springing through the little garden in two
bounds, he put his face against the window. The blind, which
had not been drawn fully down, left an open chink about an
inch in height along the bottom of the glass, and the whole
parlour was thus exposed to Dick's investigation. Esther sat
upright at the table, her head resting on her hand, her eyes
fixed upon the candle. Her brows were slightly bent, her
mouth slightly open; her whole attitude so still and settled
that Dick could hardly fancy that she breathed. She had not
stirred at the sound of Dick's arrival. Soon after, making a
considerable disturbance amid the vast silence of the night,
the clock lifted up its voice, whined for a while like a
partridge, and then eleven times hooted like a cuckoo. Still
Esther continued immovable and gazed upon the candle.
Midnight followed, and then one of the morning; and still she
had not stirred, nor had Richard Naseby dared to quit the
window. And then, about half-past one, the candle she had
been thus intently watching flared up into a last blaze of
paper, and she leaped to her feet with an ejaculation, looked
about her once, blew out the light, turned round, and was
heard rapidly mounting the staircase in the dark.
Dick was left once more alone to darkness and to that dulled
and dogged state of mind when a man thinks that Misery must
now have done her worst, and is almost glad to think so. He
turned and walked slowly towards the stile; she had told him
no hour, and he was determined, whenever she came, that she
should find him waiting. As he got there the day began to
dawn, and he leaned over a hurdle and beheld the shadows flee
away. Up went the sun at last out of a bank of clouds that
were already disbanding in the east; a herald wind had
already sprung up to sweep the leafy earth and scatter the
congregated dewdrops. 'Alas!' thought Dick Naseby, 'how can
any other day come so distastefully to me?' He still wanted
his experience of the morrow.
CHAPTER VII - THE ELOPEMENT
IT was probably on the stroke of ten, and Dick had been half
asleep for some time against the bank, when Esther came up
the road carrying a bundle. Some kind of instinct, or
perhaps the distant light footfalls, recalled him, while she
was still a good way off, to the possession of his faculties,
and he half raised himself and blinked upon the world. It
took him some time to recollect his thoughts. He had
awakened with a certain blank and childish sense of pleasure,
like a man who had received a legacy overnight; but this
feeling gradually died away, and was then suddenly and
stunningly succeeded by a conviction of the truth. The whole
story of the past night sprang into his mind with every
detail, as by an exercise of the direct and speedy sense of
sight, and he arose from the ditch and, with rueful courage,
went to meet his love.
She came up to him walking steady and fast, her face still
pale, but to all appearance perfectly composed; and she
showed neither surprise, relief, nor pleasure at finding her
lover on the spot. Nor did she offer him her hand.
'Here I am,' said he.
'Yes,' she replied; and then, without a pause or any change
of voice, 'I want you to take me away,' she added.
'Away?' he repeated. 'How? Where?'
'To-day,' she said. 'I do not care where it is, but I want
you to take me away.'
'For how long? I do not understand,' gasped Dick.
'I shall never come back here any more,' was all she
Wild words uttered, as these were, with perfect quiet of
manner and voice, exercise a double influence on the hearer's
mind. Dick was confounded; he recovered from astonishment
only to fall into doubt and alarm. He looked upon her frozen
attitude, so discouraging for a lover to behold, and recoiled
from the thoughts which it suggested.
'To me?' he asked. 'Are you coming to me, Esther?'
'I want you to take me away,' she repeated with weary
impatience. 'Take me away - take me away from here.'
The situation was not sufficiently defined. Dick asked
himself with concern whether she were altogether in her right
wits. To take her away, to marry her, to work off his hands
for her support, Dick was content to do all this; yet he
required some show of love upon her part. He was not one of
those tough-hided and small-hearted males who would marry
their love at the point of the bayonet rather than not marry
her at all. He desired that a woman should come to his arms
with an attractive willingness, if not with ardour. And
Esther's bearing was more that of despair than that of love.
It chilled him and taught him wisdom.
'Dearest,' he urged, 'tell me what you wish, and you shall
have it; tell me your thoughts, and then I can advise you.
But to go from here without a plan, without forethought, in
the heat of a moment, is madder than madness, and can help
nothing. I am not speaking like a man, but I speak the
truth; and I tell you again, the thing's absurd, and wrong,
She looked at him with a lowering, languid look of wrath.
'So you will not take me?' she said. 'Well, I will go
And she began to step forward on her way. But he threw
himself before her.
'Esther, Esther!' he cried.
'Let me go - don't touch me - what right have you to
interfere? Who are you, to touch me?' she flashed out,
shrill with anger.
Then, being made bold by her violence, he took her firmly,
almost roughly, by the arm, and held her while he spoke.
'You know well who I am, and what I am, and that I love you.
You say I will not help you; but your heart knows the
contrary. It is you who will not help me; for you will not
tell me what you want. You see - or you could see, if you
took the pains to look - how I have waited here all night to
be ready at your service. I only asked information; I only
urged you to consider; and I still urge and beg you to think
better of your fancies. But if your mind is made up, so be
it; I will beg no longer; I give you my orders; and I will
not allow - not allow you to go hence alone.'
She looked at him for awhile with cold, unkind scrutiny like
one who tries the temper of a tool.
'Well, take me away, then,' she said with a sigh.
'Good,' said Dick. 'Come with me to the stables; there we
shall get the pony-trap and drive to the junction. To-night
you shall be in London. I am yours so wholly that no words
can make me more so; and, besides, you know it, and the words
are needless. May God help me to be good to you, Esther -
may God help me! for I see that you will not.'
So, without more speech, they set out together, and were
already got some distance from the spot, ere he observed that
she was still carrying the hand-bag. She gave it up to him,
passively, but when he offered her his arm, merely shook her
head and pursed up her lips. The sun shone clearly and
pleasantly; the wind was fresh and brisk upon their faces,
and smelt racily of woods and meadows. As they went down
into the valley of the Thyme, the babble of the stream rose
into the air like a perennial laughter. On the far-away
hills, sun-burst and shadow raced along the slopes and leaped
from peak to peak. Earth, air and water, each seemed in
better health and had more of the shrewd salt of life in them
than upon ordinary mornings; and from east to west, from the
lowest glen to the height of heaven, from every look and
touch and scent, a human creature could gather the most
encouraging intelligence as to the durability and spirit of
Through all this walked Esther, picking her small steps like
a bird, but silent and with a cloud under her thick eyebrows.
She seemed insensible, not only of nature, but of the
presence of her companion. She was altogether engrossed in
herself, and looked neither to right nor to left, but
straight before her on the road. When they came to the
bridge, however, she halted, leaned on the parapet, and
stared for a moment at the clear, brown pool, and swift,
transient snowdrift of the rapids.
'I am going to drink,' she said; and descended the winding
footpath to the margin.
There she drank greedily in her hands and washed her temples
with water. The coolness seemed to break, for an instant,
the spell that lay upon her; for, instead of hastening
forward again in her dull, indefatigable tramp, she stood
still where she was, for near a minute, looking straight
before her. And Dick, from above on the bridge where he
stood to watch her, saw a strange, equivocal smile dawn
slowly on her face and pass away again at once and suddenly,
leaving her as grave as ever; and the sense of distance,
which it is so cruel for a lover to endure, pressed with
every moment more heavily on her companion. Her thoughts
were all secret; her heart was locked and bolted; and he
stood without, vainly wooing her with his eves.
'Do you feel better?' asked Dick, as she at last rejoined
him; and after the constraint of so long a silence, his voice
sounded foreign to his own ears.
She looked at him for an appreciable fraction of a minute ere
she answered, and when she did, it was in the monosyllable -
Dick's solicitude was nipped and frosted. His words died
away on his tongue. Even his eyes, despairing of
encouragement, ceased to attend on hers. And they went on in
silence through Kirton hamlet, where an old man followed them
with his eyes, and perhaps envied them their youth and love;
and across the Ivy beck where the mill was splashing and
grumbling low thunder to itself in the chequered shadow of
the dell, and the miller before the door was beating flour
from his hands as he whistled a modulation; and up by the
high spinney, whence they saw the mountains upon either hand;
and down the hill again to the back courts and offices of
Naseby House. Esther had kept ahead all the way, and Dick
plodded obediently in her wake; but as they neared the
stables, he pushed on and took the lead. He would have
preferred her to await him in the road while he went on and
brought the carriage back, but after so many repulses and
rebuffs he lacked courage to offer the suggestion. Perhaps,
too, he felt it wiser to keep his convoy within sight. So
they entered the yard in Indian file, like a tramp and his
The grooms eyebrows rose as he received the order for the
pony-phaeton, and kept rising during all his preparations.
Esther stood bolt upright and looked steadily at some
chickens in the corner of the yard. Master Richard himself,
thought the groom, was not in his ordinary; for in truth, he
carried the hand-bag like a talisman, and either stood
listless, or set off suddenly walking in one direction after
another with brisk, decisive footsteps. Moreover he had
apparently neglected to wash his hands, and bore the air of
one returning from a prolonged nutting ramble. Upon the
groom's countenance there began to grow up an expression as
of one about to whistle. And hardly had the carriage turned
the corner and rattled into the high road with this
inexplicable pair, than the whistle broke forth - prolonged,
and low and tremulous; and the groom, already so far
relieved, vented the rest of his surprise in one simple
English word, friendly to the mouth of Jack-tar and the sooty
pitman, and hurried to spread the news round the servants'
hall of Naseby House. Luncheon would be on the table in
little beyond an hour; and the Squire, on sitting down, would
hardly fail to ask for Master Richard. Hence, as the
intelligent reader can foresee, this groom has a part to play
in the imbroglio.
Meantime, Dick had been thinking deeply and bitterly. It
seemed to him as if his love had gone from him, indeed, yet
gone but a little way; as if he needed but to find the right
touch or intonation, and her heart would recognise him and be
melted. Yet he durst not open his mouth, and drove in
silence till they had passed the main park-gates and turned
into the cross-cut lane along the wall. Then it seemed to
him as if it must be now, or never.
'Can't you see you are killing me?' he cried. 'Speak to me,
look at me, treat me like a human man.'
She turned slowly and looked him in the face with eyes that
seemed kinder. He dropped the reins and caught her hand, and
she made no resistance, although her touch was unresponsive.
But when, throwing one arm round her waist, he sought to kiss
her lips, not like a lover indeed, not because he wanted to
do so, but as a desperate man who puts his fortunes to the
touch, she drew away from him, with a knot in her forehead,
backed and shied about fiercely with her head, and pushed him
from her with her hand. Then there was no room left for
doubt, and Dick saw, as clear as sunlight, that she had a
distaste or nourished a grudge against him.
'Then you don't love me?' he said, drawing back from her, he
also, as though her touch had burnt him; and then, as she
made no answer, he repeated with another intonation,
imperious and yet still pathetic, 'You don't love me, DO you,
'I don't know,' she replied. 'Why do you ask me? Oh, how
should I know? It has all been lies together - lies, and
lies, and lies!'
He cried her name sharply, like a man who has taken a
physical hurt, and that was the last word that either of them
spoke until they reached Thymebury Junction.
This was a station isolated in the midst of moorlands, yet
lying on the great up line to London. The nearest town,
Thymebury itself, was seven miles distant along the branch
they call the Vale of Thyme Railway. It was now nearly half
an hour past noon, the down train had just gone by, and there
would be no more traffic at the junction until half-past
three, when the local train comes in to meet the up express
at a quarter before four. The stationmaster had already gone
off to his garden, which was half a mile away in a hollow of
the moor; a porter, who was just leaving, took charge of the
phaeton, and promised to return it before night to Naseby
House; only a deaf, snuffy, and stern old man remained to
play propriety for Dick and Esther.
Before the phaeton had driven off, the girl had entered the
station and seated herself upon a bench. The endless, empty
moorlands stretched before her, entirely unenclosed, and with
no boundary but the horizon. Two lines of rails, a waggon
shed, and a few telegraph posts, alone diversified the
outlook. As for sounds, the silence was unbroken save by the
chant of the telegraph wires and the crying of the plovers on
the waste. With the approach of midday the wind had more and
more fallen, it was now sweltering hot and the air trembled
in the sunshine.
Dick paused for an instant on the threshold of the platform.
Then, in two steps, he was by her side and speaking almost
with a sob.
'Esther,' he said, 'have pity on me. What have I done? Can
you not forgive me? Esther, you loved me once - can you not
love me still?'
'How can I tell you? How am I to know?' she answered. 'You
are all a lie to me - all a lie from first to last. You were
laughing at my folly, playing with me like a child, at the
very time when you declared you loved me. Which was true?
was any of it true? or was it all, all a mockery? I am weary
trying to find out. And you say I loved you; I loved my
father's friend. I never loved, I never heard of, you, until
that man came home and I began to find myself deceived. Give
me back my father, be what you were before, and you may talk
of love indeed!'
'Then you cannot forgive me - cannot?' he asked.
'I have nothing to forgive,' she answered. 'You do not
'Is that your last word, Esther?' said he, very white, and
biting his lip to keep it still.
'Yes, that is my last word,' replied she.
'Then we are here on false pretences, and we stay here no
longer,' he said. 'Had you still loved me, right or wrong, I
should have taken you away, because then I could have made
you happy. But as it is - I must speak plainly - what you
propose is degrading to you, and an insult to me, and a rank
unkindness to your father. Your father may be this or that,
but you should use him like a fellow-creature.'
'What do you mean?' she flashed. 'I leave him my house and
all my money; it is more than he deserves. I wonder you dare
speak to me about that man. And besides, it is all he cares
for; let him take it, and let me never hear from him again.'
'I thought you romantic about fathers,' he said.
'Is that a taunt?' she demanded.
'No,' he replied, 'it is an argument. No one can make you
like him, but don't disgrace him in his own eyes. He is old,
Esther, old and broken down. Even I am sorry for him, and he
has been the loss of all I cared for. Write to your aunt;
when I see her answer you can leave quietly and naturally,
and I will take you to your aunt's door. But in the meantime
you must go home. You have no money, and so you are
helpless, and must do as I tell you; and believe me, Esther,
I do all for your good, and your good only, so God help me.'
She had put her hand into her pocket and withdrawn it empty.
'I counted upon you,' she wailed.
'You counted rightly then,' he retorted. 'I will not, to
please you for a moment, make both of us unhappy for our
lives; and since I cannot marry you, we have only been too
long away, and must go home at once.'
'Dick,' she cried suddenly, 'perhaps I might - perhaps in
time - perhaps - '
'There is no perhaps about the matter,' interrupted Dick. 'I
must go and bring the phaeton.' And with that he strode from
the station, all in a glow of passion and virtue. Esther,
whose eyes had come alive and her cheeks flushed during these
last words, relapsed in a second into a state of
petrifaction. She remained without motion during his
absence, and when he returned suffered herself to be put back
into the phaeton, and driven off on the return journey like
an idiot or a tired child. Compared with what she was now,
her condition of the morning seemed positively natural. She
sat white and cold and silent, and there was no speculation
in her eyes. Poor Dick flailed and flailed at the pony, and
once tried to whistle, but his courage was going down; huge
clouds of despair gathered together in his soul, and from
time to time their darkness was divided by a piercing flash
of longing and regret. He had lost his love - he had lost
his love for good.
The pony was tired, and the hills very long and steep, and
the air sultrier than ever, for now the breeze began to fail
entirely. It seemed as if this miserable drive would never
be done, as if poor Dick would never be able to go away and
be comfortably wretched by himself; for all his desire was to
escape from her presence and the reproach of her averted
looks. He had lost his love, he thought - he had lost his
love for good.
They were already not far from the cottage, when his heart
again faltered and he appealed to her once more, speaking low
and eagerly in broken phrases.
'I cannot live without your love,' he concluded.
'I do not understand what you mean,' she replied, and I
believe with perfect truth.
'Then,' said he, wounded to the quick, 'your aunt might come
and fetch you herself. Of course you can command me as you
please. But I think it would be better so.'
'Oh yes,' she said wearily, 'better so.'
This was the only exchange of words between them till about
four o'clock; the phaeton, mounting the lane, 'opened out'
the cottage between the leafy banks. Thin smoke went
straight up from the chimney; the flowers in the garden, the
hawthorn in the lane, hung down their heads in the heat; the
stillness was broken only by the sound of hoofs. For right
before the gate a livery servant rode slowly up and down,
leading a saddle horse. And in this last Dick shuddered to
identify his father's chestnut.
Alas! poor Richard, what should this portend?
The servant, as in duty bound, dismounted and took the
phaeton into his keeping; yet Dick thought he touched his hat
to him with something of a grin. Esther, passive as ever,
was helped out and crossed the garden with a slow and
mechanical gait; and Dick, following close behind her, heard
from within the cottage his father's voice upraised in an
anathema, and the shriller tones of the Admiral responding in
the key of war.
CHAPTER VIII - BATTLE ROYAL
SQUIRE NASEBY, on sitting down to lunch, had inquired for
Dick, whom he had not seen since the day before at dinner;
and the servant answering awkwardly that Master Richard had
come back but had gone out again with the pony phaeton, his
suspicions became aroused, and he cross-questioned the man
until the whole was out. It appeared from this report that
Dick had been going about for nearly a month with a girl in
the Vale - a Miss Van Tromp; that she lived near Lord
Trevanion's upper wood; that recently Miss Van Tromp's papa
had returned home from foreign parts after a prolonged
absence; that this papa was an old gentleman, very chatty and
free with his money in the public-house - whereupon Mr.
Naseby's face became encrimsoned; that the papa, furthermore,
was said to be an admiral - whereupon Mr. Naseby spat out a
whistle brief and fierce as an oath; that Master Dick seemed
very friendly with the papa - 'God help him!' said Mr.
Naseby; that last night Master Dick had not come in, and to-
day he had driven away in the phaeton with the young lady -
'Young woman,' corrected Mr. Naseby.
'Yes, sir,' said the man, who had been unwilling enough to
gossip from the first, and was now cowed by the effect of his
communications on the master. 'Young woman, sir!'
'Had they luggage?' demanded the Squire.
Mr. Naseby was silent for a moment, struggling to keep down
his emotion, and he mastered it so far as to mount into the
sarcastic vein, when he was in the nearest danger of melting
into the sorrowful.
'And was this - this Van Dunk with them?' he asked, dwelling
scornfully upon the name.
The servant believed not, and being eager to shift the
responsibility of speech to other shoulders, suggested that
perhaps the master had better inquire further from George the
stableman in person.
'Tell him to saddle the chestnut and come with me. He can
take the gray gelding; for we may ride fast. And then you
can take away this trash,' added Mr. Naseby, pointing to the
luncheon; and he arose, lordly in his anger, and marched
forth upon the terrace to await his horse.
There Dick's old nurse shrunk up to him, for the news went
like wildfire over Naseby House, and timidly expressed a hope
that there was nothing much amiss with the young master.
'I'll pull him through,' the Squire said grimly, as though he
meant to pull him through a threshing-mill; 'I'll save him
from this gang; God help him with the next! He has a taste
for low company, and no natural affections to steady him.
His father was no society for him; he must go fuddling with a
Dutchman, Nance, and now he's caught. Let us pray he'll take
the lesson,' he added more gravely, 'but youth is here to
make troubles, and age to pull them out again.'
Nance whimpered and recalled several episodes of Dick's
childhood, which moved Mr. Naseby to blow his nose and shake
her hard by the hand; and then, the horse arriving
opportunely, to get himself without delay into the saddle and
He rode straight, hot spur, to Thymebury, where, as was to be
expected, he could glean no tidings of the runaways. They
had not been seen at the George; they had not been seen at
the station. The shadow darkened on Mr. Naseby's face; the
junction did not occur to him; his last hope was for Van
Tromp's cottage; thither he bade George guide him, and
thither he followed, nursing grief, anxiety, and indignation
in his heart.
'Here it is, sir,' said George stopping.
'What! on my own land!' he cried. 'How's this? I let this
place to somebody - M'Whirter or M'Glashan.'
'Miss M'Glashan was the young lady's aunt, sir, I believe,'
'Ay - dummies,' said the Squire. 'I shall whistle for my
rent too. Here, take my horse.'
The Admiral, this hot afternoon, was sitting by the window
with a long glass. He already knew the Squire by sight, and
now, seeing him dismount before the cottage and come striding
through the garden, concluded without doubt he was there to
ask for Esther's hand.
'This is why the girl is not yet home,' he thought: 'a very
suitable delicacy on young Naseby's part.'
And he composed himself with some pomp, answered the loud
rattle of the riding-whip upon the door with a dulcet
invitation to enter, and coming forward with a bow and a
smile, 'Mr. Naseby, I believe,' said he.
The Squire came armed for battle; took in his man from top to
toe in one rapid and scornful glance, and decided on a course
at once. He must let the fellow see that he understood him.
'You are Mr. Van Tromp?' he returned roughly, and without
taking any notice of the proffered hand.
'The same, sir,' replied the Admiral. 'Pray be seated.'
'No sir,' said the Squire, point-blank, 'I will not be
seated. I am told that you are an admiral,' he added.
'No sir, I am not an admiral,' returned Van Tromp, who now
began to grow nettled and enter into the spirit of the
'Then why do you call yourself one, sir?'
'I have to ask your pardon, I do not,' says Van Tromp, as
grand as the Pope.
But nothing was of avail against the Squire.
'You sail under false colours from beginning to end,' he
said. 'Your very house was taken under a sham name.'
'It is not my house. I am my daughter's guest,' replied the
Admiral. 'If it WERE my house - '
'Well?' said the Squire, 'what then? hey?'
The Admiral looked at him nobly, but was silent.
'Look here,' said Mr. Naseby, 'this intimidation is a waste
of time; it is thrown away on me, sir; it will not succeed
with me. I will not permit you even to gain time by your
fencing. Now, sir, I presume you understand what brings me
'I am entirely at a loss to account for your intrusion,' bows
and waves Van Tromp.
'I will try to tell you then. I come here as a father' -
down came the riding-whip upon the table - 'I have right and
justice upon my side. I understand your calculations, but
you calculated without me. I am a man of the world, and I
see through you and your manoeuvres. I am dealing now with a
conspiracy - I stigmatise it as such, and I will expose it
and crush it. And now I order you to tell me how far things
have gone, and whither you have smuggled my unhappy son.'
'My God, sir!' Van Tromp broke out, 'I have had about enough
of this. Your son? God knows where he is for me! What the
devil have I to do with your son? My daughter is out, for
the matter of that; I might ask you where she was, and what
would you say to that? But this is all midsummer madness.
Name your business distinctly, and be off.'
'How often am I to tell you?' cried the Squire. 'Where did
your daughter take my son to-day in that cursed pony
'In a pony carriage?' repeated Van Tromp.
'Yes, sir - with luggage.'
'Luggage?' - Van Tromp had turned a little pale.
'Luggage, I said - luggage!' shouted Naseby. 'You may spare
me this dissimulation. Where's my son. You are speaking to
a father, sir, a father.'
'But, sir, if this be true,' out came Van Tromp in a new key,
'it is I who have an explanation to demand?'
'Precisely. There is the conspiracy,' retorted Naseby.
'Oh!' he added, 'I am a man of the world. I can see through
and through you.'
Van Tromp began to understand.
'You speak a great deal about being a father, Mr. Naseby,'
said he; 'I believe you forget that the appellation is common
to both of us. I am at a loss to figure to myself, however
dimly, how any man - I have not said any gentleman - could so
brazenly insult another as you have been insulting me since
you entered this house. For the first time I appreciate your
base insinuations, and I despise them and you. You were, I
am told, a manufacturer; I am an artist; I have seen better
days; I have moved in societies where you would not be
received, and dined where you would be glad to pay a pound to
see me dining. The so-called aristocracy of wealth, sir, I
despise. I refuse to help you; I refuse to be helped by you.
There lies the door.'
And the Admiral stood forth in a halo.
It was then that Dick entered. He had been waiting in the
porch for some time back, and Esther had been listlessly
standing by his side. He had put out his hand to bar her
entrance, and she had submitted without surprise; and though
she seemed to listen, she scarcely appeared to comprehend.
Dick, on his part, was as white as a sheet; his eyes burned
and his lips trembled with anger as he thrust the door
suddenly open, introduced Esther with ceremonious gallantry,
and stood forward and knocked his hat firmer on his head like
a man about to leap.
'What is all this?' he demanded.
'Is this your father, Mr. Naseby?' inquired the Admiral.
'It is,' said the young man.
'I make you my compliments,' returned Van Tromp.
'Dick!' cried his father, suddenly breaking forth, 'it is not
too late, is it? I have come here in time to save you.
Come, come away with me - come away from this place.'
And he fawned upon Dick with his hands.
'Keep your hands off me,' cried Dick, not meaning unkindness,
but because his nerves were shattered by so many successive
'No, no,' said the old man, 'don't repulse your father, Dick,
when he has come here to save you. Don't repulse me, my boy.
Perhaps I have not been kind to you, not quite considerate,
too harsh; my boy, it was not for want of love. Think of old
times. I was kind to you then, was I not? When you were a
child, and your mother was with us.' Mr. Naseby was
interrupted by a sort of sob. Dick stood looking at him in a
maze. 'Come away,' pursued the father in a whisper; 'you
need not be afraid of any consequences. I am a man of the
world, Dick; and she can have no claim on you - no claim, I
tell you; and we'll be handsome too, Dick - we'll give them a
good round figure, father and daughter, and there's an end.'
He had been trying to get Dick towards the door, but the
latter stood off.
'You had better take care, sir, how you insult that lady,'
said the son, as black as night.
'You would not choose between your father and your mistress?'
said the father.
'What do you call her, sir?' cried Dick, high and clear.
Forbearance and patience were not among Mr. Naseby's
'I called her your mistress,' he shouted, 'and I might have
called her a - '
'That is an unmanly lie,' replied Dick, slowly.
'Dick!' cried the father, 'Dick!'
'I do not care,' said the son, strengthening himself against
his own heart; 'I - I have said it, and it is the truth.'
There was a pause.
'Dick,' said the old man at last, in a voice that was shaken
as by a gale of wind, 'I am going. I leave you with your
friends, sir - with your friends. I came to serve you, and
now I go away a broken man. For years I have seen this
coming, and now it has come. You never loved me. Now you
have been the death of me. You may boast of that. Now I
leave you. God pardon you.'
With that he was gone; and the three who remained together
heard his horse's hoofs descend the lane. Esther had not
made a sign throughout the interview, and still kept silence
now that it was over; but the Admiral, who had once or twice
moved forward and drawn back again, now advanced for good.
'You are a man of spirit, sir,' said he to Dick; 'but though
I am no friend to parental interference, I will say that you
were heavy on the governor.' Then he added with a chuckle:
'You began, Richard, with a silver spoon, and here you are in
the water like the rest. Work, work, nothing like work. You
have parts, you have manners; why, with application you may
die a millionaire!' Dick shook himself. He took Esther by
the hand, looking at her mournfully.
'Then this is farewell,' he said.
'Yes,' she answered. There was no tone in her voice, and she
did not return his gaze.
'For ever,' added Dick.
'For ever,' she repeated mechanically.
'I have had hard measure,' he continued. 'In time I believe
I could have shown you I was worthy, and there was no time
long enough to show how much I loved you. But it was not to
be. I have lost all.'
He relinquished her hand, still looking at her, and she
turned to leave the room.
'Why, what in fortune's name is the meaning of all this?'
cried Van Tromp. 'Esther come back!'
'Let her go,' said Dick, and he watched her disappear with
strangely mingled feelings. For he had fallen into that
stage when men have the vertigo of misfortune, court the
strokes of destiny, and rush towards anything decisive, that
it may free them from suspense though at the cost of ruin.
It is one of the many minor forms of suicide.
'She did not love me,' he said, turning to her father.
'I feared as much,' said he, 'when I sounded her. Poor Dick,
poor Dick. And yet I believe I am as much cut up as you are.
I was born to see others happy.'
'You forget,' returned Dick, with something like a sneer,
'that I am now a pauper.'
Van Tromp snapped his fingers.
'Tut!' said he; 'Esther has plenty for us all.'
Dick looked at him with some wonder. It had never dawned
upon him that this shiftless, thriftless, worthless, sponging
parasite was yet, after and in spite of all, not mercenary in
the issue of his thoughts; yet so it was.
'Now,' said Dick, 'I must go.'
'Go?' cried Van Tromp. 'Where? Not one foot, Mr. Richard
Naseby. Here you shall stay in the meantime! and - well, and
do something practical - advertise for a situation as private
secretary - and when you have it, go and welcome. But in the
meantime, sir, no false pride; we must stay with our friends;
we must sponge a while on Papa Van Tromp, who has sponged so
often upon us.'
'By God,' cried Dick, 'I believe you are the best of the
'Dick, my boy,' replied the Admiral, winking, 'you mark me, I
am not the worst.'
'Then why,' began Dick, and then paused. 'But Esther,' he
began again, once more to interrupt himself. 'The fact is,
Admiral,' he came out with it roundly now, 'your daughter
wished to run away from you to-day, and I only brought her
back with difficulty.'
'In the pony carriage?' asked the Admiral, with the silliness
of extreme surprise.
'Yes,' Dick answered.
'Why, what the devil was she running away from?'
Dick found the question unusually hard to answer.
'Why,' said he, 'you know, you're a bit of a rip.'
'I behave to that girl, sir, like an archdeacon,' replied Van
'Well - excuse me - but you know you drink,' insisted Dick.
'I know that I was a sheet in the wind's eye, sir, once -
once only, since I reached this place,' retorted the Admiral.
'And even then I was fit for any drawing-room. I should like
you to tell me how many fathers, lay and clerical, go
upstairs every day with a face like a lobster and cod's eyes
- and are dull, upon the back of it - not even mirth for the
money! No, if that's what she runs for, all I say is, let
'You see,' Dick tried it again, 'she has fancies - '
'Confound her fancies!' cried Van Tromp. 'I used her kindly;
she had her own way; I was her father. Besides I had taken
quite a liking to the girl, and meant to stay with her for
good. But I tell you what it is, Dick, since she has trifled
with you - Oh, yes, she did though! - and since her old
papa's not good enough for her - the devil take her, say I.'
'You will be kind to her at least?' said Dick.
'I never was unkind to a living soul,' replied the Admiral.
'Firm I can be, but not unkind.'
'Well,' said Dick, offering his hand, 'God bless you, and
The Admiral swore by all his gods he should not go. 'Dick,'
he said, 'You are a selfish dog; you forget your old Admiral.
You wouldn't leave him alone, would you?'
It was useless to remind him that the house was not his to
dispose of, that being a class of considerations to which his
intelligence was closed; so Dick tore himself off by force,
and, shouting a good-bye, made off along the lane to
CHAPTER IX - IN WHICH THE LIBERAL EDITOR RE-APPEARS AS 'DEUS
IT was perhaps a week later, as old Mr. Naseby sat brooding
in his study, that there was shown in upon him, on urgent
business, a little hectic gentleman shabbily attired.
'I have to ask pardon for this intrusion, Mr. Naseby,' he
said; 'but I come here to perform a duty. My card has been