Part 2 out of 12
seconding him. The scene was terrible. We were all at our desks doing
evening tasks for the morrow, a great matchday at cricket, Boddy watching
over us, and bellowing, 'Silence at your work, you lazy fellows, if you
want lessons to be finished at ten in the morning!' A noise came growing
up to us from below, up the stairs from the wet-weather shed, and Heriot
burst into the room, old Rippenger after him, panting.
'Mr. Boddy, you were right,' he cried, 'I find him a prowler, breaking
all rules of discipline. A perverted, impudent rascal! An example shall
be set to my school, sir. We have been falling lax. What! I find the
puppy in my garden whistling--he confesses--for one of my servants------
here, Mr. Boddy, if you please. My school shall see that none insult me
with impunity!' He laid on Heriot like a wind on a bulrush. Heriot bent
his shoulders a trifle, not his head.
'Hit away, sir,' he said, during the storm of blows, and I, through my
tears, imagined him (or I do now) a young eagle forced to bear the
thunder, but with his face to it. Then we saw Boddy lay hands on him,
and in a twinkling down pitched the usher, and the boys cheered--chirped,
I should say, they exulted so, and merely sang out like birds, without
any wilfulness of delight or defiance. After the fall of Boddy we had no
sense of our hero suffering shame. Temple and I clutched fingers tight
as long as the blows went on. We hoped for Boddy to make another attempt
to touch Heriot; he held near the master, looking ready to spring, like a
sallow panther; we kept hoping he would, in our horror of the murderous
slashes of the cane; and not a syllable did Heriot utter. Temple and I
started up, unaware of what we were going to do, or of anything until we
had got a blow a-piece, and were in the thick of it, and Boddy had us
both by the collars, and was knocking our heads together, as he dragged
us back to our seats. But the boys told us we stopped the execution.
Mr. Rippenger addressed us before he left the school-room. Saddlebank,
Salter, and a good many others, plugged their ears with their fists.
That night Boddy and Catman paced in the bedchambers, to prevent plotting
and conspiracy, they said. I longed to get my arms about Heriot, and
thought of him, and dreamed of blood, and woke in the morning wondering
what made me cry, and my arms and back very stiff. Heriot was gay as
ever, but had fits of reserve; the word passed round that we were not to
talk of yesterday evening. We feared he would refuse to play in the
'Why not?' said he, staring at us angrily. 'Has Saddlebank broken his
arm, and can't bowl?'
No, Saddlebank was in excellent trim, though shamefaced, as was Salter,
and most of the big boys were. They begged Heriot to let them shake his
'Wait till we win our match,' said Heriot.
Julia did not appear at morning prayers.
'Ah,' said Temple, 'it'd make her sick to hear old Massacre praying.' It
had nearly made him sick, he added, and I immediately felt that it had
nearly made me sick.
We supposed we should not see Julia at the match. She came, however, and
talked to everybody. I could not contain myself, I wanted so to tell her
what had befallen Heriot overnight, while he was batting, and the whole
ground cheering his hits. I on one side of her whispered:
'I say, Julia, my dear, I say, do you know . . .'
And Temple on the other: ' Miss Julia, I wish you'd let me tell you--'
We longed to arouse her pity for Heriot at the moment she was admiring
him, but she checked us, and as she was surrounded by ladies and
gentlemen of the town, and particular friends of hers, we could not speak
out. Heriot brought his bat to the booth for eighty-nine runs. His
sleeve happened to be unbuttoned, and there, on his arm, was a mark of
'Look!' I said to Julia. But she looked at me.
'Richie, are you ill?'
She assured me I was very pale, and I felt her trembling excessively, and
her parasol was covering us.
'Here, Roy, Temple,' we heard Heriot call; 'here, come here and bowl to
I went and bowled till I thought my head was flying after the ball and
getting knocks, it swam and throbbed so horribly.
Temple related that I fell, and was carried all the way from the cricket-
field home by Heriot, who would not give me up to the usher. I was in
Julia's charge three days. Every time I spoke of her father and Heriot,
she cried, 'Oh, hush!' and had tears on her eyelids. When I was quite
strong again, I made her hear me out. She held me and rocked over me
like a green tree in the wind and rain.
'Was any name mentioned?' she asked, with her mouth working, and to my
'No,' said 'No, she knew there was none,' and seemed to drink and choke,
and was one minute calm, all but a trembling hanging underlip, next
smiling on me, and next having her face carved in grimaces by the jerking
little tugs of her mouth, which I disliked to see, for she would say
nothing of what she thought of Heriot, and I thought to myself, though I
forbore to speak unkindly, 'It's no use your making yourself look ugly,
Julia.' If she had talked of Heriot, I should have thought that crying
persons' kisses were agreeable.
On my return into the school, I found it in a convulsion of excitement,
owing to Heriot's sending Boddy a challenge to fight a duel with pistols.
Mr. Rippenger preached a sermon to the boys concerning the unChristian
spirit and hideous moral perversity of one who would even consent to
fight a duel. How much more reprehensible, then, was one that could
bring himself to defy a fellow-creature to mortal combat! We were not of
his opinion; and as these questions are carried by majorities, we decided
that Boddy was a coward, and approved the idea that Heriot would have to
shoot or scourge him when the holidays came. Mr. Rippenger concluded his
observations by remarking that the sharpest punishment he could inflict
upon Heriot was to leave him to his own conscience; which he did for
three days, and then asked him if he was in a fit state of mind to beg
Mr. Boddy's pardon publicly.
'I'm quite prepared to tell him what I think of him publicly, sir,' said
A murmur of exultation passed through the school. Mr. Rippenger seized
little Temple, and flogged him. Far from dreading the rod, now that
Heriot and Temple had tasted it, I thought of punishment as a mad
pleasure, not a bit more awful than the burning furze-bush plunged into
by our fellows in a follow-my-leader scamper on the common; so I caught
Temple's hand as he went by me, and said, eagerly, 'Shall I sing out
'Bother it!' was Temple's answer, for he had taken a stinging dozen, and
had a tender skin.
Mr. Rippenger called me up to him, to inform me, that whoever I was,
and whatever I was, and I might be a little impostor foisted on his
benevolence, yet he would bring me to a knowledge of myself: he gave me
warning of it; and if my father objected to his method, my father must
write word to that effect, and attend punctually to business duties, for
Surrey House was not an almshouse, either for the sons of gentlemen of
high connection, or for the sons of vagabonds. Mr. Rippenger added a
spurning shove on my shoulder to his recommendation to me to resume my
seat. I did not understand him at all. I was, in fact, indebted to a
boy named Drew, a known sneak, for the explanation, in itself difficult
to comprehend. It was, that Mr. Rippenger was losing patience because
he had received no money on account of my boarding and schooling. The
intelligence filled my head like the buzz of a fly, occupying my
meditations without leading them anywhere. I spoke on the subject to
'Oh, the sordid old brute !' said he of Mr. Rippenger. 'How can he know
the habits and feelings of gentlemen? Your father's travelling, and
can't write, of course. My father's in India, and I get a letter from
him about once a year. We know one another, and I know he's one of the
best officers in the British army. It's just the way with schoolmasters
and tradesmen: they don't care whether a man is doing his duty to his
country; he must attend to them, settle accounts with them--hang them!
I'll send you money, dear little lad, after I've left.'
He dispersed my brooding fit. I was sure my father was a fountain of
gold, and only happened to be travelling. Besides, Heriot's love for
Julia, whom none of us saw now, was an incessant distraction. She did
not appear at prayers. She sat up in the gallery at church, hardly to be
spied. A letter that Heriot flung over the gardenwall for her was
returned to him, open, enclosed by post.
'A letter for Walter Heriot,' exclaimed Mr. Boddy, lifting it high for
Heriot to walk and fetch it; and his small eyes blinked when Heriot said
aloud on his way, cheerfully,
'A letter from the colonel in India!'
Boddy waited a minute, and then said, 'Is your father in good health?'
Heriot's face was scarlet. At first he stuttered, 'My father!--I hope
so! What have you in common with him, sir?'
'You stated that the letter was from your father,' said Boddy.
'What if it is, sir?'
'Oh, in that case, nothing whatever to me.'
They talked on, and the youngest of us could perceive Boddy was bursting
with devilish glee. Heriot got a letter posted to Julia. It was laid on
his desk, with her name scratched completely out, and his put in its
place. He grew pale and sad, but did his work, playing his games, and
only letting his friends speak to him of lessons and play. His counsel
to me was, that in spite of everything, I was always to stick to my tasks
and my cricket. His sadness he could not conceal. He looked like an old
lamp with a poor light in it. Not a boy in the school missed seeing how
Boddy's flat head perpetually had a side-eye on him.
All this came to an end. John Salter's father lived on the other side
of the downs, and invited three of us to spend a day at his house. The
selection included Heriot, Saddlebank, and me. Mr. Rippenger, not liking
to refuse Mr. Salter, consented to our going, but pretended that I was
too young. Salter said his mother and sisters very much wished to make
my acquaintance. We went in his father's carriage. A jolly wind blew
clouds and dust and leaves: I could have fancied I was going to my own
father. The sensation of freedom had a magical effect on me, so that I
was the wildest talker of them all. Even in the middle of the family I
led the conversation; and I did not leave Salter's house without
receiving an assurance from his elder sisters that they were in love with
me. We drove home--back to prison, we called it--full of good things,
talking of Salter's father's cellar of wine and of my majority Burgundy,
which I said, believing it was true, amounted to twelve hundred dozen;
and an appointment was made for us to meet at Dipwell Farm, to assist in
consuming it, in my honour and my father's. That matter settled, I felt
myself rolling over and over at a great rate, and clasping a juniper
tree. The horses had trenched from the chalk road on to the downs. I
had been shot out. Heriot and Salter had jumped out--Heriot to look
after me; but Saddlebank and the coachman were driving at a great rate
over the dark slope. Salter felt some anxiety concerning his father's
horses, so we left him to pursue them, and walked on laughing, Heriot
praising me for my pluck.
'I say good-bye to you to-night, Richie,' said he. 'We're certain to
meet again. I shall go to a military school. Mind you enter a cavalry
regiment when you're man enough. Look in the Army List, you'll find me
there. My aunt shall make a journey and call on you while you're at
Rippenger's, so you shan't be quite lonely.'
To my grief, I discovered that Heriot had resolved he would not return to
'You'll get thrashed,' he said; ' I can't help it: I hope you've grown
tough by this time. I can't stay here. I feel more like a dog than a
man in that house now. I'll see you back safe. No crying, young
We had lost the sound of the carriage. Heriot fell to musing. He
remarked that the accident took away from Mr. Salter the responsibility
of delivering him at Surrey House, but that he, Heriot, was bound, for
Mr. Salter's sake, to conduct me to the doors; an unintelligible
refinement of reasoning, to my wits. We reached our town between two and
three in the morning. There was a ladder leaning against one of the
houses in repair near the school. 'You are here, are you!' said Heriot,
speaking to the ladder: 'you 'll do me a service--the last I shall want
in the neighbourhood.' He managed to poise the ladder on his shoulder,
and moved forward.
'Are we going in through the window?' I asked, seeing him fix the ladder
against the school-house wall.
He said, 'Hush; keep a look-out.'
I saw him mount high. When he tapped at the window I remembered it was
Julia's; I heard her cry out inside. The window rose slowly. Heriot
'I have come to say good-bye to you, Julia, dear girl: don't be afraid of
me.' She answered inaudibly to my ears. He begged her to come to him at
once, only once, and hear him and take his hand. She was timid; he had
her fingers first, then her whole arm, and she leaned over him. 'Julia,
my sweet, dear girl,' he said; and she:
'Heriot, Walter, don't go--don't go; you do not care for me if you go.
Oh, don't go.'
'We've come to it,' said Heriot.
She asked why he was not in bed, and moaned on:
'Don't go.' I was speechless with wonder at the night and the scene.
They whispered; I saw their faces close together, and Heriot's arms round
her neck. 'Oh, Heriot, my darling, my Walter,' she said, crying, I knew
by the sound of her voice.
'Tell me you love me,' said Heriot.
'I do, I do, only don't go,' she answered.
'Will you love me faithfully?'
'I will; I do.'
'Say, "I love you, Walter."'
'I love you, Walter.'
'For ever. Oh! what a morning for me. Do you smell my honeysuckle?
Oh, don't go away from me, Walter. Do you love me so?'
'I'd go through a regiment of sabres to get at you.'
'But smell the night air; how sweet! oh, how sweet! No, not kiss me,
if you are going to leave me; not kiss me, if you can be so cruel!'
'Do you dream of me in your bed?'
'Yes, every night.'
'God bless the bed!'
'Every night I dream of you. Oh! brave Heriot; dear, dear Walter, you
did not betray me; my father struck you, and you let him for my sake.
Every night I pray heaven to make you forgive him: I thought you would
hate me. I cried till I was glad you could not see me. Look at those
two little stars; no, they hurt me, I can't look at them ever again. But
no, you are not going; you want to frighten me. Do smell the flowers.
Don't make them poison to me. Oh, what a morning for me when you're
lost! And me, to look out on the night alone! No, no more kisses! Oh,
yes, I will kiss you, dear.'
Heriot said, 'Your mother was Irish, Julia.'
'Yes. She would have loved you.'
'I 've Irish blood too. Give me her portrait. It 's the image of you.'
'To take away? Walter! not to take it away?'
'You darling! to keep me sure of you.'
'Part with my mother's portrait?'
'Why, yes, if you love me one bit.'
'But you are younger than me, Heriot.'
'Then good-night, good-bye, Julia.'
'Walter, I will fetch it.'
Heriot now told her I was below, and she looked down on me and called my
name softly, sending kisses from her fingers while he gave the cause for
our late return.
'Some one must be sitting up for you--are we safe?' she said.
Heriot laughed, and pressed for the portrait.
'It is all I have. Why should you not have it? I want to be
She sobbed as she said this and disappeared. Heriot still talked into
her room. I thought I heard a noise of the garden-door opening. A man
came out rushing at the ladder. I called in terror: 'Mr. Boddy, stop,
sir.' He pushed me savagely aside, pitching his whole force against the
ladder. Heriot pulled down Julia's window; he fell with a heavy thump on
the ground, and I heard a shriek above. He tried to spring to his feet,
but dropped, supported himself on one of his hands, and cried:
'All right; no harm done; how do you do, Mr. Boddy? I thought I'd try
one of the attics, as we were late, not to disturb the house. I 'm not
hurt, I tell you,' he cried as loud as he could.
The usher's words were in a confusion of rage and inquiries. He
commanded Heriot to stand on his legs, abused him, asked him what he
meant by it, accused him of depravity, of crime, of disgraceful conduct,
and attempted to pluck him from the spot.
'Hands off me,' said Heriot; 'I can help myself. The youngster 'll help
me, and we'll go round to the front door. I hope, sir, you will behave
like a gentleman; make no row here, Mr. Boddy, if you've any respect for
people inside. We were upset by Mr. Salter's carriage; it's damaged my
leg, I believe. Have the goodness, sir, to go in by your road, and we'll
go round and knock at the front door in the proper way. We shall have to
disturb the house after all.'
Heriot insisted. I was astonished to see Boddy obey him and leave us,
after my dear Heriot had hopped with his hand on my shoulder to the
corner of the house fronting the road. While we were standing alone a
light cart drove by. Heriot hailed it, and hopped up to the driver.
'Take me to London, there's a good fellow,' he said; 'I'm a gentleman;
you needn't look fixed. I'll pay you well and thank you. But quick.
Haul me up, up; here's my hand. By jingo! this is pain.'
The man said, 'Scamped it out of school, sir?'
Heriot replied: 'Mum. Rely on me when I tell you I'm a gentleman.'
'Well, if I pick up a gentleman, I can't be doing a bad business,' said
the man, hauling him in tenderly.
Heriot sung to me in his sweet manner, 'Good-bye, little Richie. Knock
when five minutes are over. God bless you, dear little lad! Leg 'll get
well by morning, never fear for me; and we'll meet somehow; we'll drink
the Burgundy. No crying. Kiss your hand to me.'
I kissed my hand to him. I had no tears to shed; my chest kept heaving
enormously. My friend was gone. I stood in the road straining to hear
the last of the wheels after they had long been silent.
A TALE OF A GOOSE
From that hour till the day Heriot's aunt came to see me, I lived
systematically out of myself in extreme flights of imagination, locking
my doors up, as it were, all the faster for the extremest strokes of Mr.
Rippenger's rod. He remarked justly that I grew an impenetrably sullen
boy, a constitutional rebel, a callous lump: and assured me that if my
father would not pay for me, I at least should not escape my debts.
The title of little impostor, transmitted from the master's mouth to
the school in designation of one who had come to him as a young prince,
and for whom he had not received one penny's indemnification, naturally
caused me to have fights with several of the boys. Whereupon I was
reported: I was prayed at to move my spirit, and flogged to exercise my
flesh. The prayers I soon learnt to laugh to scorn. The floggings,
after they were over, crowned me with delicious sensations of martyrdom.
Even while the sting lasted I could say, it's for Heriot and Julia! and
it gave me a wonderful penetration into--the mournful ecstasy of love.
Julia was sent away to a relative by the sea-side, because, one of the
housemaids told me, she could not bear to hear of my being beaten. Mr.
Rippenger summoned me to his private room to bid me inform him whether I
had other relatives besides my father, such as grandfather, grandmother,
uncles, or aunts, or a mother. I dare say Julia would have led me to
break my word to my father by speaking of old Riversley, a place I half
longed for since my father had grown so distant and dim to me; but
confession to Mr. Rippenger seemed, as he said of Heriot's behaviour to
him, a gross breach of trust to my father; so I refused steadily to
answer, and suffered the consequences now on my dear father's behalf.
Heriot's aunt brought me a cake, and in a letter from him an
extraordinary sum of money for a boy of my age. He wrote that he knew
I should want it to pay my debts for treats to the boys and keep them in
good humour. He believed also that his people meant to have me for the
Christmas holidays. The sum he sent me was five pounds, carefully
enclosed. I felt myself a prince again. The money was like a golden
gate through which freedom twinkled a finger. Forthwith I paid my debts,
amounting to two pounds twelve shillings, and instructed a couple of day-
boarders, commercial fellows, whose heavy and mysterious charges for
commissions ran up a bill in no time, to prepare to bring us materials
for a feast on Saturday. Temple abominated the trading propensities of
these boys. 'They never get licked and they've always got money, at
least I know they always get mine,' said he; 'but you and I and Heriot
despise them.' Our position toward them was that of an encumbered
aristocracy, and really they paid us great respect. The fact was that,
when they had trusted us, they were compelled to continue obsequious, for
Heriot had instilled the sentiment in the school, that gentlemen never
failed to wipe out debts in the long run, so it was their interest to
make us feel they knew us to be gentlemen, who were at some time or other
sure to pay, and thus also they operated on our consciences. From which
it followed that one title of superiority among us, ranking next in the
order of nobility to the dignity conferred by Mr. Rippenger's rod, was
the being down in their books. Temple and I walked in the halo of
unlimited credit like more than mortal twins. I gave an order for four
bottles of champagne.
On the Friday evening Catman walked out with us. His studious habits
endeared him to us immensely, owing to his having his head in his book on
all occasions, and a walk under his superintendence was first cousin to
liberty. Some boys roamed ahead, some lagged behind, while Catman turned
over his pages, sounding the return only when it grew dark. The rumour
of the champagne had already intoxicated the boys. There was a companion
and most auspicious rumour that Boddy was going to be absent on Saturday.
If so, we said, we may drink our champagne under Catman's nose and he be
none the wiser. Saddlebank undertook to manage our feast for us. Coming
home over the downs, just upon twilight, Temple and I saw Saddlebank
carrying a long withy upright. We asked him what it was for. He shouted
back: 'It's for fortune. You keep the rear guard.' Then we saw him
following a man and a flock of geese, and imitating the action of the man
with his green wand. As we were ready to laugh at anything Saddlebank
did, we laughed at this. The man walked like one half asleep, and
appeared to wake up now and then to find that he was right in the middle
of his geese, and then he waited, and Saddlebank waited behind him.
Presently the geese passed a lane leading off the downs. We saw
Saddlebank duck his wand in a coaxing way, like an angler dropping his
fly for fish; he made all sorts of curious easy flourishes against the
sky and branched up the lane. We struck after him, little suspecting
that he had a goose in front, but he had; he had cut one of the loiterers
off from the flock; and to see him handle his wand on either side his
goose, encouraging it to go forward, and remonstrating, and addressing it
in bits of Latin, and the creature pattering stiff and astonished, sent
us in a dance of laughter.
'What have you done, old Saddle?' said Temple, though it was perfectly
clear what Saddlebank had done.
'I've carved off a slice of Michaelmas,' said Saddlebank, and he hewed
the air to flick delicately at his goose's head.
'What do you mean--a slice?' said we.
We wanted to be certain the goose was captured booty. Saddlebank would
talk nothing but his fun. Temple fetched a roaring sigh:
'Oh! how good this goose 'd be with our champagne.'
The idea seized and enraptured me. 'Saddlebank, I 'll buy him off you,'
'Chink won't flavour him,' said Saddlebank, still at his business: 'here,
you two, cut back by the down and try all your might to get a dozen
apples before Catman counts heads at the door, and you hold your
We shot past the man with the geese--I pitied him--clipped a corner of
the down, and by dint of hard running reached the main street, mad for
apples, before Catman appeared there. Apples, champagne, and cakes were
now provided; all that was left to think of was the goose. We glorified
Saddlebank's cleverness to the boys.
'By jingo! what a treat you'll have,' Temple said among them, bursting
with our secret.
Saddlebank pleaded that he had missed his way on presenting himself ten
minutes after time. To me and Temple he breathed of goose, but he
shunned us; he had no fun in him till Saturday afternoon, when Catman
called out to hear if we were for cricket or a walk.
'A walk on the downs,' said Saddlebank.
Temple and I echoed him, and Saddlebank motioned his hand as though he
were wheedling his goose along. Saddlebank spoke a word to my
commissioners. I was to leave the arrangements for the feast to him, he
said. John Salter was at home unwell, so Saddlebank was chief. No
sooner did we stand on the downs than he gathered us all in a circle, and
taking off his cap threw in it some slips of paper. We had to draw lots
who should keep by Catman out of twenty-seven; fifteen blanks were
marked. Temple dashed his hand into the cap first 'Like my luck,' he
remarked, and pocketed both fists as he began strutting away to hide his
desperation at drawing a blank. I bought a substitute for him at the
price of half-a-crown,--Drew, a fellow we were glad to get rid of; he
wanted five shillings. The feast was worth fifty, but to haggle about
prices showed the sneak. He begged us to put by a taste for him; he was
groaned out of hearing. The fifteen looked so wretched when they saw
themselves divided from us that I gave them a shilling a-piece to console
them. They took their instructions from Saddlebank as to how they were
to surround Catman, and make him fancy us to be all in his neighbourhood;
and then we shook hands, they requesting us feebly to drink their
healths, and we saying, ay, that we would.
Temple was in distress of spirits because of his having been
ignominiously bought off. Saddlebank, however, put on such a pace that
no one had leisure for melancholy. 'I'll get you fellows up to boiling
point,' said he. There was a tremendously hot sun overhead. On a sudden
he halted, exclaiming: 'Cooks and gridirons! what about sage and
onions?' Only Temple and I jumped at the meaning of this. We drew lots
for a messenger, and it was miserable to behold an unfortunate fellow
touch Saddlebank's hand containing the notched bit of stick, and find
himself condemned to go and buy sage and onions somewhere, without
knowing what it was for how could he guess we were going to cook a raw
goose! The lot fell to a boy named Barnshed, a big slow boy, half way up
every class he was in, but utterly stupid out of school; which made
Saddlebank say: 'They'll take it he's the bird that wants stuffing.'
Barnshed was directed where to rejoin us. The others asked why he was
trotted after sage and onions. 'Because he's an awful goose,' said
Temple and I thought the word was out and hurrahed, and back came
Barnshed. We had a task in persuading him to resume his expedition, as
well as Saddlebank to forgive us. Saddlebank's anger was excessive. We
conciliated him by calling him captain, and pretending to swear an oath
of allegiance. He now led us through a wood on to some fields down to a
shady dell, where we were to hold the feast in privacy. He did not
descend it himself. Vexatious as it was to see a tramp's tent there, we
nevertheless acknowledged the respectful greeting of the women and the
man with a few questions about tentpegs, pots, and tin mugs. Saddlebank
remained aloft, keeping a look-out for the day-school fellows, Chaunter,
Davis, and Bystop, my commissioners. They did not keep us waiting long.
They had driven to the spot in a cart, according to Saddlebank's
directions. Our provisions were in three large hampers. We praised
their forethought loudly at the sight of an extra bottle of champagne,
with two bottles of ginger-wine, two of currant, two of raisin, four pint
bottles of ale, six of ginger-beer, a Dutch cheese, a heap of tarts,
three sally-lunns, and four shillingsworth of toffy. Temple and I joined
our apples to the mass: a sight at which some of the boys exulted aloud.
The tramp-women insisted on spreading things out for us: ten yards off
their children squatted staring: the man smoked and chaffed us.
At last Saddlebank came running over the hill-side, making as if he meant
to bowl down what looked a black body of a baby against the sky, and
shouting, 'See, you fellows, here's a find!' He ran through us, swinging
his goose up to the hampers, saying that he had found the goose under a
furze-bush. While the words were coming out of his mouth, he saw the
tramps, and the male tramp's eyes and his met.
The man had one eyebrow and his lips at one corner screwed in a queer
lift: he winked slowly. 'Odd! ain't it?' he said.
Saddlebank shouldered round on us, and cried, 'Confound you fellows!
here's a beastly place you've pitched upon.' His face was the colour of
scarlet in patches.
'Now, I call it a beautiful place,' said the man, 'and if you finds
gooses hereabouts growing ready for the fire, all but plucking, why, it's
a bountiful place, I call it.'
The women tried to keep him silent. But for them we should have moved
our encampment. 'Why, of course, young gentlemen, if you want to eat the
goose, we'll pluck it for you and cook it for you, all nice,' they said.
'How can young gentlemen do that for theirselves?'
It was clear to us we must have a fire for the goose. Certain
observations current among us about the necessity to remove the goose's
inside, and not to lose the giblets, which even the boy who named them
confessed his inability to recognize, inclined the majority to accept the
woman's proposal. Saddlebank said it was on our heads, then.
To revive his good humour, Temple uncorked a bottle of champagne. The
tramp-woman lent us a tin mug, and round it went. One boy said, 'That's
a commencement'; another said, 'Hang old Rippenger.' Temple snapped his
fingers, and Bystop, a farmer's son, said, 'Well, now I've drunk
champagne; I meant to before I died!' Most of the boys seemed puzzled by
it. As for me, my heart sprang up in me like a colt turned out of
stables to graze. I determined that the humblest of my retainers should
feed from my table, and drink to my father's and Heriot's honour, and I
poured out champagne for the women, who just sipped, and the man, who
vowed he preferred beer. A spoonful of the mashed tarts I sent to each
of the children. Only one, the eldest, a girl about a year older than
me, or younger, with black eyebrows and rough black hair, refused to eat
'Let her bide, young gentlemen,' said a woman; 'she's a regular
obstinate, once she sets in for it.'
'Ah!' said the man, 'I've seen pigs druv, and I've seen iron bent double.
She's harder 'n both, once she takes 't into her head.'
'By jingo, she's pig-iron!' cried Temple, and sighed, 'Oh, dear old
I flung myself beside him to talk of our lost friend.
A great commotion stirred the boys. They shrieked at beholding their
goose vanish in a pot for stewing. They wanted roast-goose, they
exclaimed, not boiled; who cared for boiled goose! But the woman asked
them how it was possible to roast a goose on the top of wood-flames,
where there was nothing to hang it by, and nothing would come of it
except smoked bones!
The boys groaned in consternation, and Saddlebank sowed discontent by
grumbling, 'Now you see what your jolly new acquaintances have done for
So we played at catch with the Dutch cheese, and afterwards bowled it for
long-stopping, when, to the disgust of Saddlebank and others, down ran
the black-haired girl and caught the ball clean at wicket-distance. As
soon as she had done it she was ashamed, and slunk away.
The boys called out, 'Now, then, pig-iron !'
One fellow enraged me by throwing an apple that hit her in the back.
We exchanged half-a-dozen blows, whereupon he consented to apologize, and
roared, 'Hulloa, pig-iron, sorry if I hurt you.'
Temple urged me to insist on the rascal's going on his knees for flinging
at a girl.
'Why,' said Chaunter, 'you were the first to call her pig-iron.'
Temple declared he was a blackguard if he said that. I made the girl
take a piece of toffy.
'Aha!' Saddlebank grumbled, 'this comes of the precious company you would
keep in spite of my caution.'
The man told us to go it, for he liked to observe young gentlemen
enjoying themselves. Temple tossed him a pint bottle of beer, with an
injunction to him to shut his trap.
'Now, you talk my mother tongue,' said the man; 'you're what goes by the
name of a learned gentleman. Thank ye, sir. You'll be a counsellor some
'I won't get off thieves, I can tell you,' said Temple. He was the son
of a barrister.
'Nor you won't help cook their gooses for them, may be,' said the man.
'Well, kindness is kindness, all over the world.'
The women stormed at him to command him not to anger the young gentlemen,
for Saddlebank was swearing awfully in an undertone. He answered them
that he was the mildest lamb afloat.
Despairing of the goose, we resolved to finish the cold repast awaiting
us. The Dutch cheese had been bowled into bits. With a portion of the
mashed tarts on it, and champagne, it tasted excellently; toffy to
follow. Those boys who chose ginger-wine had it, and drank, despised.
The ginger-beer and ale, apples and sallylunns, were reserved for supper.
My mind became like a driving sky, with glimpses of my father and Heriot
'If I'm not a prince, I'm a nobleman,' I said to Temple.
He replied, 'Army or Navy. I don't much care which. We're sure of a
foreign war some time. Then you'll see fellows rise: lieutenant,
captain, colonel, General--quick as barrels popping at a bird. I should
like to be Governor of Gibraltar.'
'I'll come and see you, Temple,' said I.
'Done! old Richie,' he said, grasping my hand warmly.
'The truth is, Temple,' I confided to him, 'I've an uncle-I mean a
grandfather-of enormous property; he owns half Hampshire, I believe, and
hates my father like poison. I won't stand it. You've seen my father,
haven't you? Gentlemen never forget their servants, Temple. Let's drink
lots more champagne. I wish you and I were knights riding across that
country there, as they used to, and you saying, "I wonder whether your
father's at home in the castle expecting our arrival."'
'The Baron!' said Temple. 'He's like a Baron, too. His health. Your
health, sir! It's just the wine to drink it in, Richie. He's one of the
men I look up to. It 's odd he never comes to see you, because he's fond
of you; the right sort of father! Big men can't be always looking after
little boys. Not that we're so young, though, now. Lots of fellows of
our age have done things fellows write about. I feel--' Temple sat up
swelling his chest to deliver an important sentiment; 'I feel uncommonly
So did I. We attributed it to the air of the place, Temple going so far
as to say that it came off the chalk, which somehow stuck in the throat.
'Saddleback, don't look glum,' said Temple. 'Lord, Richie, you should
hear my father plead in Court with his wig on. They used to say at home
I was a clever boy when I was a baby. Saddleback, you've looked glum all
'Treat your superiors respectfully,' Saddlebank retorted.
The tramp was irritating him. That tramp had never left off smoking and
leaning on his arm since we first saw him. Two boys named Hackman and
Montague, not bad fellows, grew desirous of a whiff from his pipe. They
had it, and lay down silent, back to back. Bystop was led away in a
wretched plight. Two others, Paynter and Ashworth, attacked the apples,
rendered desperate by thirst. Saddlebank repelled them furiously. He
harangued those who might care to listen.
'You fellows, by George! you shall eat the goose, I tell you. You've
spoilt everything, and I tell you, whether you like it or not, you shall
have apples with it, and sage and onions too. I don't ask for thanks.
And I propose to post outposts in the wood to keep watch.'
He wanted us to draw lots again. His fun had entirely departed from him;
all he thought of was seeing the goose out of the pot. I had a feeling
next to hatred for one who could talk of goose. Temple must have shared
'We 've no real captain now dear old Heriot 's gone,' he said. 'The
school's topsy-turvy: we're like a lot of things rattled in a box. Oh,
dear! how I do like a good commander. On he goes, you after him, never
mind what happens.'
A pair of inseparable friends, Happitt and Larkins, nicknamed Happy-go-
Lucky, were rolling arm-in-arm, declaring they were perfectly sober, and,
for a proof of it, trying to direct their feet upon a lump of chalk, and
marching, and missing it. Up came Chaunter to them: 'Fat goose?' he
said-no more. Both the boys rushed straight as far as they could go;
both sung out, 'I'm done!' and they were.
Temple and I contemplated these proceedings as matters belonging to the
ordinary phenomena of feasting. We agreed that gentlemen were always the
last to drop, and were assured, therefore, of our living out the field;
but I dreaded the moment of the goose's appearance, and I think he did
also. Saddlebank's pertinacity in withholding the cool ginger-beer and
the apples offended us deeply; we should have conspired against him had
we reposed confidence in our legs and our tongues.
Twilight was around us. The tramp-children lay in little bundles in one
tent; another was being built by the women and the girl. Overhead I
counted numbers of stars, all small; and lights in the valley-lights of
palaces to my imagination. Stars and tramps seemed to me to go together.
Houses imprisoned us, I thought a lost father was never to be discovered
by remaining in them. Plunged among dark green leaves, smelling wood-
smoke, at night; at morning waking up, and the world alight, and you
standing high, and marking the hills where you will see the next morning
and the next, morning after morning, and one morning the dearest person
in the world surprising you just before you wake: I thought this a
heavenly pleasure. But, observing the narrowness of the tents, it struck
me there would be snoring companions. I felt so intensely sensitive,
that the very idea of a snore gave me tremours and qualms: it was
associated with the sense of fat. Saddlebank had the lid of the pot in
his hand; we smelt the goose, and he cried, 'Now for supper; now for it!
Halloa, you fellows!'
'Bother it, Saddlebank, you'll make Catman hear you,' said Temple, wiping
I perspired coldly.
'Catman! He's been at it for the last hour and a half,' Saddlebank
One boy ran up: he was ready, and the only one who was. Presently
Chaunter rushed by.
'Barnshed 's in custody; I'm away home,' he said, passing.
We stared at the black opening of the dell.
'Oh, it's Catman; we don't mind him,' Saddlebank reassured us; but we
heard ominous voices, and perceived people standing over a prostrate
figure. Then we heard a voice too well known to us. It said, 'The
explanation of a pupil in your charge, Mr. Catman, being sent barefaced
into the town--a scholar of mine-for sage and onions . . .'
'Old Rippenger!' breathed Temple.
We sat paralyzed. Now we understood the folly of despatching a donkey
like Barnshed for sage and onions.
'Oh, what asses we have been!' Temple continued. 'Come along-we run for
it! Come along, Richie! They 're picking up the fellows like
I told him I would not run for it; in fact, I distrusted my legs; and he
was staggering, answering Saddlebank's reproaches for having come among
'Temple, I see you, sir!' called Mr. Rippenger. Poor Temple had advanced
into the firelight.
With the instinct to defeat the master, I crawled in the line of the
shadows to the farther side of a tent, where I felt a hand clutch mine.
'Hide me,' said I; and the curtain of the tent was raised. After
squeezing through boxes and straw, I lay flat, covered by a mat smelling
of abominable cheese, and felt a head outside it on my chest. Several
times Mr. Rippenger pronounced my name in the way habitual to him in
Temple's answer was inaudible to me. Saddlebank spoke, and other boys,
and the man and the woman. Then a light was thrust in the tent, and the
man said, 'Me deceive you, sir! See for yourself, to satisfy yourself.
Here's our little uns laid warm, and a girl there, head on the mat, going
down to join her tribe at Lipcombe, and one of our women sleeps here, and
all told. But for you to suspect me of combining--Thank ye, sir.
You've got my word as a man.'
The light went away. My chest was relieved of the weight on it. I sat
up, and the creature who had been kind to me laid mat and straw on the
ground, and drew my head on her shoulder, where I slept fast.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A stew's a stew, and not a boiling to shreds
I can't think brisk out of my breeches
Kindness is kindness, all over the world
Learn all about them afterwards, ay, and make the best of them
To hope, and not be impatient, is really to believe
THE ADVENTURES OF HARRY RICHMOND
By George Meredith
VII. A FREE LIFE ON THE ROAD
VIII. JANET ILCHESTER
IX. AN EVENING WITH CAPTAIN BULSTED
X. AN EXPEDITION
XI. THE GREAT FOG AND THE FIRE AT MIDNIGHT
XII. WE FIND OURSELVES BOUND ON A VOYAGE
XIII. WE CONDUCT SEVERAL LEARNED ARGUMENTS WITH THE CAPTAIN OF THE
XIV. I MEET OLD FRIENDS
A FREE LIFE ON THE ROAD
I woke very early, though I had taken kindly to my pillow, as I found by
my having an arm round my companion's neck, and her fingers intertwisted
with mine. For awhile I lay looking at her eyes, which had every
imaginable light and signification in them; they advised me to lie quiet,
they laughed at my wonder, they said, 'Dear little fellow!' they flashed
as from under a cloud, darkened, flashed out of it, seemed to dip in
water and shine, and were sometimes like a view into a forest, sometimes
intensely sunny, never quite still. I trusted her, and could have slept
again, but the sight of the tent stupefied me; I fancied the sky had
fallen, and gasped for air; my head was extremely dizzy too; not one idea
in it was kept from wheeling. This confusion of my head flew to my legs
when, imitating her, I rose to go forth. In a fit of horror I thought,
'I 've forgotten how to walk!'
Summoning my manful resolution, I made the attempt to step across the
children swaddled in matting and straw and old gowns or petticoats. The
necessity for doing it with a rush seized me after the first step. I
pitched over one little bundle, right on to the figure of a sleeping
woman. All she did was to turn round, murmuring, 'Naughty Jackie.'
My companion pulled me along gravely, and once in the air, with a good
breath of it in my chest, I felt tall and strong, and knew what had
occurred. The tent where I had slept struck me as more curious than my
own circumstances. I lifted my face to the sky; it was just sunrise,
beautiful; bits of long and curling cloud brushed any way close on the
blue, and rosy and white, deliciously cool; the grass was all grey, our
dell in shadow, and the tops of the trees burning, a few birds
I sucked a blade of grass.
'I wish it was all water here,' I said.
'Come and have a drink and a bathe,' said my companion.
We went down the dell and over a juniper slope, reminding me of my day at
John Salter's house and the last of dear Heriot. Rather to my shame, my
companion beat me at running; she was very swift, and my legs were stiff.
'Can you swim?' she asked me.
'I can row, and swim, and fence, and ride, and fire a pistol,' I said.
'Oh, dear,' said she, after eyeing me enviously. I could see that I had
checked a recital of her accomplishments.
We arrived at a clear stream in a gentleman's park, where grass rolled
smooth as sea-water on a fine day, and cows and horses were feeding.
'I can catch that horse and mount him,' she said.
I was astonished.
She nodded down for 'Yes.'
She nodded level for 'No.'
My respect for her returned. But she could not swim.
'Only up to my knees,' she confessed.
'Have a look at me,' said I; and I stripped and shot into the water,
happy as a fish, and thinking how much nicer it was than champagne. My
enjoyment made her so envious that she plucked off her stockings, and
came in as far as she dared. I called to her. 'You're like a cow,' and
she showed her teeth, bidding me not say that.
'A cow! a cow !' I repeated, in my superior pleasure.
She spun out in a breath, ' If you say that, I 'll run away with every
bit of your clothes, and you'll come out and run about naked, you will.'
'Now I float,' was my answer, 'now I dive'; and when I came up she
welcomed me with a big bright grin.
A smart run in the heat dried me. I dressed, finding half my money on
the grass. She asked me to give her one of those bits-a shilling. I
gave her two, upon which she asked me, invitingly, if ever I tossed. I
replied that I never tossed for money; but she had caught a shilling, and
I could not resist guessing 'heads,' and won; the same with her second
shilling. She handed them to me sullenly, sobbing, yet she would not
take them back.
'By-and-by you give me another two,' she said, growing lively again.
We agreed that it would be a good thing if we entered the village and
bought something. None of the shops were open. We walked through the
churchyard. I said, 'Here's where dead people are buried.'
'I'll dance if you talk about dead people,' said she, and began whooping
at the pitch of her voice. On my wishing to know why she did it, her
reply was that it was to make the dead people hear. My feelings were
strange: the shops not open, and no living people to be seen. We climbed
trees, and sat on a branch talking of birds' eggs till hunger drove us to
the village street, where, near the public-house, we met the man-tramp,
He was rather amusing. He remarked that he put no questions to me,
because he put no question to anybody, because answers excited him about
subjects that had no particular interest to him, and did not benefit him
to the extent of a pipe of 'tobacco; and all through not being
inquisitive, yesterday afternoon he had obtained, as if it had been
chucked into his lap, a fine-flavoured fat goose honourably for his
supper, besides bottles of ale, bottles of ginger-pop, and a fair-earned
half-crown. That was through his not being inquisitive, and he was not
going to be inquisitive now, knowing me for a gentleman: my master had
tipped him half-a-crown.
Fortunately for him, and perhaps for my liberty, he employed a verb
marvellously enlightening to a schoolboy. I tipped him another half-
crown. He thanked me, observing that there were days when you lay on
your back and the sky rained apples; while there were other days when you
wore your fingers down to the first joint to catch a flea. Such was
In a friendly manner he advised me to go to school; if not there, then to
go home. My idea, which I had only partly conceived, was to have a look
at Riversley over a hedge, kiss my aunt Dorothy unaware, and fly
subsequently in search of my father. Breakfast, however, was my
immediate thought. He and the girl sat down to breakfast at the inn as
my guests. We ate muttonchops and eggs, and drank coffee. After it,
though I had no suspicions, I noticed that the man grew thoughtful.
He proposed to me, supposing I had no objection against slow travelling,
to join company for a couple of days, if I was for Hampshire, which I
stated was the county I meant to visit.
'Well then, here now, come along, d 'ye see, look,' said he, 'I mustn't
be pounced on, and no missing young gentleman in my society, and me took
half-a-crown for his absence; that won't do. You get on pretty well with
the gal, and that 's a screaming farce: none of us do. Lord! she looks
down on such scum as us. She's gipsy blood, true sort; everything's
sausages that gets into their pockets, no matter what it was when it was
out. Well then, now, here, you and the gal go t' other side o'
Bed'lming, and you wait for us on the heath, and we 'll be there to
comfort ye 'fore dark. Is it a fister?'
He held out his hand; I agreed; and he remarked that he now counted a
breakfast in the list of his gains from never asking questions.
I was glad enough to quit the village in a hurry, for the driver of the
geese, or a man dreadfully resembling him, passed me near the public-
house, and attacked my conscience on the cowardly side, which is, I fear,
the first to awaken, and always the liveliest half while we are
undisciplined. I would have paid him money, but the idea of a
conversation with him indicated the road back to school. My companion
related her history. She belonged to a Hampshire gipsy tribe, and had
been on a visit to a relative down in the East counties, who died on the
road, leaving her to be brought home by these tramps: she called them
mumpers, and made faces when she spoke of them. Gipsies, she said, were
a different sort: gipsies camped in gentlemen's parks; gipsies, horses,
fiddles, and the wide world--that was what she liked. The wide world she
described as a heath, where you looked and never saw the end of it I let
her talk on. For me to talk of my affairs to a girl without bonnet and
boots would have been absurd. Otherwise, her society pleased me: she was
so like a boy, and unlike any boy I knew.
My mental occupation on the road was to calculate how many hill-tops I
should climb before I beheld Riversley. The Sunday bells sounded homely
from village to village as soon as I was convinced that I heard no bells
summoning boarders to Rippenger's school. The shops in the villages
continued shut; however, I told the girl they should pay me for it next
day, and we had an interesting topic in discussing as to the various
things we would buy. She was for bright ribands and draper's stuff, I
for pastry and letter-paper. The smell of people's dinners united our
appetites. Going through a village I saw a man carrying a great baked
pie, smelling overpoweringly, so that to ask him his price for it was a
natural impulse with me. 'What! sell my Sunday dinner?' he said, and
appeared ready to drop the dish. Nothing stopped his staring until we
had finished a plateful a-piece and some beer in his cottage among his
family. He wanted to take me in alone. 'She's a common tramp,' he said
of the girl.
'That's a lie,' she answered.
Of course I would not leave her hungry outside, so in the end he
reluctantly invited us both, and introduced us to his wife.
'Here's a young gentleman asks a bit o' dinner, and a young I-d'n-know-
what 's after the same; I leaves it to you, missus.'
His wife took it off his shoulders in good humour, saying it was lucky
she made the pie big enough for her family and strays. They would not
accept more than a shilling for our joint repast. The man said that was
the account to a farthing, if I was too proud to be a poor man's guest,
and insisted on treating him like a public. Perhaps I would shake hands
at parting? I did cordially, and remembered him when people were not so
civil. They wanted to know whether we had made a runaway match of it.
The fun of passing a boys'-school and hearing the usher threaten to
punish one fellow for straying from ranks, entertained me immensely. I
laughed at them just as the stupid people we met laughed at me, which was
unpleasant for the time; but I knew there was not a single boy who would
not have changed places with me, only give him the chance, though my
companion was a gipsy girl, and she certainly did look odd company for a
gentleman's son in a tea-garden and public-house parlour. At nightfall,
however, I was glad of her and she of me, and we walked hand in hand.
I narrated tales of Roman history. It was very well for her so say,
'I'll mother you,' as we lay down to sleep; I discovered that she would
never have hooted over churchyard graves in the night. She confessed she
believed the devil went about in the night. Our bed was a cart under a
shed, our bed-clothes fern-leaves and armfuls of straw. The shafts of
the cart were down, so we lay between upright and level, and awakening in
the early light I found our four legs hanging over the seat in front.
'How you have been kicking!' said I. She accused me of the same. Next
minute she pointed over the side of the cart, and I saw the tramp's horse
and his tents beneath a broad roadside oak-tree. Her face was comical,
just like a boy's who thinks he has escaped and is caught. 'Let's run,'
she said. Preferring positive independence, I followed her, and then she
told me that she had overheard the tramp last night swearing I was as
good as a fistful of half-crowns lost to him if he missed me. The image
of Rippenger's school overshadowed me at this communication. With some
melancholy I said: 'You'll join your friends, won't you?'
She snapped her fingers: 'Mumpers !' and walked on carelessly.
We were now on the great heaths. They brought the memory of my father
vividly; the smell of the air half inclined me to turn my steps toward
London, I grew so full of longing for him. Nevertheless I resolved to
have one gaze at Riversley, my aunt Dorothy, and Sewis, the old grey-
brown butler, and the lamb that had grown a sheep; wonderful contrasts to
my grand kings of England career. My first clear recollection of
Riversley was here, like an outline of a hill seen miles away. I might
have shed a tear or two out of love for my father, had not the thought
that I was a very queer boy displaced his image. I could not but be a
very queer boy, such a lot of things happened to me. Suppose I joined
the gipsies? My companion wished me to. She had brothers, horse-
dealers, beautiful fiddlers. Suppose I learnt the fiddle? Suppose I
learnt their language and went about with them and became king of the
gipsies? My companion shook her head; she could not encourage this
ambitious idea because she had never heard of a king of the gipsies or a
queen either. 'We fool people,' she said, and offended me, for our
school believed in a gipsy king, and one fellow, Hackman, used to sing a
song of a gipsy king; and it was as much as to say that my schoolfellows
were fools, every one of them. I accused her of telling lies. She
grinned angrily. 'I don't tell 'em to friends,' she said. We had a
quarrel. The truth was, I was enraged at the sweeping out of my
prospects of rising to distinction among the gipsies. After breakfast at
an inn, where a waiter laughed at us to our faces, and we fed scowling,
shy, and hungry, we had another quarrel. I informed her of my opinion
that gipsies could not tell fortunes.
'They can, and you come to my mother and my aunt, and see if they can't
tell your fortune,' said she, in a fury.
'Yes, and that's how they fool people,' said I. I enjoyed seeing the
flash of her teeth. But my daring of her to look me in the eyes and
swear on her oath she believed the fortunes true ones, sent her into a
fit of sullenness.
'Go along, you nasty little fellow, your shadow isn't half a yard,' she
said, and I could smile at that; my shadow stretched half across the
road. We had a quarrelsome day wherever we went; rarely walking close
together till nightfall, when she edged up to my hand, with, 'I say, I'll
keep you warm to-night, I will.' She hugged me almost too tight, but it
was warm and social, and helped to the triumph of a feeling I had that
nothing made me regret running away from Rippenger's school.
An adventure befell us in the night. A farmer's wife, whom we asked for
a drink of water after dark, lent us an old blanket to cover us in a dry
ditch on receiving our promise not to rob the orchard. An old beggar
came limping by us, and wanted to share our covering. My companion sank
right under the blanket to peer at him through one of its holes. He
stood enormous above me in the moonlight, like an apparition touching
earth and sky.
'Cold, cold,' he whined: 'there's ne'er a worse off but there's a better
off. Young un!' His words dispersed the fancy that he was something
horrible, or else my father in disguise going to throw off his rags, and
shine, and say he had found me. 'Are ye one, or are ye two?' he asked.
I replied that we were two.
'Then I'll come and lie in the middle,' said he.
'You can't; there's no room,' I sang out.
'Lord,' said he, 'there's room for any reckoning o' empty stomachs in a
'No, I prefer to be alone: good-night,' said I.
'Why!' he exclaimed, 'where ha' you been t' learn language? Halloa !'
'Please, leave me alone; it's my intention to go to sleep,' I said, vexed
at having to conciliate him; he had a big stick.
'Oho!' went the beggar. Then he recommenced:
'Tell me you've stole nothing in your life! You've stole a gentleman's
tongue, I knows the ring o' that. How comes you out here? Who's your
mate there down below? Now, see, I'm going to lift my stick.'
At these menacing words the girl jumped out of the blanket, and I called
to him that I would rouse the farmer.
'Why . . . because I'm goin' to knock down a apple or two on your
head?' he inquired, in a tone of reproach. 'It's a young woman you've
got there, eh? Well, odd grows odder, like the man who turned three
shillings into five. Now, you gi' me a lie under your blanket, I 'll
knock down a apple apiece. If ever you've tasted gin, you 'll say a
apple at night's a cordial, though it don't intoxicate.'
The girl whispered in my ear, 'He's lame as ducks.' Her meaning seized me
at once; we both sprang out of the ditch and ran, dragging our blanket
behind us. He pursued, but we eluded him, and dropped on a quiet
sleeping-place among furzes. Next morning, when we took the blanket to
the farm-house, we heard that the old wretch had traduced our characters,
and got a breakfast through charging us with the robbery of the apple-
tree. I proved our innocence to the farmer's wife by putting down a
shilling. The sight of it satisfied her. She combed my hair, brought me
a bowl of water and a towel, and then gave us a bowl of milk and bread,
and dismissed us, telling me I had a fair face and dare-devil written on
it: as for the girl, she said of her that she knew gipsies at a glance,
and what God Almighty made them for there was no guessing. This set
me thinking all through the day, 'What can they have been made for?'
I bought a red scarf for the girl, and other things she fixed her eyes
on, but I lost a great deal of my feeling of fellowship with her.
'I dare say they were made for fun,' I thought, when people laughed
at us now, and I laughed also.
I had a day of rollicking laughter, puzzling the girl, who could only
grin two or three seconds at a time, and then stared like a dog that
waits for his master to send him off again running, the corners of her
mouth twitching for me to laugh or speak, exactly as a dog might wag his
tail. I studied her in the light of a harmless sort of unaccountable
creature; witness at any rate for the fact that I had escaped from
We loitered half the morning round a cricketers' booth in a field, where
there was moderately good cricketing. The people thought it of first-
rate quality. I told them I knew a fellow who could bowl out either
eleven in an hour and a half. One of the men frightened me by saying,
'By Gearge! I'll in with you into a gig, and off with you after that
ther' faller.' He pretended to mean it, and started up. I watched him
without flinching. He remarked that if I 'had not cut my lucky from
school, and tossed my cap for a free life, he was ----' whatever may be
expressed by a slap on the thigh. We played a single-wicket side game,
he giving me six runs, and crestfallen he was to find himself beaten;
but, as I let him know, one who had bowled to Heriot for hours and stood
against Saddlebank's bowling, was a tough customer, never mind his age.
This man offered me his friendship. He made me sit and eat beside him at
the afternoon dinner of the elevens, and sent platefuls of food to the
girl, where she was allowed to squat; and said he, 'You and I'll tie a
knot, and be friends for life.'
I replied, 'With pleasure.'
We nodded over a glass of ale. In answer to his questions, I stated that
I liked farms, I would come and see his farm, I would stay with him two
or three days, I would give him my address if I had one, I was on my way
to have a look at Riversley Grange.
'Hey!' says he, 'Riversley Grange! Well, to be sure now! I'm a tenant
of Squire Beltham's, and a right sort of landlord, too.'
'Oh!' says I, 'he's my grandfather, but I don't care much about him.'
'Lord!' says he. 'What! be you the little boy, why, Master Harry
Richmond that was carried off in the night, and the old squire shut up
doors for a fortnight, and made out you was gone in a hearse! Why, I
know all about you, you see. And back you are, hurrah! The squire 'll
be hearty, that he will. We've noticed a change in him ever since you
left. Gout's been at his leg, off and on, a deal shrewder. But he rides
to hounds, and dines his tenants still, that he does; he's one o' th' old
style. Everything you eat and drink's off his estate, the day he dines
his tenants. No humbug 'bout old Squire Beltham.
I asked him if Sewis was alive.
'Why, old Sewis,' says he, 'you're acquainted with old Sewis? Why, of
course you are. Yes, old Sewis 's alive, Master Harry. And you bet me
at single-wicket! That 'll be something to relate to 'em all. By
Gearge, if I didn't think I'd got a nettle in my fist when I saw you
pitch into my stumps. Dash it! thinks I. But th' old squire 'll be
proud of you, that he will. My farm lies three miles away. You look at
a crow flying due South-east five minutes from Riversley, and he's over
Throckham farm, and there I 'll drive ye to-night, and to-morrow, clean
and tidy out o' my wife's soap and water, straight to Riversley. Done,
eh? My name's Eckerthy. No matter where you comes from, here you are,
eh, Master Harry? And I see you last time in a donkey-basket, and here
you come in breeches and defy me to singlewicket, and you bet me too!'
He laughed for jollity. An extraordinary number of emotions had
possession of me: the most intelligible one being a restless vexation at
myself, as the principal person concerned, for not experiencing anything
like the farmer's happiness. I preferred a gipsy life to Riversley.
Gipsies were on the road, and that road led to my father. I endeavoured
to explain to Farmer Eckerthy that I was travelling in this direction
merely to have a short look at Riversley; but it was impossible; he could
not understand me. The more I tried, the more he pressed me to finish my
glass of ale, which had nothing to do with it. I drank, nevertheless,
and I suppose said many funny things in my anxiety that the farmer should
know what I meant; he laughed enough.
While he was fielding against the opposite eleven, the tramp came into
the booth, and we had a match of cunning.
'Schoolmaster's out after you, young gentleman,' said he, advising me to
hurry along the road if I sought to baffle pursuit.
I pretended alarm, and then said, 'Oh, you'll stand by me,' and treated
him to ale.
He assured me I left as many tracks behind me as if I went spilling a box
of lucifer-matches. He was always for my hastening on until I ordered
fresh ale for him. The girl and he grimaced at one another in contempt.
So we remained seeing the game out. By the time the game ended, the
tramp had drunk numbers of glasses of ale.
'A fine-flavoured fat goose,' he counted his gains since the commencement
of our acquaintance, 'bottles of ale and ginger-pop, two half-crowns,
more ale, and more to follow, let's hope. You only stick to your
friends, young gentleman, won't you, sir? It's a hard case for a poor
man like me if you don't. We ain't got such chances every morning of our
lives. Do you perceive, sir? I request you to inform me, do you
perceive, sir? I'm muddled a bit, sir, but a man must look after his
I perceived he was so muddled as to be unable to conceal that his
interests were involved in my capture; but I was merry too. Farmer
Eckerthy dealt the tramp a scattering slap on the back when he returned
to the booth, elated at having beaten the enemy by a single run.
'Master Harry Richmond go to Riversley to his grandfather in your
company, you scoundrel!' he cried in a rage, after listening to him.
'I mean to drive him over. It 's a comfortable ten-mile, and no more.
But I say, Master Harry, what do you say to a peck o' supper?'
He communicated to me confidentially that he did not like to seem to
slink away from the others, who had made up their minds to stop and sup;
so we would drive home by moonlight, singing songs. And so we did. I
sat beside the farmer, the girl scrambled into the hinder part of the
cart, and the tramp stood moaning, 'Oh dear! oh dear! you goes away to
Riversley without your best friend.'
I tossed him a shilling. We sang beginnings and ends of songs. The
farmer looked at the moon, and said, 'Lord! she stares at us!' Then he
'The moon is shining on Latworth lea,
And where'll she see such a jovial three
As we, boys, we? And why is she pale?
It's because she drinks water instead of ale.'
'Where 's the remainder? There's the song!--
"Oh! handsome Miss Gammon
Has married Lord Mammon,
And jilted her suitors,
All Cupid's sharpshooters,
And gone in a carriage
And six to her marriage,
Singing hey! for I've landed my salmon, my salmon!"
Where's the remainder? I heard it th' only time I ever was in London
town, never rested till I'd learnt it, and now it's clean gone. What's
come to me?'
He sang to 'Mary of Ellingmere' and another maid of some place, and a
loud song of Britons.
It was startling to me to wake up to twilight in the open air and
silence, for I was unaware that I had fallen asleep. The girl had roused
me, and we crept down from the cart. Horse and farmer were quite
motionless in a green hollow beside the roadway. Looking across fields
and fir plantations, I beheld a house in the strange light of the hour,
and my heart began beating; but I was overcome with shyness, and said to
myself, 'No, no, that's not Riversley; I'm sure it isn't'; though the
certainty of it was, in my teeth, refuting me. I ran down the fields to
the park and the bright little river, and gazed. When I could say, 'Yes,
it is Riversley!' I turned away, hurt even to a sense of smarting pain,
without knowing the cause. I dare say it is true, as the girl declared
subsequently, that I behaved like one in a fit. I dropped, and I may
have rolled my body and cried. An indefinite resentment at Riversley was
the feeling I grew conscious of after very fast walking. I would not
have accepted breakfast there.
About mid-day, crossing a stubble-field, the girl met a couple of her
people-men. Near evening we entered one of their tents. The women set
up a cry, 'Kiomi! Kiomi !' like a rising rookery. Their eyes and teeth
made such a flashing as when you dabble a hand in a dark waterpool. The
strange tongue they talked, with a kind of peck of the voice at a word,
rapid, never high or low, and then a slide of similar tones all round,
--not musical, but catching and incessant,--gave me an idea that I had
fallen upon a society of birds, exceedingly curious ones. They welcomed
me kindly, each of them looking me in the face a bright second or so.
I had two helps from a splendid pot of broth that hung over a fire in
the middle of the tent.
Kiomi was my companion's name. She had sisters Adeline and Eveleen, and
brothers Osric and William, and she had a cousin a prizefighter. 'That's
what I'll be,' said I. Fiddling for money was not a prospect that
charmed me, though it was pleasant lying in Kiomi's arms to hear Osric
play us off to sleep; it was like floating down one of a number of
visible rivers; I could see them converging and breaking away while I
floated smoothly, and a wonderful fair country nodded drowsy. From that
to cock-crow at a stride. Sleep was no more than the passage through the
arch of a canal. Kiomi and I were on the heath before sunrise, jumping
gravel-pits, chasing sandpipers, mimicking pewits; it seemed to me I had
only just heard the last of Osric's fiddle when yellow colour filled in
along the sky over Riversley. The curious dark thrill of the fiddle in
the tent by night seemed close up behind the sun, and my quiet fancies as
I lay dropping to sleep, followed me like unobtrusive shadows during
daylight, or, to speak truthfully, till about dinner-time, when I thought
of nothing but the great stew-pot. We fed on plenty; nicer food than
Rippenger's, minus puddings. After dinner I was ready for mischief.
My sensations on seeing Kiomi beg of a gentleman were remarkable.
I reproached her. She showed me sixpence shining in the palm of her
hand. I gave her a shilling to keep her from it. She had now got one
and sixpence, she said: meaning, I supposed upon reflection, that her
begging had produced that sum, and therefore it was a good thing. The
money remaining in my pocket amounted to five shillings and a penny. I
offered it to Kiomi's mother, who refused to accept it; so did the
father, and Osric also. I might think of them, they observed, on my
return to my own house: they pointed at Riversley. 'No,' said I,
'I shan't go there, you may be sure.' The women grinned, and the men
yawned. The business of the men appeared to be to set to work about
everything as if they had a fire inside them, and then to stretch out
their legs and lie on their backs, exactly as if the fire had gone out.
Excepting Osric's practice on the fiddle, and the father's bringing in
and leading away of horses, they did little work in my sight but brown
themselves in the sun. One morning Osric's brother came to our camp with
their cousin the prizefighter--a young man of lighter complexion, upon
whom I gazed, remembering John Thresher's reverence for the heroical
profession. Kiomi whispered some story concerning her brother having met
the tramp. I did not listen; I was full of a tempest, owing to two
causes: a studious admiration of the smart young prizefighter's person,
and wrathful disgust at him for calling Kiomi his wife, and telling her
he was prepared to marry her as soon as she played her harp like King
David. The intense folly of his asking a girl to play like David made me
despise him, but he was splendidly handsome and strong, and to see him
put on the gloves for a spar with big William, Kiomi's brother, and evade
and ward the huge blows, would have been a treat to others besides old
John of Dipwell Farm. He had the agile grace of a leopard; his waistcoat
reminded me of one; he was like a piece of machinery in free action.
Pleased by my enthusiasm, he gave me a lesson, promising me more.
'He'll be champion some day,' said Kiomi, at gnaw upon an apple he had
I knocked the apple on the ground, and stamped on it. She slapped my
cheek. In a minute we stood in a ring. I beheld the girl actually
squaring at me.
'Fight away,' I said, to conceal my shame, and imagining I could slip
from her hits as easily as the prizefighter did from big William's.
I was mistaken.
'Oh! you think I can't defend myself,' said Kiomi; and rushed in with
one, two, quick as a cat, and cool as a statue.
'Fight, my merry one; she takes punishment,' the prizefighter sang out.
'First blood to you, Kiomi; uncork his claret, my duck; straight at the
nozzle, he sees more lamps than shine in London, I warrant. Make him
lively, cook him; tell him who taught you; a downer to him, and I'll
marry you to-morrow!'
I conceived a fury against her as though she had injured me by appearing
the man's property--and I was getting the worst of it; her little fists
shot straight and hard as bars of iron; she liked fighting; she was at
least my match. To avoid the disgrace of seriously striking her, or of
being beaten at an open exchange of blows, I made a feint, and caught her
by the waist and threw her, not very neatly, for I fell myself in her
grip. They had to pluck her from me by force.
'And you've gone a course of tuition in wrestling, squire?' the
prizefighter said to me rather savagely.
The others were cordial, and did not snarl at me for going to the ropes,
as he called it. Kiomi desired to renew the conflict. I said aloud:
'I never fight girls, and I tell you I don't like their licking me.'
'Then you come down to the river and wash your face,' said she, and
pulled me by the fingers, and when she had washed my face clear of blood,
kissed me. I thought she tasted of the prizefighter.
Late in the afternoon Osric proposed that he and I and the prizefighter
should take a walk. I stipulated for Kiomi to be of the party, which was
allowed, and the gipsy-women shook my hand as though I had been departing
on a long expedition, entreating me not to forget them, and never to
think evil of poor gipsy-folk.
'Why, I mean to stay with you,' said I.
They grinned delightedly, and said I must be back to see them break up
camp in the evening. Every two or three minutes Kiomi nudged my elbow
and pointed behind, where I saw the women waving their coloured
neckerchiefs. Out of sight of our tents we came in view of the tramp.
Kiomi said, 'Hide!' I dived into a furze dell. The tramp approached,
calling out for news of me. Now at Rippenger's school, thanks to Heriot,
lying was not the fashion; still I had heard boys lie, and they can let
it out of their mouths like a fish, so lively, simple, and solid, that
you could fancy a master had asked them for it and they answered, 'There
it is.' But boys cannot lie in one key spontaneously, a number of them to
the same effect, as my friends here did. I was off, they said; all swung
round to signify the direction of my steps; my plans were hinted at;
particulars were not stated on the plea that there should be no tellings;
it was remarked that I ought to have fair play and 'law.' Kiomi said she
hoped he would not catch me. The tramp winced with vexation, and the
gipsies chaffed him. I thanked them in my heart for their loyal conduct.
Creeping under cover of the dell I passed round to the road over a knoll
of firs as quick as my feet could carry me, and had just cried, 'Now I'm
safe'; when a lady stepping from a carriage on the road, caught me in her
arms and hugged me blind. It was my aunt Dorothy.
I was a prisoner, captured by fraud, and with five shillings and a penny
still remaining to me for an assurance of my power to enjoy freedom.
Osric and Kiomi did not show themselves on the road, they answered none
of my shouts.
'She is afraid to look me in the face,' I said, keeping my anger on
'Harry, Harry,' said my aunt, 'they must have seen me here; do you
grieve, and you have me, dear?'
Her eager brown eyes devoured me while I stood panting to be happy, if
only I might fling my money at Kiomi's feet, and tell her, 'There, take
all I have; I hate you!' One minute I was curiously perusing the soft
shade of a moustache on my aunt's upper lip; the next, we jumped into the
carriage, and she was my dear aunt Dorothy again, and the world began
rolling another way.
The gipsies had made an appointment to deliver me over to my aunt; Farmer
Eckerthy had spoken of me to my grandfather; the tramp had fetched Mr.
Rippenger on the scene. Rippenger paid the tramp, I dare say; my
grandfather paid Rippenger's bill and for Saddlebank's goose; my aunt
paid the gipsies, and I think it doubtful that they handed the tramp a
share, so he came to the end of his list of benefits from not asking
I returned to Riversley more of a man than most boys of my age, and more
of a child. A small child would not have sulked as I did at Kiomi's
behaviour; but I met my grandfather's ridiculous politeness with a man's
'So you're back, sir, are you!'
'I am, sir.'
'Ran like a hare, 'stead of a fox, eh?'
'I didn't run like either, sir.'
'Do you ride?'
'Yes, sir; a horse.'
That was his greeting and how I took it. I had not run away from him, so
I had a quiet conscience.
He said, shortly after, 'Look here; your name is Harry Richmond in my
house--do you understand? My servants have orders to call you Master
Harry Richmond, according to your christening. You were born here, sir,
you will please to recollect. I'll have no vagabond names here'--he
puffed himself hot, muttering, 'Nor vagabond airs neither.'
I knew very well what it meant. A sore spirit on my father's behalf kept
me alive to any insult of him; and feeling that we were immeasurably
superior to the Beltham blood, I merely said, apart to old Sewis,
shrugging my shoulders, 'The squire expects me to recollect where I was
born. I'm not likely to forget his nonsense.'
Sewis, in reply, counselled me to direct a great deal of my attention to
the stables, and drink claret with the squire in the evening, things so
little difficult to do that I moralized reflectively, 'Here 's a way of
gaining a relative's affection!' The squire's punctilious regard for
payments impressed me, it is true. He had saved me from the disgrace of
owing money to my detested schoolmaster; and, besides, I was under his
roof, eating of his bread. My late adventurous life taught me that I
incurred an obligation by it. Kiomi was the sole victim of my anger that
really seemed to lie down to be trampled on, as she deserved for her
By degrees my grandfather got used to me, and commenced saying in
approval of certain of my performances, 'There's Beltham in that--Beltham
in that!' Once out hunting, I took a nasty hedge and ditch in front of
him; he bawled proudly, 'Beltham all over!' and praised me. At night,
drinking claret, he said on a sudden, 'And, egad, Harry, you must jump
your head across hedges and ditches, my little fellow. It won't do, in
these confounded days, to have you clever all at the wrong end. In my
time, good in the saddle was good for everything; but now you must get
your brains where you can--pick here, pick there--and sell 'em like a
huckster; some do. Nature's gone--it's damned artifice rules, I tell ye;
and a squire of our country must be three parts lawyer to keep his own.
You must learn; by God, sir, you must cogitate; you must stew at books
and maps, or you'll have some infernal upstart taking the lead of you,
and leaving you nothing but the whiff of his tail.' He concluded, 'I'm
glad to see you toss down your claret, my boy.'
Thus I grew in his favour, till I heard from him that I was to be the
heir of Riversley and his estates, but on one condition, which he did not
then mention. If I might have spoken to him of my father, I should have
loved him. As it was, I liked old Sewis better, for he would talk to me
of the night when my father carried me away, and though he never uttered
the flattering words I longed to hear, he repeated the story often, and
made the red hall glow with beams of my father's image. My walks and
rides were divided between the road he must have followed toward London,
bearing me in his arms, and the vacant place of Kiomi's camp. Kiomi
stood for freedom, pointing into the darkness I wished to penetrate that
I might find him. If I spoke of him to my aunt she trembled. She said,
'Yes, Harry, tell me all you are thinking about, whatever you want to
know'; but her excessive trembling checked me, and I kept my feelings to
myself--a boy with a puzzle in his head and hunger in his heart. At
times I rode out to the utmost limit of the hour giving me the proper
number of minutes to race back and dress for dinner at the squire's
table, and a great wrestling I had with myself to turn my little horse's
head from hills and valleys lying East; they seemed to have the secret of
my father. Blank enough they looked if ever I despaired of their knowing
more than I. My Winter and Summer were the moods of my mind constantly
shifting. I would have a week of the belief that he was near Riversley,
calling for me; a week of the fear that he was dead; long dreams of him,
as travelling through foreign countries, patting the foreheads of boys
and girls on his way; or driving radiantly, and people bowing.
Radiantly, I say: had there been touches of colour in these visions,
I should have been lured off in pursuit of him. The dreams passed
colourlessly; I put colouring touches to the figures seen in them
afterward, when I was cooler, and could say, 'What is the use of fancying
things?' yet knew that fancying things was a consolation. By such means
I came to paint the mystery surrounding my father in tender colours.
I built up a fretted cathedral from what I imagined of him, and could
pass entirely away out of the world by entering the doors.
Want of boys' society as well as hard head-work produced this mischief.
My lessons were intermittent Resident tutors arrived to instruct me,
one after another. They were clergymen, and they soon proposed to marry
my aunt Dorothy, or they rebuked the squire for swearing. The devil was
in the parsons, he said: in his time they were modest creatures and stuck
to the bottle and heaven. My aunt was of the opinion of our neighbours,
who sent their boys to school and thought I should be sent likewise.
'No, no,' said the squire; 'my life's short when the gout's marching up
to my middle, and I'll see as much of my heir as I can. Why, the lad's
my daughter's son: He shall grow up among his tenantry. We'll beat the
country and start a man at last to drive his yard of learning into him
without rolling sheep's eyes right and left.'
Unfortunately the squire's description of man was not started. My aunt
was handsome, an heiress (that is, she had money of her own coming from
her mother's side of the family), and the tenderest woman alive, with a
voice sweeter than flutes. There was a saying in the county that to
marry a Beltham you must po'chay her.
A great-aunt of mine, the squire's sister, had been carried off. She
died childless. A favourite young cousin of his likewise had run away
with a poor baronet, Sir Roderick Ilchester, whose son Charles was now
and then our playmate, and was a scapegrace. But for me he would have
been selected by the squire for his heir, he said; and he often
'confounded' me to my face on that account as he shook my hand, breaking
out: 'I'd as lief fetch you a cuff o' the head, Harry Richmond, upon my
honour!' and cursing at his luck for having to study for his living, and
be what he called a sloppy curate now that I had come to Riversley for
He informed me that I should have to marry his sister Janet; for that
they could not allow the money to go out of the family. Janet Ilchester
was a quaint girl, a favourite of my aunt Dorothy, and the squire's
especial pet; red-cheeked, with a good upright figure in walking and
riding, and willing to be friendly, but we always quarrelled: she
detested hearing of Kiomi.
'Don't talk of creatures you met when you were a beggar, Harry Richmond,'
'I never was a beggar,' I replied.
'Then she was a beggar,' said Janet; and I could not deny it; though the
only difference I saw between Janet and Kiomi was, that Janet continually
begged favours and gifts of people she knew, and Kiomi of people who were
My allowance of pocket-money from the squire was fifty pounds a year.
I might have spent it all in satisfying Janet's wishes for riding-whips,
knives, pencil-cases, cairngorm buttons, and dogs. A large part of the
money went that way. She was always getting notice of fine dogs for
sale. I bought a mastiff for her, a brown retriever, and a little
terrier. She was permitted to keep the terrier at home, but I had to
take care of the mastiff and retriever. When Janet came to look at them
she called them by their names; of course they followed me in preference
to her; she cried with jealousy. We had a downright quarrel. Lady
Ilchester invited me to spend a day at her house, Charley being home for
his Midsummer holidays. Charley, Janet, and I fished the river for
trout, and Janet, to flatter me (of which I was quite aware), while I
dressed her rod as if she was likely to catch something, talked of
Heriot, and then said:
'Oh! dear, we are good friends, aren't we? Charley says we shall marry
one another some day, but mama's such a proud woman she won't much like
your having such a father as you 've got unless he 's dead by that time
and I needn't go up to him to be kissed.'
I stared at the girl in wonderment, but not too angrily, for I guessed
that she was merely repeating her brother's candid speculations upon the
future. I said: 'Now mind what I tell you, Janet: I forgive you this
once, for you are an ignorant little girl and know no better. Speak
respectfully of my father or you never see me again.'
Here Charley sang out: 'Hulloa! you don't mean to say you're talking of
Janet whimpered that I had called her an ignorant little girl. If she
had been silent I should have pardoned her. The meanness of the girl in
turning on me when the glaring offence was hers, struck me as
contemptible beyond words. Charley and I met half way. He advised me
not to talk to his sister of my father. They all knew, he said, that it
was no fault of mine, and for his part, had he a rascal for a father, he
should pension him and cut him; to tell the truth, no objection against
me existed in his family except on the score of the sort of father I
owned to, and I had better make up my mind to shake him off before I grew
a man; he spoke as a friend. I might frown at him and clench my fists,
but he did speak as a friend.
Janet all the while was nibbling a biscuit, glancing over it at me with
mouse-eyes. Her short frock and her greediness, contrasting with the
talk of my marrying her, filled me with renewed scorn, though my heart
was sick at the mention of my father. I asked her what she knew of him.
She nibbled her biscuit, mumbling, 'He went to Riversley, pretending he
was a singing-master. I know that's true, and more.'
'Oh, and a drawing-master, and a professor of legerdemain,' added her
brother. 'Expunge him, old fellow; he's no good.'
'No, I'm sure he's no good,' said Janet.
I took her hand, and told her, 'You don't know how you hurt me; but
you're a child: you don't know anything about the world. I love my
father, remember that, and what you want me to do is mean and
disgraceful; but you don't know better. I would forfeit everything in
the world for him. And when you're of age to marry, marry anybody you
like--you won't marry me. And good-bye, Janet. Think of learning your
lessons, and not of marrying. I can't help laughing.' So I said, but
without the laughter. Her brother tried hard to get me to notice him.
Janet betook herself to the squire. Her prattle of our marriage in days
to come was excuseable. It was the squire's notion. He used to remark
generally that he liked to see things look safe and fast, and he had,
as my aunt confided to me, arranged with Lady Ilchester, in the girl's
hearing, that we should make a match. My grandfather pledged his word to
Janet that he would restore us to an amicable footing. He thought it a
light task. Invitations were sent out to a large party at Riversley, and
Janet came with all my gifts on her dress or in her pockets. The squire
led the company to the gates of his stables; the gates opened, and a
beautiful pony, with a side-saddle on, was trotted forth, amid cries of
admiration. Then the squire put the bridle-reins in my hands, bidding me
present it myself. I asked the name of the person. He pointed at Janet.
I presented the pony to Janet, and said, 'It's from the squire.'
She forgot, in her delight, our being at variance.
'No, no, you stupid Harry, I'm to thank you. He's a darling pony. I
want to kiss you.'
I retired promptly, but the squire had heard her.
'Back, sir!' he shouted, swearing by this and that. 'You slink from a
kiss, and you're Beltham blood?
Back to her, lad. Take it. Up with her in your arms or down on your
knees. Take it manfully, somehow. See there, she 's got it ready for
'I've got a letter ready for you, Harry, to say--oh! so sorry for
offending you,' Janet whispered, when I reached the pony's head; 'and if
you'd rather not be kissed before people, then by-and-by, but do shake
'Pull the pony's mane,' said I; 'that will do as well. Observe--I pull,
and now you pull.'
Janet mechanically followed my actions. She grimaced, and whimpered,
'I could pull the pony's mane right out.'
'Don't treat animals like your dolls,' said I.
She ran to the squire, and refused the pony. The squire's face changed
from merry to black.
'Young man,' he addressed me, 'don't show that worse half of yours in
genteel society, or, by the Lord! you won't carry Beltham buttons for
long. This young lady, mind you, is a lady by birth both sides.'
'She thinks she is marriageable,' said I; and walked away, leaving loud
laughter behind me.
But laughter did not console me for the public aspersion of him I loved.
I walked off the grounds, and thought to myself it was quite time I
should be moving. Wherever I stayed for any length of time I was certain
to hear abuse of my father. Why not wander over the country with Kiomi,
go to sea, mount the Andes, enlist in a Prussian regiment, and hear the
soldiers tell tales of Frederick the Great? I walked over Kiomi's heath
till dark, when one of our grooms on horseback overtook me, saying that
the squire begged me to jump on the horse and ride home as quick as
possible. Two other lads and the coachman were out scouring the country
to find me, and the squire was anxious, it appeared. I rode home like a
wounded man made to feel proud by victory, but with no one to stop the
bleeding of his wounds: and the more my pride rose, the more I suffered
pain. There at home sat my grandfather, dejected, telling me that the
loss of me a second time would kill him, begging me to overlook his
roughness, calling me his little Harry and his heir, his brave-spirited
boy; yet I was too sure that a word of my father to him would have
brought him very near another ejaculation concerning Beltham buttons.
'You're a fiery young fellow, I suspect,' he said, when he had recovered
his natural temper. 'I like you for it; pluck's Beltham. Have a will of
your own. Sweat out the bad blood. Here, drink my health, Harry.
You're three parts Beltham, at least, and it'll go hard if you're not all
Beltham before I die. Old blood always wins that race, I swear. We 're
the oldest in the county.
Damn the mixing. My father never let any of his daughters marry, if he
could help it, nor'll I, bar rascals.
Here's to you, young Squire Beltham. Harry Lepel Beltham--does that suit
ye? Anon, anon, as they say in the play. Take my name, and drop the
Richmond no, drop the subject: we'll talk of it by-and-by.'
So he wrestled to express his hatred of my father without offending me;
and I studied him coldly, thinking that the sight of my father in
beggar's clothes, raising a hand for me to follow his steps, would draw
me forth, though Riversley should beseech me to remain clad in wealth.
AN EVENING WITH CAPTAIN BULSTED
A dream that my father lay like a wax figure in a bed gave me thoughts of
dying. I was ill and did not know it, and imagined that my despair at
the foot of the stairs of ever reaching my room to lie down peacefully
was the sign of death. My aunt Dorothy nursed me for a week: none but
she and my dogs entered the room. I had only two faint wishes left in
me: one that the squire should be kept out of my sight, the other that
she would speak to me of my mother's love for my father. She happened to
say, musing, 'Harry, you have your mother's heart.'
I said, 'No, my father's.'
From that we opened a conversation, the sweetest I had ever had away from
him, though she spoke shyly and told me very little. It was enough for
me in the narrow world of my dogs' faces, and the red-leaved creeper at
the window, the fir-trees on the distant heath, and her hand clasping
mine. My father had many faults, she said, but he had been cruelly used,
or deceived, and he bore a grievous burden; and then she said, 'Yes,' and
'Yes,' and 'Yes,' in the voice one supposes of a ghost retiring, to my
questions of his merits. I was refreshed and satisfied, like the parched
earth with dews when it gets no rain, and I was soon well.
When I walked among the household again, I found that my week of
seclusion had endowed me with a singular gift; I found that I could see
through everybody. Looking at the squire, I thought to myself, 'My
father has faults, but he has been cruelly used,' and immediately I
forgave the old man; his antipathy to my father seemed a craze, and to
account for it I lay in wait for his numerous illogical acts and words,
and smiled visibly in contemplation of his rough unreasonable nature, and
of my magnanimity. He caught the smile, and interpreted it.
'Grinning at me, Harry; have I made a slip in my grammar, eh?'
Who could feel any further sensitiveness at his fits of irritation,
reading him as I did? I saw through my aunt: she was always in dread of
a renewal of our conversation. I could see her ideas flutter like birds
to escape me. And I penetrated the others who came in my way just as
unerringly. Farmer Eckerthy would acknowledge, astonished, his mind was
running on cricket when I taxed him with it.
'Crops was the cart-load of my thoughts, Master Harry, but there was a
bit o' cricket in it, too, ne'er a doubt.'
My aunt's maid, Davis, was shocked by my discernment of the fact that she
was in love, and it was useless for her to pretend the contrary, for I
had seen her granting tender liberties to Lady Ilchester's footman.
Old Sewis said gravely, 'You've been to the witches, Master Harry'; and
others were sure 'I had got it from the gipsies off the common.'
The maids were partly incredulous, but I perceived that they disbelieved
as readily as they believed. With my latest tutor, the Rev. Simon Hart,
I was not sufficiently familiar to offer him proofs of my extraordinary
power; so I begged favours of him, and laid hot-house flowers on his
table in the name of my aunt, and had the gratification of seeing him
blush. His approval of my Latin exercise was verbal, and weak praise in
comparison; besides I cared nothing for praises not referring to my grand
natural accomplishment. 'And my father now is thinking of me!' That was
easy to imagine, but the certainty of it confirmed me in my conceit.
'How can you tell?--how is it possible for you to know people's
thoughts?' said Janet Ilchester, whose head was as open to me as a hat.
She pretended to be rather more frightened of me than she was.
'And now you think you are flattering me!' I said.
She looked nervous.
'And now you're asking yourself what you can do better than I can!'
She said, 'Go on.'
She charged me with being pulled up short.
I denied it.
'Guess, guess!' said she. 'You can't.'
My reply petrified her. 'You were thinking that you are a lady by birth
on both sides.'
At first she refused to admit it. 'No, it wasn't that, Harry, it wasn't
really. I was thinking how clever you are.'
'Yes, after, not before.'
'No, Harry, but you are clever. I wish I was half as clever. Fancy
reading people's ideas! I can read my pony's, but that's different;
I know by his ears. And as for my being a lady, of course I am, and so
are you--I mean, a gentleman. I was thinking--now this is really what I
was thinking--I wished your father lived near, that we might all be
friends. I can't bear the squire when he talks . . . . And you quite
as good as me, and better. Don't shake me off, Harry.'
I shook her in the gentlest manner, not suspecting that she had read my
feelings fully as well as I her thoughts. Janet and I fell to talking of
my father incessantly, and were constantly together. The squire caught
one of my smiles rising, when he applauded himself lustily for the
original idea of matching us; but the idea was no longer distasteful to
me. It appeared to me that if I must some day be married, a wife who
would enjoy my narratives, and travel over the four quarters of the
globe, as Janet promised to do, in search of him I loved, would be the
preferable person. I swore her to secresy; she was not to tell her
brother Charley the subject we conversed on.
'Oh dear, no!' said she, and told him straightway.
Charley, home for his winter holidays, blurted out at the squire's table:
'So, Harry Richmond, you're the cleverest fellow in the world, are you?
There's Janet telling everybody your father's the cleverest next to you,
and she's never seen him!'
'How? hulloa, what 's that?' sang out the squire.
'Charley was speaking of my father, sir,' I said, preparing for thunder.
We all rose. The squire looked as though an apoplectic seizure were
'Don't sit at my table again,' he said, after a terrible struggle to be
His hand was stretched at me. I swung round to depart. 'No, no, not
you; that fellow,' he called, getting his arm level toward Charley.
I tried to intercede--the last who should have done it.
'You like to hear him, eh?' said the squire.
I was ready to say that I did, but my aunt, whose courage was up when
occasion summoned it, hushed the scene by passing the decanter to the
squire, and speaking to him in a low voice.
'Biter's bit. I've dished myself, that's clear,' said Charley; and he
spoke the truth, and such was his frankness that I forgave him.
He and Janet were staying at Riversley. They left next morning, for the
squire would not speak to him, nor I to Janet.
'I 'll tell you what; there 's no doubt about one thing,' said Charley;
'Janet's right--some of those girls are tremendously deep: you're about
the cleverest fellow I've ever met in my life. I thought of working into
the squire in a sort of collateral manner, you know. A cornetcy in the
Dragoon Guards in a year or two. I thought the squire might do that for
me without much damaging you;--perhaps a couple of hundred a year, just
to reconcile me to a nose out of joint. For, upon my honour, the squire
spoke of making me his heir--or words to that effect neatly conjugated--
before you came back; and rather than be a curate like that Reverend Hart
of yours, who hands raisins and almonds, and orange-flower biscuits to
your aunt the way of all the Reverends who drop down on Riversley--I 'd
betray my bosom friend. I'm regularly "hoist on my own petard," as they
say in the newspapers. I'm a curate and no mistake. You did it with a
turn of the wrist, without striking out: and I like neat boxing. I bear
no malice when I'm floored neatly.'
Five minutes after he had spoken it would have been impossible for me to
tell him that my simplicity and not my cleverness had caused his
overthrow. From this I learnt that simplicity is the keenest weapon and
a beautiful refinement of cleverness; and I affected it extremely. I
pushed it so far that I could make the squire dance in his seat with
suppressed fury and jealousy at my way of talking of Venice, and other
Continental cities, which he knew I must have visited in my father's
society; and though he raged at me and pshawed the Continent to the
deuce, he was ready, out of sheer rivalry, to grant anything I pleased to
covet. At every stage of my growth one or another of my passions was
alert to twist me awry, and now I was getting a false self about me and
becoming liker to the creature people supposed me to be, despising them
for blockheads in my heart, as boys may who preserve a last trace of the
ingenuousness denied to seasoned men.
Happily my aunt wrote to Mr. Rippenger for the address of little Gus
Temple's father, to invite my schoolfellow to stay a month at Riversley.
Temple came, everybody liked him; as for me my delight was unbounded, and
in spite of a feeling of superiority due to my penetrative capacity, and
the suspicion it originated, that Temple might be acting the plain well-
bred schoolboy he was, I soon preferred his pattern to my own. He
confessed he had found me changed at first. His father, it appeared,
was working him as hard at Latin as Mr. Hart worked me, and he sat down
beside me under my tutor and stumbled at Tacitus after his fluent Cicero.
I offered excuses for him to Mr. Hart, saying he would soon prove himself
the better scholar. 'There's my old Richie!' said Temple, fondling me on
the shoulder, and my nonsensical airs fell away from me at once.
We roamed the neighbourhood talking old school-days over, visiting
houses, hunting and dancing, declaring every day we would write for
Heriot to join us, instead of which we wrote a valentine to Julia