Part 1 out of 2
This etext was produced by David Widger
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
Rippenger, and despatched a companion one composed in a very different
spirit to her father. Lady Ilchester did us the favour to draw a sea-
monster, an Andromeda, and a Perseus in the shape of a flying British
hussar, for Julia's valentine. It seemed to us so successful that we
scattered half-a-dozen over the neighbourhood, and rode round it on the
morning of St. Valentine's Day to see the effect of them, meeting the
postman on the road. He gave me two for myself. One was transparently
from Janet, a provoking counterstroke of mine to her; but when I opened
the other my heart began beating. The standard of Great Britain was
painted in colours at the top; down each side, encricled in laurels, were
kings and queens of England with their sceptres, and in the middle I read
the initials, A. F-G. R. R., embedded in blue forget-me-hots. I could
not doubt it was from my father. Riding out in the open air as I
received it, I could fancy in my hot joy that it had dropped out of
'He's alive; I shall have him with me; I shall have him with me soon!'
I cried to Temple. 'Oh! why can't I answer him? where is he? what
address? Let's ride to London. Don't you understand, Temple? This
letter's from my father. He knows I'm here. I'll find him, never mind
'Yes, but,' said Temple, 'if he knows where you are, and you don't know
where he is, there's no good in your going off adventuring. If a fellow
wants to be hit, the best thing he can do is to stop still.'
Struck by the perspicacity of his views, I turned homeward. Temple had
been previously warned by me to avoid speaking of my father at Riversley;
but I was now in such a boiling state of happiness, believing that my
father would certainly appear as he had done at Dipwell farm, brilliant
and cheerful, to bear me away to new scenes and his own dear society,
that I tossed the valentine to my aunt across the breakfast-table,
laughing and telling her to guess the name of the sender. My aunt
'Miss Bannerbridge?' she said.
A stranger was present. The squire introduced us.
'My grandson, Harry Richmond, Captain William Bulsted, frigate
Polyphemus; Captain Bulsted, Master Augustus Temple.'
For the sake of conversation, Temple asked him if his ship was fully
'All but a mate,' said the captain.
I knew him by reputation as the brother of Squire Gregory Bulsted of
Bulsted, notorious for his attachment to my aunt, and laughing-stock of
'So you've got a valentine,' the captain addressed me. 'I went on shore
at Rio last year on this very day of the month, just as lively as you
youngsters for one. Saltwater keeps a man's youth in pickle. No
valentine for me! Paid off my ship yesterday at Spithead, and here I am
again on Valentine's Day.'
Temple and I stared hard at a big man with a bronzed skin and a rubicund
laugh who expected to receive valentines.
My aunt thrust the letter back to me secretly. 'It must be from a lady,'
'Why, who'd have a valentine from any but a lady?' exclaimed the captain.
The squire winked at me to watch his guest. Captain Bulsted fed
heartily; he was thoroughly a sailor-gentleman, between the old school
and the new, and, as I perceived, as far gone in love with my aunt as his
brother was. Presently Sewis entered carrying a foaming tankard of old
ale, and he and the captain exchanged a word or two upon Jamaica.
'Now, when you've finished that washy tea of yours, take a draught of our
October, brewed here long before you were a lieutenant, captain,' said
'Thank you, sir,' the captain replied; 'I know that ale; a moment, and I
will gladly. I wish to preserve my faculties; I don't wish to have it
supposed that I speak under fermenting influences. Sewis, hold by, if
My aunt made an effort to retire.
'No, no, fair play; stay,' said the squire, trying to frown, but
twinkling; my aunt tried to smile, and sat as if on springs.
'Miss Beltham,' the captain bowed to her, and to each one as he spoke,
'Squire Beltham, Mr. Harry Richmond; Mr. Temple; my ship was paid off
yesterday, and till a captain's ship is paid off, he 's not his own
master, you are aware. If you think my behaviour calls for comment,
reflect, I beseech you, on the nature of a sailor's life. A three-years'
cruise in a cabin is pretty much equivalent to the same amount of time
spent in a coffin, I can assure you; with the difference that you're hard
at work thinking all the time like the--hum.'
'Ay, he thinks hard enough,' the squire struck in.
'Pardon me, sir; like the--hum--plumb-line on a leeshore, I meant to
observe. This is now the third--the fourth occasion on which I have
practised the observance of paying my first visit to Riversley to know my
fate, that I might not have it on my conscience that I had missed a day,
a minute, as soon as I was a free man on English terra firma. My brother
Greg and I were brought up in close association with Riversley. One of
the Beauties of Riversley we lost! One was left, and we both tried our
luck with her; honourably, in turn, each of us, nothing underhand; above-
board, on the quarter-deck, before all the company. I 'll say it of my
brother, I can say it of myself. Greg's chances, I need not remark, are
superior to mine; he is always in port. If he wins, then I tell him--"
God bless you, my boy; you've won the finest woman, the handsomest, and
the best, in or out of Christendom!" But my chance is my property,
though it may be value only one farthing coin of the realm, and there is
always pity for poor sinners in the female bosom. Miss Beltham, I
trespass on your kind attention. If I am to remain a bachelor and you a
maiden lady, why, the will of heaven be done! If you marry another,
never mind who the man, there's my stock to the fruit of the union, never
mind what the sex. But, if you will have one so unworthy of you as me,
my hand and heart are at your feet, ma'am, as I have lost no time in
coming to tell you.' So Captain Bulsted concluded. Our eyes were
directed on my aunt. The squire bade her to speak out, for she had his
sanction to act according to her judgement and liking.
She said, with a gracefulness that gave me a little aching of pity for
the poor captain: 'I am deeply honoured by you, Captain Bulsted, but it
is not my intention to marry.'
The captain stood up, and bowing humbly, replied 'I am ever your servant,
My aunt quitted the room.
'Now for the tankard, Sewis,' said the captain.
Gradually the bottom of the great tankard turned up to the ceiling. He
drank to the last drop in it.
The squire asked him whether he found consolation in that.
The captain sighed prodigiously and said: 'It 's a commencement, sir.'
'Egad, it's a commencement 'd be something like a final end to any dozen
of our fellows round about here. I'll tell you what: if stout stomachs
gained the day in love-affairs, I suspect you'd run a good race against
the male half of our county, William. And a damned good test of a man's
metal, I say it is! What are you going to do to-day?'
'I am going to get drunk, sir.'
'Well, you might do worse. Then, stop here, William, and give my old
Port the preference. No tongue in the morning, I promise you, and
pleasant dreams at night.' The captain thanked him cordially, but
declined, saying that he would rather make a beast of himself in another
The squire vainly pressed his hospitality by assuring him of perfect
secresy on our part, as regarded my aunt, and offering him Sewis and one
of the footmen to lift him to bed. 'You are very good, squire,' said the
captain; 'nothing but a sense of duty restrains me. I am bound to convey
the information to my brother that the coast is clear for him.'
'Well, then, fall light, and for'ard,' said the squire, shaking him by
the hand. Forty years ago a gentleman, a baronet, had fallen on the back
of his head and never recovered.
'Ay, ay, launch stern foremost, if you like!' said the captain, nodding;
'no, no, I don't go into port pulled by the tail, my word for it, squire;
and good day to you, sir.'
'No ill will about this bothering love-business of yours, William?'
'On my soul, sir, I cherish none.'
Temple and I followed him out of the house, fascinated by his manners and
oddness. He invited us to jump into the chariot beside him. We were
witnesses of the meeting between him and his brother, a little sniffling
man, as like the captain as a withered nut is like a milky one.
'Same luck, William?' said Squire Gregory.
'Not a point of change in the wind, Greg,' said the captain.
They wrenched hands thereupon, like two carpet-shakers, with a report,
and much in a similar attitude.
'These young gentlemen will testify to you solemnly, Greg, that I took no
unfair advantage,' said the captain; 'no whispering in passages, no
appointments in gardens, no letters. I spoke out. Bravely, man! And
now, Greg, referring to the state of your cellar, our young friends here
mean to float with us to-night. It is now half-past eleven A.M. Your
dinner-hour the same as usual, of course? Therefore at four P.M. the
hour of execution. And come, Greg, you and I will visit the cellar. A
dozen and half of light and half-a-dozen of the old family--that will be
about the number of bottles to give me my quietus, and you yours--all of
us! And you, young gentlemen, take your guns or your rods, and back and
be dressed by the four bell, or you 'll not find the same man in Billy
Temple was enraptured with him. He declared he had been thinking
seriously for a long time of entering the Navy, and his admiration of
the captain must have given him an intuition of his character, for he
persuaded me to send to Riversley for our evening-dress clothes,
appearing in which at the dinner-table, we received the captain's
compliments, as being gentlemen who knew how to attire ourselves to suit
an occasion. The occasion, Squire Gregory said, happened to him too
often for him to distinguish it by the cut of his coat.
'I observe, nevertheless, Greg, that you have a black tie round your neck
instead of a red one,' said the captain.
'Then it came there by accident,' said Squire Gregory.
'Accident! There's no such thing as accident. If I wander out of the
house with a half dozen or so in me, and topple into the brook, am I
accidentally drowned? If a squall upsets my ship, is she an accidental
residue of spars and timber and old iron? If a woman refuses me, is that
an accident? There's a cause for every disaster: too much cargo, want of
foresight, want of pluck. Pooh! when I'm hauled prisoner into a foreign
port in time of war, you may talk of accidents. Mr. Harry Richmond, Mr.
Temple, I have the accidental happiness of drinking to your healths in a
tumbler of hock wine. Nominative, hic, haec, hoc.'
Squire Gregory carried on the declension, not without pride. The
Vocative confused him.
'Claret will do for the Vocative,' said the captain, gravely; 'the more
so as there is plenty of it at your table, Greg. Ablative hoc, hac, hoc,
which sounds as if the gentleman had become incapable of speech beyond
the name of his wine. So we will abandon the declension of the article
for a dash of champagne, which there's no declining, I hope. Wonderful
men, those Romans! They fought their ships well, too. A question to
you, Greg. Those heathen Pagan dogs had a religion that encouraged them
to swear. Now, my experience of life pronounces it to be a human
necessity to rap out an oath here and there. What do you say?'
Squire Gregory said: 'Drinking, and no thinking, at dinner, William.' The
captain pledged him.
'I 'll take the opportunity, as we're not on board ship, of drinking to
you, sir, now,' Temple addressed the captain, whose face was resplendent;
and he bowed, and drank, and said,
'As we are not on board ship? I like you!'
Temple thanked him for the compliment.
'No compliment, my lad. You see me in my weakness, and you have the
discernment to know me for something better than I seem. You promise to
respect me on my own quarter-deck. You are of the right stuff. Do I
speak correctly, Mr. Harry?'
'Temple is my dear friend,' I replied.
'And he would not be so if not of the right stuff! Good! That 's a way
of putting much in little. By Jove! a royal style.'
'And Harry's a royal fellow!' said Temple.
We all drank to one another. The captain's eyes scrutinized me
'This boy might have been yours or mine, Greg,' I heard him say in a
faltering rough tone.
They forgot the presence of Temple and me, but spoke as if they thought
they were whispering. The captain assured his brother that Squire
Beltham had given him as much fair play as one who holds a balance.
Squire Gregory doubted it, and sipped and kept his nose at his wineglass,
crabbedly repeating his doubts of it. The captain then remarked, that
doubting it, his conscience permitted him to use stratagems, though he,
the captain, not doubting it, had no such permission.
'I count I run away with her every night of my life,' said Squire
Gregory. 'Nothing comes of it but empty bottles.'
'Court her, serenade her,' said the captain; 'blockade the port, lay
siege to the citadel. I'd give a year of service for your chances, Greg.
Half a word from her, and you have your horses ready.'
'She's past po'chaises,' Squire Gregory sighed.
'She's to be won by a bold stroke, brother Greg.'
'Oh, Lord, no! She's past po'chaises.'
'Humph! it's come to be half-bottle, half-beauty, with your worship,
Greg, I suspect.'
'No. I tell you, William, she's got her mind on that fellow. You can't
'After he jilted her for her sister? Wrong, Greg, wrong. You are
muddled. She has a fright about matrimony--a common thing at her age,
I am told. Where's the man?'
'In the Bench, of course. Where'd you have him?'
'I, sir? If I knew my worst enemy to be there, I'd send him six dozen of
the best in my cellar.'
Temple shot a walnut at me. I pretended to be meditating carelessly, and
I had the heat and roar of a conflagration round my head.
Presently the captain said, 'Are you sure the man's in the Bench?'
'Cock,' Squire Gregory replied.
'He had money from his wife.'
'And he had the wheels to make it go.' Here they whispered in earnest.
'Oh, the Billings were as rich as the Belthams,' said the captain, aloud.
'Pretty nigh, William.'
'That's our curse, Greg. Money settled on their male issue, and money in
hand; by the Lord! we've always had the look of a pair of highwaymen
lurking for purses, when it was the woman, the woman, penniless, naked,
mean, destitute; nothing but the woman we wanted. And there was one
apiece for us. Greg, old boy, when will the old county show such another
couple of Beauties! Greg, sir, you're not half a man, or you'd have
carried her, with your, opportunities. The fellow's in the Bench, you
say? How are you cocksure of that, Mr. Greg?'
'Company,' was the answer; and the captain turned to Temple and me,
apologizing profusely for talking over family matters with his brother
after a separation of three years. I had guessed but hastily at the
subject of their conversation until they mentioned the Billings, the
family of my maternal grandmother. The name was like a tongue of fire
shooting up in a cloud of smoke: I saw at once that the man in the Bench
must be my father, though what the Bench was exactly, and where it was,
I had no idea, and as I was left to imagination I became, as usual,
childish in my notions, and brooded upon thoughts of the Man in the Iron
Mask; things I dared not breathe to Temple, of whose manly sense I stood
in awe when under these distracting influences.
'Remember our feast in the combe?' I sang across the table to him.
'Never forget it!' said he; and we repeated the tale of the goose at
Rippenger's school to our entertainers, making them laugh.
'And next morning Richie ran off with a gipsy girl,' said Temple; and I
composed a narrative of my wanderings with Kiomi, much more amusing than
the real one. The captain vowed he would like to have us both on board
his ship, but that times were too bad for him to offer us a prospect of
promotion. 'Spin round the decanters,' said he; 'now's the hour for them
to go like a humming-top, and each man lend a hand: whip hard, my lads.
It's once in three years, hurrah! and the cause is a cruel woman. Toast
her; but no name. Here's to the nameless Fair! For it's not my
intention to marry, says she, and, ma'am, I'm a man of honour or I'd
catch you tight, my nut-brown maid, and clap you into a cage, fal-lal,
like a squirrel; to trot the wheel of mat-trimony. Shame to the first
'That won't be I,' said Temple.
'Be me, sir, me,' the captain corrected his grammar.
'Pardon me, Captain Bulsted; the verb "To be" governs the nominative case
in our climate,' said Temple.
'Then I'm nominative hic . . . I say, sir, I'm in the tropics, Mr. Tem
. . . Mr. Tempus. Point of honour, not forget a man's name.
Rippenger, your schoolmaster? Mr. Rippenger, you've knocked some
knowledge into this young gentleman.' Temple and I took counsel together
hastily; we cried in a breath: ' Here 's to Julia Rippenger, the
prettiest, nicest girl living!' and we drank to her.
'Julia!' the captain echoed us. 'I join your toast, gentlemen. Mr.
Richmond, Mr. Tempus-Julia! By all that's holy, she floats a sinking
ship! Julia consoles me for the fairest, cruellest woman alive.
A rough sailor, Julia! at your feet.'
The captain fell commendably forward. Squire Gregory had already
dropped. Temple and I tried to meet, but did not accomplish it till next
morning at breakfast. A couple of footmen carried us each upstairs in
turn, as if they were removing furniture.
Out of this strange evening came my discovery of my father, and the
captain's winning of a wife.
I wondered audibly where the Bench was when Temple and I sat together
alone at Squire Gregory's breakfast-table next morning, very thirsty for
tea. He said it was a place in London, but did not add the sort of
place, only that I should soon be coming to London with him; and I
remarked, 'Shall I?' and smiled at him, as if in a fit of careless
affection. Then he talked runningly of the theatres and pantomimes and
The fear I had of this Bench made me passingly conscious of Temple's
delicacy in not repeating its name, though why I feared it there was
nothing to tell me. I must have dreamed of it just before waking,
and I burned for reasonable information concerning it. Temple respected
my father too much to speak out the extent of his knowledge on the
subject, so we drank our tea with the grandeur of London for our theme,
where, Temple assured me, you never had a headache after a carouse
overnight: a communication that led me to think the country a far less
favourable place of abode for gentlemen. We quitted the house without
seeing our host or the captain, and greatly admired by the footmen, the
maids, and the grooms for having drunk their masters under the table,
which it could not be doubted that we had done, as Temple modestly
observed while we sauntered off the grounds under the eyes of the
establishment. We had done it fairly, too, with none of those Jack the
Giant-Killer tricks my grandfather accused us of.
The squire would not, and he could not, believe our story until he heard
the confession from the mouth of the captain. After that he said we were
men and heroes, and he tipped us both, much to Janet Ilchester's
advantage, for the squire was a royal giver, and Temple's money had
already begun to take the same road as mine.
Temple, in fact, was falling desperately in love; for this reason he
shrank from quitting Riversley. I perceived it as clearly as a thing
seen through a windowpane. He was always meditating upon dogs, and what
might be the price of this dog or that, and whether lapdogs were good
travellers. The fashionable value of pugs filled him with a sort of
despair. 'My goodness!' he used an exclamation more suitable to women,
'forty or fifty pounds you say one costs, Richie?'
I pretended to estimate the probable cost of one. 'Yes, about that; but
I'll buy you one, one day or other, Temple.'
The dear little fellow coloured hot; he was too much in earnest to laugh
at the absurdity of his being supposed to want a pug for himself, and
walked round me, throwing himself into attitudes with shrugs and loud
breathings. 'I don't . . . don't think that I . . . I care for
nothing but Newfoundlands and mastiffs,' said he. He went on shrugging
and kicking up his heels.
'Girls like pugs,' I remarked.
'I fancy they do,' said Temple, with a snort of indifference.
Then I suggested, 'A pocket-knife for the hunting-field is a very good
'Do you think so?' was Temple's rejoinder, and I saw he was dreadfully
afraid of my speaking the person's name for whom it would be such a very
'You can get one for thirty shillings. We'll get one when we're in
London. They're just as useful for women as they are for us, you know.'
'Why, of course they are, if they hunt,' said Temple.
'And we mustn't lose time,' I drew him to the point I had at heart, 'for
hunting 'll soon be over. It 's February, mind!'
'Oh, lots of time!' Temple cried out, and on every occasion when I tried
to make him understand that I was bursting to visit London, he kept
evading me, simply because he hated saying good-bye to Janet Ilchester.
His dulness of apprehension in not perceiving that I could not commit a
breach of hospitality by begging him downright to start, struck me as
extraordinary. And I was so acute. I saw every single idea in his head,
every shift of, his mind, and how he half knew that he profited by my
shunning to say flatly I desired to set out upon the discovery of the
Bench. He took the benefit of my shamefacedness, for which I daily
punished his. I really felt that I was justified in giving my
irritability an airing by curious allusions to Janet; yet, though I made
him wince, it was impossible to touch his conscience. He admitted to
having repeatedly spoken of London's charms, and 'Oh, yes! you and I'll
go back together, Richie,' and saying that satisfied him: he doubled our
engagements with Janet that afternoon, and it was a riding party, a
dancing-party, and a drawing of a pond for carp, and we over to Janet,
and Janet over to us, until I grew so sick of her I was incapable of
summoning a spark of jealousy in order the better to torture Temple.
Now, he was a quick-witted boy. Well, I one day heard Janet address my
big dog, Ajax, in the style she usually employed to inform her hearers,
and especially the proprietor, that she coveted a thing: 'Oh, you own
dear precious pet darling beauty! if I might only feed you every day of
my life I should be happy! I curtsey to him every time I see him. If I
were his master, the men should all off hats, and the women all curtsey,
to Emperor Ajax, my dog! my own! my great, dear irresistible love!, Then
she nodded at me, 'I would make them, though.' And then at Temple, 'You
see if I wouldn't.'
Ajax was a source of pride to me. However, I heard Temple murmur, in a
tone totally unlike himself, 'He would be a great protection to you'; and
I said to him, 'You know, Temple, I shall be going to London to-morrow or
the next day, not later: I don't know when I shall be back. I wish you
would dispose of the dog just as you like: get him a kind master or
mistress, that's all.'
I sacrificed my dog to bring Temple to his senses. I thought it would
touch him to see how much I could sacrifice just to get an excuse for
begging him to start. He did not even thank me. Ajax soon wore one of
Janet's collars, like two or three other of the Riversley dogs, and I had
the satisfaction of hearing Temple accept my grandfather's invitation for
a further fortnight. And, meanwhile, I was the one who was charged with
going about looking lovelorn! I smothered my feelings and my reflections
on the wisdom of people.
At last my aunt Dorothy found the means of setting me at liberty on the
road to London. We had related to her how Captain Bulsted toasted Julia
Rippenger, and we had both declared in joke that we were sure the captain
wished to be introduced to her. My aunt reserved her ideas on the
subject, but by-and-by she proposed to us to ride over to Julia, and
engage her to come and stay at Riversley for some days. Kissing me, my
aunt said, 'She was my Harry's friend when he was an outcast.'
The words revived my affection for Julia. Strong in the sacred sense of
gratitude, I turned on Temple, reproaching him with selfish forgetfulness
of her good heart and pretty face. Without defending himself, as he
might have done, he entreated me to postpone our journey for a day; he
and Janet had some appointment. Here was given me a noble cause and
matter I need not shrink from speaking of. I lashed Temple in my aunt's
presence with a rod of real eloquence that astonished her, and him, and
myself too; and as he had a sense of guilt not quite explicable in his
mind, he consented to bear what was in reality my burden; for Julia had
distinguished me and not him with all the signs of affection, and of the
two I had the more thoroughly forgotten her; I believe Temple was first
in toasting her at Squire Gregory's table. There is nothing like a pent-
up secret of the heart for accumulating powers of speech; I mean in
youth. The mental distilling process sets in later, and then you have
irony instead of eloquence. From brooding on my father, and not daring
to mention his name lest I should hear evil of it, my thoughts were a
proud family, proud of their origin, proud of their isolation,--and not
to be able to divine them was for the world to confess itself basely
beneath their level. But, when they did pour out, they were tremendous,
as Temple found. This oratorical display of mine gave me an ascendancy
over him. He adored eloquence, not to say grandiloquence: he was the son
of a barrister. 'Let 's go and see her at once, Richie,' he said of
Julia. 'I 'm ready to be off as soon as you like; I'm ready to do
anything that will please you'; which was untrue, but it was useless to
tell him so. I sighed at my sad gift of penetration, and tossed the
fresh example of it into the treasury of vanity.
'Temple,' said I, dissembling a little; 'I tell you candidly: you won't
please me by doing anything disagreeable to you. A dog pulled by the
collar is not much of a companion. I start for Julia to-morrow before
daylight. If you like your bed best, stop there; and mind you amuse
Janet for me duing my absence.'
'I'm not going to let any one make comparisons between us,' Temple
He dropped dozens of similar remarks, and sometimes talked downright
flattery, I had so deeply impressed him.
We breakfasted by candle-light, and rode away on a frosty foggy morning,
keeping our groom fifty yards to the rear, a laughable sight, with both
his coat-pockets bulging, a couple of Riversley turnover pasties in one,
and a bottle of champagne in the other, for our lunch on the road. Now
and then, when near him, we galloped for the fun of seeing him nurse the
bottle-pocket. He was generally invisible. Temple did not think it
strange that we should be riding out in an unknown world with only a
little ring, half a stone's-throw clear around us, and blots of copse,
and queer vanishing cottages, and hard grey meadows, fir-trees
wonderfully magnified, and larches and birches rigged like fairy ships,
all starting up to us as we passed, and melting instantly. One could
have fancied the fir-trees black torches. And here the shoulder of a
hill invited us to race up to the ridge: some way on we came to
crossroads, careless of our luck in hitting the right one: yonder hung a
village church in the air, and church-steeple piercing ever so high; and
out of the heart of the mist leaped a brook, and to hear it at one
moment, and then to have the sharp freezing silence in one's ear, was
piercingly weird. It all tossed the mind in my head like hay on a
pitchfork. I forgot the existence of everything but what I loved
passionately,--and that had no shape, was like a wind.
Up on a knoll of firs in the middle of a heath, glowing rosy in the
frost, we dismounted to lunch, leaning against the warm saddles, Temple
and I, and Uberly, our groom, who reminded me of a certain tramp of my
acquaintance in his decided preference of beer to champagne; he drank,
though, and sparkled after his draught. No sooner were we on horseback
again--ere the flanks of the dear friendly brutes were in any way cool--
than Temple shouted enthusiastically, 'Richie, we shall do it yet! I've
been funking, but now I'm sure we shall do it. Janet said, "What's the
use of my coming over to dine at Riversley if Harry Richmond and you
don't come home before ten or eleven o'clock?" I told her we'd do it by
dinner-time: Don't you like Janet, Richie?--That is, if our horses' hic-
haec-hocks didn't get strained on this hard nominative-plural-masculine
of the article road. Don't you fancy yourself dining with the captain,
Richie? Dative huic, says old Squire Gregory. I like to see him at
dinner, because he loves the smell of his wine. Oh! it's nothing to
boast of, but we did drink them under the table, it can't be denied.
Janet heard of it. Hulloa! you talk of a hunting-knife. What do you say
to a pair of skates? Here we are in for a frost of six weeks. It
strikes me, a pair of skates . . .'
This was the champagne in Temple. In me it did not bubble to speech, and
I soon drew him on at a pace that rendered conversation impossible.
Uberly shouted after us to spare the horses' legs. We heard him twice
out of the deepening fog. I called to Temple that he was right, we
should do it. Temple hurrahed rather breathlessly. At the end of an
hour I pulled up at an inn, where I left the horses to be groomed and
fed, and walked away rapidly as if I knew the town, Temple following me
with perfect confidence, and, indeed, I had no intention to deceive him.
We entered a new station of a railway.
'Oh!' said Temple, 'the rest of the way by rail.'
When the railway clerk asked me what place I wanted tickets for, London
sprang to my mouth promptly in a murmur, and taking the tickets I replied
'The rest of the way by rail. Uberly's sure to stop at that inn';
but my heart beat as the carriages slid away with us; an affectionate
commiseration for Temple touched me when I heard him count on our being
back at Riversley in time to dress for dinner.
He laughed aloud at the idea of our plumping down on Rippenger's school,
getting a holiday for the boys, tipping them, and then off with Julia,
exactly like two Gods of the Mythology, Apollo and Mercury.
'I often used to think they had the jolliest lives that ever were lived,'
he said, and trying to catch glimpses of the country, and musing, and
singing, he continued to feel like one of those blissful Gods until
wonder at the passage of time supervened. Amazement, when he looked at
my watch, struck him dumb. Ten minutes later we were in yellow fog, then
in brown. Temple stared at both windows and at me; he jumped from his
seat and fell on it, muttering, 'No; nonsense! I say!' but he had
accurately recognized London's fog. I left him unanswered to bring up
all his senses, which the railway had outstripped, for the contemplation
of this fact, that we two were in the city of London.
THE GREAT FOG AND THE FIRE AT MIDNIGHT
It was London city, and the Bench was the kernel of it to me. I throbbed
with excitement, though I sat looking out of the windows into the
subterranean atmosphere quite still and firm. When you think long
undividedly of a single object it gathers light, and when you draw near
it in person the strange thing to your mind is the absence of that light;
but I, approaching it in this dense fog, seemed to myself to be only
thinking of it a little more warmly than usual, and instead of fading it
reversed the process, and became, from light, luminous. Not being able,
however, to imagine the Bench a happy place, I corrected the excess of
brightness and gave its walls a pine-torch glow; I set them in the middle
of a great square, and hung the standard of England drooping over them in
a sort of mournful family pride. Then, because I next conceived it a
foreign kind of place, different altogether from that home growth of
ours, the Tower of London, I topped it with a multitude of domes of
pumpkin or turban shape, resembling the Kremlin of Moscow, which had
once leapt up in the eye of Winter, glowing like a million pine-torches,
and flung shadows of stretching red horses on the black smoke-drift.
But what was the Kremlin, that had seen a city perish, to this Bench
where my father languished! There was no comparing them for tragic
horror. And the Kremlin had snow-fields around it; this Bench was caught
out of sight, hemmed in by an atmosphere thick as Charon breathed; it
might as well be underground.
'Oh! it's London,' Temple went on, correcting his incorrigible doubts
about it. He jumped on the platform; we had to call out not to lose one
another. 'I say, Richie, this is London,' he said, linking his arm in
mine: 'you know by the size of the station; and besides, there's the fog.
Oh! it's London. We've overshot it, we're positively in London.'
I could spare no sympathy for his feelings, and I did not respond to his
inquiring looks. Now that we were here I certainly wished myself away,
though I would not have retreated, and for awhile I was glad of the
discomforts besetting me; my step was hearty as I led on, meditating upon
asking some one the direction to the Bench presently. We had to walk,
and it was nothing but traversing on a slippery pavement atmospheric
circles of black brown and brown red, and sometimes a larger circle of
pale yellow; the colours of old bruised fruits, medlars, melons, and the
smell of them; nothing is more desolate. Neither of us knew where we
were, nor where we were going. We struggled through an interminable
succession of squalid streets, from the one lamp visible to its neighbour
in the darkness: you might have fancied yourself peering at the head of
an old saint on a smoky canvas; it was like the painting of light rather
than light. Figures rushed by; we saw no faces.
Temple spoke solemnly: ' Our dinner-hour at home is half-past six.'
A street-boy overheard him and chaffed him. Temple got the worst of it,
and it did him good, for he had the sweetest nature in the world. We
declined to be attended by link-boys; they would have hurt our sense of
independence. Possessed of a sovereign faith that, by dint of
resolution, I should ultimately penetrate to the great square enclosing
the Bench, I walked with the air of one who had the map of London in his
eye and could thread it blindfold. Temple was thereby deceived into
thinking that I must somehow have learnt the direction I meant to take,
and knew my way, though at the slightest indication of my halting and
glancing round his suspicions began to boil, and he was for asking some
one the name of the ground we stood on: he murmured, 'Fellows get lost in
London.' By this time he clearly understood that I had come to London on
purpose: he could not but be aware of the object of my coming, and I was
too proud, and he still too delicate, to allude to it.
The fog choked us. Perhaps it took away the sense of hunger by filling
us as if we had eaten a dinner of soot. We had no craving to eat until
long past the dinner-hour in Temple's house, and then I would rather have
plunged into a bath and a bed than have been requested to sit at a feast;
Temple too, I fancy. We knew we were astray without speaking of it.
Temple said, 'I wish we hadn't drunk that champagne.' It seemed to me
years since I had tasted the delicious crushing of the sweet bubbles in
my mouth. But I did not blame them; I was after my father: he, dear
little fellow, had no light ahead except his devotion to me: he must have
had a touch of conscious guilt regarding his recent behaviour, enough to
hold him from complaining formally. He complained of a London without
shops and lights, wondered how any one could like to come to it in a fog,
and so forth; and again regretted our having drunk champagne in the
morning; a sort of involuntary whimpering easily forgiven to him, for I
knew he had a gallant heart. I determined, as an act of signal
condescension, to accost the first person we met, male or female, for
Temple's sake. Having come to this resolve, which was to be an open
confession that I had misled him, wounding to my pride, I hoped eagerly
for the hearing of a footfall. We were in a labyrinth of dark streets
where no one was astir. A wretched dog trotted up to us, followed at our
heels a short distance, and left us as if he smelt no luck about us; our
cajoleries were unavailing to keep that miserable companion.
'Sinbad escaped from the, pit by tracking a lynx,' I happened to remark.
Temple would not hear of Sinbad.
'Oh, come, we're not Mussulmen,' said he; 'I declare, Richie, if I saw a
church open, I'd go in and sleep there. Were you thinking of tracking
the dog, then? Beer may be had somewhere. We shall have to find an
hotel. What can the time be?'
I owed it to him to tell him, so I climbed a lamppost and spelt out the
hour by my watch. When I descended we were three. A man had his hands
on Temple's shoulders, examining his features.
'Now speak,' the man said, roughly.
I was interposing, but Temple cried, 'All right, Richie, we are two to
The man groaned. I asked him what he wanted.
'My son! I've lost my son,' the man replied, and walked away; and he
would give no answer to our questions.
I caught hold of the lamp-post, overcome. I meant to tell Temple, in
response to the consoling touch of his hand, that I hoped the poor, man
would discover his son, but said instead, 'I wish we could see the Bench
to-night.' Temple exclaimed, 'Ah!' pretending by his tone of voice that
we had recently discussed our chance of it, and then he ventured to
inform me that he imagined he had heard of the place being shut up after
a certain hour of the night.
My heart felt released, and gushed with love for him. 'Very well,
Temple,' I said: 'then we'll wait till tomorrow, and strike out for some
Off we went at a furious pace. Saddlebank's goose was reverted to by
both of us with an exchange of assurances that we should meet a dish the
fellow to it before we slept.
'As for life,' said I, as soon as the sharp pace had fetched my breathing
to a regular measure, 'adventures are what I call life.'
Temple assented. 'They're capital, if you only see the end of them.'
We talked of Ulysses and Penelope. Temple blamed him for leaving
Calypso. I thought Ulysses was right, otherwise we should have had no
slaying of the Suitors but Temple shyly urged that to have a Goddess
caring for you (and she was handsomer than Penelope, who must have been
an oldish woman) was something to make you feel as you do on a hunting
morning, when there are half-a-dozen riding-habits speckling the field--
a whole glorious day your own among them! This view appeared to me very
captivating, save for an obstruction in my mind, which was, that
Goddesses were always conceived by me as statues. They talked and they
moved, it was true, but the touch of them was marble; and they smiled and
frowned, but they had no variety they were never warm.
'If I thought that!' muttered Temple, puffing at the raw fog. He
admitted he had thought just the contrary, and that the cold had
suggested to him the absurdity of leaving a Goddess.
'Look here, Temple,' said I, 'has it never struck you? I won't say I'm
like him. It's true I've always admired Ulysses; he could fight best,
talk best, and plough, and box, and how clever he was! Take him all
round, who wouldn't rather have had him for a father than Achilles? And
there were just as many women in love with him.'
'More,' said Temple.
'Well, then,' I continued, thanking him in my heart, for it must have
cost him something to let Ulysses be set above Achilles, 'Telemachus is
the one I mean. He was in search of his father. He found him at last.
Upon my honour, Temple, when I think of it, I 'm ashamed to have waited
so long. I call that luxury I've lived in senseless. Yes! while I was
uncertain whether my father had enough to eat or not.'
'I say! hush!' Temple breathed, in pain at such allusions. 'Richie, the
squire has finished his bottle by about now; bottle number two. He won't
miss us till the morning, but Miss Beltham will. She'll be at your
bedroom door three or four times in the night, I know. It's getting
darker and darker, we must be in some dreadful part of London.'
The contrast he presented to my sensations between our pleasant home and
this foggy solitude gave me a pang of dismay. I diverged from my
favourite straight line, which seemed to pierce into the bowels of the
earth, sharp to the right. Soon or late after, I cannot tell, we were in
the midst of a thin stream of people, mostly composed of boys and young
women, going at double time, hooting and screaming with the delight of
loosened animals, not quite so agreeably; but animals never hunted on a
better scent. A dozen turnings in their company brought us in front of a
fire. There we saw two houses preyed on by the flames, just as if a lion
had his paws on a couple of human creatures, devouring them; we heard his
jaws, the cracking of bones, shrieks, and the voracious in-and-out of his
breath edged with anger. A girl by my side exclaimed, 'It's not the
Bench, after all! Would I have run to see a paltry two-story
washerwoman's mangling-shed flare up, when six penn'orth of squibs and
shavings and a cracker make twice the fun!'
I turned to her, hardly able to speak. 'Where 's the Bench, if you
please?' She pointed. I looked on an immense high wall. The blunt
flames of the fire opposite threw a sombre glow on it.
The girl said, 'And don't you go hopping into debt, my young cock-
sparrow, or you'll know one side o' the turnkey better than t' other.'
She had a friend with her who chid her for speaking so freely.
'Is it too late to go in to-night?' I asked.
She answered that it was, and that she and her friend were the persons to
show me the way in there. Her friend answered more sensibly: 'Yes, you
can't go in there before some time--in the morning.'
I learnt from her that the Bench was a debtors' prison.
The saucy girl of the pair asked me for money. I handed her a crown-
'Now won't you give another big bit to my friend?' said she.
I had no change, and the well-mannered girl bade me never mind, the saucy
one pressed for it, and for a treat. She was amusing in her talk of the
quantity of different fires she had seen; she had also seen accidental-
death corpses, but never a suicide in the act; and here she regretted the
failure of her experiences. This conversation of a good-looking girl
amazed me. Presently Temple cried, 'A third house caught, and no engines
yet! Richie, there's an old woman in her night-dress; we can't stand
The saucy girl joked at the poor half-naked old woman. Temple stood
humping and agitating his shoulders like a cat before it springs. Both
the girls tried to stop us. The one I liked best seized my watch, and