Part 13 out of 13
So, with a little difficulty, despite Mr. Smivvle's ready aid,
Barnabas proceeded to invest himself in his clothes; which done, he
paced to and fro across the chamber leaning upon Mr. Smivvle's arm,
glorying in his returning strength.
"And so you are going to America?" inquired Barnabas, as he sank
into a chair, a little wearily.
"I sail for New York in three days' time, sir."
"But what of your place in Worcestershire?"
"Gone, sir," said Mr. Smivvle, beginning to feel for his whisker.
"Historic place, though devilish damp and draughty--will echo to the
tread of a Smivvle no more--highly affecting thought, sir--oh demmit!"
"As to--funds, now," began Barnabas, a little awkwardly, "are
"Sir, I have enough to begin with--in America. Which reminds me I
must be hopping, sir. But I couldn't go without thanking you on
behalf of--my friend Barrymaine, seeing he is precluded from--from
doing it himself. Sir, it was a great--a great grief to me--to lose
him for, as I fancy I told you, the hand of a Smivvle, sir--but he
is gone beyond plague or pestilence, or Jews, dammem! And he died,
sir, like a gentleman. So, on his behalf I do thank you deeply, and
I beg, herewith, to return you the twenty guineas you would have
given him. Here they are, sir." So saying, Mr. Smivvle released his
whisker and drawing a much worn purse from his pocket, tendered it
Then, seeing the moisture in Mr. Smivvle's averted eyes, and the
drooping dejection of Mr. Smivvle's whiskers, Barnabas took the
purse and the hand also, and holding them thus clasped, spoke.
"Mr. Smivvle," said he, "it is a far better thing to take the hand
of an honorable man and a loyal gentleman than to kiss the fingers
of a prince. This money belonged to your dead friend, let it be an
inheritance from him. As to myself, as I claim it an honor to call
myself your friend, so let it be my privilege to help you in your new
life and--and you will find five thousand guineas to your credit
when you reach New York, and--and heaven prosper you."
"Sir--" began Mr. Smivvle, but his voice failing him he turned away
and crossing to the window stood there apparently lost in
contemplation of the glory of the morning.
"You will let me know how you get on, from time to time?" inquired
"Sir," stammered Mr. Smivvle, "sir--oh, Beverley, I can't thank
you--I cannot, but--if I live, you shall find I don't forget and--"
"Hush! I think a door creaked somewhere!" said Barnabas, almost in a
tone of relief.
In an instant Mr. Smivvle had possessed himself of his shabby hat
and was astride of the window-sill. Yet there he paused to reach out
his hand, and now Barnabas might see a great tear that crept upon
his cheek--as bright, as glorious as any jewel.
"Good-by, Beverley!" he whispered as their hands met, "good-by, and
I shall never forget--never!"
So saying, he nodded, sighed and, swinging himself over the
window-ledge, lowered himself from sight.
But, standing there at the casement, Barnabas watched him presently
stride away towards a new world, upright of figure and with head
carried high like one who is full of confident purpose.
Being come to the end of the drive he turned, flourished his shabby
hat and so was gone.
HOW THE DUCHESS MADE UP HER MIND, AND BARNABAS DID THE LIKE
"Gracious heavens--he's actually up--and dressed! Oh Lud, Barnabas,
what does this mean?"
Barnabas started and turned to find the Duchess regarding him from
the doorway and, though her voice was sharp, her eyes were
wonderfully gentle, and she had stretched out her hands to him.
Therefore he crossed the room a little unsteadily, and taking those
small hands in his, bent his head and kissed them reverently.
"It means that, thanks to you, Duchess, I am well again and--"
"And as pale as a goblin--no, I mean a ghost--trying to catch his
death of cold at an open window too--I mean you, not the ghost! And
as weak as--as a rabbit, and--oh, dear me, I can't shut it--the
casement--drat it! Thank you, Barnabas. Dear heaven, I am so
flurried--and even your boots on too! Let me sit down. Lud,
Barnabas--how thin you are!"
"But strong enough to go on my way--"
"Way? What way? Which way?"
"Home, home indeed? You are home--this is your home. Ashleydown is
"Yes," nodded Barnabas, "I suppose it is, but I shall never live here,
I leave today. I am going home, but before I--"
"Home? What home--which home?"
"But before I do, I would thank you if I could, but how may I thank
you for all your motherly care of me? Indeed, dear Duchess, I cannot,
and yet--if words can--"
"Pho!" exclaimed the Duchess, knitting her brows at him, but with
eyes still ineffably soft and tender, "what do you mean by 'home,'
"I am going back to my father and Natty Bell."
"And to--that inn?"
"Yes, Duchess. You see, there is not, there never was, there never
shall be quite such another inn as the old 'Hound.'"
"And you--actually mean to--live there?"
"Yes, for a time, but--"
"Ha--a publican!" exclaimed the Duchess and positively sniffed,
though only as a really great lady may.
"--there is a farm near by, I shall probably--"
"Ha--a farmer!" snorted the Duchess.
"--raise horses, madam, and with Natty Bell's assistance I hope--"
"Horses!" cried the Duchess, and sniffed again. "Horses, indeed!
Absurd! Preposterous! Quite ridiculous--hush, sir! I have some
questions to ask you."
"Firstly, sir, what of your dreams? What of London? What of Society?"
"They were--only dreams," answered Barnabas; "in place of them I
shall have--my father and Natty Bell."
"Secondly, sir,--what of your fine ambitions?"
"It will be my ambition, henceforth, to breed good horses, madam."
"Thirdly, sir,--what of your money?"
"I shall hope to spend it to much better purpose in the country than
in the World of Fashion, Duchess."
"Oh Lud, Barnabas,--what a selfish creature you are!"
"Wretch?" said Barnabas, staring.
"Wretch!" nodded the Duchess, frowning, "and pray don't echo my words,
sir. I say you are a preposterously selfish wretch, and--so you are!"
"But, madam, why? What do you mean?"
"I mean that you should try to forget yourself occasionally and
think of others--me, for instance; look at me--a solitary old
woman--in a wig!"
"Me, Barnabas. And this brings me to fourthly--what of me, sir?
--what of me?"
"But, madam, I--"
"And this brings me to fifthly and sixthly and seventhly--my hopes,
and dreams, and plans, sir--are they all to be broken, spoiled,
ruined by your hatefully selfish whims, sir--hush, not a word!"
"But, Duchess, indeed I don't--"
"Hush, sir, and listen to me. There are days when my wig rebukes me,
sir, and my rouge-pot stares me out of countenance; yes, indeed, I
sometimes begin to feel almost--middle-aged and, at such times, I
grow a little lonely. Heaven, sir, doubtless to some wise end, has
always denied me that which is a woman's abiding joy or shame--I
mean a child, sir, and as the years creep on, one is apt to be a
little solitary, now and then, and at such times I feel the need of
a son--so I have determined to adopt you, Barnabas--today! Now! This
minute! Not a word, sir, my mind is made up!"
"But," stammered Barnabas, "but, madam, I--I beg you to consider--my
"Is a publican and probably a sinner, Barnabas. I may be a sinner too,
perhaps--y-e-s, I fear I am, occasionally. But then I am also a
Duchess, and it is far wiser in a man to be the adopted son of a
sinful Duchess than the selfish son of a sinful publican, yes indeed."
"But I, madam, what can I say? Dear Duchess, I--the honor you would
do me--" floundered poor Barnabas, "believe me if--if--"
"Not another word!" the Duchess interposed, "it is quite settled. As
my adopted son Society shall receive you on bended knees, with open
arms--I'll see to that! All London shall welcome you, for though I'm
old and wear a wig, I'm very much alive, and Society knows it. So no
more talk of horses, or farms, or inns, Barnabas; my mind, as I say,
is quite made up and--"
"But, madam," said Barnabas gently, "so is mine."
"Well, madam, today I go to my father."
"Ah!" sighed the Duchess.
"Though indeed I thank you humbly for--your condescension."
"Hum!" said the Duchess.
"And honor you most sincerely for--for--"
"Oh?" said the Duchess, softly.
"And most truly love and reverence you for your womanliness."
"Oh!" said the Duchess again, this time very softly indeed, and with
her bright eyes more youthful than ever.
"Nevertheless," pursued Barnabas a little ponderously, "my father is
my father, and I count it more honorable to be his son than to live
an amateur gentleman and the friend of princes."
"Quite so," nodded the Duchess, "highly filial and very pious, oh,
indeed, most righteous and laudable, but--there remains an eighthly,
"And pray, madam, what may that be?"
"What of Cleone?"
Now when the Duchess said this, Barnabas turned away to the window
and leaning his head in his hands, was silent awhile.
"Cleone!" he sighed at last, "ah, yes--Cleone!"
"You love her, I suppose?"
"So much--so very much that she shall never marry an innkeeper's son,
or a discredited--"
"Bah!" exclaimed the Duchess.
"Don't be so hatefully proud, Barnabas."
"Cruelly, wickedly, hatefully proud! Oh, dear me! what a superbly
virtuous, heroic fool you are, Barnabas. When you met her at the
crossroads, for instance--oh, I know all about it--when you had her
there--in your arms, why didn't you--run off with her and marry her,
as any ordinary human man would have done? Dear heaven, it would
have been so deliciously romantic! And--such an easy way out of it!"
"Yes," said Barnabas, beginning to frown, "so easy that it was--wrong!"
"Quite so and fiddlesticks!" sniffed the Duchess.
"Oh, sir, pray remember that one wrong may sometimes make two right!
As it is, you will let your abominable pride--yes, pride! wreck and
ruin two lives. Bah!" cried the Duchess very fiercely as she rose
and turned to the door, "I've no patience with you!"
"Ah, Duchess," said Barnabas, staying her with pleading hands,
"can't you see--don't you understand? Were she, this proud lady, my
wife, I must needs be haunted, day and night, by the fear that some
day, soon or late, she would find me to be--not of her world--not
the man she would have me, but only--the publican's son, after all.
Now--don't you see why I dare not?"
"Oh, Pride! Pride!" exclaimed the Duchess. "Do you expect her to
come to you, then--would you have her go down on her knees to you,
and--beg you to marry her?"
Barnabas turned to the window again and stood there awhile staring
blindly out beyond the swaying green of trees; when at last he spoke
his voice was hoarse and there was a bitter smile upon his lips.
"Yes, Duchess," said he slowly, "before such great happiness could
be mine she must come to me, she must go down upon her knees--proud
lady that she is--and beg this innkeeper's son to marry her. So you
see, Duchess, I--shall never marry!"
Now when at last Barnabas looked round, the Duchess had her back to
him, nor did she turn even when she spoke.
"Then you are going back--to your father?"
"Then--good-by, Barnabas! And remember that even roses, like all
things else, have a habit of fading, sooner or later." And thus,
without even glancing at him, the Duchess went out of the room and
closed the door softly behind her.
Then Barnabas sank into a chair, like one that is very tired, and
sat there lost in frowning thought, and with one hand clasped down
upon his breast where hidden away in a clumsily contrived
hiding-place a certain rose, even at that moment, was fading away.
And in a while being summoned by Peterby, he sighed and, rising,
went down to his solitary breakfast.
WHICH TELLS WHY BARNABAS FORGOT HIS BREAKFAST
It was a slender little shoe, and solitary, for fellow it had none,
and it lay exactly in the middle of the window-seat; moreover, to
the casual observer, it was quite an ordinary little shoe, ordinary,
be it understood, in all but its size.
Why, then, should Barnabas, chancing to catch sight of so ordinary
an object, start up from his breakfast (ham and eggs, and fragrant
coffee) and crossing the room with hasty step, pause to look down at
this small and lonely object that lay so exactly in the middle of
the long, deep window-seat? Why should his hand shake as he stooped
and took it up? Why should the color deepen in his pale cheek?
And all this because of a solitary little shoe! A quite ordinary
little shoe--to the casual observer! Oh, thou Casual Observer who
seeing so much, yet notices and takes heed to so little beyond thy
puny self! To whom the fairest prospect is but so much earth and so
much timber! To whom music is but an arrangement of harmonious sounds,
and man himself but a being erect upon two legs! Oh, thou Casual
Observer, what a dull, gross, self-contented clod art thou, who,
having eyes and ears, art blind and deaf to aught but things as
But for this shoe, it, being something worn, yet preserved the mould
of the little foot that had trodden it, a slender, coquettish little
foot, a shapely, active little foot: a foot, perchance, to trip it
gay and lightly to a melody, or hurry, swift, untiring, upon some
errand of mercy.
All this, and more, Barnabas noted (since he, for one, was no casual
observer) as he stood there in the sunlight with the little shoe
upon his palm, while the ham and eggs languished forgotten and the
coffee grew cold, for how might they hope to vie with this that had
lain so lonely, so neglected and--so exactly in the middle of the
Now presently, as Barnabas stood thus lost in contemplation of this
shoe, he was aware of Peterby entering behind him, and instinctively
made as if to hide the shoe in his bosom, but he checked the impulse,
turned, and glancing at Peterby, saw that his usually grave lips were
quivering oddly at the corners, and that he kept his gaze fixed
pertinaciously upon the coffee-pot; whereat the pale cheek of
Barnabas grew suffused again, and stepping forward, he laid the
little shoe upon the table.
"John," said he, pointing to it, "have you ever seen this before?"
"Why, sir," replied Peterby, regarding the little shoe with brow of
frowning portent, "I think I have."
"And pray," continued Barnabas (asking a perfectly unnecessary
question), "whose is it, do you suppose?"
"Sir," answered John, still grave of mouth and solemn of eye,
"to the best of my belief it belongs to the Lady Cleone Meredith."
"So she--really was here, John?"
"Sir, she came here the same night that you--were shot, and she
brought Her Grace of Camberhurst with her."
"And they remained here until today--to nurse you, sir."
"Did they, John?"
"They took turns to be with you--day and night, sir. But it was only
my Lady Cleone who could soothe your delirious ravings,--she seemed
to have a magic--"
"And why," demanded Barnabas, frowning suddenly, "Why was I never
told of her presence?"
"Sir, it was her earnest wish that you were not to know unless--"
"Unless you expressly asked for her, by name. And, sir--you never did."
"No," sighed Barnabas, "I never did. But perhaps, after all, it was
just as well, John? Under the--circumstances, John?"
But seeing Peterby only shook his head and sighed, Barnabas turned
to stare out of the window.
"And she--left this morning--with the Duchess, did she?" he inquired,
without looking round.
"For--London, as I understood, sir."
Hereupon Barnabas was silent for a time, during which Peterby
watched him solicitously.
"Is 'The Terror' still here?" Barnabas inquired suddenly.
"Yes, sir, and I took the liberty of sending for Gabriel Martin to
look after him."
"Quite right, John. Tell Martin to have him saddled at once."
"You are--going out, sir?"
"Yes, I am going--out."
Peterby bowed and crossed to the door, but paused there, hesitated,
and finally spoke:
"Sir, may I ask if you intend to ride--Londonwards?"
"No," answered Barnabas, stifling a sigh, "my way lies in the
opposite direction; I am going--back, to the 'Coursing Hound.' And
that reminds me--what of you, what are your plans for the future?"
"Sir," stammered Peterby, "I--I had ventured to--to hope that you
might--take me with you, unless you wished to--to be rid of me--"
"Rid of you, John!" cried Barnabas, turning at last, "no--never. Why,
man, I need you more than ever!"
"Sir," exclaimed Peterby, flushing suddenly, "do you--really mean that?"
"Yes, John--a thousand times, yes! For look you, as I have proved
you the best valet in the world--so have I proved you a man, and it
is the man I need now, because--I am a failure."
"Yes, John. In London I attempted the impossible, and today
I--return home, a failure. Consequently the future looms rather dark
before me, John, and at such times a tried friend is a double
blessing. So, come with me, John, and help me to face the future as
a man should."
"Ah, sir," answered Peterby, with his sudden radiant smile,
"darkness cannot endure, and if the future brings its sorrows, so
must it bring its joys. Surely the future stands for hope and--I
Now as he ended, Peterby raised one hand with forefinger outstretched;
and, looking where he pointed, Barnabas beheld--the little shoe. But
when he glanced up again, Peterby was gone.
HOW THE VISCOUNT PROPOSED A TOAST
"Oh--hif you please, sir!"
Barnabas started, raised his head, and, glancing over his shoulder,
beheld Milo of Crotona. He was standing in the middle of the room
looking very cherubic, very natty, and very upright of back; and he
stared at Barnabas with his innocent blue eyes very wide, and with
every one of the eight winking, twinkling, glittering buttons on his
small jacket--indeed, it seemed to Barnabas that to-day his buttons
were rather more knowing than usual, if that could well be.
Therefore Barnabas dropped his table-napkin, very adroitly, upon a
certain object that yet lay upon the table before him, ere he turned
about and addressed himself to the Viscount's diminutive "tiger."
"What, my Imp," said he, "where in the world have you sprung from,
pray? I didn't see you come in."
"No, sir--'cause you jest 'appened to be lookin' at that there
little boot, you did." Thus Master Milo, and his eyes were guileless
as an angel's, but--his buttons--!
"Hum!" said Barnabas, rubbing his chin. "But how did you get in, Imp?"
"Froo de winder, sir, I did. An' I 've come to tell you 'is
Ludship's compliments, and 'e's a-comin' along wiv 'er, 'e is."
"Wiv my lady--'er."
"Wiv 'is Ludship's lady, 'is Vi-coun-tess,--'er."
"His Viscountess!" repeated Barnabas, staring, "do you mean that the
Viscount is--actually married?"
"'T ain't my fault, sir--no fear, it ain't. 'E went and done it be'ind
my back--s'morning as ever was, 'e did. I didn't know nothin' about it
till it was too late, 'e done it unbeknownst to me, sir, 'e did, an'
she done it too a' course, an' the Yurl went an' 'elped 'em to do it,
'e did. So did the Cap'n, and the Doochess an' Lady Cleone--they all
'elped 'em to do it, they did. An' now they're goin' into the country,
to Deven'am, an' I'm a-goin' wiv 'em--an' they're a-drivin' over to
see you, sir, in 'is Ludship's noo phayton--an' that's all--no,
it ain't though."
"What more, Imp?"
"Why, as they all come away from the church--where they'd been
a-doin' of it, sir--I met the little, old Doochess in 'er coach, an'
she see me, too. 'Why it's the little Giant!' she sez. 'Best respex,
mam,' I sez, an' then I see as she'd got Lady Cleone wiv 'er--a fine,
'igh-steppin', 'andsome young filly, I call 'er, an' no error.
'Where are you goin', Giant?' sez the Doochess. 'I'm a-goin' to drop
in on Mr. Bev'ley, mam, I am,' I sez. 'Then give 'im my love,' she
sez, 'an' tell 'im I shan't never forget 'is pride and 'is
selfishness,' she sez,--an' she give me a crown into the bargain,
she did. An' then--jest as the coach was a-drivin' off t'other
'un--the young 'un, give me this. 'For Mr. Bev'ley,' she sez in a
whisper, and--here it be, sir."
Saying which, Master Milo handed Barnabas a small folded paper
whereon, scribbled in Cleone's well-known writing, were these three
1. Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty
spirit before a fall.
2. Selfishness shall find its own reward.
3. Journeys end in lovers' meetings.
Long stood Barnabas devouring these words with his eyes; so puzzled
and engrossed was he indeed, that not until Master Milo ventured to
touch him on the arm did he look up.
"'Ere's 'is Ludship, sir," explained Milo, jerking his thumb towards
the open window, "a-drivin' up the av'noo, sir, in 'is phayton,
and wiv 'is noo Vi-coun-tess along of him--and a reg'lar 'igh-stepper
she looks, don't she? Arter all, I don't blame 'im for goin' an' doin'
of it, I don't. Ye see, I allus 'ad a tender spot for Miss Clemency,
mam, I 'ad, and a fine, proper, bang up Vi-coun-tess she do make,
an' no error, sir--now don't she?"
"Surely," nodded Barnabas, looking where Milo pointed, "surely she
is the handsomest, sweetest young Viscountess in all England, Imp."
So saying, he strode from the room with Master Milo trotting at his
heels, and being come out upon the terrace, stood to watch the
phaeton's rapid approach.
And, indeed, what words could be found in any language that could
possibly do justice to the gentle, glowing beauty of Mistress
Clemency Dare, transformed now, for good and all, into Beatrix,
Viscountess Devenham? What brush could paint the mantling color of
her cheek, the tender light of her deep, soft eyes, the ripe
loveliness of her shape, and all the indefinable grace and charm of
her? Surely none.
And now, Master Milo has darted forward and sprung to the horses'
heads, for the Viscount has leapt to earth and has caught at
Barnabas with both hands almost before the phaeton has come to a
"Why, Bev--my dear old fellow, this is a joyful surprise! oh, bruise
and blister me!" exclaimed the Viscount, viewing Barnabas up and
down with radiant eyes, "to see you yourself again at last--and on
this day of all days--this makes everything quite complete,
y'know--doesn't it, Clemency? Expected to find you in bed,
y'know--didn't we, Clem, dear? And oh--egad, Bev--er--my wife, y'know.
You haven't heard, of course, that I--that we--"
"Yes, I've just heard," said Barnabas, smiling, "and God knows, Dick,
I rejoice in your joy and wish you every happiness!" And, speaking,
he turned and looked into the flushing loveliness of Clemency's face.
"Mr. Beverley--oh, Barnabas--dear brother!" she said softly,
"but for you, this day might never have dawned for us--" and she
gave both her hands into his. "Oh, believe me, in my joy, as in my
sorrow, I shall remember you always."
"And I too, Bev!" added the Viscount.
"And," continued Clemency, her voice a little tearful, "whatever
happiness the future may hold will only make that memory all the
"Gad, yes, that it will, Bev!" added the Viscount. "And, my dear
fellow," he pursued, growing somewhat incoherent because of his
earnestness, "I want to tell you that--that because I--I'm so
deucedly happy myself, y' know, I wish that my luck had been
yours--no, I don't mean that exactly, but what I meant to say was
that I--that you deserve to--to--oh, blister me! Tell him what I mean,
Clemency dear," the Viscount ended, a little hoarsely.
"That you deserve to know a love as great, a joy as deep as ours,
"Exactly!" nodded the Viscount, with a fond look at his young wife;
"Precisely what I meant, Bev, for I'm the proudest, happiest fellow
alive, y' know. And what's more, my dear fellow, in marrying
Clemency I marry also an heiress possessed of all the attributes
necessary to bowl over a thousand flinty-hearted Roman P's, and my
Roman's heart--though tough, was never quite a flint, after all."
"Indeed, sir--he would have welcomed me without a penny!" retorted
Clemency, blushing, and consequently looking lovelier than ever.
"Why--to be sure he would!" said Barnabas. "Indeed, who wouldn't?"
"Exactly, Bev!" replied the Viscount, "she cornered him with the
first glance, floored him with a second, and had him fairly beaten
out of the ring with a third. Gad, if you'd only been there to see!"
"Would I had!" sighed Barnabas.
"Still there's always--the future, y' know!" nodded the Viscount.
"Ah, yes, and with an uncommonly big capital F, y' know, Bev. It was
decreed that we were to be friends by--well, you remember who,
Bev--and friends we always must be, now and hereafter, amen, my dear
fellow, and between you and me--and my Viscountess, I think the
Future holds more happiness for you than ever the past did. Your
turn will come, y' know, Bev--we shall be dancing at your wedding
next--shan't we, Clem?"
"No, Dick," answered Barnabas, shaking his head, "I shall never marry."
"Hum!" said the Viscount, fingering his chin and apparently lost in
contemplation of a fleecy cloud.
"Of that I am--quite certain."
"Ha!" said the Viscount, staring down at the toe of his glossy boot.
"But," continued Barnabas, "even in my loneliness--"
"His loneliness--hum!" said the Viscount, still contemplating his
resplendent boot. "Clemency dear, do you suppose our Barnabas fellow
will be groaning over his 'loneliness'--to-morrow, say?" Hereupon,
the Viscount laughed suddenly, and for no apparent reason, while
even Clemency's red lips curved and parted in a smile.
"But," said Barnabas, looking from one to the other, "I don't
"Neither do we, Bev. Only, dear fellow, remember this, 'there is a
destiny which shapes our ends,' and--occasionally, a Duchess." But
here, while Barnabas still glanced at them in perplexity, John
Peterby appeared, bearing a tray whereon stood a decanter and glasses.
"Ha!--most excellent Peterby!" cried the Viscount, "you come pat to
the occasion, as usual. Fill up for all of us, yes--even my small
Imp yonder; I have a toast to give you." And, when the glasses
brimmed, the Viscount turned and looked at Barnabas with his boyish
smile. "Let us drink," said he, "to the Future, and the Duchess's
So the toast was drunk with all due honors: but when Barnabas sought
an explanation, the Viscount laughed and shook his head.
"Pray ask my Viscountess," said he, with a fond look at her, and
turned away to rebuckle a trace under the anxious supervision of
"Indeed, no, Barnabas," said Clemency, smiling, "I cannot explain,
as Dick well knows. But this I must tell you, while you lay here,
very near death, I came to see you often with my dear father."
"Ah!" exclaimed Barnabas, "then you met--her?"
"Yes, I met Cleone, and I--loved her. She was very tired and worn,
the first time I saw her; you were delirious, and she had watched
over you all night. Of course we talked of you, and she told me how
she had found my letter to you, the only one I ever wrote you, and
how she had misjudged you. And then she cried, and I took her in my
arms and kissed away her tears and comforted her. So we learned to
know and love each other, you see."
"I am very glad," said Barnabas, slowly, and with his gaze on the
distance, "for her sake and yours."
Now as she looked at him, Clemency sighed all at once, yet
thereafter smiled very tenderly, and so smiling, gave him both her
"Oh, Barnabas," said she, "I know Happiness will come to you, sooner
or later--when least expected, as it came to me, so--dear Barnabas,
Then Barnabas, looking from her tearful, pitying eyes to the hand
upon whose finger was a certain plain gold ring that shone so very
bright and conspicuous because of its newness, raised that slender
hand to his lips.
"Thank you, Clemency," he answered, "but why are you--so sure?"
"A woman's intuition, perhaps, Barnabas, or perhaps, because if ever
a man deserved to be happy--you do, dear brother."
"Amen to that!" added the Viscount, who had at length adjusted the
trace to his own liking and Master Milo's frowning approval. "Good-by,
Bev," he continued, gripping the hand Barnabas extended. "We are going
down to Devenham for a week or so--Clemency's own wish, and when we
come back I have a feeling that the--the shadows, y' know, will have
passed quite away, y'know,--for good and all. Good-by, dear fellow,
good-by!" So saying, the Viscount turned, rather hastily, sprang into
the phaeton and took up the reins.
"Are you right there, Imp?"
"All right, m'lud!" answers that small person with one foot posed
negligently on the step, waiting till the last possible moment ere
he mounts to his perch behind. So, with a last "good-by" the
Viscount touches up his horses, the light vehicle shoots forward
with Master Milo swinging suspended in mid-air, who turns to Barnabas,
flashes his eight buttons at him, touches his hat to him, folds his
arms, and, sitting very stiff in the back, is presently whirled out
HOW BARNABAS RODE HOMEWARDS, AND TOOK COUNSEL OF A PEDLER OF BOOKS
It was well on in the afternoon when Barnabas, booted and spurred,
stepped out into the sunshine where old Gabriel Martin walked
"The Terror" to and fro before the door.
"Very glad to see you out and about again, sir," said he, beaming of
face and with a finger at his grizzled temple.
"Thank you, Martin."
"And so is the 'oss, sir--look at 'im!" And indeed the great, black
horse had tossed up his lofty crest and stood, one slender fore-leg
advanced and with sensitive ears pricked forward, snuffing at
Barnabas as he came slowly down the steps.
"He doesn't seem to have taken any hurt from the last race we had
together," said Barnabas.
"'Arm, sir--lord, no--not a bit, never better! There's a eye for you,
there's a coat! I tell you, sir, 'e's in the very pink, that 'e is."
"He does you great credit, Martin."
"Sir," said Martin as Barnabas prepared to mount, "sir, I hear as
you ain't thinking of going back to town?"
"To the best of my belief, no, Martin."
"Why, then, sir," said the old groom, his face clouding, "p'r'aps I
'd better be packing up my bits o' traps, sir?"
"Yes, Martin, I think you had," answered Barnabas, and swung himself
somewhat awkwardly into the saddle.
"Very good, sir!" sighed old Martin, his gray head drooping.
"I done my best for the 'oss and you, sir, but I know I'm a bit too
old for the job, p'r'aps, and--"
But at this moment Peterby approached.
"Sir," he inquired, a little anxiously, "do you feel able--well
enough to ride--alone?"
"Why, bless you, John, of course I do. I'm nearly well," answered
Barnabas, settling his feet in the stirrups, "and that reminds me,
you will discharge all the servants--a month's wages, John, and shut
up this place as soon as possible. As for Martin here, of course you
will bring him with you if he will come. We shall need him hereafter,
shan't we, John? And perhaps we'd better offer him another ten shillings
a week considering he will have so many more responsibilities
on the farm."
So saying, Barnabas waved his hand, wheeled his horse, and rode off
down the drive; but, glancing back, when he had gone a little way,
he saw that Peterby and the old groom yet stood looking after him,
and in the face of each was a brightness that was not of the sun.
On rode Barnabas, filling his lungs with great draughts of the balmy
air and looking about him, eager-eyed. And thus, beholding the
beauty of wooded hill and dale, already mellowing to Autumn, the
heaviness was lifted from his spirit, his drooping back grew straight,
and raising his eyes to the blue expanse of heaven, he gloried that
he was alive.
But, in a while, remembering Cleone's note, he must needs check his
speed, and taking the paper from his bosom, began to con it over:
1. Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty
spirit before a fall.
2. Selfishness shall find its own reward.
3. Journeys end in lovers' meetings.
Now as he rode thus at a hand-pace, puzzling over these cryptic words,
he was presently aroused by a voice, somewhat harsh and discordant,
singing at no great distance; and the words of the song were these:
"Push about the brisk bowl, 't will enliven the heart
While thus we sit down on the grass;
The lover who talks of his sufferings and smart
Deserves to be reckoned an ass, an ass,
Deserves to be reckoned an ass."
Therefore Barnabas raised his head and, glancing to one side of the
way, beheld the singer sitting beneath the hedge. He was a small,
merry-eyed man and, while he sang, he was busily setting out certain
edibles upon the grass at his feet; now glancing from this very
small man to the very large pack that lay beside him, Barnabas
reined up and looked down at him with a smile.
"And pray," he inquired, "how do books sell these days?"
"Why, they do and they don't, sir. Sermons are a drug and novels
ain't much better, poems is pretty bobbish, but song-books is my meat.
And, talking o' songbooks, here's one as is jest the thing for a
convivial cock o' the game--a fine, young, slap-up buck like you, my
Lord. Here's a book to kill care, drive away sorrer, and give a
'leveller' to black despair. A book as'll make the sad merry, and
the merry merrier. Hark to this now!"
So saying, the Pedler drew a book from his pack, and opening it at
the title-page, began to read as follows, with much apparent unction
THE HEARTY FELLOW:
JOYOUS SOUL'S COMPANION.
Chaste, Elegant, and Humourous
COLLECTION OF SONGS,
for the ENTERTAINMENT of:
The TENDER MAID, the PINING LOVER, the CHOICE
SPIRIT, the DROLL DOG, the JOVIAL SPORTSMAN, the
DARING SOLDIER and the ROUGH, HONEST TAR:
and for all those who would wish to render themselves agreeable,
divert the Company, kill Care, and be joyous; where the
high-seasoned WIT and HUMOUR will be sufficient Apology for
a bad Voice, and by which such as have a tolerable one will be
able to Shine without repressing the Laugh of the merrily
disposed, or offending the Ear of the chastest Virgin.
To which is added:
A complete Collection of the Various TOASTS, SENTIMENTS,
and HOB-NOBS, that have been drank, are now
drinking, and some new Ones offered for Adoption.
"There you are, sir--there's a book for you! A book? A whole
li-bree--a vaddy-mekkum o' wit, and chock full o' humor! What d' ye
say for such a wollum o' sparkling bon mots? Say a guinea, say
fifteen bob? say ten? Come--you shall take it for five! Five bob for
a book as ain't to be ekalled no-how and no-wheer--"
"Not in Asia, Africa or America?" said Barnabas.
"Eh?" said the Pedler, glancing sharply up at him, "why--what, Lord
love me--it's you, is it? aha! So it did the trick for you, did it?"
"What do you mean?"
"Mean, sir? Lord, what should I mean, but that there book on Ettyket,
as I sold you--that priceless wollum as I give you--for five bob,
months ago, when the larks was a-singing so inspiring."
"Yes, it was a lovely morning, I remember."
"Ah! and you left me that morning, a fine, upstanding young country
cove, but to-day--ah, to-day you are a bang up blood--a gent, inside
and out, a-riding of a magnificent 'oss--and all on account o'
follering the instructions in that 'ere blessed tome as I sold
you--for five bob! And dirt-cheap at the money!"
"And I find you exactly as you were," said Barnabas thoughtfully,
"yes, even to the bread and cheese."
"There you are wrong, sir--axing your pardon. This time it's 'alf a
loaf--medium, a slice o' beef--small, and a cold per-tater--large.
But cold per-taters is full o' nourishment, if eat with a contented
mind--ah, there's oceans o' nourishment in a cold per-tater--took
reg'lar. O' course, for them as is flush o' the rhino, and wants a
blow-out, there's nothin' like two o' leg o' beef with a dash o' pea,
'alf a scaffold-pole, a plate o' chats, and a swimmer--it's
wholesome and werry filling, and don't cost more than a groat, but
give me a cold per-tater to walk on. But you, sir," continued the
Pedler, beginning to eat with great appetite, "you, being a reg'lar
'eavy-toddler now, one o' the gilded nobs--and all on account o'
that there priceless wollum as I--give away to you--for five bob!
you, being now a blue-blooded aris-to-crat, don't 'ave to walk, so
you can go in for plovers or pheasants or partridges, dressed up in
hartichokes, p'r'aps, yes--frogs'-legs is your constant fodder now,
p'r'aps--not to mention rag-outs and sich. Oh, yes, I reckon you've
done a lot, and seen a lot, and--eat a lot since the morning as I
give you a priceless wollum worth its weight in solid gold as was
wrote by a Person o' Quality--and all for five bob! jest because
them larks 'appened to be singing so sentimental--drat 'em! Ah well,"
sighed the Pedler, bolting the last morsel of beef, "and 'ow did you
find London, young sir?"
"Much bigger than I expected."
"Ah, it is a bit biggish till you get used to it. And it's amazing
what you can see--if you looks 'ard enough, like the tombs in St.
Paul's Churchyard, f'r instance. I knowed of a chap once as spent
over a week a-looking for 'em, and never see so much as a single
'eadstone--but then, 'e were born stone-blind, so it were only
nat'ral as 'e _should_ miss 'em, p'r'aps. But you, young sir, 'ow
did you pass your time?"
"Principally in dressing and undressing."
"Ah, jess so, jess so--coats cut 'igh and coats cut low! But what
"And in eating and drinking."
"Ah, French hortolons, p'r'aps, with a occasional tongue of a lark
throwed in for a relish, jess so! But what more--did ye marry a
duchess, f'r instance?"
"Elope with a earl's daughter, then?"
"Well--did ye fight any dooels?"
"Not a single one."
"Lord, young sir--you 'ave been a-missing of your opportunities, you
'ave, playing fast and loose wi' Fortun', I calls it--ah, fair
flying in the face o' Providence! Now, if instead o' selling books I
took to writing of 'em, and tried to write you into a novel, why,
Lord, what a poor thing that there novel would be! Who'd want to read
it?--why, nobody! Oh, I can see as you've been throwing away your
opportunities and wasting your chances shocking, you 'ave."
"Now I wonder," said Barnabas, frowning thoughtfully, "I wonder if I
"Not a doubt of it!" answered the Pedler, swallowing the last of his
"Then the sooner I begin to make up for it, the better."
"Ah!" nodded the Pedler. "I should begin at once, if I was you."
"I will," said Barnabas, gathering up the reins.
"And how, sir?"
"By going my allotted way and--striving to be content."
"Content!" exclaimed the Pedler, "lord, young sir, it's only fools
as is ever content! A contented man never done anything much worth
'aving, nor said anything much worth 'caring as ever I 'eard. Never
go for to be content, young sir, or you'll never do nothing at all!"
"Why, then," said Barnabas, smiling ruefully, "it is certain that I
shall achieve something yet, because--I never shall be content!"
"That's the spirit, young sir--aim 'igh. Jest look at me--born in
the gutter, but I wasn't content wi' the gutter so I taught myself
to read and write. But I wasn't content to read and write, so I took
to the book trade, and 'ere I am to-day travelling the roads and wi'
a fairish connection, but I ain't content--Lord, no! I'd like to be
a dook a-rolling in a chariot, or a prince o' the blood, or the
Prime Minister a-laying down the law. That's the sperrit--shoot 'igh,
ah! shoot at the sun and you're bound to 'it summat if it's only a
tree or a 'ay-stack. So, if you can't be a dook or a prince, you can
allus be--a man--if you try 'ard enough. What--are ye going, young
"Yes," answered Barnabas, leaning down from the saddle, "good-by,
and thank you for your advice," and he stretched out his hand.
Hereupon the pedler of books rose to his feet and rather diffidently
clasped the proffered hand. So Barnabas smiled down at him, nodded
and rode upon his way, but as for the Pedler, he stood there,
staring after him open-mouthed, and with the yellow coins shining
upon his palm.
WHICH TELLS HOW BARNABAS CAME HOME AGAIN, AND HOW HE AWOKE FOR THE
Evening was falling as Barnabas came to the top of the hill and,
drawing rein, paused there to look down at a certain inn. It was a
somewhat small and solitary inn, an ancient inn with many lattices,
and with pointed gables whose plaster and cross-beams were just now
mellowed by the rosy glow of sunset.
Surely, surely, nowhere in all broad England could there be found
just such another inn as this, or one more full of that reposeful
dignity which only age can bestow. And in all its length of days
never had "The Coursing Hound" looked more restful, more comfortable
and home-like than upon this early Autumn evening. And remembering
those two gray-headed men, who waited within its hospitable walls,
eager to give him welcome, who might, perchance, even now be talking
of him one to another, what wonder if, as our Barnabas gazed down at
it from worn steps to crooked chimney, from the faded sign before
the door of it to the fragrant rick-yard that lay behind it, what
wonder (I say) if it grew blurred all at once, and misty, or that
Barnabas should sigh so deeply and sit with drooping head, while the
old inn blinked its casements innocently in the level rays of the
setting sun, like the simple, guileless old inn that it was!
But lo! all at once forth from its weather-beaten porch issued two
figures, clean-limbed, athletic figures these--men who strode strong
and free, with shoulders squared and upright of back, though the
head of each was grizzled with years. On they came, shoulder to
shoulder, the one a tall man with a mighty girth of chest, the other
slighter, shorter, but quick and active as a cat, and who already
had gained a good yard upon his companion; whereupon the big man
lengthened his stride; whereupon the slighter man broke into a trot;
whereupon the big man fell into a run; whereupon the slighter man
followed suit and thus, neck and neck, they raced together up the
hill and so, presently reaching the summit, very little breathed
considering, pulled up on either side of Barnabas.
"Father!" he cried, "Natty Bell! Oh, it's good to be home again!"
"Man Jack, it's all right!" said Natty Bell, nodding to John, but
shaking away at the hand Barnabas had reached down to him, "_our_
lad's come back to us, yes, Barnabas has come home, John, and--it
_is_ our Barnabas--London and Fashion aren't spiled him, John,
"No," answered John ponderously, "no, Natty Bell, London aren't
spiled him, and--why, Barnabas, I'm glad to see ye, lad--yes,
I'm--glad, and--and--why, there y'are, Barnabas."
"Looks a bit palish, though, John!" said Natty Bell, shaking his head,
"but that's only nat'ral, arter all, yes--a bit palish, p'r'aps, but,
man Jack--what o' that?"
"And a bit thinnish, Natty Bell," replied John, "but Lord! a few
days and we'll have him as right as--as ever, yes, quite right, and
there y' are, Natty Bell!"
"P'r'aps you might be wishful to tell him, John, as you've had the
old 'Hound' brightened up a bit?"
"Why, yes, Barnabas," nodded John, "in honor o' this occasion--though,
to be sure, the sign would look better for a touch o' paint here and
there--the poor old Hound's only got three legs and a tail left,
d' ye see--and the hare, Barnabas, the hare--ain't!"
"P'r'aps we'd better take and let him see for hisself, John?"
"Right, Natty Bell, so he shall."
Thus, presently, Barnabas rode on between them down the hill,
looking from one to the other, but saying very little, because his
heart was so full.
"And this be the 'oss you wrote us about--hey, Barnabas lad?"
inquired Natty Bell, stepping back and viewing 'The Terror' over
with an eye that took in all his points. "Ha--a fine action, lad--"
'Pray haven't you heard of a jolly young coal-heaver
Who down at Hungerford used for to ply--'
"A leetle--leggy? p'r'aps, Barnabas, and yet--ha!"
'His daddles he used with such skill and dexterity,
Winning each mill, sir, and blacking each eye--'
"His cannons'll never trouble him, Barnabas, come rough or smooth,
and you didn't say a word too much in your letter. Man Jack--you
behold a 'oss as is a 'oss--though, mark you, John, a leetle bit
roundish in the barrel and fullish in the shoulder--still, a animal,
John, as I'm burning to cock a leg over."
"Why, then, Natty Bell, so you shall," said Barnabas, and forthwith
down he swung himself and, being a little careless, wracked his
injured shoulder and flinched a little, which the slow-spoken,
quick-eyed John was swift to notice and, almost diffidently drew his
son's arm through his own. But, Natty Bell, joyful of eye, was
already in the saddle; whereat "The Terror," resenting the change,
immediately began to dance and to sidle, with, much rearing up in
front and lashing out behind, until, finding this all quite
unavailing, he set off at a stretching gallop with Natty Bell
sitting him like a centaur.
"And now, Barnabas," said John slowly, "'ow might your shoulder be,
"Nearly well, father."
"Good," nodded John, "very good! I thought as you was going to--die,
Barnabas, lad. They all did--even the Duchess and Lady--the--the
"Were you going to say--Lady Cleone, father?"
"Why," answered John, more ponderously than ever, "I won't go for to
deny it, Barnabas, never 'aving been a liar--on principle as you know,
and--and--there y'are, my lad."
"Have you ever--seen her, then?"
"Seen her," repeated John, beginning to rasp at his great square chin,
"seen her, Barnabas, why, as to that--I say, as to that--ah!--here
we be, Barnabas," and John Barty exhaled a deep breath, very like a
sigh of relief, "you can see from here as the poor old 'Hound' will
soon be only tail--not a leg to stand on. I'll have him painted back
again next week--and the hare."
So, side by side, they mounted the worn steps of the inn, and side
by side they presently entered that long, panelled room where, once
on a time, they had fronted each other with clenched fists. Before
the hearth stood John Barty's favorite arm-chair and into this,
after some little demur, Barnabas sank, and stretched out his booted
legs to the fire.
"Why, father," said he, lolling back luxuriously, "I thought you
never liked cushions?"
"No more I do, Barnabas. She put them there for you."
"One o' the maids, lad, one o' the maids and--and there y'are!"
"And now, father, you were telling me of the Lady Cleone--"
"No, I weren't, Barnabas," answered his father hastily and turning
to select a pipe from the sheaf on the mantel-shelf, "not me, lad,
"Why, yes, you spoke of her--in the road."
"In the road? Oh, ah--might ha' spoke of her--in the road, lad."
"Well--do you--know her, father?"
"Know her?" repeated John, as though asking himself the question,
and staring very hard at the pipe in his hand, "do I know her--why,
yes--oh, yes, I know her, Barnabas. Ye see--when you was so--so near
death--" But at this moment the door opened and two neat, mob-capped
maids entered and began to spread a cloth upon the table, and
scarcely had they departed when in came Natty Bell, his bright eyes
brighter than ever.
"Oh, Natty Bell!" exclaimed John, beckoning him near, "come to this
lad of ours--do, he's axing me questions, one a-top of t' other till
I don't know what! 'Do I know Lady Cleone?' says he; next it'll be
'how' and 'what' and 'where'--tell him all about it. Natty Bell--do."
"Why then--sit down and be sociable, John," answered Natty Bell,
drawing another chair to the fire and beginning to fill his pipe.
"Right, Natty Bell," nodded John, seating himself on the other side
of Barnabas, "fire away and tell our lad 'ow we came to know her,
"Why, then, Barnabas," Natty Bell began, as soon as his pipe was in
full blast, "when you was so ill, d' ye see, John and me used to
drive over frequent to see how you was, d' ye see. But you, being so
ill, we weren't allowed to go up and see you, so she used to come
down to us and--talk of you. Ah! and very sweet and gentle she
was--eh, man Jack?"
"Sweet!" echoed John, shaking his head, "a angel weren't sweeter!
Gentle? Ah, Natty Bell, I should say so--and that thoughtful of
us--well, there y' are!"
"But one day, Barnabas," Natty Bell continued, "arter we'd called a
good many times, she _did_ take us up to see you,--didn't she, John?"
"Ah, that she did, Natty Bell, God bless her!"
"And you was a-lying there with shut eyes--very pale and still,
Barnabas. But all at once you opened your eyes and--being out o'
your mind, and not seeing us--delirious, d' ye see, Barnabas, you
began to speak. 'No,' says you very fierce, 'No! I love you so much
that I can never ask you to be the wife of Barnabas Barty. Mine must
be the harder way, always. The harder way! The harder way!' says you,
over and over again. And so we left you, but your voice follered us
down the stairs--ah, and out o' the house, 'the harder way!' says
you, 'the harder way'--over and over again."
"Ah! that you did, lad!" nodded John solemnly.
"So now, Barnabas, we'd like the liberty to ax you, John and me,
what you meant by it?"
"Ah--that's the question, Barnabas!" said John, fixing his gaze on
the bell-mouthed blunderbuss that hung over the mantel, "what might
it all mean--that's the question, lad."
"It means, father and Natty Bell, that I have been all the way to
London to learn what you, being so much wiser than I, tried to teach
me--that a sow's ear is not a silk purse, nor ever can be."
"But," said John, beginning to rasp at his chin again, "there's
Adam--what of Adam? You'll remember as you said--and very sensible
too. Natty Bell--you'll remember as you said--"
"Never mind what I said then, father, I was very young. To-day,
since I never can be a gentleman, I have come home so that you may
teach me to be a man. And believe me," he continued more lightly as
he glanced from the thoughtful brow of Natty Bell to the gloom on his
father's handsome face, "oh, believe me--I have no regrets,
none--none at all."
"Natty Bell," said John ponderously, and with his gaze still fixed
intently upon the blunderbuss, "what do you say to that?"
"Why I say, John, as I believe as our lad aren't speaking the truth
"Indeed, I shall be very happy," said Barnabas, hastily, "for I've
done with dreaming, you see. I mean to be very busy, to--to devote
my money to making us all happy. I have several ideas already, my
head is full of schemes."
"Man Jack," said Natty Bell, puffing thoughtfully at his pipe,
"what do _you_ say to _that_?"
"Why," answered John, "I say Natty Bell, as it be my belief as our
dear lad's nob be full o' only one idee, and that idee is--a woman.
Ah, and always will be and--there y'are, Natty Bell."
"For one thing," Barnabas went on more hastily than before,
"I'm going to carry out the improvements you suggested years ago for
the dear old 'Hound,' father--and you and I, Natty, might buy the
farm next door, it's for sale I know, and go in for raising horses.
You often talked of it in the old days. Come, what do you say?" he
inquired, seeing that neither of his hearers spoke or moved, and
wondering a little that his proposals should fall so flat. "What do
you think, Natty Bell?"
"Well," answered Natty Bell, "I think, Barnabas, since you ax me so
pointed-like, that you'd do much better in taking a wife and raising
"Ah--why not, lad?" nodded his father. "It be high time as you was
thinking o' settling down, so--why not get married and ha' done with
"Because," answered Barnabas, frowning at the fire, "I can love only
one woman in this world, and she is altogether beyond my reach,
and--never can be mine--never."
"Ha!" said Natty Bell getting up and staring down into the fire,
'Since boxing is a manly game
And Britain's recreation,
By boxing we will raise our fame
'Bove every other nation.'
"Remember this, Barnabas, when a woman sets her mind on anything,
I've noticed as she generally manages to--get it, one way or t' other.
So I wouldn't be too sure, if I was you." Saying which, he nodded to
John, above his son's drooping head, winked, and went silently out
of the room.
Left alone with his son, John Barty sat a while staring up at the
bell-mouthed blunderbuss very much as though he expected it to go
off at any moment; at last, however, he rose also, hesitated, laid
down his pipe upon the mantel-shelf, glanced down at Barnabas,
glanced up at the blunderbuss again and finally spoke:
"And remember this, Barnabas, your--your--mother, God bless her
sweet soul, was a great lady, but I married her, and I don't think
as she ever--regretted it, lad. Ye see, Barnabas, when a good woman
really loves a man--that man is the only man in the world for her,
and--nothing else matters to her, because her love, being a good love,
d' ye see--makes him--almost worthy. The love of a good woman is a
sweet thing, lad, a wondrous thing, and may lift a man above all
cares and sorrows and may draw him up--ah! as high as heaven at last,
and--well--there y' are, Barnabas, dear lad."
Having said this, the longest speech Barnabas ever heard his father
utter, John Barty laid his great hand lightly upon his son's bent
head and treading very softly, for a man of his inches, followed
Natty Bell out of the room.
But now as Barnabas sat there staring into the fire and lost in
thought, he became, all at once, a prey to Doubt and Fear once again,
doubt of himself, and fear of the future; for, bethinking him of his
father's last words, it seemed to him that he had indeed chosen the
harder course, since his days, henceforth, must needs stretch away--a
dismal prospect wherein no woman's form might go beside him, no soft
voice cheer him, no tender hand be stretched out to soothe his griefs;
truly he had chosen the harder way, a very desolate way where no
light fall of a woman's foot might banish for him its loneliness.
And presently, being full of such despondent thoughts, Barnabas
looked up and found himself alone amid the gathering shadows. And
straightway he felt aggrieved, and wondered why his father and Natty
Bell must needs go off and leave him in this dark hour just when he
most needed them.
Therefore he would have risen to seek them out but, in the act of
doing so, caught one of his spurs in the rug, and strove vainly to
release himself, for try how he would he might not reach down so far
because of the pain of his wounded shoulder.
And now, all at once, perhaps because he found himself so helpless,
or because of his loneliness and bodily weakness, the sudden tears
started to his eyes, hot and scalding, and covering his face, he
But lo! in that moment of his need there came one, borne on flying
feet, to kneel beside him in the fire-glow, and with swift,
dexterous fingers to do for him that which he could not do for
himself. But when it was done and he was free, she still knelt there
with head bent, and her face hidden beneath the frill of her mob-cap.
"Thank you!" he said, very humbly, "I fear I am very awkward, but my
shoulder is a little stiff."
But this strange serving-maid never moved, or spoke. And now,
looking down at her shapely, drooping figure, Barnabas began to
tremble, all at once, and his fingers clenched themselves upon his
"Speak!" he whispered, hoarsely.
Then the great mob-cap was shaken off, yet the face of this maid was
still hid from him by reason of her hair that, escaping its
fastenings, fell down, over bowed neck and white shoulders, rippling
to the floor--a golden glory. And now, beholding the shining
splendor of this hair, his breath caught, and as one entranced, he
gazed down at her, fearing to move.
"Cleone!" he breathed, at last.
So Cleone raised her head and looked at him, sighing a little,
blushing a little, trembling a little, with eyes shy yet unashamed,
the eyes of a maid.
"Oh, Barnabas," she murmured, "I am here--on my knees. You wanted
me--on my knees, didn't you, Barnabas? So I am here to ask you--"
But now her dark lashes fluttered and fell, hiding her eyes from him,
"--to beg you to marry me. Because I love you, Barnabas, and because,
whatever else you may be, I know you are a man. So--if you
really--want me, dear Barnabas, why--take me because I am just--your
"Want you!" he repeated, "want you--oh my Cleone!" and, with a broken,
inarticulate cry, he leaned down and would have caught her fiercely
against his heart; but she, ever mindful of his wound, stayed him
with gentle hand.
"Oh, my dear--your shoulder!" she whispered; and so, clasping tender
arms about him, she drew his weary head to her bosom and, holding
him thus, covered him with the silken curtain of her hair, and in
this sweet shade, stooped and kissed him--his brow, his tearful eyes,
and, last of all, his mouth. "Oh, Barnabas," she murmured, "was
there ever, I wonder, a man so foolish and so very dear as you, or a
woman quite so proud and happy as I?"
"Proud?" he answered, "but you are a great lady, and I am only--"
"My dear, dear--man," sighed Cleone, clasping him a little more
closely, "so--when will you marry me? For, oh, my Barnabas, if you
must always choose to go the harder way--you must let me tread it
with you, to the very end, my dear, brave, honorable man."
And thus did our Barnabas know, at last, that deep and utter content
which can come only to those who, forgetful of soul-clogging Self
and its petty vanities and shams, may rise above the cynical
commonplace and walk with gods.
Now, in a while, as they sat together in the soft glow of the fire,
talking very little since Happiness is beyond speech, the door
opened and closed and, glancing up, Barnabas was aware of the
Duchess standing in the shadows.
"No, no--sit still, dear children," she cried, with a hand
out-stretched to each, "I only peeped in to tell you that dinner was
almost ready--that is, no, I didn't. I came here to look for
Happiness and, thank God, I've found it! You will be married from my
house in Berkeley Square, of course. He is a great fool, Cleone, this
Barnabas of ours--give him a horse and armor and he would have been
a very--knightly fool. And then--he is such a doubting Jonah--no, I
mean Thomas, of course,--still he's not quite a fool--I mean Barnabas,
not Thomas, who was anything but a fool. Ah! not my hand, dear
Barnabas, I still have lips, though I do wear a wig--there, sir. Now
you, Cleone. Dear Heaven, how ridiculously bright your eyes are,
child. But it's just as well, you must look your best to-night.
Besides, the Marquis is coming to dinner, so is the Captain--so
awkward with his one arm, dear soul! And the Bo'sun--bless his empty
sleeve--no, no--not the Bo'sun's, he has an empty--oh, never mind,
and--oh Lud, where am I? Ah, yes--quite a banquet it will be with
'Glorious John' and Mr. Natty. Dear Heaven, how ridiculously happy I
am, and I know my wig is all crooked. But--oh, my dears! you have
found the most wonderful thing in all this wonderful universe. Riches,
rank, fame--they are all good things, but the best, the greatest,
the most blessed of all is--Love. For by love the weak are made
strong, and the strong gentle--and Age itself--even mine--may be
rejuvenated. I'm glad you preferred your own father to an adopted
mother, dear Barnabas, even though she is a duchess--for that I must
kiss you again--there! And so shall Cleone when I'm gone, so--I'll go.
And oh, may God bless you--always, my dears."
So, looking from one to the other, the Duchess turned away and left
And, in a while, looking down at Cleone where she knelt in his
embrace, beholding all the charm and witchery of her, the high,
proud carriage of her head, the grace and beauty of her shapely body,
soft and warm with life and youth, and love, Barnabas sighed for
very happiness; whereupon she, glancing up and meeting this look,
must needs droop her lashes at him, and blush, and tremble, all in a
"But--you are mine," said Barnabas, answering the blush. "Mine, at
last, for ever and always."
"For ever and always, dear Barnabas."
"And yet," said he, his clasp tightening, "I am so unworthy, it
almost seems that it cannot possibly be true--almost as if it were a
"Ah no, Barnabas, surely the dream is over and we are awake at last
to joy and the fulness of life. And life has given me my heart's
desire, and for you, my brave, strong, honorable man--the Future
lies all before you."
"Yes," said Barnabas, looking deep into her radiant eyes, "for me
there is the Future and--You."
And thus did happiness come to our Barnabas, when least expected, as
may it come to each of us when we shall have proved ourselves, in
some way, fit and worthy.