Part 1 out of 10
This etext was produced by Pat Castevans
THE ORDEAL OF RICHARD FEVEREL
By George Meredith
I. THE INMATES OF RAYNHAM ABBEY
II. FATES SELECTED THE FOURTEENTH BIRTHDAY TO TRY THE STRENGTH
III. THE MAGIAN CONFLICT
V. ADRIAN PLIES HIS HOOK
VI. JUVENILE STRATAGEMS
VII. DAPHNE'S BOWER
VIII. THE BITTER CUP
IX. A FINE DISTINCTION
X. RICHARD PASSES THROUGH HIS PRELIMINARY ORDEAL
XI. THE LAST ACT OF THE BAKEWELL COMEDY IS CLOSED IN A LETTER
XII. THE BLOSSOMING SEASON
XIII. THE MAGNETIC AGE
XIV. AN ATTRACTION
XV. FERDINAND AND MIRANDA
XVI. UNMASKING OF MASTER RIPTON THOMPSON
XVII. GOOD WINE AND GOOD BLOOD
XVIII. THE SYSTEM ENCOUNTERS THE WILD OATS SPECIAL PLEA
XIX. A DIVERSION PLAYED ON A PENNY WHISTLE
XX. CELEBRATES THE TIME-HONOURED TREATMENT OF A DRAGON BY THE HERO
XXI. RICHARD IS SUMMONED TO TOWN TO HEAR A SERMON
XXII. INDICATES THE APPROACHES OF FEVER
XXIII. CRISIS IN THE APPLE-DISEASE
XXIV. OF THE SPRING PRIMROSE AND THE AUTUMNAL
XXV. IN WHICH THE HERO TAKES A STEP
XXVI. RECORDS THE RAPID DEVELOPMENT OF THE HERO
XXVII. CONTAINS AN INTERCESSION FOR THE HEROINE
XXVIII. PREPARATIONS FOR ACTION WERE CONDUCTED UNDER THE APRIL OF LOVERS
XIX. THE LAST ACT OF THE COMEDY TAKES THE PLACE OF THE FIRST
XXX. CELEBRATES THE BREAKFAST
XXXI. THE PHILOSOPHER APPEARS IN PERSON
XXXII. PROCESSION OF THE CAKE
XXXIII. NURSING THE DEVIL
XXXIV. CONQUEST OF AN EPICURE
XXXV. CLARE'S MARRIAGE
XXXVI. A DINNER-PARTY AT RICHMOND
XXXVII. MRS. BERRY ON MATRIMONY
XXXVIII. AN ENCHANTRESS
XXXIX. THE LITTLE BIRD AND THE FALCON: A BERRY TO THE RESCUE!
XL. CLARE'S DIARY
XLI. AUSTIN RETURNS
XLII. NATURE SPEAKS
XLIII. AGAIN THE MAGIAN CONFLICT
XLIV. THE LAST SCENE
XLV. LADY BLANDISH TO AUSTIN WENTWORTH
THE ORDEAL OF RICHARD FEVEREL
I. THE INMATES OF RAYNHAM ABBEY
II. SHOWING HOW THE FATES SELECTED THE FOURTEENTH BIRTHDAY TO TRY
THE STRENGTH OF THE SYSTEM
III. THE MAGIAN CONFLICT
V. ADRIAN PLIES HIS HOOK
VI. JUVENILE STRATAGEMS
VII. DAPHNE'S BOWER
VIII. THE BITTER CUP
IX. A FINE DISTINCTION
X. RICHARD PASSES THROUGH HIS PRELIMINARY ORDEAL, AND IS THE
OCCASION OF AN APHORISM
XI. IN WHICH THE LAST ACT OF THE BAKEWELL COMEDY IS CLOSED IN
Some years ago a book was published under the title of "The Pilgrim's
Scrip." It consisted of a selection of original aphorisms by an
anonymous gentleman, who in this bashful manner gave a bruised heart to
He made no pretension to novelty. "Our new thoughts have thrilled dead
bosoms," he wrote; by which avowal it may be seen that youth had
manifestly gone from him, since he had ceased to be jealous of the
ancients. There was a half-sigh floating through his pages for those
days of intellectual coxcombry, when ideas come to us affecting the
embraces of virgins, and swear to us they are ours alone, and no one else
have they ever visited: and we believe them.
For an example of his ideas of the sex he said:
"I expect that Woman will be the last thing civilized by Man."
Some excitement was produced in the bosoms of ladies by so monstrous a
scorn of them.
One adventurous person betook herself to the Heralds' College, and there
ascertained that a Griffin between two Wheatsheaves, which stood on the
title-page of the book, formed the crest of Sir Austin Absworthy Bearne
Feverel, Baronet, of Raynham Abbey, in a certain Western county folding
Thames: a man of wealth and honour, and a somewhat lamentable history.
The outline of the baronet's story was by no means new. He had a wife,
and he had a friend. His marriage was for love; his wife was a beauty;
his friend was a sort of poet. His wife had his whole heart, and his
friend all his confidence. When he selected Denzil Somers from among his
college chums, it was not on account of any similarity of disposition
between them, but from his intense worship of genius, which made him
overlook the absence of principle in his associate for the sake of such
brilliant promise. Denzil had a small patrimony to lead off with, and
that he dissipated before he left college; thenceforth he was dependent
upon his admirer, with whom he lived, filling a nominal post of bailiff
to the estates, and launching forth verse of some satiric and sentimental
quality; for being inclined to vice, and occasionally, and in a quiet
way, practising it, he was of course a sentimentalist and a satirist,
entitled to lash the Age and complain of human nature. His earlier
poems, published under the pseudonym of Diaper Sandoe, were so pure and
bloodless in their love passages, and at the same time so biting in their
moral tone, that his reputation was great among the virtuous, who form
the larger portion of the English book-buying public. Election-seasons
called him to ballad-poetry on behalf of the Tory party. Dialer
possessed undoubted fluency, but did tittle, though Sir Austin was ever
expecting much of him.
A languishing, inexperienced woman, whose husband in mental and in moral
stature is more than the ordinary height above her, and who, now that her
first romantic admiration of his lofty bearing has worn off, and her
fretful little refinements of taste and sentiment are not instinctively
responded to, is thrown into no wholesome household collision with a
fluent man, fluent in prose and rhyme. Lady Feverel, when she first
entered on her duties at Raynham, was jealous of her husband's friend.
By degrees she tolerated him. In time he touched his guitar in her
chamber, and they played Rizzio and Mary together.
"For I am not the first who found
The name of Mary fatal!"
says a subsequent sentimental alliterative love-poem of Diaper's.
Such was the outline of the story. But the baronet could fill it up. He
had opened his soul to these two. He had been noble Love to the one, and
to the other perfect Friendship. He had bid them be brother and sister
whom he loved, and live a Golden Age with him at Raynham. In fact, he
had been prodigal of the excellences of his nature, which it is not good
to be, and, like Timon, he became bankrupt, and fell upon bitterness.
The faithless lady was of no particular family; an orphan daughter of an
admiral who educated her on his half-pay, and her conduct struck but at
the man whose name she bore.
After five years of marriage, and twelve of friendship, Sir Austin was
left to his loneliness with nothing to ease his heart of love upon save a
little baby boy in a cradle. He forgave the man: he put him aside as
poor for his wrath. The woman he could not forgive; she had sinned every
way. Simple ingratitude to a benefactor was a pardonable transgression,
for he was not one to recount and crush the culprit under the heap of his
good deeds. But her he had raised to be his equal, and he judged her as
his equal. She had blackened the world's fair aspect for him.
In the presence of that world, so different to him now, he preserved his
wonted demeanor, and made his features a flexible mask. Mrs. Doria
Forey, his widowed sister, said that Austin might have retired from his
Parliamentary career for a time, and given up gaieties and that kind of
thing; her opinion, founded on observation of him in public and private,
was, that the light thing who had taken flight was but a feather on her
brother's Feverel-heart, and his ordinary course of life would be
resumed. There are times when common men cannot bear the weight of just
so much. Hippias Feverel, one of his brothers, thought him immensely
improved by his misfortune, if the loss of such a person could be so
designated; and seeing that Hippias received in consequence free quarters
at Raynham, and possession of the wing of the Abbey she had inhabited, it
is profitable to know his thoughts. If the baronet had given two or
three blazing dinners in the great hall he would have deceived people
generally, as he did his relatives and intimates. He was too sick for
that: fit only for passive acting.
The nursemaid waking in the night beheld a solitary figure darkening a
lamp above her little sleeping charge, and became so used to the sight as
never to wake with a start. One night she was strangely aroused by a
sound of sobbing. The baronet stood beside the cot in his long black
cloak and travelling cap. His fingers shaded a lamp, and reddened
against the fitful darkness that ever and anon went leaping up the wall.
She could hardly believe her senses to see the austere gentleman, dead
silent, dropping tear upon tear before her eyes. She lay stone-still in
a trance of terror and mournfulness, mechanically counting the tears as
they fell, one by one. The hidden face, the fall and flash of those
heavy drops in the light of the lamp he held, the upright, awful figure,
agitated at regular intervals like a piece of clockwork by the low
murderous catch of his breath: it was so piteous to her poor human nature
that her heart began wildly palpitating. Involuntarily the poor girl
cried out to him, "Oh, sir!" and fell a-weeping. Sir Austin turned the
lamp on her pillow, and harshly bade her go to sleep, striding from the
room forthwith. He dismissed her with a purse the next day.
Once, when he was seven years old, the little fellow woke up at night to
see a lady bending over him. He talked of this the neat day, but it was
treated as a dream; until in the course of the day his uncle Algernon was
driven home from Lobourne cricket-ground with a broken leg. Then it was
recollected that there was a family ghost; and, though no member of the
family believed in the ghost, none would have given up a circumstance
that testified to its existence; for to possess a ghost is a distinction
Algernon Feverel lost his leg, and ceased to be a gentleman in the
Guards. Of the other uncles of young Richard, Cuthbert, the sailor,
perished in a spirited boat expedition against a slaving negro chief up
the Niger. Some of the gallant lieutenant's trophies of war decorated
the little boy's play-shed at Raynham, and he bequeathed his sword to
Richard, whose hero he was. The diplomatist and beau, Vivian, ended his
flutterings from flower to flower by making an improper marriage, as is
the fate of many a beau, and was struck out of the list of visitors.
Algernon generally occupied the baronet's disused town-house, a wretched
being, dividing his time between horse and card exercise: possessed, it
was said, of the absurd notion that a man who has lost his balance by
losing his leg may regain it by sticking to the bottle. At least,
whenever he and his brother Hippias got together, they never failed to
try whether one leg, or two, stood the bottle best. Much of a puritan as
Sir Austin was in his habits, he was too good a host, and too thorough a
gentleman, to impose them upon his guests. The brothers, and other
relatives, might do as they would while they did not disgrace the name,
and then it was final: they must depart to behold his countenance no
Algernon Feverel was a simple man, who felt, subsequent to his
misfortune, as he had perhaps dimly fancied it before, that his career
lay in his legs, and was now irrevocably cut short. He taught the boy
boxing, and shooting, and the arts of fence, and superintended the
direction of his animal vigour with a melancholy vivacity. The remaining
energies of Algernon's mind were devoted to animadversions on swift
bowling. He preached it over the county, struggling through laborious
literary compositions, addressed to sporting newspapers, on the Decline
of Cricket. It was Algernon who witnessed and chronicled young Richard's
first fight, which was with young Tom Blaize of Belthorpe Farm, three
years the boy's senior.
Hippias Feverel was once thought to be the genius of the family. It was
his ill luck to have strong appetites and a weak stomach; and, as one is
not altogether fit for the battle of life who is engaged in a perpetual
contention with his dinner, Hippias forsook his prospects at the Bar,
and, in the embraces of dyspepsia, compiled his ponderous work on the
Fairy Mythology of Europe. He had little to do with the Hope of Raynham
beyond what he endured from his juvenile tricks.
A venerable lady, known as Great-Aunt Grantley, who had money to bequeath
to the heir, occupied with Hippias the background of the house and shared
her candles with him. These two were seldom seen till the dinner hour,
for which they were all day preparing, and probably all night
remembering, for the Eighteenth Century was an admirable trencherman, and
cast age aside while there was a dish on the table.
Mrs. Doris Foray was the eldest of the three sisters of the baronet, a
florid affable woman, with fine teeth, exceedingly fine light wavy hair,
a Norman nose, and a reputation for understanding men; and that, with
these practical creatures, always means the art of managing them. She
had married an expectant younger son of a good family, who deceased
before the fulfilment of his prospects; and, casting about in her mind
the future chances of her little daughter and sole child, Clare, she
marked down a probability. The far sight, the deep determination, the
resolute perseverance of her sex, where a daughter is to be provided for
and a man to be overthrown, instigated her to invite herself to Raynham,
where, with that daughter, she fixed herself.
The other two Feverel ladies were the wife of Colonel Wentworth and the
widow of Mr. Justice Harley: and the only thing remarkable about them was
that they were mothers of sons of some distinction.
Austin Wentworth's story was of that wretched character which to be
comprehended, that justice should be dealt him, must be told out and
openly; which no one dares now do.
For a fault in early youth, redeemed by him nobly, according to his
light, he was condemned to undergo the world's harsh judgment: not for
the fault--for its atonement.
"--Married his mother's housemaid," whispered Mrs. Doria, with a ghastly
look, and a shudder at young men of republican sentiments, which he was
reputed to entertain. "'The compensation for Injustice,' says the
'Pilgrim's Scrip,' is, that in that dark Ordeal we gather the worthiest
And the baronet's fair friend, Lady Blandish, and some few true men and
women, held Austin Wentworth high.
He did not live with his wife; and Sir Austin, whose mind was bent on the
future of our species, reproached him with being barren to posterity,
while knaves were propagating.
The principal characteristic of the second nephew, Adrian Harley, was his
sagacity. He was essentially the wise youth, both in counsel and in
"In action," the "Pilgrim's Scrip" observes, "Wisdom goes by majorities."
Adrian had an instinct for the majority, and, as the world invariably
found him enlisted in its ranks, his appellation of wise youth was
acquiesced in without irony.
The wise youth, then, had the world with him, but no friends. Nor did he
wish for those troublesome appendages of success. He caused himself to
be required by people who could serve him; feared by such as could
injure. Not that he went out of the way to secure his end, or risked the
expense of a plot. He did the work as easily as he ate his daily bread.
Adrian was an epicurean; one whom Epicurus would have scourged out of his
garden, certainly: an epicurean of our modern notions. To satisfy his
appetites without rashly staking his character, was the wise youth's
problem for life. He had no intimates except Gibbon and Horace, and the
society of these fine aristocrats of literature helped him to accept
humanity as it had been, and was; a supreme ironic procession, with
laughter of Gods in the background. Why not laughter of mortals also?
Adrian had his laugh in his comfortable corner. He possessed peculiar
attributes of a heathen God. He was a disposer of men: he was polished,
luxurious, and happy--at their cost. He lived in eminent self-content,
as one lying on soft cloud, lapt in sunshine. Nor Jove, nor Apollo, cast
eye upon the maids of earth with cooler fire of selection, or pursued
them in the covert with more sacred impunity. And he enjoyed his
reputation for virtue as something additional. Stolen fruits are said to
be sweet; undeserved rewards are exquisite.
The best of it was, that Adrian made no pretences. He did not solicit
the favourable judgment of the world. Nature and he attempted no other
concealment than the ordinary mask men wear. And yet the world would
proclaim him moral, as well as wise, and the pleasing converse every way
of his disgraced cousin Austin.
In a word, Adrian Harley had mastered his philosophy at the early age of
one-and-twenty. Many would be glad to say the same at that age twice-
told: they carry in their breasts a burden with which Adrian's was not
loaded. Mrs. Doria was nearly right about his heart. A singular mishap
(at his birth, possibly, or before it) had unseated that organ, and
shaken it down to his stomach, where it was a much lighter, nay, an
inspiring weight, and encouraged him merrily onward. Throned there it
looked on little that did not arrive to gratify it. Already that region
was a trifle prominent in the person of the wise youth, and carried, as
it were, the flag of his philosophical tenets in front of him. He was
charming after dinner, with men or with women: delightfully sarcastic:
perhaps a little too unscrupulous in his moral tone, but that his moral
reputation belied him, and it must be set down to generosity of
Such was Adrian Harley, another of Sir Austin's intellectual favourites,
chosen from mankind to superintend the education of his son at Raynham.
Adrian had been destined for the Church. He did not enter into Orders.
He and the baronet had a conference together one day, and from that time
Adrian became a fixture in the Abbey. His father died in his promising
son's college term, bequeathing him nothing but his legal complexion, and
Adrian became stipendiary officer in his uncle's household.
A playfellow of Richard's occasionally, and the only comrade of his age
that he ever saw, was Master Ripton Thompson, the son of Sir Austin's
solicitor, a boy without a character.
A comrade of some description was necessary, for Richard was neither to
go to school nor to college. Sir Austin considered that the schools were
corrupt, and maintained that young lads might by parental vigilance be
kept pretty secure from the Serpent until Eve sided with him: a period
that might be deferred, he said. He had a system of education for his
son. How it worked we shall see.
October, shone royally on Richard's fourteenth birthday. The brown
beechwoods and golden birches glowed to a brilliant sun. Banks of
moveless cloud hung about the horizon, mounded to the west, where slept
the wind. Promise of a great day for Raynham, as it proved to be, though
not in the manner marked out.
Already archery-booths and cricketing-tents were rising on the lower
grounds towards the river, whither the lads of Bursley and Lobourne, in
boats and in carts, shouting for a day of ale and honour, jogged merrily
to match themselves anew, and pluck at the lining laurel from each
other's brows, line manly Britons. The whole park was beginning to be
astir and resound with holiday cries. Sir Austin Feverel, a thorough
good Tory, was no game-preserver, and could be popular whenever he chose,
which Sir Males Papworth, on the other side of the river, a fast-handed
Whig and terror to poachers, never could be. Half the village of
Lobourne was seen trooping through the avenues of the park. Fiddlers and
gipsies clamoured at the gates for admission: white smocks, and slate,
surmounted by hats of serious brim, and now and then a scarlet cloak,
smacking of the old country, dotted the grassy sweeps to the levels.
And all the time the star of these festivities was receding further and
further, and eclipsing himself with his reluctant serf Ripton, who kept
asking what they were to do and where they were going, and how late it
was in the day, and suggesting that the lads of Lobourne would be calling
out for them, and Sir Austin requiring their presence, without getting
any attention paid to his misery or remonstrances. For Richard had been
requested by his father to submit to medical examination like a boor
enlisting for a soldier, and he was in great wrath.
He was flying as though he would have flown from the shameful thought of
what had been asked of him. By-and-by he communicated his sentiments to
Ripton, who said they were those of a girl: an offensive remark,
remembering which, Richard, after they had borrowed a couple of guns at
the bailiff's farm, and Ripton had fired badly, called his friend a fool.
Feeling that circumstances were making him look wonderfully like one,
Ripton lifted his head and retorted defiantly, "I'm not!"
This angry contradiction, so very uncalled for, annoyed Richard, who was
still smarting at the loss of the birds, owing to Ripton's bad shot, and
was really the injured party. He, therefore bestowed the abusive epithet
on Ripton anew, and with increase of emphasis.
"You shan't call me so, then, whether I am or not," says Ripton, and
sucks his lips.
This was becoming personal. Richard sent up his brows, and stared at his
defier an instant. He then informed him that he certainly should call
him so, and would not object to call him so twenty times.
"Do it, and see!" returns Ripton, rocking on his feet, and breathing
With a gravity of which only boys and other barbarians are capable,
Richard went through the entire number, stressing the epithet to increase
the defiance and avoid monotony, as he progressed, while Ripton bobbed
his head every time in assent, as it were, to his comrade's accuracy, and
as a record for his profound humiliation. The dog they had with them
gazed at the extraordinary performance with interrogating wags of the
Twenty times, duly and deliberately, Richard repeated the obnoxious word.
At the twentieth solemn iteration of Ripton's capital shortcoming, Ripton
delivered a smart back-hander on Richard's mouth, and squared
precipitately; perhaps sorry when the deed was done, for he was a kind-
hearted lad, and as Richard simply bowed in acknowledgment of the blow he
thought he had gone too far. He did not know the young gentleman he was
dealing with. Richard was extremely cool.
"Shall we fight here?" he said.
"Anywhere you like," replied Ripton.
"A little more into the wood, I think. We may be interrupted." And
Richard led the way with a courteous reserve that somewhat chilled
Ripton's ardour for the contest. On the skirts of the wood, Richard
threw off his jacket and waistcoat, and, quite collected, waited for
Ripton to do the same. The latter boy was flushed and restless; older
and broader, but not so tight-limbed and well-set. The Gods, sole
witnesses of their battle, betted dead against him. Richard had mounted
the white cockade of the Feverels, and there was a look in him that asked
for tough work to extinguish. His brows, slightly lined upward at the
temples, converging to a knot about the well-set straight nose; his full
grey eyes, open nostrils, and planted feet, and a gentlemanly air of calm
and alertness, formed a spirited picture of a young combatant. As for
Ripton, he was all abroad, and fought in school-boy style--that is, he
rushed at the foe head foremost, and struck like a windmill. He was a
lumpy boy. When he did hit, he made himself felt; but he was at the
mercy of science. To see him come dashing in, blinking and puffing and
whirling his arms abroad while the felling blow went straight between
them, you perceived that he was fighting a fight of desperation, and knew
it. For the dreaded alternative glared him in the face that, if he
yielded, he must look like what he had been twenty times calumniously
called; and he would die rather than yield, and swing his windmill till
he dropped. Poor boy! he dropped frequently. The gallant fellow fought
for appearances, and down he went. The Gods favour one of two parties.
Prince Turnus was a noble youth; but he had not Pallas at his elbow.
Ripton was a capital boy; he had no science. He could not prove he was
not a fool! When one comes to think of it, Ripton did choose the only
possible way, and we should all of us have considerable difficulty in
proving the negative by any other. Ripton came on the unerring fist
again and again; and if it was true, as he said in short colloquial
gasps, that he required as much beating as an egg to be beaten
thoroughly, a fortunate interruption alone saved our friend from
resembling that substance. The boys heard summoning voices, and beheld
Mr. Morton of Poer Hall and Austin Wentworth stepping towards them.
A truce was sounded, jackets were caught up, guns shouldered, and off
they trotted in concert through the depths of the wood, not stopping till
that and half-a-dozen fields and a larch plantation were well behind
When they halted to take breath, there was a mutual study of faces.
Ripton's was much discoloured, and looked fiercer with its natural war-
paint than the boy felt. Nevertheless, he squared up dauntlessly on the
new ground, and Richard, whose wrath was appeased, could not refrain from
asking him whether he had not really had enough.
"Never!" shouts the noble enemy.
"Well, look here," said Richard, appealing to common sense, "I'm tired of
knocking you down. I'll say you're not a fool, if you'll give me your
Ripton demurred an instant to consult with honour, who bade him catch at
He held out his hand. "There!" and the boys grasped hands and were fast
friends. Ripton had gained his point, and Richard decidedly had the best
of it. So, they were on equal ground. Both, could claim a victory,
which was all the better for their friendship.
Ripton washed his face and comforted his nose at a brook, and was now
ready to follow his friend wherever he chose to lead. They continued to
beat about for birds. The birds on the Raynham estates were found
singularly cunning, and repeatedly eluded the aim of these prime shots,
so they pushed their expedition into the lands of their neighbors, in
search of a stupider race, happily oblivious of the laws and conditions
of trespass; unconscious, too, that they were poaching on the demesne of
the notorious Farmer Blaize, the free-trade farmer under the shield of
the Papworths, no worshipper of the Griffin between two Wheatsheaves;
destined to be much allied with Richard's fortunes from beginning to end.
Farmer Blaize hated poachers, and, especially young chaps poaching, who
did it mostly from impudence. He heard the audacious shots popping right
and left, and going forth to have a glimpse at the intruders, and
observing their size, swore he would teach my gentlemen a thing, lords or
Richard had brought down a beautiful cock-pheasant, and was exulting over
it, when the farmer's portentous figure burst upon them, cracking an
avenging horsewhip. His salute was ironical.
"Havin' good sport, gentlemen, are ye?"
"Just bagged a splendid bird!" radiant Richard informed him.
"Oh!" Farmer Blaize gave an admonitory flick of the whip.
"Just let me clap eye on't, then."
"Say, please," interposed Ripton, who was not blind to doubtful aspects.
Farmer Blaize threw up his chin, and grinned grimly.
"Please to you, sir? Why, my chap, you looks as if ye didn't much mind
what come t'yer nose, I reckon. You looks an old poacher, you do. Tall
ye what 'tis'!" He changed his banter to business, "That bird's mine!
Now you jest hand him over, and sheer off, you dam young scoundrels! I
know ye!" And he became exceedingly opprobrious, and uttered contempt of
the name of Feverel.
Richard opened his eyes.
If you wants to be horsewhipped, you'll stay where y'are!" continued the
farmer. "Giles Blaize never stands nonsense!"
"Then we'll stay," quoth Richard.
"Good! so be't! If you will have't, have't, my men!"
As a preparatory measure, Farmer Blaize seized a wing of the bird, on
which both boys flung themselves desperately, and secured it minus the
"That's your game," cried the farmer. "Here's a taste of horsewhip for
ye. I never stands nonsense!" and sweetch went the mighty whip, well
swayed. The boys tried to close with him. He kept his distance and
lashed without mercy. Black blood was made by Farmer Blaize that day!
The boys wriggled, in spite of themselves. It was like a relentless
serpent coiling, and biting, and stinging their young veins to madness.
Probably they felt the disgrace of the contortions they were made to go
through more than the pain, but the pain was fierce, for the farmer laid
about from a practised arm, and did not consider that he had done enough
till he was well breathed and his ruddy jowl inflamed. He paused, to
receive the remainder of the cock-pheasant in his face.
"Take your beastly bird," cried Richard.
"Money, my lads, and interest," roared the farmer, lashing out again.
Shameful as it was to retreat, there was but that course open to them.
They decided to surrender the field.
"Look! you big brute," Richard shook his gun, hoarse with passion, "I'd
have shot you, if I'd been loaded. Mind if I come across you when I'm
loaded, you coward, I'll fire!" The un-English nature of this threat
exasperated Farmer Blaize, and he pressed the pursuit in time to bestow a
few farewell stripes as they were escaping tight-breeched into neutral
territory. At the hedge they parleyed a minute, the farmer to inquire if
they had had a mortal good tanning and were satisfied, for when they
wanted a further instalment of the same they were to come for it to
Belthorpe Farm, and there it was in pickle: the boys meantime exploding
in menaces and threats of vengeance, on which the farmer contemptuously
turned his back. Ripton had already stocked an armful of flints for the
enjoyment of a little skirmishing. Richard, however, knocked them all
out, saying, "No! Gentlemen don't fling stones; leave that to the
"Just one shy at him!" pleaded Ripton, with his eye on Farmer Blaize's
broad mark, and his whole mind drunken with a sudden revelation of the
advantages of light troops in opposition to heavies.
"No," said Richard, imperatively, "no stones," and marched briskly away.
Ripton followed with a sigh. His leader's magnanimity was wholly beyond
him. A good spanking mark at the farmer would have relieved Master
Ripton; it would have done nothing to console Richard Feverel for the
ignominy he had been compelled to submit to. Ripton was familiar with
the rod, a monster much despoiled of his terrors by intimacy. Birch-
fever was past with this boy. The horrible sense of shame, self-
loathing, universal hatred, impotent vengeance, as if the spirit were
steeped in abysmal blackness, which comes upon a courageous and sensitive
youth condemned for the first time to taste this piece of fleshly
bitterness, and suffer what he feels is a defilement, Ripton had
weathered and forgotten. He was seasoned wood, and took the world pretty
wisely; not reckless of castigation, as some boys become, nor
oversensitive as to dishonour, as his friend and comrade beside him was.
Richard's blood was poisoned. He had the fever on him severely. He
would not allow stone-flinging, because it was a habit of his to
discountenance it. Mere gentlemanly considerations has scarce shielded
Farmer Blaize, and certain very ungentlemanly schemes were coming to
ghastly heads in the tumult of his brain; rejected solely from their
glaring impracticability even to his young intelligence. A sweeping and
consummate vengeance for the indignity alone should satisfy him.
Something tremendous must be done; and done without delay. At one moment
he thought of killing all the farmer's cattle; next of killing him;
challenging him to single combat with the arms, and according to the
fashion of gentlemen. But the farmer was a coward; he would refuse.
Then he, Richard Feverel, would stand by the farmer's bedside, and rouse
him; rouse him to fight with powder and ball in his own chamber, in the
cowardly midnight, where he might tremble, but dare not refuse.
"Lord!" cried simple Ripton, while these hopeful plots were raging in his
comrade's brain, now sparkling for immediate execution, and anon lapsing
disdainfully dark in their chances of fulfilment, "how I wish you'd have
let me notch him, Ricky! I'm a safe shot. I never miss. I should feel
quite jolly if I'd spanked him once. We should have had the beat of him
at that game. I say!" and a sharp thought drew Ripton's ideas nearer
home, "I wonder whether my nose is as bad as he says! Where can I see
To these exclamations Richard was deaf, and he trudged steadily forward,
facing but one object.
After tearing through innumerable hedges, leaping fences, jumping dykes,
penetrating brambly copses, and getting dirty, ragged, and tired, Ripton
awoke from his dream of Farmer Blaize and a blue nose to the vivid
consciousness of hunger; and this grew with the rapidity of light upon
him, till in the course of another minute he was enduring the extremes of
famine, and ventured to question his leader whither he was being
conducted. Raynham was out of sight. They were a long way down the
valley, miles from Lobourne, in a country of sour pools, yellow brooks,
rank pasturage, desolate heath. Solitary cows were seen; the smoke of a
mud cottage; a cart piled with peat; a donkey grazing at leisure,
oblivious of an unkind world; geese by a horse-pond, gabbling as in the
first loneliness of creation; uncooked things that a famishing boy cannot
possibly care for, and must despise. Ripton was in despair.
"Where are you going to?" he inquired with a voice of the last time of
asking, and halted resolutely.
Richard now broke his silence to reply, "Anywhere."
"Anywhere!" Ripton took up the moody word. "But ain't you awfully
hungry?" he gasped vehemently, in a way that showed the total emptiness
of his stomach.
"No," was Richard's brief response.
"Not hungry!" Ripton's amazement lent him increased vehemence. "Why, you
haven't had anything to eat since breakfast! Not hungry? I declare I'm
starving. I feel such a gnawing I could eat dry bread and cheese!"
Richard sneered: not for reasons that would have actuated a similar
demonstration of the philosopher.
"Come," cried Ripton, "at all events, tell us where you're going to
Richard faced about to make a querulous retort. The injured and hapless
visage that met his eye disarmed him. The lad's nose, though not exactly
of the dreaded hue, was really becoming discoloured. To upbraid him
would be cruel. Richard lifted his head, surveyed the position, and
exclaiming "Here!" dropped down on a withered bank, leaving Ripton to
contemplate him as a puzzle whose every new move was a worse perplexity.
Among boys there are laws of honour and chivalrous codes, not written or
formally taught, but intuitively understood by all, and invariably acted
upon by the loyal and the true. The race is not nearly civilized, we
must remember. Thus, not to follow your leader whithersoever he may
think proper to lead; to back out of an expedition because the end of it
frowns dubious, and the present fruit of it is discomfort; to quit a
comrade on the road, and return home without him: these are tricks which
no boy of spirit would be guilty of, let him come to any description of
mortal grief in consequence. Better so than have his own conscience
denouncing him sneak. Some boys who behave boldly enough are not
troubled by this conscience, and the eyes and the lips of their fellows
have to supply the deficiency. They do it with just as haunting, and
even more horrible pertinacity, than the inner voice, and the result, if
the probation be not very severe and searching, is the same. The leader
can rely on the faithfulness of his host: the comrade is sworn to serve.
Master Ripton Thompson was naturally loyal. The idea of turning off and
forsaking his friend never once crossed his mind, though his condition
was desperate, and his friend's behaviour that of a Bedlamite. He
announced several times impatiently that they would be too late for
dinner. His friend did not budge. Dinner seemed nothing to him. There
he lay plucking grass, and patting the old dog's nose, as if incapable of
conceiving what a thing hunger was. Ripton took half-a-dozen turns up
and down, and at last flung himself down beside the taciturn boy,
accepting his fate.
Now, the chance that works for certain purposes sent a smart shower from
the sinking sun, and the wet sent two strangers for shelter in the lane
behind the hedge where the boys reclined. One was a travelling tinker,
who lit a pipe and spread a tawny umbrella. The other was a burly young
countryman, pipeless and tentless. They saluted with a nod, and began
recounting for each other's benefit the daylong-doings of the weather, as
it had affected their individual experience and followed their
prophecies. Both had anticipated and foretold a bit of rain before
night, and therefore both welcomed the wet with satisfaction. A
monotonous betweenwhiles kind of talk they kept droning, in harmony with
the still hum of the air. From the weather theme they fell upon the
blessings of tobacco; how it was the poor man's friend, his company, his
consolation, his comfort, his refuge at night, his first thought in the
"Better than a wife!" chuckled the tinker. "No curtain-lecturin' with a
pipe. Your pipe an't a shrew."
"That be it!" the other chimed in. "Your pipe doan't mak' ye out wi' all
the cash Saturday evenin'."
"Take one," said the tinker, in the enthusiasm of the moment, handing a
grimy short clay. Speed-the-Plough filled from the tinker's pouch, and
continued his praises.
"Penny a day, and there y'are, primed! Better than a wife? Ha, ha!"
"And you can get rid of it, if ye wants for to, and when ye wants," added
"So ye can!" Speed-the-Plough took him up. "And ye doan't want for to.
Leastways, t'other case. I means pipe."
"And," continued tinker, comprehending him perfectly, it don't bring
repentance after it."
"Not nohow, master, it doan't! And"--Speed-the-Plough cocked his eye--
"it doan't eat up half the victuals, your pipe doan't."
Here the honest yeoman gesticulated his keen sense of a clincher, which
the tinker acknowledged; and having, so to speak, sealed up the subject
by saying the best thing that could be said, the two smoked for some time
in silence to the drip and patter of the shower.
Ripton solaced his wretchedness by watching them through the briar hedge.
He saw the tinker stroking a white cat, and appealing to her, every now
and then, as his missus, for an opinion or a confirmation; and he thought
that a curious sight. Speed-the-Plough was stretched at full length,
with his boots in the rain, and his head amidst the tinker's pots,
smoking, profoundly contemplative. The minutes seemed to be taken up
alternately by the grey puffs from their mouths.
It was the tinker who renewed the colloquy. Said he, "Times is bad!"
His companion assented, "Sure-ly!"
"But it somehow comes round right," resumed the tinker. "Why, look here.
Where's the good o' moping? I sees it all come round right and tight.
Now I travels about. I've got my beat. 'Casion calls me t'other day to
"Coals!" ejaculated Speed-the-Plough sonorously.
"Coals!" echoed the tinker. "You ask what I goes there for, mayhap?
Never you mind. One sees a mort o' life in my trade. Not for coals it
isn't. And I don't carry 'em there, neither. Anyhow, I comes back.
London's my mark. Says I, I'll see a bit o' the sea, and steps aboard a
collier. We were as nigh wrecked as the prophet Paul."
"--A--who's him?" the other wished to know.
"Read your Bible," said the tinker. "We pitched and tossed--'tain't that
game at sea 'tis on land, I can tell ye! I thinks, down we're a-going--
say your prayers, Bob Tiles! That was a night, to be sure! But God's
above the devil, and here I am, ye see." Speed-the-Plough lurched round
on his elbow and regarded him indifferently. "D'ye call that doctrin'?
He bean't al'ays, or I shoo'n't be scrapin' my heels wi' nothin' to do,
and, what's warse, nothin' to eat. Why, look heer. Luck's luck, and bad
luck's the con-trary. Varmer Bollop, t'other day, has's rick burnt down.
Next night his gran'ry's burnt. What do he tak' and go and do? He takes
and goes and hangs unsel', and turns us out of his employ. God warn't
above the devil then, I thinks, or I can't make out the reckonin'."
The tinker cleared his throat, and said it was a bad case.
"And a darn'd bad case. I'll tak' my oath on't!" cried Speed-the-Plough.
"Well, look heer! Heer's another darn'd bad case. I threshed for Varmer
Blaize Blaize o' Beltharpe afore I goes to Varmer Bollop. Varmer Blaize
misses pilkins. He swears our chaps steals pilkins. 'Twarn't me steals
'em. What do he tak' and go and do? He takes and tarns us off, me and
another, neck and crop, to scuffle about and starve, for all he keers.
God warn't above the devil then, I thinks. Not nohow, as I can see!"
The tinker shook his head, and said that was a bad case also.
"And you can't mend it," added Speed-the-Plough. "It's bad, and there it
be. But I'll tell ye what, master. Bad wants payin' for." He nodded
and winked mysteriously. "Bad has its wages as well's honest work, I'm
thinkin'. Varmer Bollop I don't owe no grudge to: Varmer Blaize I do.
And I shud like to stick a Lucifer in his rick some dry windy night."
Speed-the-Plough screwed up an eye villainously. "He wants hittin' in
the wind,--jest where the pocket is, master, do Varmer Blaize, and he'll
cry out 'O Lor'!' Varmer Blaize will. You won't get the better o' Varmer
Blaize by no means, as I makes out, if ye doan't hit into him jest
The tinker sent a rapid succession of white clouds from his mouth, and
said that would be taking the devil's side of a bad case. Speed-the-
Plough observed energetically that, if Farmer Blaize was on the other, he
should be on that side.
There was a young gentleman close by, who thought with him. The hope of
Raynham had lent a careless half-compelled attention to the foregoing
dialogue, wherein a common labourer and a travelling tinker had
propounded and discussed one of the most ancient theories of transmundane
dominion and influence on mundane affairs. He now started to his feet,
and came tearing through the briar hedge, calling out for one of them to
direct them the nearest road to Bursley. The tinker was kindling
preparations for his tea, under the tawny umbrella. A loaf was set
forth, oh which Ripton's eyes, stuck in the edge, fastened ravenously.
Speed-the-Plough volunteered information that Bursley was a good three
mile from where they stood, and a good eight mile from Lobourne.
"I'll give you half-a-crown for that loaf, my good fellow," said Richard
to the tinker.
"It's a bargain;" quoth the tinker, "eh, missus?"
His cat replied by humping her back at the dog.
The half-crown was tossed down, and Ripton, who had just succeeded in
freeing his limbs from the briar, prickly as a hedgehog, collared the
"Those young squires be sharp-set, and no mistake," said the tinker to
his companion. "Come! we'll to Bursley after 'em, and talk it out over a
pot o' beer." Speed-the-Plough was nothing loath, and in a short time
they were following the two lads on the road to Bursley, while a
horizontal blaze shot across the autumn and from the Western edge of the
Search for the missing boys had been made everywhere over Raynham, and
Sir Austin was in grievous discontent. None had seen them save Austin
Wentworth and Mr. Morton. The baronet sat construing their account of
the flight of the lads when they were hailed, and resolved it into an act
of rebellion on the part of his son. At dinner he drank the young heir's
health in ominous silence. Adrian Harley stood up in his place to
propose the health. His speech was a fine piece of rhetoric. He warmed
in it till, after the Ciceronic model, inanimate objects were
personified, and Richard's table-napkin and vacant chair were invoked to
follow the steps of a peerless father, and uphold with his dignity the
honour of the Feverels. Austin Wentworth, whom a soldier's death
compelled to take his father's place in support of the toast, was tame
after such magniloquence. But the reply, the thanks which young Richard
should have delivered in person were not forthcoming. Adrian's oratory
had given but a momentary life to napkin and chair. The company of
honoured friends, and aunts and uncles, remotest cousins, were glad to
disperse and seek amusement in music and tea. Sir Austin did his utmost
to be hospitable cheerful, and requested them to dance. If he had
desired them to laugh he would have been obeyed, and in as hearty a
"How triste!" said Mrs. Doria Forey to Lobourne's curate, as that most
enamoured automaton went through his paces beside her with professional
"One who does not suffer can hardly assent," the curate answered, basking
in her beams.
"Ah, you are good!" exclaimed the lady. "Look at my Clare. She will not
dance on her cousin's birthday with anyone but him. What are we to do to
enliven these people?"
"Alas, madam! you cannot do for all what you do for one," the curate
sighed, and wherever she wandered in discourse, drew her back with silken
strings to gaze on his enamoured soul.
He was the only gratified stranger present. The others had designs on
the young heir. Lady Attenbury of Longford House had brought her highly-
polished specimen of market-ware, the Lady Juliana Jaye, for a first
introduction to him, thinking he had arrived at an age to estimate and
pine for her black eyes and pretty pert mouth. The Lady Juliana had to
pair off with a dapper Papworth, and her mama was subjected to the
gallantries of Sir Miles, who talked land and steam-engines to her till
she was sick, and had to be impertinent in self-defence. Lady Blandish,
the delightful widow, sat apart with Adrian, and enjoyed his sarcasms on
the company. By ten at night the poor show ended, and the rooms were
dark, dark as the prognostics multitudinously hinted by the disappointed
and chilled guests concerning the probable future of the hope of Raynham.
Little Clare kissed her mama, curtsied to the lingering curate, and went
to bed like a very good girl. Immediately the maid had departed, little
Clare deliberately exchanged night, attire for that of day. She was
noted as an obedient child. Her light was allowed to burn in her room
for half-an-hour, to counteract her fears of the dark. She took the
light, and stole on tiptoe to Richard's room. No Richard was there. She
peeped in further and further. A trifling agitation of the curtains shot
her back through the door and along the passage to her own bedchamber
with extreme expedition. She was not much alarmed, but feeling guilty
she was on her guard. In a short time she was prowling about the
passages again. Richard had slighted and offended the little lady, and
was to be asked whether he did not repent such conduct toward his cousin;
not to be asked whether he had forgotten to receive his birthday kiss
from her; for, if he did not choose to remember that, Miss Clare would
never remind him of it, and to-night should be his last chance of a
reconciliation. Thus she meditated, sitting on a stair, and presently
heard Richard's voice below in the hall, shouting for supper.
"Master Richard has returned," old Benson the butler tolled out
intelligence to Sir Austin.
"Well?" said the baronet.
"He complains of being hungry," the butler hesitated, with a look of
"Let him eat."
Heavy Benson hesitated still more as he announced that the boy had called
for wine. It was an unprecedented thing. Sir Austin's brows were
portending an arch, but Adrian suggested that he wanted possibly to drink
his birthday, and claret was conceded.
The boys were in the vortex of a partridge-pie when Adrian strolled in to
them. They had now changed characters. Richard was uproarious. He
drank a health with every glass; his cheeks were flushed and his eyes
brilliant. Ripton looked very much like a rogue on the tremble of
detection, but his honest hunger and the partridge-pie shielded him
awhile from Adrian's scrutinizing glance. Adrian saw there was matter
for study, if it were only on Master Ripton's betraying nose, and sat
down to hear and mark.
"Good sport, gentlemen, I trust to hear?" he began his quiet banter, and
provoked a loud peal of laughter from Richard.
"Ha, ha! I say, Rip: 'Havin' good sport, gentlemen, are ye?' You
remember the farmer! Your health, parson! We haven't had our sport yet.
We're going to have some first-rate sport. Oh, well! we haven't much
show of birds. We shot for pleasure, and returned them to the
proprietors. You're fond of game, parson! Ripton is a dead shot in what
Cousin Austin calls the Kingdom of 'would-have-done' and 'might-have-
been.' Up went the birds, and cries Rip, 'I've forgotten to load!' Oh,
ho!--Rip! some more claret.--Do just leave that nose of yours alone.--
Your health, Ripton Thompson! The birds hadn't the decency to wait for
him, and so, parson, it's their fault, and not Rip's, you haven't a dozen
brace at your feet. What have you been doing at home, Cousin Rady?"
"Playing Hamlet, in the absence of the Prince of Denmark. The day
without you, my dear boy, must be dull, you know."
"'He speaks: can I trust what he says is sincere?
There's an edge to his smile that cuts much like a sneer.'
"Sandoe's poems! You know the couplet, Mr. Rady. Why shouldn't I quote
Sandoe? You know you like him, Rady. But, if you've missed me, I'm
sorry. Rip and I have had a beautiful day. We've made new
acquaintances. We've seen the world. I'm the monkey that has seen the
world, and I'm going to tell you all about it. First, there's a
gentleman who takes a rifle for a fowling-piece. Next, there's a farmer
who warns everybody, gentleman and beggar, off his premises. Next,
there's a tinker and a ploughman, who think that God is always fighting
with the devil which shall command the kingdoms of the earth. The
tinker's for God, and the ploughman"--
"I'll drink your health, Ricky," said Adrian, interrupting.
"Oh, I forgot, parson;--I mean no harm, Adrian. I'm only telling what
"No harm, my dear boy," returned Adrian. "I'm perfectly aware that
Zoroaster is not dead. You have been listening to a common creed. Drink
the Fire-worshippers, if you will."
"Here's to Zoroaster, then!" cried Richard. "I say, Rippy! we'll drink
the Fire-worshippers to-night won't we?"
A fearful conspiratorial frown, that would not have disgraced Guido
Fawkes, was darted back from the, plastic features of Master Ripton.
Richard gave his lungs loud play.
"Why, what did you say about Blaizes, Rippy? Didn't you say it was fun?"
Another hideous and silencing frown was Ripton's answer. Adrian matched
the innocent youths, and knew that there was talking under the table.
"See," thought he, "this boy has tasted his first scraggy morsel of life
today, and already he talks like an old stager, and has, if I mistake
not, been acting too. My respected chief," he apostrophized Sir Austin,
"combustibles are only the more dangerous for compression. This boy will
be ravenous for Earth when he is let loose, and very soon make his share
of it look as foolish as yonder game-pie!"--a prophecy Adrian kept to
Uncle Algernon shambled in to see his nephew before the supper was
finished, and his more genial presence brought out a little of the plot.
"Look here, uncle!" said Richard. "Would you let a churlish old brute of
a farmer strike you without making him suffer for it?"
"I fancy I should return the compliment, my lad," replied his uncle.
"Of course you would! So would I. And he shall suffer for it." The boy
looked savage, and his uncle patted him down.
"I've boxed his son; I'll box him," said Richard, shouting for more wine.
"What, boy! Is it old Blaize has been putting you up!"
"Never mind, uncle!" The boy nodded mysteriously.
'Look there!' Adrian read on Ripton's face, he says 'never mind,' and lets
"Did we beat to-day, uncle?"
"Yes, boy; and we'd beat them any day they bowl fair. I'd beat them on
one leg. There's only Watkins and Featherdene among them worth a
"We beat!" cries Richard. "Then we'll have some more wine, and drink
The bell was rung; wine ordered. Presently comes in heavy Benson, to say
supplies are cut off. One bottle, and no more. The Captain whistled:
The bottle, however, was procured by Adrian subsequently. He liked
studying intoxicated urchins.
One subject was at Richard's heart, about which he was reserved in the
midst of his riot. Too proud to inquire how his father had taken his
absence, he burned to hear whether he was in disgrace. He led to it
repeatedly, and it was constantly evaded by Algernon and Adrian. At
last, when the boy declared a desire to wish his father good-night,
Adrian had to tell him that he was to go straight to bed from the supper-
table. Young Richard's face fell at that, and his gaiety forsook him.
He marched to his room without another word.
Adrian gave Sir Austin an able version of his son's behaviour and
adventures; dwelling upon this sudden taciturnity when he heard of his
father's resolution not to see him. The wise youth saw that his chief
was mollified behind his moveless mask, and went to bed, and Horace,
leaving Sir Austin in his study. Long hours the baronet sat alone. The
house had not its usual influx of Feverels that day. Austin Wentworth
was staying at Poer Hall, and had only come over for an hour. At
midnight the house breathed sleep. Sir Austin put on his cloak and cap,
and took the lamp to make his rounds. He apprehended nothing special,
but with a mind never at rest he constituted himself the sentinel of
Raynham. He passed the chamber where the Great-Aunt Grantley lay, who
was to swell Richard's fortune, and so perform her chief business on
earth. By her door he murmured, "Good creature! you sleep with a sense
of duty done," and paced on, reflecting, "She has not made money a demon
of discord," and blessed her. He had his thoughts at Hippias's somnolent
door, and to them the world might have subscribed.
A monomaniac at large, watching over sane people in slumber! thinks
Adrian Harley, as he hears Sir Austin's footfall, and truly that was a
strange object to see.--Where is the fortress that has not one weak gate?
where the man who is sound at each particular angle? Ay, meditates the
recumbent cynic, more or less mad is not every mother's son? Favourable
circumstances--good air, good company, two or three good rules rigidly
adhered to--keep the world out of Bedlam. But, let the world fly into a
passion, and is not Bedlam the safest abode for it?
Sir Austin ascended the stairs, and bent his steps leisurely toward the
chamber where his son was lying in the left wing of the Abbey. At the
end of the gallery which led to it he discovered a dim light. Doubting
it an illusion, Sir Austin accelerated his pace. This wing had aforetime
a bad character. Notwithstanding what years had done to polish it into
fair repute, the Raynham kitchen stuck to tradition, and preserved
certain stories of ghosts seen there, that effectually blackened it in
the susceptible minds of new house-maids and under-crooks, whose fears
would not allow the sinner to wash his sins. Sir Austin had heard of the
tales circulated by his domestics underground. He cherished his own
belief, but discouraged theirs, and it was treason at Raynham to be
caught traducing the left wing. As the baronet advanced, the fact of a
light burning was clear to him. A slight descent brought him into the
passage, and he beheld a poor human candle standing outside his son's
chamber. At the same moment a door closed hastily. He entered Richard's
room. The boy was absent. The bed was unpressed: no clothes about:
nothing to show that he had been there that night. Sir Austin felt
vaguely apprehensive. Has he gone to my room to await me? thought the
father's heart. Something like a tear quivered in his arid eyes as he
meditated and hoped this might be so. His own sleeping-room faced that
of his son. He strode to it with a quick heart. It was empty. Alarm
dislodged anger from his jealous heart, and dread of evil put a thousand
questions to him that were answered in air. After pacing up and down his
room he determined to go and ask the boy Thompson, as he called Ripton,
what was known to him.
The chamber assigned to Master Ripton Thompson was at the northern
extremity of the passage, and overlooked Lobourne and the valley to the
West. The bed stood between the window and the door. Six Austin found
the door ajar, and the interior dark. To his surprise, the boy
Thompson's couch, as revealed by the rays of his lamp, was likewise
vacant. He was turning back when he fancied he heard the sibilation of a
whispering in the room. Sir Austin cloaked the lamp and trod silently
toward the window. The heads of his son Richard and the boy Thompson
were seen crouched against the glass, holding excited converse together.
Sir Austin listened, but he listened to a language of which he possessed
not the key. Their talk was of fire, and of delay: of expected agrarian
astonishment: of a farmer's huge wrath: of violence exercised upon
gentlemen, and of vengeance: talk that the boys jerked out by fits, and
that came as broken links of a chain impossible to connect. But they
awake curiosity. The baronet condescended to play the spy upon his son.
Over Lobourne and the valley lay black night and innumerable stars.
"How jolly I feel!" exclaimed Ripton, inspired by claret; and then, after
a luxurious pause--"I think that fellow has pocketed his guinea, and cut
Richard allowed a long minute to pass, during which the baronet waited
anxiously for his voice, hardly recognizing it when he heard its altered
"If he has, I'll go; and I'll do it myself."
"You would?" returned Master Ripton. "Well, I'm hanged!--I say, if you
went to school, wouldn't you get into rows! Perhaps he hasn't found the
place where the box was stuck in. I think he funks it. I almost wish
you hadn't done it, upon my honour--eh? Look there! what was that? That
looked like something.--I say! do you think we shall ever be found out?"
Master Ripton intoned this abrupt interrogation verb seriously.
"I don't think about it," said Richard, all his faculties bent on signs
"Well, but," Ripton persisted, "suppose we are found out?"
"If we are, I must pay for it."
Sir Austin breathed the better for this reply. He was beginning to
gather a clue to the dialogue. His son was engaged in a plot, and was,
moreover, the leader of the plot. He listened for further enlightenment.
"What was the fellow's name?" inquired Ripton.
His companion answered, "Tom Bakewell."
"I'll tell you what," continued Ripton. "You let it all clean out to
your cousin and uncle at supper.--How capital claret is with partridge-
pie! What a lot I ate!--Didn't you see me frown?"
The young sensualist was in an ecstasy of gratitude to his late
refection, and the slightest word recalled him to it. Richard answered
"Yes; and felt your kick. It doesn't matter. Rady's safe, and uncle
"Well, my plan is to keep it close. You're never safe if you don't.--I
never drank much claret before," Ripton was off again. "Won't I now,
though! claret's my wine. You know, it may come out any day, and then
we're done for," he rather incongruously appended.
Richard only took up the business-thread of his friend's rambling
chatter, and answered:
"You've got nothing to do with it, if we are."
"Haven't I, though! I didn't stick-in the box but I'm an accomplice,
that's clear. Besides," added Ripton, "do you think I should leave you
to bear it all on your shoulders? I ain't that sort of chap, Ricky, I
can tell you."
Sir Austin thought more highly of the boy Thompson. Still it looked a
detestable conspiracy, and the altered manner of his son impressed him
strangely. He was not the boy of yesterday. To Sir Austin it seemed as
if a gulf had suddenly opened between them. The boy had embarked, and
was on the waters of life in his own vessel. It was as vain to call him
back as to attempt to erase what Time has written with the Judgment
Blood! This child, for whom he had prayed nightly in such a fervour and
humbleness to God, the dangers were about him, the temptations thick on
him, and the devil on board piloting. If a day had done so much, what
would years do? Were prayers and all the watchfulness he had expended of
A sensation of infinite melancholy overcame the poor gentleman--a thought
that he was fighting with a fate in this beloved boy.
He was half disposed to arrest the two conspirators on the spot, and make
them confess, and absolve themselves; but it seemed to him better to keep
an unseen eye over his son: Sir Austin's old system prevailed.
Adrian characterized this system well, in saying that Sir Austin wished
to be Providence to his son.
If immeasurable love were perfect wisdom, one human being might almost
impersonate Providence to another. Alas! love, divine as it is, can do
no more than lighten the house it inhabits--must take its shape,
sometimes intensify its narrowness--can spiritualize, but not expel, the
old lifelong lodgers above-stairs and below.
Sir Austin decided to continue quiescent.
The valley still lay black beneath the large autumnal stars, and the
exclamations of the boys were becoming fevered and impatient. By-and-by
one insisted that he had seen a twinkle. The direction he gave was out
of their anticipations. Again the twinkle was announced. Both boys
started to their feet. It was a twinkle in the right direction now.
"He's done it!" cried Richard, in great heat. "Now you may say old
Blaize'll soon be old Blazes, Rip. I hope he's asleep."
"I'm sure he's snoring!--Look there! He's alight fast enough. He's dry.
He'll burn.--I say," Ripton re-assumed the serious intonation, "do you
think they'll ever suspect us?"
"What if they do? We must brunt it."
"Of course we will. But, I say! I wish you hadn't given them the scent,
though. I like to look innocent. I can't when I know people suspect me.
Lord! look there! Isn't it just beginning to flare up!"
The farmer's grounds were indeed gradually standing out in sombre
"I'll fetch my telescope," said Richard. Ripton, somehow not liking to
be left alone, caught hold of him.
"No; don't go and lose the best of it. Here, I'll throw open the window,
and we can see."
The window was flung open, and the boys instantly stretched half their
bodies out of it; Ripton appearing to devour the rising flames with his
mouth: Richard with his eyes.
Opaque and statuesque stood the figure of the baronet behind them. The
wind was low. Dense masses of smoke hung amid the darting snakes of
fire, and a red malign light was on the neighbouring leafage. No figures
could be seen. Apparently the flames had nothing to contend against, for
they were making terrible strides into the darkness.
"Oh!" shouted Richard, overcome by excitement, "if I had my telescope!
We must have it! Let me go and fetch it! I Will!"
The boys struggled together, and Sir Austin stepped back. As he did so,
a cry was heard in the passage. He hurried out, closed the chamber, and
came upon little Clare lying senseless along the door.
In the morning that followed this night, great gossip was interchanged
between Raynham and Lobourne. The village told how Farmer Blaize, of
Belthorpe Farm, had his Pick feloniously set fire to; his stables had
caught fire, himself had been all but roasted alive in the attempt to
rescue his cattle, of which numbers had perished in the flames. Raynham
counterbalanced arson with an authentic ghost seen by Miss Clare in the
left wing of the Abbey--the ghost of a lady, dressed in deep mourning, a
scar on her forehead and a bloody handkerchief at her breast, frightful
to behold! and no wonder the child was frightened out of her wits, and
lay in a desperate state awaiting the arrival of the London doctors. It
was added that the servants had all threatened to leave in a body, and
that Sir Austin to appease them had promised to pull down the entire left
wing, like a gentleman; for no decent creature, said Lobourne, could
consent to live in a haunted house.
Rumour for the nonce had a stronger spice of truth than usual. Poor
little Clare lay ill, and the calamity that had befallen Farmer Blaize,
as regards his rick, was not much exaggerated. Sir Austin caused an
account of it be given him at breakfast, and appeared so scrupulously
anxious to hear the exact extent of injury sustained by the farmer that
heavy Benson went down to inspect the scene. Mr. Benson returned, and,
acting under Adrian's malicious advice, framed a formal report of the
catastrophe, in which the farmer's breeches figured, and certain cooling
applications to a part of the farmer's person. Sir Austin perused it
without a smile. He took occasion to have it read out before the two
boys, who listened very demurely, as to ordinary newspaper incident; only
when the report particularized the garments damaged, and the unwonted
distressing position Farmer Blaize was reduced to in his bed, indecorous
fit of sneezing laid hold of Master Ripton Thompson, and Richard bit his
lip and burst into loud laughter, Ripton joining him, lost to
"I trust you feel for this poor man," said Sir Austin to his son,
somewhat sternly. He saw no sign of feeling.
It was a difficult task for Sir Austin to keep his old countenance toward
the hope of Raynham, knowing him the accomplice-incendiary, and believing
the deed to have been unprovoked and wanton. But he must do so, he knew,
to let the boy have a fair trial against himself. Be it said, moreover,
that the baronet's possession of his son's secret flattered him. It
allowed him to act, and in a measure to feel, like Providence; enabled
him to observe and provide for the movements of creatures in the dark.
He therefore treated the boy as he commonly did, and Richard saw no
change in his father to make him think he was suspected.
The youngster's game was not so easy against Adrian. Adrian did not
shoot or fish. Voluntarily he did nothing to work off the destructive
nervous fluid, or whatever it may be, which is in man's nature; so that
two culprit boys once in his power were not likely to taste the gentle
hand of mercy; and Richard and Ripton paid for many a trout and partridge
spared. At every minute of the day Ripton was thrown into sweats of
suspicion that discovery was imminent, by some stray remark or message
from Adrian. He was as a fish with the hook in his gills, mysteriously
caught without having nibbled; and dive into what depths he would he was
sensible of a summoning force that compelled him perpetually towards the
gasping surface, which he seemed inevitably approaching when the dinner-
bell sounded. There the talk was all of Farmer Blaize. If it dropped,
Adrian revived it, and his caressing way with Ripton was just such as a
keen sportsman feels toward the creature that had owned his skill, and is
making its appearance for the world to acknowledge the same. Sir Austin
saw the manoeuvres, and admired Adrian's shrewdness. But he had to check
the young natural lawyer, for the effect of so much masked examination
upon Richard was growing baneful. This fish also felt the hook in his
gills, but this fish was more of a pike, and lay in different waters,
where there were old stumps and black roots to wind about, and defy alike
strong pulling and delicate handling. In other words, Richard showed
symptoms of a disposition to take refuge in lies.
"You know the grounds, my dear boy," Adrian observed to him. "Tell me;
do you think it easy to get to the rick unperceived? I hear they suspect
one of the farmer's turned-off hands."
"I tell you I don't know the grounds," Richard sullenly replied.
"Not?" Adrian counterfeited courteous astonishment. "I thought Mr.
Thompson said you were over there yesterday?"
Ripton, glad to speak the truth, hurriedly assured Adrian that it was not
he had said so.
"Not? You had good sport, gentlemen, hadn't you?"
"Oh, yes!" mumbled the wretched victims, reddening as they remembered, in
Adrian's slightly drawled rusticity of tone, Farmer Blaize's first
address to them.
"I suppose you were among the Fire-worshippers last night, too?"
persisted Adrian. "In some countries, I hear, they manage their best
sport at night-time, and beat up for game with torches. It must be a
fine sight. After all, the country would be dull if we hadn't a rip here
and there to treat us to a little conflagration."
"A rip!" laughed Richard, to his friend's disgust and alarm at his
daring. "You don't mean this Rip, do you?"
"Mr. Thompson fire a rick? I should as soon suspect you, my dear boy.--
You are aware, young gentlemen, that it is rather a serious thing eh? In
this country, you know, the landlord has always been the pet of the Laws.
By the way," Adrian continued, as if diverging to another topic, "you met
two gentlemen of the road in your explorations yesterday, Magians. Now,
if I were a magistrate of the county, like Sir Miles Papworth, my
suspicions would light upon those gentlemen. A tinker and a ploughman, I
think you said, Mr. Thompson. Not? Well, say two ploughmen."
"More likely two tinkers," said Richard.
"Oh! if you wish to exclude the ploughman--was he out of employ?"
Ripton, with Adrian's eyes inveterately fixed on him, stammered an
"The tinker, or the ploughman?"
"The ploughm--" Ingenuous Ripton looking about, as if to aid himself
whenever he was able to speak the truth, beheld Richard's face blackening
at him, and swallowed back half the word.
"The ploughman!" Adrian took him up cheerily. "Then we have here a
ploughman out of employ. Given a ploughman out of employ, and a rick
burnt. The burning of a rick is an act of vengeance, and a ploughman out
of employ is a vengeful animal. The rick and the ploughman are advancing
to a juxtaposition. Motive being established, we have only to prove
their proximity at a certain hour, and our ploughman voyages beyond
"Is it transportation for rick-burning?" inquired Ripton aghast.
Adrian spoke solemnly: "They shave your head. You are manacled. Your
diet is sour bread and cheese-parings. You work in strings of twenties
and thirties. ARSON is branded on your backs in an enormous A.
Theological works are the sole literary recreation of the well-conducted
and deserving. Consider the fate of this poor fellow, and what an act of
vengeance brings him to! Do you know his name?"
"How should I know his name?" said Richard, with an assumption of
innocence painful to see.
Sir Austin remarked that no doubt it would soon be known, and Adrian
perceived that he was to quiet his line, marvelling a little at the
baronet's blindness to what was so clear. He would not tell, for that
would ruin his influence with Richard; still he wanted some present
credit for his discernment and devotion. The boys got away from dinner,
and, after deep consultation, agreed upon a course of conduct, which was
to commiserate with Farmer Blaize loudly, and make themselves look as
much like the public as it was possible for two young malefactors to
look, one of whom already felt Adrian's enormous A devouring his back
with the fierceness of the Promethean eagle, and isolating him forever
from mankind. Adrian relished their novel tactics sharply, and led them
to lengths of lamentation for Farmer Blaize. Do what they might, the
hook was in their gills. The farmer's whip had reduced them to bodily
contortions; these were decorous compared with the spiritual writhings
they had to perform under Adrian's manipulation. Ripton was fast
becoming a coward, and Richard a liar, when next morning Austin Wentworth
came over from Poer Hall bringing news that one Mr. Thomas Bakewell,
yeoman, had been arrested on suspicion of the crime of Arson and lodged
in jail, awaiting the magisterial pleasure of Sir Miles Papworth.
Austin's eye rested on Richard as he spoke these terrible tidings. The
hope of Raynham returned his look, perfectly calm, and had, moreover, the
presence of mind not to look at Ripton.
As soon as they could escape, the boys got together into an obscure
corner of the park, and there took counsel of their extremity.
"Whatever shall we do now?" asked Ripton of his leader.
Scorpion girt with fire was never in a more terrible prison-house than
poor Ripton, around whom the raging element he had assisted to create
seemed to be drawing momently narrower circles.
"There's only one chance," said Richard, coming to a dead halt, and
folding his arms resolutely.
His comrade inquired with the utmost eagerness what that chance might be.
Richard fixed his eyes on a flint, and replied: "We must rescue that
fellow from jail."
Ripton gazed at his leader, and fell back with astonishment. "My dear
Ricky! but how are we to do it?"
Richard, still perusing his flint, replied: "We must manage to get a file
in to him and a rope. It can be done, I tell you. I don't care what I
pay. I don't care what I do. He must be got out."
"Bother that old Blaize!" exclaimed Ripton, taking off his cap to wipe
his frenzied forehead, and brought down his friend's reproof.
"Never mind old Blaize now. Talk about letting it out! Look at you.
I'm ashamed of you. You talk about Robin Hood and King Richard! Why,
you haven't an atom of courage. Why, you let it out every second of the
day. Whenever Rady begins speaking you start; I can see the perspiration
rolling down you. Are you afraid?--And then you contradict yourself.
You never keep to one story. Now, follow me. We must risk everything to
get him out. Mind that! And keep out of Adrian's way as much as you
can. And keep to one story."
With these sage directions the young leader marched his companion-culprit
down to inspect the jail where Tom Bakewell lay groaning over the results
of the super-mundane conflict, and the victim of it that he was.
In Lobourne Austin Wentworth had the reputation of the poor man's friend;
a title he earned more largely ere he went to the reward God alone can
give to that supreme virtue. Dame Bakewell, the mother of Tom, on
hearing of her son's arrest, had run to comfort him and render him what
help she could; but this was only sighs and tears, and, oh deary me!
which only perplexed poor Tom, who bade her leave an unlucky chap to his
fate, and not make himself a thundering villain. Whereat the dame begged
him to take heart, and he should have a true comforter. "And though it's
a gentleman that's coming to you, Tom--for he never refuses a poor
body," said Mrs. Bakewell, "it's a true Christian, Tom! and the Lord
knows if the sight of him mayn't be the saving of you, for he's light to
look on, and a sermon to listen to, he is!"
Tom was not prepossessed by the prospect of a sermon, and looked a sullen
dog enough when Austin entered his cell. He was surprised at the end of
half-an-hour to find himself engaged in man-to-man conversation with a
gentleman and a Christian. When Austin rose to go Tom begged permission
to shake his hand.
"Take and tell young master up at the Abbey that I an't the chap to
peach. He'll know. He's a young gentleman as'll make any man do as he
wants 'em! He's a mortal wild young gentleman! And I'm a Ass! That's
where 'tis. But I an't a blackguard. Tell him that, sir!"
This was how it came that Austin eyed young Richard seriously while he
told the news at Raynham. The boy was shy of Austin more than of Adrian.
Why, he did not know; but he made it a hard task for Austin to catch him
alone, and turned sulky that instant. Austin was not clever like Adrian:
he seldom divined other people's ideas, and always went the direct road
to his object; so instead of beating about and setting the boy on the
alert at all points, crammed to the muzzle with lies, he just said, "Tom
Bakewell told me to let you know he does not intend to peach on you," and
Richard repeated the intelligence to Ripton, who cried aloud that Tom was
"He shan't suffer for it," said Richard, and pondered on a thicker rope
and sharper file.
"But will your cousin tell?" was Ripton's reflection.
"He!" Richard's lip expressed contempt. "A ploughman refuses to peach,
and you ask if one of our family will?"
Ripton stood for the twentieth time reproved on this point.
The boys had examined the outer walls of the jail, and arrived at the
conclusion that Tom's escape might be managed if Tom had spirit, and the
rope and file could be anyway reached to him. But to do this, somebody
must gain admittance to his cell, and who was to be taken into their
"Try your cousin," Ripton suggested, after much debate.
Richard, smiling, wished to know if he meant Adrian.
"No, no!" Ripton hurriedly reassured him. "Austin."
The same idea was knocking at Richard's head.
"Let's get the rope and file first," said he, and to Bursley they went
for those implements to defeat the law, Ripton procuring the file at one
shop and Richard the rope at another, with such masterly cunning did they
lay their measures for the avoidance of every possible chance of
detection. And better to assure this, in a wood outside Bursley Richard
stripped to his shirt and wound the rope round his body, tasting the
tortures of anchorites and penitential friars, that nothing should be
risked to make Tom's escape a certainty. Sir Austin saw the marks at
night as his son lay asleep, through the half-opened folds of his bed-
It was a severe stroke when, after all their stratagems and trouble,
Austin Wentworth refused the office the boys had zealously designed for
him. Time pressed. In a few days poor Tom would have to face the
redoubtable Sir Miles, and get committed, for rumours of overwhelming
evidence to convict him were rife about Lobourne, and Farmer Blaize's
wrath was unappeasable. Again and again young Richard begged his cousin
not to see him disgraced, and to help him in this extremity. Austin
smiled on him.
"My dear Ricky," said he, "there are two ways of getting out of a scrape:
a long way and a short way. When you've tried the roundabout method, and
failed, come to me, and I'll show you the straight route."
Richard was too entirely bent upon the roundabout method to consider this
advice more than empty words, and only ground his teeth at Austin's
He imparted to Ripton, at the eleventh hour, that they must do it
themselves, to which Ripton heavily assented.
On the day preceding poor Tom's doomed appearance before the magistrate,
Dame Bakewell had an interview with Austin, who went to Raynham
immediately, and sought Adrian's counsel upon what was to be done.
Homeric laughter and nothing else could be got out of Adrian when he
heard of the doings of these desperate boys: how they had entered Dame
Bakewell's smallest of retail shops, and purchased tea, sugar, candles,
and comfits of every description, till the shop was clear of customers:
how they had then hurried her into her little back-parlour, where Richard
had torn open his shirt and revealed the coils of rope, and Ripton
displayed the point of a file from a serpentine recess in his jacket: how
they had then told the astonished woman that the rope she saw and the
file she saw were instruments for the liberation of her son; that there
existed no other means on earth to save him, they, the boys, having
unsuccessfully attempted all: how upon that Richard had tried with the
utmost earnestness to persuade her to disrobe and wind the rope round her
own person: and Ripton had aired his eloquence to induce her to secrete
the file: how, when she resolutely objected to the rope, both boys began
backing the file, and in an evil hour, she feared, said Dame Bakewell,
she had rewarded the gracious permission given her by Sir Miles Papworth
to visit her son, by tempting Tom to file the Law. Though, thanks be to
the Lord! Dame Bakewell added, Tom had turned up his nose at the file,
and so she had told young Master Richard, who swore very bad for a young
"Boys are like monkeys," remarked Adrian, at the close of his explosions,
"the gravest actors of farcical nonsense that the world possesses. May I
never be where there are no boys! A couple of boys left to themselves
will furnish richer fun than any troop of trained comedians. No: no Art
arrives at the artlessness of nature in matters of comedy. You can't
simulate the ape. Your antics are dull. They haven't the charming
inconsequence of the natural animal. Lack at these two! Think of the
shifts they are put to all day long! They know I know all about it, and
yet their serenity of innocence is all but unruffled in my presence.
You're sorry to think about the end of the business, Austin? So am I! I
dread the idea of the curtain going down. Besides, it will do Ricky a
world of good. A practical lesson is the best lesson."
"Sinks deepest," said Austin, "but whether he learns good or evil from it
is the question at stake."
Adrian stretched his length at ease.
"This will be his first nibble at experience, old Time's fruit, hateful
to the palate of youth! for which season only hath it any nourishment!
Experience! You know Coleridge's capital simile?--Mournful you call it?
Well! all wisdom is mournful. 'Tis therefore, coz, that the wise do love
the Comic Muse. Their own high food would kill them. You shall find
great poets, rare philosophers, night after night on the broad grin
before a row of yellow lights and mouthing masks. Why? Because all's
dark at home. The stage is the pastime of great minds. That's how it
comes that the stage is now down. An age of rampant little minds, my
dear Austin! How I hate that cant of yours about an Age of Work--you,
and your Mortons, and your parsons Brawnley, rank radicals all of you,
base materialists! What does Diaper Sandoe sing of your Age of Work?
'An Age of betty tit for tat,
An Age of busy gabble:
An Age that's like a brewer's vat,
Fermenting for the rabble!
'An Age that's chaste in Love, but lax
To virtuous abuses:
Whose gentlemen and ladies wax
Too dainty for their uses.
'An Age that drives an Iron Horse,
Of Time and Space defiant;
Exulting in a Giant's Force,
And trembling at the Giant.
'An Age of Quaker hue and cut,
By Mammon misbegotten;
See the mad Hamlet mouth and strut!
And mark the Kings of Cotton!
'From this unrest, lo, early wreck'd,
A Future staggers crazy,
Ophelia of the Ages, deck'd
With woeful weed and daisy!'"
Murmuring, "Get your parson Brawnley to answer that!" Adrian changed the
resting-place of a leg, and smiled. The Age was an old battle-field
between him and Austin.
"My parson Brawnley, as you call him, has answered it," said Austin, "not
by hoping his best, which would probably leave the Age to go mad to your
satisfaction, but by doing it. And he has and will answer your Diaper
Sandoe in better verse, as he confutes him in a better life."
"You don't see Sandoe's depth," Adrian replied. "Consider that phrase,
'Ophelia of the Ages'! Is not Brawnley, like a dozen other leading
spirits--I think that's your term just the metaphysical Hamlet to drive
her mad? She, poor maid! asks for marriage and smiling babes, while my
lord lover stands questioning the Infinite, and rants to the Impalpable."
Austin laughed. "Marriage and smiling babes she would have in abundance,
if Brawnley legislated. Wait till you know him. He will be over at Poer
Hall shortly, and you will see what a Man of the Age means. But now,
pray, consult with me about these boys."
"Oh, those boys!" Adrian tossed a hand. "Are there boys of the Age as
well as men? Not? Then boys are better than men: boys are for all Ages.
What do you think, Austin? They've been studying Latude's Escape. I
found the book open in Ricky's room, on the top of Jonathan Wild.
Jonathan preserved the secrets of his profession, and taught them
nothing. So they're going to make a Latude of Mr. Tom Bakewell. He's to
be Bastille Bakewell, whether he will or no. Let them. Let the wild
colt run free! We can't help them. We can only look on. We should
spoil the play."
Adrian always made a point of feeding the fretful beast Impatience with
pleasantries--a not congenial diet; and Austin, the most patient of human
beings, began to lose his self-control.
"You talk as if Time belonged to you, Adrian. We have but a few hours
left us. Work first, and joke afterwards. The boy's fate is being
"So is everybody's, my dear Austin!" yawned the epicurean.
"Yes, but this boy is at present under our guardianship--under yours
"Not yet! not yet!" Adrian interjected languidly. "No getting into
scrapes when I have him. The leash, young hound! the collar, young colt!
I'm perfectly irresponsible at present."
"You may have something different to deal with when you are responsible,
if you think that."
"I take my young prince as I find him, coz: a Julian, or a Caracalla: a
Constantine, or a Nero. Then, if he will play the fiddle to a
conflagration, he shall play it well: if he must be a disputatious
apostate, at any rate he shall understand logic and men, and have the
habit of saying his prayers."
"Then you leave me to act alone?" said Austin, rising.
"Without a single curb!" Adrian gesticulated an acquiesced withdrawal.
"I'm sure you would not, still more certain you cannot, do harm. And be
mindful of my prophetic words: Whatever's done, old Blaize will have to
be bought off. There's the affair settled at once. I suppose I must go
to the chief to-night and settle it myself. We can't see this poor devil
condemned, though it's nonsense to talk of a boy being the prime
Austin cast an eye at the complacent languor of the wise youth, his
cousin, and the little that he knew of his fellows told him he might talk
forever here, and not be comprehended. The wise youth's two ears were
stuffed with his own wisdom. One evil only Adrian dreaded, it was clear
--the action of the law.
As he was moving away, Adrian called out to him, "Stop, Austin! There!
don't be anxious! You invariably take the glum side. I've done
something. Never mind what. If you go down to Belthorpe, be civil, but
not obsequious. You remember the tactics of Scipio Africanus against the
Punic elephants? Well, don't say a word--in thine ear, coz: I've turned
Master Blaize's elephants. If they charge, 'twill bye a feint, and back
to the destruction of his serried ranks! You understand. Not? Well,
'tis as well. Only, let none say that I sleep. If I must see him to-
night, I go down knowing he has not got us in his power." The wise youth
yawned, and stretched out a hand for any book that might be within his
reach. Austin left him to look about the grounds for Richard.
A little laurel-shaded temple of white marble looked out on the river
from a knoll bordering the Raynham beechwoods, and was dubbed by Adrian
Daphne's Bower. To this spot Richard had retired, and there Austin found
him with his head buried in his hands, a picture of desperation, whose
last shift has been defeated. He allowed Austin to greet him and sit by
him without lifting his head. Perhaps his eyes were not presentable.
"Where's your friend?" Austin began.
"Gone!" was the answer, sounding cavernous from behind hair and fingers.
An explanation presently followed, that a summons had come for him in the
morning from Mr. Thompson; and that Mr. Ripton had departed against his
In fact, Ripton had protested that he would defy his parent and remain by
his friend in the hour of adversity and at the post of danger. Sir
Austin signified his opinion that a boy should obey his parent, by giving
orders to Benson for Ripton's box to be packed and ready before noon; and
Ripton's alacrity in taking the baronet's view of filial duty was as
little feigned as his offer to Richard to throw filial duty to the winds.
He rejoiced that the Fates had agreed to remove him from the very hot
neighbourhood of Lobourne, while he grieved, like an honest lad, to see
his comrade left to face calamity alone. The boys parted amicably, as
they could hardly fail to do, when Ripton had sworn fealty to the
Feverals with a warmth that made him declare himself bond, and due to
appear at any stated hour and at any stated place to fight all the
farmers in England, on a mandate from the heir of the house.
"So you're left alone," said Austin, contemplating the boy's shapely
head. "I'm glad of it. We never know what's in us till we stand by
There appeared to be no answer forthcoming. Vanity, however, replied at
last, "He wasn't much support."
"Remember his good points now he's gone, Ricky."
"Oh! he was staunch," the boy grumbled.
"And a staunch friend is not always to be found. Now, have you tried
your own way of rectifying this business, Ricky?"
"I have done everything."
There was a pause, and then the deep-toned evasion--
"Tom Bakewell's a coward!"
"I suppose, poor fellow," said Austin, in his kind way, "he doesn't want
to get into a deeper mess. I don't think he's a coward."
"He is a coward," cried Richard. "Do you think if I had a file I would
stay in prison? I'd be out the first night! And he might have had the
rope, too--a rope thick enough for a couple of men his size and weight.
Ripton and I and Ned Markham swung on it for an hour, and it didn't give
way. He's a coward, and deserves his fate. I've no compassion for a
"Nor I much," said Austin.
Richard had raised his head in the heat of his denunciation of poor Tom.
He would have hidden it had he known the thought in Austin's clear eyes
while he faced them.
"I never met a coward myself," Austin continued. "I have heard of one or
two. One let an innocent man die for him."
"How base!" exclaimed the boy.
"Yes, it was bad," Austin acquiesced.
"Bad!" Richard scorned the poor contempt. "How I would have spurned him!
He was a coward!"
"I believe he pleaded the feelings of his family in his excuse, and tried
every means to get the man off. I have read also in the confessions of a
celebrated philosopher, that in his youth he committed some act of
pilfering, and accused a young servant-girl of his own theft, who was
condemned and dismissed for it, pardoning her guilty accuser."
"What a coward!" shouted Richard. "And he confessed it publicly?"
"You may read it yourself."
"He actually wrote it down, and printed it?"
"You have the book in your father's library. Would you have done so
Richard faltered. No! he admitted that he never could have told people.
"Then who is to call that man a coward?" said Austin. "He expiated his
cowardice as all who give way in moments of weakness, and are not
cowards, must do. The coward chooses to think 'God does not see.' I
shall escape.' He who is not a coward, and has succumbed, knows that God
has seen all, and it is not so hard a task for him to make his heart bare
to the world. Worse, I should fancy it, to know myself an impostor when
men praised me."
Young Richard's eyes were wandering on Austin's gravely cheerful face. A
keen intentness suddenly fixed them, and he dropped his head.
"So I think you're wrong, Ricky, in calling this poor Tom a coward
because he refuses to try your means of escape," Austin resumed. "A
coward hardly objects to drag in his accomplice. And, where the person
involved belongs to a great family, it seems to me that for a poor
plough-lad to volunteer not to do so speaks him anything but a coward."
Richard was dumb. Altogether to surrender his rope and file was a
fearful sacrifice, after all the time, trepidation, and study he had
spent on those two saving instruments. If he avowed Tom's manly
behaviour, Richard Feverel was in a totally new position. Whereas, by
keeping Tom a coward, Richard Feverel was the injured one, and to seem
injured is always a luxury; sometimes a necessity, whether among boys or
In Austin the Magian conflict would not have lasted long. He had but a
blind notion of the fierceness with which it raged in young Richard.
Happily for the boy, Austin was not a preacher. A single instance, a
cant phrase, a fatherly manner, might have wrecked him, by arousing
ancient or latent opposition. The born preacher we feel instinctively to
be our foe. He may do some good to the wretches that have been struck
down and lie gasping on the battlefield: he rouses antagonism in the
strong. Richard's nature, left to itself, wanted little more than an
indication of the proper track, and when he said, "Tell me what I can do,
Austin?" he had fought the best half of the battle. His voice was
subdued. Austin put his hand on the boy's shoulder.
"You must go down to Farmer Blaize."
"Well!" said Richard, sullenly divining the deed of penance.
"You'll know what to say to him when you're there."
The boy bit his lip and frowned. "Ask a favour of that big brute,
Austin? I can't!"
"Just tell him the whole case, and that you don't intend to stand by and
let the poor fellow suffer without a friend to help him out of his
"But, Austin," the boy pleaded, "I shall have to ask him to help off Tom
Bakewell! How can I ask him, when I hate him?"
Austin bade him go, and think nothing of the consequences till he got
Richard groaned in soul.
"You've no pride, Austin."
"You don't know what it is to ask a favour of a brute you hate."
Richard stuck to that view of the case, and stuck to it the faster the
more imperatively the urgency of a movement dawned upon him.
"Why," continued the boy, "I shall hardly be able to keep my fists off
"Surely you've punished him enough, boy?" said Austin.
"He struck me!" Richard's lip quivered. "He dared not come at me with
his hands. He struck me with a whip. He'll be telling everybody that he
horsewhipped me, and that I went down and begged his pardon. Begged his
pardon! A Feverel beg his pardon! Oh, if I had my will!"
"The man earns his bread, Ricky. You poached on his grounds. He turned
you off, and you fired his rick."
"And I'll pay him for his loss. And I won't do any more."
"Because you won't ask a favour of him?"
"No! I will not ask a favour of him."
Austin looked at the boy steadily. "You prefer to receive a favour from
poor Tom Bakewell?"
At Austin's enunciation of this obverse view of the matter Richard raised
his brow. Dimly a new light broke in upon him. "Favour from Tom
Bakewell, the ploughman? How do you mean, Austin?"
"To save yourself an unpleasantness you permit a country lad to sacrifice
himself for you? I confess I should not have so much pride."
"Pride!" shouted Richard, stung by the taunt, and set his sight hard at
the blue ridges of the hills.
Not knowing for the moment what else to do, Austin drew a picture of Tom
in prison, and repeated Tom's volunteer statement. The picture, though
his intentions were far from designing it so, had to Richard, whose
perception of humour was infinitely keener, a horrible chaw-bacon smack
about it. Visions of a grinning lout, open from ear to ear, unkempt,
coarse, splay-footed, rose before him and afflicted him with the
strangest sensations of disgust and comicality, mixed up with pity and
remorse--a sort of twisted pathos. There lay Tom; hobnail Tom! a bacon-
munching, reckless, beer-swilling animal! and yet a man; a dear brave
human heart notwithstanding; capable of devotion and unselfishness. The
boy's better spirit was touched, and it kindled his imagination to
realize the abject figure of poor clodpole Tom, and surround it with a
halo of mournful light. His soul was alive. Feelings he had never known
streamed in upon him as from an ethereal casement, an unwonted
tenderness, an embracing humour, a consciousness of some ineffable glory,
an irradiation of the features of humanity. All this was in the bosom of
the boy, and through it all the vision of an actual hob-nail Tom, coarse,
unkempt, open from ear to ear; whose presence was a finger of shame to
him and an oppression of clodpole; yet toward whom he felt just then a
loving-kindness beyond what he felt for any living creature. He laughed
at him, and wept over him. He prized him, while he shrank from him. It
was a genial strife of the angel in him with constituents less divine;
but the angel was uppermost and led the van--extinguished loathing,
humanized laughter, transfigured pride--pride that would persistently
contemplate the corduroys of gaping Tom, and cry to Richard, in the very
tone of Adrian's ironic voice, "Behold your benefactor!"
Austin sat by the boy, unaware of the sublimer tumult he had stirred.
Little of it was perceptible in Richard's countenance. The lines of his
mouth were slightly drawn; his eyes hard set into the distance. He
remained thus many minutes. Finally he jumped to his legs, saying, "I'll
go at once to old Blaize and tell him."
Austin grasped his hand, and together they issued out of Daphne's Bower,
in the direction of Lobourne.
Farmer Blaize was not so astonished at the visit of Richard Feverel as
that young gentleman expected him to be. The farmer, seated in his easy-
chair in the little low-roofed parlour of an old-fashioned farm-house,
with a long clay pipe on the table at his elbow, and a veteran pointer at
his feet, had already given audience to three distinguished members of
the Feverel blood, who had come separately, according to their accustomed
secretiveness, and with one object. In the morning it was Sir Austin
himself. Shortly after his departure, arrived Austin Wentworth; close on
his heels, Algernon, known about Lobourne as the Captain, popular
wherever he was known. Farmer Blaize reclined m considerable elation.
He had brought these great people to a pretty low pitch. He had welcomed
them hospitably, as a British yeoman should; but not budged a foot in his
demands: not to the baronet: not to the Captain: not to good young Mr.
Wentworth. For Farmer Blaize was a solid Englishman; and, on hearing
from the baronet a frank confession of the hold he had on the family, he
determined to tighten his hold, and only relax it in exchange for
tangible advantages--compensation to his pocket, his wounded person, and
his still more wounded sentiments: the total indemnity being, in round
figures, three hundred pounds, and a spoken apology from the prime
offender, young Mister Richard. Even then there was a reservation.
Provided, the farmer said, nobody had been tampering with any of his
witnesses. In that ease Farmer Blaize declared the money might go, and
he would transport Tom Bakewell, as he had sworn he would. And it goes
hard, too, with an accomplice, by law, added the farmer, knocking the
ashes leisurely out of his pipe. He had no wish to bring any disgrace
anywhere; he respected the inmates of Raynham Abbey, as in duty bound; he
should be sorry to see them in trouble. Only no tampering with his
witnesses. He was a man for Law. Rank was much: money was much: but Law
was more. In this country Law was above the sovereign. To tamper with