Part 3 out of 10
are behindhand in furnishing a temple for the flame.
Above green-flashing plunges of a weir, and shaken by the thunder below,
lilies, golden and white, were swaying at anchor among the reeds.
Meadow-sweet hung from the banks thick with weed and trailing bramble,
and there also hung a daughter of earth. Her face was shaded by a broad
straw hat with a flexible brim that left her lips and chin in the sun,
and, sometimes nodding, sent forth a light of promising eyes. Across her
shoulders, and behind, flowed large loose curls, brown in shadow, almost
golden where the ray touched them. She was simply dressed, befitting
decency and the season. On a closer inspection you might see that her
lips were stained. This blooming young person was regaling on
dewberries. They grew between the bank and the water. Apparently she
found the fruit abundant, for her hand was making pretty progress to her
mouth. Fastidious youth, which revolts at woman plumping her exquisite
proportions on bread-and-butter, and would (we must suppose) joyfully
have her scraggy to have her poetical, can hardly object to dewberries.
Indeed the act of eating them is dainty and induces musing. The dewberry
is a sister to the lotus, and an innocent sister. You eat: mouth, eye,
and hand are occupied, and the undrugged mind free to roam. And so it
was with the damsel who knelt there. The little skylark went up above
her, all song, to the smooth southern cloud lying along the blue: from a
dewy copse dark over her nodding hat the blackbird fluted, calling to her
with thrice mellow note: the kingfisher flashed emerald out of green
osiers: a bow-winged heron travelled aloft, seeking solitude a boat
slipped toward her, containing a dreamy youth; and still she plucked the
fruit, and ate, and mused, as if no fairy prince were invading her
territories, and as if she wished not for one, or knew not her wishes.
Surrounded by the green shaven meadows, the pastoral summer buzz, the
weir-fall's thundering white, amid the breath and beauty of wild flowers,
she was a bit of lovely human life in a fair setting; a terrible
attraction. The Magnetic Youth leaned round to note his proximity to the
weir-piles, and beheld the sweet vision. Stiller and stiller grew
nature, as at the meeting of two electric clouds. Her posture was so
graceful, that though he was making straight for the weir, he dared not
dip a scull. Just then one enticing dewberry caught her eyes. He was
floating by unheeded, and saw that her hand stretched low, and could not
gather what it sought. A stroke from his right brought him beside her.
The damsel glanced up dismayed, and her whole shape trembled over the
brink. Richard sprang from his boat into the water. Pressing a hand
beneath her foot, which she had thrust against the crumbling wet sides of
the bank to save herself, he enabled her to recover her balance, and gain
safe earth, whither he followed her.
He had landed on an island of the still-vexed Bermoothes. The world lay
wrecked behind him: Raynham hung in mists, remote, a phantom to the vivid
reality of this white hand which had drawn him thither away thousands of
leagues in an eye-twinkle. Hark, how Ariel sang overhead! What
splendour in the heavens! What marvels of beauty about his enchanted
brows! And, O you wonder! Fair Flame! by whose light the glories of
being are now first seen....Radiant Miranda! Prince Ferdinand is at your
Or is it Adam, his rib taken from his side in sleep, and thus
transformed, to make him behold his Paradise, and lose it?...
The youth looked on her with as glowing an eye. It was the First Woman
And she--mankind was all Caliban to her, saving this one princely youth.
So to each other said their changing eyes in the moment they stood
together; he pale, and she blushing.
She was indeed sweetly fair, and would have been held fair among rival
damsels. On a magic shore, and to a youth educated by a System, strung
like an arrow drawn to the head, he, it might be guessed, could fly fast
and far with her. The soft rose in her cheeks, the clearness of her
eyes, bore witness to the body's virtue; and health and happy blood were
in her bearing. Had she stood before Sir Austin among rival damsels,
that Scientific Humanist, for the consummation of his System, would have
thrown her the handkerchief for his son. The wide summer-hat, nodding
over her forehead to her brows, seemed to flow with the flowing heavy
curls, and those fire-threaded mellow curls, only half-curls, waves of
hair call them, rippling at the ends, went like a sunny red-veined
torrent down her back almost to her waist: a glorious vision to the
youth, who embraced it as a flower of beauty, and read not a feature.
There were curious features of colour in her face for him to have read.
Her brows, thick and brownish against a soft skin showing the action of
the blood, met in the bend of a bow, extending to the temples long and
level: you saw that she was fashioned to peruse the sights of earth, and
by the pliability of her brows that the wonderful creature used her
faculty, and was not going to be a statue to the gazer. Under the dark
thick brows an arch of lashes shot out, giving a wealth of darkness to
the full frank blue eyes, a mystery of meaning--more than brain was ever
meant to fathom: richer, henceforth, than all mortal wisdom to Prince
Ferdinand. For when nature turns artist, and produces contrasts of
colour on a fair face, where is the Sage, or what the Oracle, shall match
the depth of its lightest look?
Prince Ferdinand was also fair. In his slim boating-attire his figure
looked heroic. His hair, rising from the parting to the right of his
forehead, in what his admiring Lady Blandish called his plume, fell away
slanting silkily to the temples across the nearly imperceptible upward
curve of his brows there--felt more than seen, so slight it was--and gave
to his profile a bold beauty, to which his bashful, breathless air was a
flattering charm. An arrow drawn to the head, capable of flying fast and
far with her! He leaned a little forward, drinking her in with all his
eyes, and young Love has a thousand. Then truly the System triumphed,
just ere it was to fall; and could Sir Austin have been content to draw
the arrow to the head, and let it fly, when it would fly, he might have
pointed to his son again, and said to the world, "Match him!" Such keen
bliss as the youth had in the sight of her, an innocent youth alone has
powers of soul in him to experience.
"O Women!" says The Pilgrim's Scrip, in one of its solitary outbursts,
"Women, who like, and will have for hero, a rake! how soon are you not to
learn that you have taken bankrupts to your bosoms, and that the
putrescent gold that attracted you is the slime of the Lake of Sin!"
If these two were Ferdinand and Miranda, Sir Austin was not Prospero, and
was not present, or their fates might have been different.
So they stood a moment, changing eyes, and then Miranda spoke, and they
came down to earth, feeling no less in heaven.
She spoke to thank him for his aid. She used quite common simple words;
and used them, no doubt, to express a common simple meaning: but to him
she was uttering magic, casting spells, and the effect they had on him
was manifested in the incoherence of his replies, which were too foolish
to be chronicled.
The couple were again mute. Suddenly Miranda, with an exclamation of
anguish, and innumerable lights and shadows playing over her lovely face,
clapped her hands, crying aloud, "My book! my book!" and ran to the bank.
Prince Ferdinand was at her side. "What have you lost?" he said.
"My book!" she answered, her delicious curls swinging across her
shoulders to the stream. Then turning to him, "Oh, no, no! let me
entreat you not to," she said; "I do not so very much mind losing it."
And in her eagerness to restrain him she unconsciously laid her gentle
hand upon his arm, and took the force of motion out of him.
"Indeed, I do not really care for the silly book," she continued,
withdrawing her hand quickly, and reddening. "Pray, do not!"
The young gentleman had kicked off his shoes. No sooner was the spell of
contact broken than he jumped in. The water was still troubled and
discoloured by his introductory adventure, and, though he ducked his head
with the spirit of a dabchick, the book was missing. A scrap of paper
floating from the bramble just above the water, and looking as if fire
had caught its edges and it had flown from one adverse element to the
other, was all he could lay hold of; and he returned to land
disconsolately, to hear Miranda's murmured mixing of thanks and pretty
"Let me try again," he said.
"No, indeed!" she replied, and used the awful threat: "I will run away if
you do," which effectually restrained him.
Her eye fell on the fire-stained scrap of paper, and brightened, as she
cried, "There, there! you have what I want. It is that. I do not care
for the book. No, please! You are not to look at it. Give it me."
Before her playfully imperative injunction was fairly spoken, Richard had
glanced at the document and discovered a Griffin between two
Wheatsheaves: his crest in silver: and below--O wonderment immense! his
He handed it to her. She took it, and put it in her bosom.
Who would have thought, that, where all else perished, Odes, Idyls,
Lines, Stanzas, this one Sonnet to the stars should be miraculously
reserved for such a starry fate--passing beatitude!
As they walked silently across the meadow, Richard strove to remember the
hour and the mood of mind in which he had composed the notable
production. The stars were invoked, as seeing and foreseeing all, to
tell him where then his love reclined, and so forth; Hesper was
complacent enough to do so, and described her in a couplet
"Through sunset's amber see me shining fair,
As her blue eyes shine through her golden hair."
And surely no words could be more prophetic. Here were two blue eyes and
golden hair; and by some strange chance, that appeared like the working
of a divine finger, she had become the possessor of the prophecy, she
that was to fulfil it! The youth was too charged with emotion to speak.
Doubtless the damsel had less to think of, or had some trifling burden on
her conscience, for she seemed to grow embarrassed. At last she drew up
her chin to look at her companion under the nodding brim of her hat (and
the action gave her a charmingly freakish air), crying, "But where are
you going to? You are wet through. Let me thank you again; and, pray,
leave me, and go home and change instantly."
"Wet?" replied the magnetic muser, with a voice of tender interest; "not
more than one foot, I hope. I will leave you while you dry your
stockings in the sun."
At this she could not withhold a shy laugh.
"Not I, but you. You would try to get that silly book for me, and you
are dripping wet. Are you not very uncomfortable?"
In all sincerity he assured her that he was not.
"And you really do not feel that you are wet?"
He really did not: and it was a fact that he spoke truth.
She pursed her dewberry mouth in the most comical way, and her blue eyes
lightened laughter out of the half-closed lids.
"I cannot help it," she said, her mouth opening, and sounding harmonious
bells of laughter in his ears. "Pardon me, won't you?"
His face took the same soft smiling curves in admiration of her.
"Not to feel that you have been in the water, the very moment after!" she
musically interjected, seeing she was excused.
"It's true," he said; and his own gravity then touched him to join a duet
with her, which made them no longer feel strangers, and did the work of a
month of intimacy. Better than sentiment, laughter opens the breast to
love; opens the whole breast to his full quiver, instead of a corner here
and there for a solitary arrow. Hail the occasion propitious, O British
young! and laugh and treat love as an honest God, and dabble not with the
sentimental rouge. These two laughed, and the souls of each cried out to
other, "It is I it is I."
They laughed and forgot the cause of their laughter, and the sun dried
his light river clothing, and they strolled toward the blackbird's copse,
and stood near a stile in sight of the foam of the weir and the many-
coloured rings of eddies streaming forth from it.
Richard's boat, meanwhile, had contrived to shoot the weir, and was
swinging, bottom upward, broadside with the current down the rapid
"Will you let it go?" said the damsel, eying it curiously.
"It can't be stopped," he replied, and could have added: "What do I care
for it now!"
His old life was whirled away with it, dead, drowned. His new life was
with her, alive, divine.
She flapped low the brim of her hat. "You must really not come any
farther," she softly said.
"And will you go, and not tell me who you are?" he asked, growing bold as
the fears of losing her came across him. "And will you not tell me
before you go"--his face burned--"how you came by that--that paper?"
She chose to select the easier question for answer: "You ought to know
me; we have been introduced." Sweet was her winning off-hand affability.
"Then who, in heaven's name, are you? Tell me! I never could have
"You have, I think," she said.
"Impossible that we could ever have met, and I forget you!"
She looked up at him.
"Do you remember Belthorpe?"
"Belthorpe! Belthorpe!" quoth Richard, as if he had to touch his brain
to recollect there was such a place. "Do you mean old Blaize's farm?"
"Then I am old Blaize's niece." She tripped him a soft curtsey.
The magnetized youth gazed at her. By what magic was it that this divine
sweet creature could be allied with that old churl!
"Then what--what is your name?" said his mouth, while his eyes added, "O
wonderful creature! How came you to enrich the earth?"
"Have you forgot the Desboroughs of Dorset, too?" she peered at him from
a side-bend of the flapping brim.
"The Desboroughs of Dorset?" A light broke in on him. "And have you
grown to this? That little girl I saw there!"
He drew close to her to read the nearest features of the vision. She
could no more laugh off the piercing fervour of his eyes. Her volubility
fluttered under his deeply wistful look, and now neither voice was high,
and they were mutually constrained.
"You see," she murmured, "we are old acquaintances."
Richard, with his eyes still intently fixed on her, returned, "You are
The words slipped out. Perfect simplicity is unconsciously audacious.
Her overpowering beauty struck his heart, and, like an instrument that is
touched and answers to the touch, he spoke.
Miss Desborough made an effort to trifle with this terrible directness;
but his eyes would not be gainsaid, and checked her lips. She turned
away from them, her bosom a little rebellious. Praise so passionately
spoken, and by one who has been a damsel's first dream, dreamed of
nightly many long nights, and clothed in the virgin silver of her
thoughts in bud, praise from him is coin the heart cannot reject, if it
would. She quickened her steps.
"I have offended you!" said a mortally wounded voice across her shoulder.
That he should think so were too dreadful.
"Oh no, no! you would never offend me." She gave him her whole sweet
"Then why--why do you leave me?"
"Because," she hesitated, "I must go."
"No. You must not go. Why must you go? Do not go."
"Indeed I must," she said, pulling at the obnoxious broad brim of her
hat; and, interpreting a pause he made for his assent to her rational
resolve, shyly looking at him, she held her hand out, and said, "Good-
bye," as if it were a natural thing to say.
The hand was pure white--white and fragrant as the frosted blossom of a
Maynight. It was the hand whose shadow, cast before, he had last night
bent his head reverentially above, and kissed--resigning himself
thereupon over to execution for payment of the penalty of such daring--by
such bliss well rewarded.
He took the hand, and held it, gazing between her eyes.
"Good-bye," she said again, as frankly as she could, and at the same time
slightly compressing her fingers on his in token of adieu. It was a
signal for his to close firmly upon hers.
"You will not go?"
"Pray, let me," she pleaded, her sweet brows suing in wrinkles.
"You will not go?" Mechanically he drew the white hand nearer his
"I must," she faltered piteously.
"You will not go?"
"Oh yes! yes!"
"Tell me. Do you wish to go?"
The question was a subtle one. A moment or two she did not answer, and
then forswore herself, and said, Yes.
"Do you--you wish to go?" He looked with quivering eyelids under hers.
A fainter Yes responded.
"You wish--wish to leave me?" His breath went with the words.
"Indeed I must."
Her hand became a closer prisoner.
All at once an alarming delicious shudder went through her frame. From
him to her it coursed, and back from her to him. Forward and back love's
electric messenger rushed from heart to heart, knocking at each, till it
surged tumultuously against the bars of its prison, crying out for its
mate. They stood trembling in unison, a lovely couple under these fair
heavens of the morning.
When he could get his voice it said, "Will you go?"
But she had none to reply with, and could only mutely bend upward her
"Then, farewell!" he said, and, dropping his lips to the soft fair hand,
kissed it, and hung his head, swinging away from her, ready for death.
Strange, that now she was released she should linger by him. Strange,
that his audacity, instead of the executioner, brought blushes and timid
tenderness to his side, and the sweet words, "You are not angry with me?"
"With you, O Beloved!" cried his soul. "And you forgive me, fair
"I think it was rude of me to go without thanking you again," she said,
and again proffered her hand.
The sweet heaven-bird shivered out his song above him. The gracious
glory of heaven fell upon his soul. He touched her hand, not moving his
eyes from her, nor speaking, and she, with a soft word of farewell,
passed across the stile, and up the pathway through the dewy shades of
the copse, and out of the arch of the light, away from his eyes.
And away with her went the wild enchantment. He looked on barren air.
But it was no more the world of yesterday. The marvellous splendours had
sown seeds in him, ready to spring up and bloom at her gaze; and in his
bosom now the vivid conjuration of her tones, her face, her shape, makes
them leap and illumine him like fitful summer lightnings ghosts of the
There was nothing to tell him that he had been making love and declaring
it with extraordinary rapidity; nor did he know it. Soft flushed cheeks!
sweet mouth! strange sweet brows! eyes of softest fire! how could his
ripe eyes behold you, and not plead to keep you? Nay, how could he let
you go? And he seriously asked himself that question.
To-morrow this place will have a memory--the river and the meadow, and
the white falling weir: his heart will build a temple here; and the
skylark will be its high-priest, and the old blackbird its glossy-gowned
chorister, and there will be a sacred repast of dewberries. To-day the
grass is grass: his heart is chased by phantoms and finds rest nowhere.
Only when the most tender freshness of his flower comes across him does
he taste a moment's calm; and no sooner does it come than it gives place
to keen pangs of fear that she may not be his for ever.
Erelong he learns that her name is Lucy. Erelong he meets Ralph, and
discovers that in a day he has distanced him by a sphere. He and Ralph
and the curate of Lobourne join in their walks, and raise classical
discussions on ladies' hair, fingering a thousand delicious locks, from
those of Cleopatra to the Borgia's. "Fair! fair! all of them fair!"
sighs the melancholy curate, "as are those women formed for our
perdition! I think we have in this country what will match the Italian
or the Greek." His mind flutters to Mrs. Doria, Richard blushes before
the vision of Lucy, and Ralph, whose heroine's hair is a dark luxuriance,
dissents, and claims a noble share in the slaughter of men for dark-
haired Wonders. They have no mutual confidences, but they are singularly
kind to each other, these three children of instinct.
Lady Blandish, and others who professed an interest in the fortunes and
future of the systematized youth, had occasionally mentioned names of
families whose alliance according to apparent calculations, would not
degrade his blood: and over these names, secretly preserved on an open
leaf of the note-book, Sir Austin, as he neared the metropolis, distantly
dropped his eye. There were names historic and names mushroomic; names
that the Conqueror might have called in his muster-roll; names that had
been, clearly, tossed into the upper stratum of civilized lifer by a
millwheel or a merchant-stool. Against them the baronet had written M.
or Po. or Pr.--signifying, Money, Position, Principles, favouring the
latter with special brackets. The wisdom of a worldly man, which he
could now and then adopt, determined him, before he commenced his round
of visits, to consult and sound his solicitor and his physician
thereanent; lawyers and doctors being the rats who know best the merits
of a house, and on what sort of foundation it may be standing.
Sir Austin entered the great city with a sad mind. The memory of his
misfortune came upon him vividly, as if no years had intervened, and it
were but yesterday that he found the letter telling him that he had no
wife and his son no mother. He wandered on foot through the streets the
first night of his arrival, looking strangely at the shops and shows and
bustle of the world from which he had divorced himself; feeling as
destitute as the poorest vagrant. He had almost forgotten how to find
his way about, and came across his old mansion in his efforts to regain
his hotel. The windows were alight--signs of merry life within. He
stared at it from the shadow of the opposite side. It seemed to him he
was a ghost gazing upon his living past. And then the phantom which had
stood there mocking while he felt as other men--the phantom, now flesh
and blood reality, seized and convulsed his heart, and filled its
unforgiving crevices with bitter ironic venom. He remembered by the time
reflection returned to him that it was Algernon, who had the house at his
disposal, probably giving a card-party, or something of the sort. In the
morning, too, he remembered that he had divorced the world to wed a
System, and must be faithful to that exacting Spouse, who, now alone of
things on earth, could fortify and recompense him.
Mr. Thompson received his client with the dignity and emotion due to such
a rent-roll and the unexpectedness of the honour. He was a thin stately
man of law, garbed as one who gave audience to acred bishops, and
carrying on his countenance the stamp of paternity to the parchment
skins, and of a virtuous attachment to Port wine sufficient to increase
his respectability in the eyes of moral Britain. After congratulating
Sir Austin on the fortunate issue of two or three suits, and being
assured that the baronet's business in town had no concern therewith, Mr.
Thompson ventured to hope that the young heir was all his father could
desire him to be, and heard with satisfaction that he was a pattern to
the youth of the Age.
"A difficult time of life, Sir Austin!" said the old lawyer, shaking his
head. "We must keep our eyes on them--keep awake! The mischief is done
in a minute."
"We must take care to have seen where we planted, and that the root was
sound, or the mischief will do itself in site of, or under the very
spectacles of, supervision," said the baronet.
His legal adviser murmured "Exactly," as if that were his own idea,
adding, "It is my plan with Ripton, who has had the honour of an
introduction to you, and a very pleasant time he spent with my young
friend, whom he does not forget. Ripton follows the Law. He is articled
to me, and will, I trust, succeed me worthily in your confidence. I
bring him into town in the morning; I take him back at night. I think I
may say that I am quite content with him."
"Do you think," said Sir Austin, fixing his brows, "that you can trace
every act of his to its motive?"
The old lawyer bent forward and humbly requested that this might be
"Do you"--Sir Austin held the same searching expression--"do you
establish yourself in a radiating centre of intuition: do you base your
watchfulness on so thorough an acquaintance with his character, so
perfect a knowledge of the instrument, that all its movements--even the
eccentric ones--are anticipated by you, and provided for?"
The explanation was a little too long for the old lawyer to entreat
another repetition. Winking with the painful deprecation of a deaf man,
Mr. Thompson smiled urbanely, coughed conciliatingly, and said he was
afraid he could not affirm that much, though he was happily enabled to
say that Ripton had borne an extremely good character at school.
"I find," Sir Austin remarked, as sardonically he relaxed his inspecting
pose and mien, "there are fathers who are content to be simply obeyed.
Now I require not only that my son should obey; I would have him
guiltless of the impulse to gainsay my wishes--feeling me in him stronger
than his undeveloped nature, up to a certain period, where my
responsibility ends and his commences. Man is a self-acting machine. He
cannot cease to be a machine; but, though self-acting, he may lose the
powers of self-guidance, and in a wrong course his very vitalities hurry
him to perdition. Young, he is an organism ripening to the set mechanic
diurnal round, and while so he needs all the angels to hold watch over
him that he grow straight and healthy, and fit for what machinal duties
he may have to perform"...
Mr. Thompson agitated his eyebrows dreadfully. He was utterly lost. He
respected Sir Austin's estates too much to believe for a moment he was
listening to downright folly. Yet how otherwise explain the fact of his
excellent client being incomprehensible to him? For a middle-aged
gentleman, and one who has been in the habit of advising and managing,
will rarely have a notion of accusing his understanding; and Mr. Thompson
had not the slightest notion of accusing his. But the baronet's
condescension in coming thus to him, and speaking on the subject nearest
his heart, might well affect him, and he quickly settled the case in
favour of both parties, pronouncing mentally that his honoured client had
a meaning, and so deep it was, so subtle, that no wonder he experienced
difficulty in giving it fitly significant words.
Sir Austin elaborated his theory of the Organism and the Mechanism, for
his lawyer's edification. At a recurrence of the word "healthy" Mr.
Thompson caught him up:
"I apprehended you! Oh, I agree with you, Sir Austin! entirely! Allow
me to ring for my son Ripton. I think, if you condescend to examine him,
you will say that regular habits, and a diet of nothing but law-reading--
for other forms of literature I strictly interdict--have made him all
that you instance."
Mr. Thompson's hand was on the bell. Sir Austin arrested him.
"Permit me to see the lad at his occupation," said he.
Our old friend Ripton sat in a room apart with the confidential clerk,
Mr. Beazley, a veteran of law, now little better than a document, looking
already signed and sealed, and shortly to be delivered, who enjoined
nothing from his pupil and companion save absolute silence, and sounded
his praises to his father at the close of days when it had been rigidly
observed--not caring, or considering, the finished dry old document that
he was, under what kind of spell a turbulent commonplace youth could be
charmed into stillness for six hours of the day. Ripton was supposed to
be devoted to the study of Blackstone. A tome of the classic legal
commentator lay extended outside his desk, under the partially lifted lid
of which nestled the assiduous student's head--law being thus brought
into direct contact with his brain-pan. The office-door opened, and he
heard not; his name was called, and he remained equally moveless. His
method of taking in Blackstone seemed absorbing as it was novel.
"Comparing notes, I daresay," whispered Mr. Thompson to Sir Austin. "I
call that study!"
The confidential clerk rose, and bowed obsequious senility.
"Is it like this every day, Beazley?" Mr. Thompson asked with parental
"Ahem!" the old clerk replied, "he is like this every day, sir. I could
not ask more of a mouse."
Sir Austin stepped forward to the desk. His proximity roused one of
Ripton's senses, which blew a pall to the others. Down went the lid of
the desk. Dismay, and the ardours of study, flashed together in Ripton's
face. He slouched from his perch with the air of one who means rather to
defend his position than welcome a superior, the right hand in his
waistcoat pocket fumbling a key, the left catching at his vacant stool.
Sir Austin put two fingers on the youth's shoulder, and said, leaning his
head a little on one side, in a way habitual to him, "I am glad to find
my son's old comrade thus profitably occupied. I know what study is
myself. But beware of prosecuting it too excitedly! Come! you must not
be offended at our interruption; you will soon take up the thread again.
Besides, you know, you must get accustomed to the visits of your client."
So condescending and kindly did this speech sound to Mr. Thompson, that,
seeing Ripton still preserve his appearance of disorder and sneaking
defiance, he thought fit to nod and frown at the youth, and desired him
to inform the baronet what particular part of Blackstone he was absorbed
in mastering at that moment.
Ripton hesitated an instant, and blundered out, with dubious
articulation, "The Law of Gravelkind."
"What Law?" said Sir Austin, perplexed.
"Gravelkind," again rumbled Ripton's voice.
Sir Austin turned to Mr. Thompson for an explanation. The old lawyer was
shaking his law-box.
"Singular!" he exclaimed. "He will make that mistake! What law, sir?"
Ripton read his error in the sternly painful expression of his father's
face, and corrected himself. "Gavelkind, sir."
"Ah!" said Mr. Thompson, with a sigh of relief. "Gravelkind, indeed!
Gavelkind! An old Kentish"--He was going to expound, but Sir Austin
assured him he knew it, and a very absurd law it was, adding, "I should
like to look at your son's notes, or remarks on the judiciousness of that
family arrangement, if he had any."
"You were making notes, or referring to them, as we entered," said Mr.
Thompson to the sucking lawyer; "a very good plan, which I have always
enjoined on you. Were you not?"
Ripton stammered that he was afraid he hid not any notes to show, worth
"What were you doing then, sir?"
"Making notes," muttered Ripton, looking incarnate subterfuge.
Ripton glanced at his desk and then at his father; at Sir Austin, and at
the confidential clerk. He took out his key. It would not fit the hole.
"Exhibit!" was peremptorily called again.
In his praiseworthy efforts to accommodate the keyhole, Ripton discovered
that the desk was already unlocked. Mr. Thompson marched to it, and held
the lid aloft. A book was lying open within, which Ripton immediately
hustled among a mass of papers and tossed into a dark corner, not before
the glimpse of a coloured frontispiece was caught by Sir Austin's eye.
The baronet smiled, and said, "You study Heraldry, too? Are you fond of
Ripton replied that he was very fond of it--extremely attached, and threw
a further pile of papers into the dark corner.
The notes had been less conspicuously placed, and the search for them was
tedious and vain. Papers, not legal, or the fruits of study, were found,
that made Mr. Thompson more intimate with the condition of his son's
exchequer; nothing in the shape of a remark on the Law of Gavelkind.
Mr. Thompson suggested to his son that they might be among those scraps
he had thrown carelessly into the dark corner. Ripton, though he
consented to inspect them, was positive they were not there.
"What have we here?" said Mr. Thompson, seizing a neatly folded paper
addressed to the Editor of a law publication, as Ripton brought them
forth, one by one. Forthwith Mr. Thompson fixed his spectacles and read
"To the Editor of the 'Jurist.'
"Sir,--In your recent observations on the great case of Crim"--
Mr. Thompson hem'd! and stopped short, like a man who comes unexpectedly
upon a snake in his path. Mr. Beazley's feet shuffled. Sir Austin
changed the position of an arm.
"It's on the other side, I think," gasped Ripton.
Mr. Thompson confidently turned over, and intoned with emphasis.
"To Absalom, the son of David, the little Jew usurer of Bond Court,
Whitecross Gutters, for his introduction to Venus, I O U Five pounds,
when I can pay.
"Signed: RIPTON THOMPSON."
Underneath this fictitious legal instrument was discreetly appended:
"(Mem. Document not binding.)"
There was a pause: an awful under-breath of sanctified wonderment and
reproach passed round the office. Sir Austin assumed an attitude. Mr.
Thompson shed a glance of severity on his confidential clerk, who parried
by throwing up his hands.
Ripton, now fairly bewildered, stuffed another paper under his father's
nose, hoping the outside perhaps would satisfy him: it was marked "Legal
Considerations." Mr. Thompson had no idea of sparing or shielding his
son. In fact, like many men whose self-love is wounded by their
offspring, he felt vindictive, and was ready to sacrifice him up to a
certain point, for the good of both. He therefore opened the paper,
expecting something worse than what he had hitherto seen, despite its
formal heading, and he was not disappointed.
The "Legal Considerations" related to the Case regarding, which Ripton
had conceived it imperative upon him to address a letter to the Editor of
the "Jurist," and was indeed a great case, and an ancient; revived
apparently for the special purpose of displaying the forensic abilities
of the Junior Counsel for the Plaintiff, Mr. Ripton Thompson, whose
assistance the Attorney-General, in his opening statement, congratulated
himself on securing; a rather unusual thing, due probably to the eminence
and renown of that youthful gentleman at the Bar of his country. So much
was seen from the copy of a report purporting to be extracted from a
newspaper, and prefixed to the Junior Counsel's remarks, or Legal
Considerations, on the conduct of the Case, the admissibility and non-
admissibility of certain evidence, and the ultimate decision of the
Mr. Thompson, senior, lifted the paper high, with the spirit of one
prepared to do execution on the criminal, and in the voice of a town-
crier, varied by a bitter accentuation and satiric sing-song tone,
"VULCAN v. MARS.
"The Attorney-General, assisted by Mr. Ripton Thompson, appeared on
behalf of the Plaintiff. Mr. Serjeant Cupid, Q.C., and Mr. Capital
Opportunity, for the Defendant."
"Oh!" snapped Mr. Thompson, senior, peering venom at the unfortunate
Ripton over his spectacles, "your notes are on that issue, sir! Thus you
employ your time, sir!"
With another side-shot at the confidential clerk, who retired immediately
behind a strong entrenchment of shrugs, Mr. Thompson was pushed by the
devil of his rancour to continue reading:
"This Case is too well known to require more than a partial summary of
"Ahem! we will skip the particulars, however partial," said Mr. Thompson.
"Ah!--what do you mean here, sir,--but enough! I think we may be excused
your Legal Considerations on such a Case. This is how you employ your
law-studies, sir! You put them to this purpose? Mr. Beazley! you will
henceforward sit alone. I must have this young man under my own eye.
Sir Austin! permit me to apologize to you for subjecting you to a scene
so disagreeable. It was a father's duty not to spare him."
Mr. Thompson wiped his forehead, as Brutes might have done after passing
judgment on the scion of his house.
"These papers," he went on, fluttering Ripton's precious lucubrations in
a waving judicial hand, "I shall retain. The day will come when he will
regard them with shame. And it shall be his penance, his punishment, to
do so! Stop!" he cried, as Ripton was noiselessly shutting his desk,
"have you more of them, sir; of a similar description? Rout them out!
Let us know you at your worst. What have you there--in that corner?"
Ripton was understood to say he devoted that corner to old briefs on
Mr. Thompson thrust his trembling fingers among the old briefs, and
turned over the volume Sir Austin had observed, but without much
remarking it, for his suspicions had not risen to print.
"A Manual of Heraldry?" the baronet politely, and it may be ironically,
inquired, before it could well escape.
"I like it very much," said Ripton, clutching the book in dreadful
"Allow me to see that you have our arms and crest correct." The baronet
proffered a hand for the book.
"A Griffin between two Wheatsheaves," cried Ripton, still clutching it
Mr. Thompson, without any notion of what he was doing, drew the book from
Ripton's hold; whereupon the two seniors laid their grey heads together
over the title-page. It set forth in attractive characters beside a
coloured frontispiece, which embodied the promise displayed there, the
entrancing adventures of Miss Random, a strange young lady.
Had there been a Black Hole within the area of those law regions to
consign Ripton to there and then, or an Iron Rod handy to mortify his
sinful flesh, Mr. Thompson would have used them. As it was, he contented
himself by looking Black Holes and Iron Rods at the detected youth, who
sat on his perch insensible to what might happen next, collapsed.
Mr. Thompson cast the wicked creature down with a "Pah!" He, however,
took her up again, and strode away with her. Sir Austin gave Ripton a
forefinger, and kindly touched his head, saying, "Good-bye, boy! At some
future date Richard will be happy to see you at Raynham."
Undoubtedly this was a great triumph to the System!
The conversation between solicitor and client was resumed.
"Is it possible," quoth Mr. Thompson, the moment he had ushered his
client into his private room, "that you will consent, Sir Austin, to see
him and receive him again?"
"Certainly," the baronet replied. "Why not? This by no means astonishes
me. When there is no longer danger to my son he will be welcome as he
was before. He is a schoolboy. I knew it. I expected it. The results
of your principle, Thompson!"
"One of the very worst books of that abominable class!" exclaimed the old
lawyer, opening at the coloured frontispiece, from which brazen Miss
Random smiled bewitchingly out, as if she had no doubt of captivating
Time and all his veterans on a fair field. "Pah!" he shut her to with
the energy he would have given to the office of publicly slapping her
face; "from this day I diet him on bread and water--rescind his pocket-
money!--How he could have got hold of such a book! How he--! And what
ideas! Concealing them from me as he has done so cunningly! He trifles
with vice! His mind is in a putrid state! I might have believed--I did
believe--I might have gone on believing--my son Ripton to be a moral
young man!" The old lawyer interjected on the delusion of fathers, and
sat down in a lamentable abstraction.
"The lad has come out!" said Sir Austin. "His adoption of the legal form
is amusing. He trifles with vice, true: people newly initiated are as
hardy as its intimates, and a young sinner's amusements will resemble
those of a confirmed debauchee. The satiated, and the insatiate,
appetite alike appeal to extremes. You are astonished at this revelation
of your son's condition. I expected it; though assuredly, believe me,
not this sudden and indisputable proof of it. But I knew that the seed
was in him, and therefore I have not latterly invited him to Raynham.
School, and the corruption there, will bear its fruits sooner or later.
I could advise you, Thompson, what to do with him: it would be my plan."
Mr. Thompson murmured, like a true courtier, that he should esteem it an
honour to be favoured with Sir Austin Feverel's advice: secretly
resolute, like a true Briton, to follow his own.
"Let him, then," continued the baronet, "see vice in its nakedness.
While he has yet some innocence, nauseate him! Vice, taken little by
little, usurps gradually the whole creature. My counsel to you,
Thompson, would be, to drag him through the sinks of town."
Mr. Thompson began to blink again.
"Oh, I shall punish him, Sir Austin! Do not fear me, air. I have no
tenderness for vice."
"That is not what is wanted, Thompson. You mistake me. He should be
dealt with gently. Heavens! do you hope to make him hate vice by making
him a martyr for its sake? You must descend from the pedestal of age to
become his Mentor: cause him to see how certainly and pitilessly vice
itself punishes: accompany him into its haunts"--
"Over town?" broke forth Mr. Thompson.
"Over town," said the baronet.
"And depend upon it," he added, "that, until fathers act thoroughly up to
their duty, we shall see the sights we see in great cities, and hear the
tales we hear in little villages, with death and calamity in our homes,
and a legacy of sorrow and shame to the generations to come. I do aver,"
he exclaimed, becoming excited, "that, if it were not for the duty to my
son, and the hope I cherish in him, I, seeing the accumulation of misery
we are handing down to an innocent posterity--to whom, through our sin,
the fresh breath of life will be foul--I--yes! I would hide my name!
For whither are we tending? What home is pure absolutely? What cannot
our doctors and lawyers tell us?"
Mr. Thompson acquiesced significantly.
"And what is to come of this?" Sir Austin continued. "When the sins of
the fathers are multiplied by the sons, is not perdition the final sum of
things? And is not life, the boon of heaven, growing to be the devil's
game utterly? But for my son, I would hide my name. I would not
bequeath it to be cursed by them that walk above my grave!"
This was indeed a terrible view of existence. Mr. Thompson felt uneasy.
There was a dignity in his client, an impressiveness in his speech, that
silenced remonstrating reason and the cry of long years of comfortable
respectability. Mr. Thompson went to church regularly; paid his rates
and dues without overmuch, or at least more than common, grumbling. On
the surface he was a good citizen, fond of his children, faithful to his
wife, devoutly marching to a fair seat in heaven on a path paved by
something better than a thousand a year. But here was a man sighting him
from below the surface, and though it was an unfair, unaccustomed, not to
say un-English, method of regarding one's fellow-man, Mr. Thompson was
troubled by it. What though his client exaggerated? Facts were at the
bottom of what he said. And he was acute--he had unmasked Ripton! Since
Ripton's exposure he winced at a personal application in the text his
client preached from. Possibly this was the secret source of part of his
anger against that peccant youth.
Mr. Thompson shook his head, and, with dolefully puckered visage and a
pitiable contraction of his shoulders, rose slowly up from his chair.
Apparently he was about to speak, but he straightway turned and went
meditatively to a side-recess in the room, whereof he opened a door, drew
forth a tray and a decanter labelled Port, filled a glass for his client,
deferentially invited him to partake of it; filled another glass for
himself, and drank.
That was his reply.
Sir Austin never took wine before dinner. Thompson had looked as if he
meant to speak: he waited for Thompson's words.
Mr. Thompson saw that, as his client did not join him in his glass, the
eloquence of that Porty reply was lost on his client.
Having slowly ingurgitated and meditated upon this precious draught, and
turned its flavour over and over with an aspect of potent Judicial wisdom
(one might have thought that he was weighing mankind m the balance), the
old lawyer heaved, and said, sharpening his lips over the admirable
vintage, "The world is in a very sad state, I fear, Sir Austin!"
His client gazed at him queerly.
"But that," Mr. Thompson added immediately, ill-concealing by his gaze
the glowing intestinal congratulations going on within him, "that is, I
think you would say, Sir Austin--if I could but prevail upon you--a
tolerably good character wine!"
"There's virtue somewhere, I see, Thompson!" Sir Austin murmured, without
disturbing his legal adviser's dimples.
The old lawyer sat down to finish his glass, saying, that such a wine was
not to be had everywhere.
They were then outwardly silent for a apace. Inwardly one of them was
full of riot and jubilant uproar: as if the solemn fields of law were
suddenly to be invaded and possessed by troops of Bacchanals: and to
preserve a decently wretched physiognomy over it, and keep on terms with
his companion, he had to grimace like a melancholy clown in a pantomime.
Mr. Thompson brushed back his hair. The baronet was still expectant.
Mr. Thompson sighed deeply, and emptied his glass. He combated the
change that had come over him. He tried not to see Ruby. He tried to
feel miserable, and it was not in him. He spoke, drawing what
appropriate inspirations he could from his client's countenance, to show
that they had views in common: "Degenerating sadly, I fear!"
The baronet nodded.
"According to what my wine-merchants say," continued Mr. Thompson, "there
can be no doubt about it."
Sir Austin stared.
"It's the grape, or the ground, or something," Mr. Thompson went on.
"All I can say is, our youngsters will have a bad look-out! In my
opinion Government should be compelled to send out a Commission to
inquire into the cause. To Englishmen it would be a public calamity. It
surprises me--I hear men sit and talk despondently of this extraordinary
disease of the vine, and not one of them seems to think it incumbent on
him to act, and do his best to stop it." He fronted his client like a
man who accuses an enormous public delinquency. "Nobody makes a stir!
The apathy of Englishmen will become proverbial. Pray, try it, Sir
Austin! Pray, allow me. Such a wine cannot disagree at any hour. Do!
I am allowanced two glasses three hours before dinner. Stomachic. I
find it agree with me surprisingly: quite a new man. I suppose it will
last our time. It must! What should we do? There's no Law possible
without it. Not a lawyer of us could live. Ours is an occupation which
dries the blood."
The scene with Ripton had unnerved him, the wine had renovated, and
gratitude to the wine inspired his tongue. He thought that his client,
of the whimsical mind, though undoubtedly correct moral views, had need
of a glass.
"Now that very wine--Sir Austin--I think I do not err in saying, that
very wine your respected father, Sir Pylcher Feverel, used to taste
whenever he came to consult my father, when I was a boy. And I remember
one day being called in, and Sir Pylcher himself poured me out a glass.
I wish I could call in Ripton now, and do the same. No! Leniency in such
a case as that!--The wine would not hurt him--I doubt if there be much
left for him to welcome his guests with. Ha! ha! Now if I could
persuade you, Sir Austin, as you do not take wine before dinner, some day
to favour me with your company at my little country cottage I have a wine
there--the fellow to that--I think you would, I do think you would"--Mr.
Thompson meant to say, he thought his client would arrive at something of
a similar jocund contemplation of his fellows in their degeneracy that
inspirited lawyers after potation, but condensed the sensual promise into
Sir Austin speculated on his legal adviser with a sour mouth comically
It stood clear to him that Thompson before his Port, and Thompson after,
were two different men. To indoctrinate him now was too late: it was
perhaps the time to make the positive use of him he wanted.
He pencilled on a handy slip of paper: "Two prongs of a fork; the World
stuck between them--Port and the Palate: 'Tis one which fails first--Down
goes World;" and again the hieroglyph--"Port-spectacles." He said, "I
shall gladly accompany you this evening, Thompson," words that
transfigured the delighted lawyer, and ensigned the skeleton of a great
Aphorism to his pocket, there to gather flesh and form, with numberless
others in a like condition.
"I came to visit my lawyer," he said to himself. "I think I have been
dealing with The World in epitome!"
The rumour circulated that Sir Austin Feverel, the recluse of Raynham,
the rank misogynist, the rich baronet, was in town, looking out a bride
for his only son and uncorrupted heir. Doctor Benjamin Bairam was the
excellent authority. Doctor Bairam had safely delivered Mrs. Deborah
Gossip of this interesting bantling, which was forthwith dandled in
dozens of feminine laps. Doctor Bairam could boast the first interview
with the famous recluse. He had it from his own lips that the object of
the baronet was to look out a bride for his only son and uncorrupted
heir; "and," added the doctor, "she'll be lucky who gets him." Which was
interpreted to mean, that he would be a catch; the doctor probably
intending to allude to certain extraordinary difficulties in the way of a
A demand was made on the publisher of The Pilgrim's Scrip for all his
outstanding copies. Conventionalities were defied. A summer-shower of
cards fell on the baronet's table.
He had few male friends. He shunned the Clubs as nests of scandal. The
cards he contemplated were mostly those of the sex, with the husband, if
there was a husband, evidently dragged in for propriety's sake. He
perused the cards and smiled. He knew their purpose. What terrible
light Thompson and Bairam had thrown on some of them! Heavens! in what a
state was the blood of this Empire.
Before commencing his campaign he called on two ancient intimates, Lord
Heddon, and his distant cousin Darley Absworthy, both Members of
Parliament, useful men, though gouty, who had sown in their time a fine
crop of wild oats, and advocated the advantage of doing so, seeing that
they did not fancy themselves the worse for it. He found one with an
imbecile son and the other with consumptive daughters. "So much," he
wrote in the Note-book, "for the Wild Oats theory!"
Darley was proud of his daughters' white and pink skins. "Beautiful
complexions," he called them. The eldest was in the market, immensely
admired. Sir Austin was introduced to her. She talked fluently and
sweetly. A youth not on his guard, a simple school-boy youth, or even a
man, might have fallen in love with her, she was so affable and fair.
There was something poetic about her. And she was quite well, she said,
the baronet frequently questioning her on that point. She intimated that
she was robust; but towards the close of their conversation her hand
would now and then travel to her side, and she breathed painfully an
instant, saying, "Isn't it odd? Dora, Adela, and myself, we all feel the
same queer sensation--about the heart, I think it is--after talking
Sir Austin nodded and blinked sadly, exclaiming to his soul, "Wild oats!
He did not ask permission to see Dora and Adela.
Lord Heddon vehemently preached wild oats.
"It's all nonsense, Feverel," he said, "about bringing up a lad out of
the common way. He's all the better for a little racketing when he's
green--feels his bone and muscle learns to know the world. He'll never
be a man if he hasn't played at the old game one time in his life, and
the earlier the better. I've always found the best fellows were wildish
once. I don't care what he does when he's a green-horn; besides, he's
got an excuse for it then. You can't expect to have a man, if he doesn't
take a man's food. You'll have a milksop. And, depend upon it, when he
does break out he'll go to the devil, and nobody pities him. Look what
those fellows the grocers, do when they get hold of a young--what d'ye
call 'em?--apprentice. They know the scoundrel was born with a sweet
tooth. Well! they give him the run of the shop, and in a very short time
he soberly deals out the goods, a devilish deal too wise to abstract a
morsel even for the pleasure of stealing. I know you have contrary
theories. You hold that the young grocer should have a soul above sugar.
It won't do! Take my word for it, Feverel, it's a dangerous experiment,
that of bringing up flesh and blood in harness. No colt will bear it, or
he's a tame beast. And look you: take it on medical grounds. Early
excesses the frame will recover from: late ones break the constitution.
There's the case in a nutshell. How's your son?"
"Sound and well!" replied Sir Austin. "And yours?"
"Oh, Lipscombe's always the same!" Lord Heddon sighed peevishly. "He's
quiet--that's one good thing; but there's no getting the country to take
him, so I must give up hopes of that."
Lord Lipscombe entering the room just then, Sir Austin surveyed him, and
was not astonished at the refusal of the country to take him.
"Wild oats!" he thought, as he contemplated the headless, degenerate,
weedy issue and result.
Both Darley Absworthy and Lord Heddon spoke of the marriage of their
offspring as a matter of course. "And if I were not a coward," Sir
Austin confessed to himself, "I should stand forth and forbid the banns!
This universal ignorance of the inevitable consequence of sin is
frightful! The wild oats plea is a torpedo that seems to have struck the
world, and rendered it morally insensible." However, they silenced him.
He was obliged to spare their feelings on a subject to him so deeply
sacred. The healthful image of his noble boy rose before him, a
triumphant living rejoinder to any hostile argument.
He was content to remark to his doctor, that he thought the third
generation of wild oats would be a pretty thin crop!
Families against whom neither Thompson lawyer nor Bairam physician could
recollect a progenitorial blot, either on the male or female side, were
not numerous. "Only," said the doctors "you really must not be too
exacting in these days, my dear Sir Austin. It is impossible to contest
your principle, and you are doing mankind incalculable service in calling
its attention to this the gravest of its duties: but as the stream of
civilization progresses we must be a little taken in the lump, as it
were. The world is, I can assure you--and I do not look only above the
surface, you can believe--the world is awakening to the vital importance
of the question."
"Doctor," replied Sir Austin, "if you had a pure-blood Arab barb would
you cross him with a screw?"
"Decidedly not," said the doctor.
"Then permit me to say, I shall employ every care to match my son
according to his merits," Sir Austin returned. "I trust the world is
awakening, as you observe. I have been to my publisher, since my arrival
in town, with a manuscript 'Proposal for a New System of Education of our
British Youth,' which may come in opportunely. I think I am entitled to
speak on that subject."
"Certainly," said the doctor. "You will admit, Sir Austin, that,
compared with continental nations--our neighbours, for instance--we shine
to advantage, in morals, as in everything else. I hope you admit that?"
"I find no consolation in shining by comparison with a lower standard,"
said the baronet. "If I compare the enlightenment of your views--for you
admit my principle--with the obstinate incredulity of a country doctor's,
who sees nothing of the world, you are hardly flattered, I presume?"
Doctor Bairam would hardly be flattered at such a comparison, assuredly,
"Besides," added the baronet, "the French make no pretences, and thereby
escape one of the main penalties of hypocrisy. Whereas we!--but I am not
their advocate, credit me. It is better, perhaps, to pay our homage to
virtue. At least it delays the spread of entire corruptness."
Doctor Bairam wished the baronet success, and diligently endeavoured to
assist his search for a mate worthy of the pure-blood barb, by putting
several mamas, whom he visited, on the alert.
Away with Systems! Away with a corrupt World! Let us breathe the air of
the Enchanted Island.
Golden lie the meadows: golden run the streams; red gold is on the pine-
stems. The sun is coming down to earth, and walks the fields and the
The sun is coming down to earth, and the fields and the waters shout to
him golden shouts. He comes, and his heralds run before him, and touch
the leaves of oaks and planes and beeches lucid green, and the pine-stems
redder gold; leaving brightest footprints upon thickly-weeded banks,
where the foxglove's last upper-bells incline, and bramble-shoots wander
amid moist rich herbage. The plumes of the woodland are alight; and
beyond them, over the open, 'tis a race with the long-thrown shadows; a
race across the heaths and up the hills, till, at the farthest bourne of
mounted eastern cloud, the heralds of the sun lay rosy fingers and rest.
Sweet are the shy recesses of the woodland. The ray treads softly there.
A film athwart the pathway quivers many-hued against purple shade
fragrant with warm pines, deep moss-beds, feathery ferns. The little
brown squirrel drops tail, and leaps; the inmost bird is startled to a
chance tuneless note. From silence into silence things move.
Peeps of the revelling splendour above and around enliven the conscious
full heart within. The flaming West, the crimson heights, shower their
glories through voluminous leafage. But these are bowers where deep
bliss dwells, imperial joy, that owes no fealty to yonder glories, in
which the young lamb gambols and the spirits of men are glad. Descend,
great Radiance! embrace creation with beneficent fire, and pass from us!
You and the vice-regal light that succeeds to you, and all heavenly
pageants, are the ministers and the slaves of the throbbing content
For this is the home of the enchantment. Here, secluded from vexed
shores, the prince and princess of the island meet: here like darkling
nightingales they sit, and into eyes and ears and hands pour endless
ever-fresh treasures of their souls.
Roll on, grinding wheels of the world: cries of ships going down in a
calm, groans of a System which will not know its rightful hour of
exultation, complain to the universe. You are not heard here.
He calls her by her name, Lucy: and she, blushing at her great boldness,
has called him by his, Richard. Those two names are the key-notes of the
wonderful harmonies the angels sing aloft.
"Lucy! my beloved!"
Out in the world there, on the skirts of the woodland, a sheep-boy pipes
to meditative eve on a penny-whistle.
Love's musical instrument is as old, and as poor: it has but two stops;
and yet, you see, the cunning musician does thus much with it!
Other speech they have little; light foam playing upon waves of feeling,
and of feeling compact, that bursts only when the sweeping volume is too
wild, and is no more than their sigh of tenderness spoken.
Perhaps love played his tune so well because their natures had unblunted
edges, and were keen for bliss, confiding in it as natural food. To
gentlemen and ladies he fine-draws upon the viol, ravishingly; or blows
into the mellow bassoon; or rouses the heroic ardours of the trumpet; or,
it may be, commands the whole Orchestra for them. And they are pleased.
He is still the cunning musician. They languish, and taste ecstasy: but
it is, however sonorous, an earthly concert. For them the spheres move
not to two notes. They have lost, or forfeited and never known, the
first super-sensual spring of the ripe senses into passion; when they
carry the soul with them, and have the privileges of spirits to walk
disembodied, boundlessly to feel. Or one has it, and the other is a dead
body. Ambrosia let them eat, and drink the nectar: here sit a couple to
whom Love's simple bread and water is a finer feast.
Pipe, happy sheep-bop, Love! Irradiated angels, unfold your wings and
lift your voices!
They have out-flown philosophy. Their instinct has shot beyond the ken
of science. They were made for their Eden.
"And this divine gift was in store for me!"
So runs the internal outcry of each, clasping each: it is their recurring
refrain to the harmonies. How it illumined the years gone by and
suffused the living Future!
"You for me: I for you!"
"We are born for each other!"
They believe that the angels have been busy about them from their
cradles. The celestial hosts have worthily striven to bring them
together. And, O victory! O wonder! after toil and pain, and
difficulties exceeding, the celestial hosts have succeeded!
"Here we two sit who are written above as one!"
Pipe, happy Love! pipe on to these dear innocents!
The tide of colour has ebbed from the upper sky. In the West the sea of
sunken fire draws back; and the stars leap forth, and tremble, and retire
before the advancing moon, who slips the silver train of cloud from her
shoulders, and, with her foot upon the pine-tops, surveys heaven.
"Lucy, did you never dream of meeting me?"
"O Richard! yes; for I remembered you."
"Lucy! and did you pray that we might meet?"
Young as when she looked upon the lovers in Paradise, the fair Immortal
journeys onward. Fronting her, it is not night but veiled day. Full
half the sky is flushed. Not darkness, not day, but the nuptials of the
"My own! my own for ever! You are pledged to me? Whisper!"
He hears the delicious music.
"And you are mine?"
A soft beam travels to the fern-covert under the pinewood where they sit,
and for answer he has her eyes turned to him an instant, timidly
fluttering over the depths of his, and then downcast; for through her
eyes her soul is naked to him.
"Lucy! my bride! my life!"
The night-jar spins his dark monotony on the branch of the pine. The
soft beam travels round them, and listens to their hearts. Their lips
Pipe no more, Love, for a time! Pipe as you will you cannot express
their first kiss; nothing of its sweetness, and of the sacredness of it
nothing. St. Cecilia up aloft, before the silver organ-pipes of
Paradise, pressing fingers upon all the notes of which Love is but one,
from her you may hear it.
So Love is silent. Out in the world there, on the skirts of the
woodland, the self-satisfied sheep-boy delivers a last complacent squint
down the length of his penny-whistle, and, with a flourish
correspondingly awry, he also marches into silence, hailed by supper.
The woods are still. There is heard but the night-jar spinning on the
pine-branch, circled by moonlight.
Enchanted Islands have not yet rooted out their old brood of dragons.
Wherever there is romance, these monsters come by inimical attraction.
Because the heavens are certainly propitious to true lovers, the beasts
of the abysses are banded to destroy them, stimulated by innumerable sad
victories; and every love-tale is an Epic Par of the upper and lower
powers. I wish good fairies were a little more active. They seem to be
cajoled into security by the happiness of their favourites; whereas the
wicked are always alert, and circumspect. They let the little ones shut
their eyes to fancy they are not seen, and then commence.
These appointments and meetings, involving a start from the dinner-table
at the hour of contemplative digestion and prime claret; the hour when
the wise youth Adrian delighted to talk at his ease--to recline in dreamy
consciousness that a work of good was going on inside him; these
abstractions from his studies, excesses of gaiety, and glumness, heavings
of the chest, and other odd signs, but mainly the disgusting behaviour of
his pupil at the dinner-table, taught Adrian to understand, though the
young gentleman was clever in excuses, that he had somehow learnt there
was another half to the divided Apple of Creation, and had embarked upon
the great voyage of discovery of the difference between the two halves.
With his usual coolness Adrian debated whether he might be in the
observatory or the practical stage of the voyage. For himself, as a man
and a philosopher, Adrian had no objection to its being either; and he
had only to consider which was temporarily most threatening to the
ridiculous System he had to support. Richard's absence annoyed him. The
youth was vivacious, and his enthusiasm good fun; and besides, when he
left table, Adrian had to sit alone with Hippias and the Eighteenth
Century, from both of whom he had extracted all the amusement that could
be got, and he saw his digestion menaced by the society of two ruined
stomachs, who bored him just when he loved himself most. Poor Hippias
was now so reduced that he had profoundly to calculate whether a
particular dish, or an extra-glass of wine, would have a bitter effect on
him and be felt through the remainder of his years. He was in the habit
of uttering his calculations half aloud, wherein the prophetic doubts of
experience, and the succulent insinuations of appetite, contended hotly.
It was horrible to hear him, so let us pardon Adrian for tempting him to
a decision in favour of the moment.
"Happy to take wine with you," Adrian would say, and Hippias would regard
the decanter with a pained forehead, and put up the doctor.
"Drink, nephew Hippy, and think of the doctor to-morrow!" the Eighteenth
Century cheerily ruffles her cap at him, and recommends her own practice.
"It's this literary work!" interjects Hippias, handling his glass of
remorse. "I don't know what else it can be. You have no idea how
anxious I feel. I have frightful dreams. I'm perpetually anxious."
"No wonder," says Adrian, who enjoys the childish simplicity to which an
absorbed study of his sensational existence has brought poor Hippias.
"No wonder. Ten years of Fairy Mythology! Could anyone hope to sleep in
peace after that? As to your digestion, no one has a digestion who is in
the doctor's hands. They prescribe from dogmas, and don't count on the
system. They have cut you down from two bottles to two glasses. It's
absurd. You can't sleep, because your system is crying out for what it's
Hippias sips his Madeira with a niggerdly confidence, but assures Adrian
that he really should not like to venture on a bottle now: it would be
rank madness to venture on a bottle now, he thinks. Last night only,
after partaking, under protest, of that rich French dish, or was it the
duck?--Adrian advised him to throw the blame on that vulgar bird.--Say
the duck, then. Last night, he was no sooner stretched in bed, than he
seemed to be of an enormous size all his limbs--his nose, his mouth, his
toes--were elephantine! An elephant was a pigmy to him. And his
hugeousness seemed to increase the instant he shut his eyes. He turned
on this side; he turned on that. He lay on his back; he tried putting
his face to the pillow; and he continued to swell. He wondered the room
could hold him--he thought he must burst it--and absolutely lit a candle,
and went to the looking-glass to see whether he was bearable.
By this time Adrian and Richard were laughing uncontrollably. He had,
however, a genial auditor in the Eighteenth Century, who declared it to
be a new disease, not known in her day, and deserving investigation. She
was happy to compare sensations with him, but hers were not of the
complex order, and a potion soon righted her. In fact, her system
appeared to be a debatable ground for aliment and medicine, on which the
battle was fought, and, when over, she was none the worse, as she
joyfully told Hippias. Never looked ploughman on prince, or village
belle on Court Beauty, with half the envy poor nineteenth-century Hippias
expended in his gaze on the Eighteenth. He was too serious to note much
the laughter of the young men.
This 'Tragedy of a Cooking-Apparatus,' as Adrian designated the malady of
Hippias, was repeated regularly ever evening. It was natural for any
youth to escape as quick as he could from such a table of stomachs.
Adrian bore with his conduct considerately, until a letter from the
baronet, describing the house and maternal System of a Mrs. Caroline
Grandison, and the rough grain of hopefulness in her youngest daughter,
spurred him to think of his duties, and see what was going on. He gave
Richard half-an-hour's start, and then put on his hat to follow his own
keen scent, leaving Hippias and the Eighteenth Century to piquet.
In the lane near Belthorpe he met a maid of the farm not unknown to him,
one Molly Davenport by name, a buxom lass, who, on seeing him, invoked
her Good Gracious, the generic maid's familiar, and was instructed by
reminiscences vivid, if ancient, to giggle.
"Are you looking for your young gentleman?" Molly presently asked.
Adrian glanced about the lane like a cool brigand, to see if the coast
was clear, and replied to her, "I am, miss. I want you to tell me about
"Dear!" said the buxom lass, "was you coming for me to-night to know?"
Adrian rebuked her: for her bad grammar, apparently.
"'Cause I can't stop out long to-night," Molly explained, taking the
rebuke to refer altogether to her bad grammar.
"You may go in when you please, miss. Is that any one coming? Come here
in the shade."
"Now, get along!" said Miss Molly.
Adrian spoke with resolution. "Listen to me, Molly Davenport!" He put a
coin in her hand, which had a medical effect in calming her to attention.
"I want to know whether you have seen him at all?"
"Who? Your young gentleman? I sh'd think I did. I seen him to-night
only. Ain't he grooved handsome. He's al'ays about Beltharp now. It
ain't to fire no more ricks. He's afire 'unself. Ain't you seen 'em
together? He's after the missis"--
Adrian requested Miss Davenport to be respectful, and confine herself to
particulars. This buxom lass then told him that her young missis and
Adrian's young gentleman were a pretty couple, and met one another every
night. The girl swore for their innocence.
"As for Miss Lucy, she haven't a bit of art in her, nor have he."
"They're all nature, I suppose," said Adrian. "How is it I don't see her
"She's Catholic, or some think," said Molly. "Her father was, and a
leftenant. She've a Cross in her bedroom. She don't go to church. I
see you there last Sunday a-lookin' so solemn," and Molly stroked her
hand down her chin to give it length.
Adrian insisted on her keeping to facts. It was dark, and in the dark he
was indifferent to the striking contrasts suggested by the lass, but he
wanted to hear facts, and he again bribed her to impart nothing but
facts. Upon which she told him further, that her young lady was an
innocent artless creature who had been to school upwards of three years
with the nuns, and had a little money of her own, and was beautiful
enough to be a lord's lady, and had been in love with Master Richard ever
since she was a little girl. Molly had got from a friend of hers up at
the Abbey, Mary Garner, the housemaid who cleaned Master Richard's room,
a bit of paper once with the young gentleman's handwriting, and had given
it to her Miss Lucy, and Miss Lucy had given her a gold sovereign for it-
-just for his handwriting! Miss Lucy did not seem happy at the farm,
because of that young Tom, who was always leering at her, and to be sure
she was quite a lady, and could play, and sing, and dress with the best.
"She looks like angels in her nightgown!" Molly wound up.
The next moment she ran up close, and speaking for the first time as if
there were a distinction of position between them, petitioned: "Mr.
Harley! you won't go for doin' any harm to 'em 'cause of what I said,
will you now? Do say you won't now, Mr. Harley! She is good, though
she's a Catholic. She was kind to me when I was ill, and I wouldn't have
her crossed--I'd rather be showed up myself, I would!"
The wise youth gave no positive promise to Molly, and she had to read his
consent in a relaxation of his austerity. The noise of a lumbering foot
plodding down the lane caused her to be abruptly dismissed. Molly took
to flight, the lumbering foot accelerated its pace, and the pastoral
appeal to her flying skirts was heard--"Moll! you theyre! It be I--
Bantam!" But the sprightly Silvia would not stop to his wooing, and
Adrian turned away laughing at these Arcadians.
Adrian was a lazy dragon. All he did for the present was to hint and
tease. "It's the Inevitable!" he said, and asked himself why he should
seek to arrest it. He had no faith in the System. Heavy Benson had.
Benson of the slow thick-lidded antediluvian eye and loose-crumpled skin;
Benson, the Saurian, the woman-hater; Benson was wide awake. A sort of
rivalry existed between the wise youth and heavy Benson. The fidelity of
the latter dependant had moved the baronet to commit to him a portion of
the management of the Raynham estate, and this Adrian did not like. No
one who aspires to the honourable office of leading another by the nose
can tolerate a party in his ambition. Benson's surly instinct told him
he was in the wise youth's way, and he resolved to give his master a
striking proof of his superior faithfulness. For some weeks the Saurian
eye had been on the two secret creatures. Heavy Benson saw letters come
and go in the day, and now the young gentleman was off and out every
night, and seemed to be on wings. Benson knew whither he went, and the
object he went for. It was a woman--that was enough. The Saurian eye
had actually seen the sinful thing lure the hope of Raynham into the
shades. He composed several epistles of warning to the baronet of the
work that was going on; but before sending one he wished to record a
little of their guilty conversation; and for this purpose the faithful
fellow trotted over the dews to eavesdrop, and thereby aroused the good
fairy, in the person of Tom Bakewell, the sole confidant of Richard's
Tom said to his young master, "Do you know what, sir? You be watched!"
Richard, in a fury, bade him name the wretch, and Tom hung his arms, and
aped the respectable protrusion of the butler's head.
"It's he, is it?" cried Richard. "He shall rue it, Tom. If I find him
near me when we're together he shall never forget it."
"Don't hit too hard, sir," Tom suggested. "You hit mortal hard when
you're in earnest, you know."
Richard averred he would forgive anything but that, and told Tom to be
within hail to-morrow night--he knew where. By the hour of the
appointment it was out of the lover's mind.
Lady Blandish dined that evening at Raynham, by Adrian's pointed
invitation. According to custom, Richard started up and off, with few
excuses. The lady exhibited no surprise. She and Adrian likewise
strolled forth to enjoy the air of the Summer night. They had no
intention of spying. Still they may have thought, by meeting Richard and
his inamorata, there was a chance of laying a foundation of ridicule to
sap the passion. They may have thought so--they were on no spoken
"I have seen the little girl," said Lady Blandish. "She is pretty--she
would be telling if she were well set up. She speaks well. How absurd
it is of that class to educate their women above their station! The
child is really too good for a farmer. I noticed her before I knew of
this; she has enviable hair. I suppose she doesn't paint her eyelids.
Just the sort of person to take a young man. I thought there was
something wrong. I received, the day before yesterday, an impassioned
poem evidently not intended for me. My hair was gold. My meeting him
was foretold. My eyes were homes of light fringed with night. I sent it
back, correcting the colours."
"Which was death to the rhymes," said Adrian. "I saw her this morning.
The boy hasn't bad taste. As you say, she is too good for a farmer.
Such a spark would explode any System. She slightly affected mine. The
Huron is stark mad about her."
"But we must positively write and tell his father," said Lady Blandish.
The wise youth did not see why they should exaggerate a trifle. The lady
said she would have an interview with Richard, and then write, as it was
her duty to do. Adrian shrugged, and was for going into the scientific
explanation of Richard's conduct, in which the lady had to discourage
"Poor boy!" she sighed. "I am really sorry for him. I hope he will not
feel it too strongly. They feel strongly, father and son."
"And select wisely," Adrian added.
"That's another thing," said Lady Blandish.
Their talk was then of the dulness of neighbouring county people, about
whom, it seemed, there was little or no scandal afloat: of the lady's
loss of the season in town, which she professed not to regret, though she
complained of her general weariness: of whether Mr. Morton of Poer Hall
would propose to Mrs. Doria, and of the probable despair of the hapless
curate of Lobourne; and other gossip, partly in French.
They rounded the lake, and got upon the road through the park to
Lobourne. The moon had risen. The atmosphere was warm and pleasant.
"Quite a lover's night," said Lady Blandish.
"And I, who have none to love pity me!" The wise youth attempted a sigh.
"And never will have," said Lady Blandish, curtly. "You buy your loves."
Adrian protested. However, he did not plead verbally against the
impeachment, though the lady's decisive insight astonished him. He began
to respect her, relishing her exquisite contempt, and he reflected that
widows could be terrible creatures.
He had hoped to be a little sentimental with Lady Blandish, knowing her
romantic. This mixture of the harshest common sense and an air of "I
know you men," with romance and refined temperament, subdued the wise
youth more than a positive accusation supported by witnesses would have
done. He looked at the lady. Her face was raised to the moon. She knew
nothing--she had simply spoken from the fulness of her human knowledge,
and had forgotten her words. Perhaps, after all, her admiration, or
whatever feeling it was, for the baronet, was sincere, and really the
longing for a virtuous man. Perhaps she had tried the opposite set
pretty much. Adrian shrugged. Whenever the wise youth encountered a
mental difficulty he instinctively lifted his shoulders to equal
altitudes, to show that he had no doubt there was a balance in the case--
plenty to be said on both sides, which was the same to him as a definite
At their tryst in the wood, abutting on Raynham Park, wrapped in
themselves, piped to by tireless Love, Richard and Lucy sat, toying with
eternal moments. How they seem as if they would never end! What mere
sparks they are when they have died out! And how in the distance of time
they revive, and extend, and glow, and make us think them full the half,
and the best of the fire, of our lives!
With the onward flow of intimacy, the two happy lovers ceased to be so
shy of common themes, and their speech did not reject all as dross that
was not pure gold of emotion.
Lucy was very inquisitive about everything and everybody at Raynham.
Whoever had been about Richard since his birth, she must know the history
of, and he for a kiss will do her bidding.
Thus goes the tender duet:
"You should know my cousin Austin, Lucy.--Darling! Beloved!"
"My own! Richard!"
"You should know my cousin Austin. You shall know him. He would take to
you best of them all, and you to him. He is in the tropics now, looking
out a place--it's a secret--for poor English working-men to emigrate to
and found a colony in that part of the world:--my white angel!"
"He is such a noble fellow! Nobody here understands him but me. Isn't
it strange? Since I met you I love him better! That's because I love
all that's good and noble better now--Beautiful! I love--I love you!"
"What do you think I've determined, Lucy? If my father--but no! my
father does love me.--No! he will not; and we will be happy together
here. And I will win my way with you. And whatever I win will be yours;
for it will be owing to you. I feel as if I had no strength but yours--
none! and you make me--O Lucy!"
His voice ebbs. Presently Lucy murmurs--
"Your father, Richard."
"Yes, my father?"
"Dearest Richard! I feel so afraid of him."
"He loves me, and will love you, Lucy."
"But I am so poor and humble, Richard."
"No one I have ever seen is like you, Lucy."
"You think so, because you"--
"Love me," comes the blushing whisper, and the duet gives place to dumb
variations, performed equally in concert.
It is resumed.
"You are fond of the knights, Lucy. Austin is as brave as any of them.--
My own bride! Oh, how I adore you! When you are gone, I could fall upon
the grass you tread upon, and kiss it. My breast feels empty of my
heart--Lucy! if we lived in those days, I should have been a knight, and
have won honour and glory for you. Oh! one can do nothing now. My lady-
love! My lady-love!--A tear?--Lucy?"
"Dearest! Ah, Richard! I am not a lady."
"Who dares say that? Not a lady--the angel I love!"
"Think, Richard, who I am."
"My beautiful! I think that God made you, and has given you to me."
Her eyes fill with tears, and, as she lifts them heavenward to thank her
God, the light of heaven strikes on them, and she is so radiant in her
pure beauty that the limbs of the young man tremble.
"Lucy! O heavenly spirit! Lucy!"
Tenderly her lips part--"I do not weep for sorrow,"
The big bright drops lighten, and roll down, imaged in his soul.
They lean together--shadows of ineffable tenderness playing on their
thrilled cheeks and brows.
He lifts her hand, and presses his mouth to it. She has seen little of
mankind, but her soul tells her this one is different from others, and at
the thought, in her great joy, tears must come fast, or her heart will
break--tears of boundless thanksgiving. And he, gazing on those soft,
ray-illumined, dark-edged eyes, and the grace of her loose falling
tresses, feels a scarce-sufferable holy fire streaming through his
It is long ere they speak in open tones.
"O happy day when we met!"
What says the voice of one, the soul of the other echoes.
"O glorious heaven looking down on us!"
Their souls are joined, are made one for evermore beneath that bending
"O eternity of bliss!"
Then the diviner mood passes, and they drop to earth.
"Lucy! come with me to-night, and look at the place where you are some
day to live. Come, and I will row you on the lake. You remember what
you said in your letter that you dreamt?--that we were floating over the
shadow of the Abbey to the nuns at work by torchlight felling the
cypress, and they handed us each a sprig. Why, darling, it was the best
omen in the world, their felling the old trees. And you write such
lovely letters. So pure and sweet they are. I love the nuns for having
"Ah, Richard! See! we forget! Ah!" she lifts up her face pleadingly, as
to plead against herself, "even if your father forgives my birth, he will
not my religion. And, dearest, though I would die for you I cannot
change it. It would seem that I was denying God; and--oh! it would make
me ashamed of my love."
"Fear nothing!" He winds her about with his arm. "Come! He will love
us both, and love you the more for being faithful to your father's creed.
You don't know him, Lucy. He seems harsh and stern--he is full of
kindness and love. He isn't at all a bigot. And besides, when he hears
what the nuns have done for you, won't he thank them, as I do? And--oh!
I must speak to him soon, and you must be prepared to see him soon, for I
cannot bear your remaining at Belthorpe, like a jewel in a sty. Mind!
I'm not saying a word against your uncle. I declare I love everybody and
everything that sees you and touches you. Stay! it is a wonder how you
could have grown there. But you were not born there, and your father had
good blood. Desborough!--here was a Colonel Desborough--never mind!
She dreads to. She begs not to. She is drawn away.
The woods are silent, and then--
"What think you of that for a pretty pastoral?" says a very different
Adrian reclined against a pine overlooking the fern-covert. Lady
Blandish was recumbent upon the brown pine-droppings, gazing through a
vista of the lower greenwood which opened out upon the moon-lighted
valley, her hands clasped round one knee, her features almost stern in
their set hard expression.
They had heard, by involuntarily overhearing about as much as may be
heard in such positions, a luminous word or two.
The lady did not answer. A movement among the ferns attracted Adrian,
and he stepped down the decline across the pine-roots to behold heavy
Benson below; shaking fern-seed and spidery substances off his crumpled
"Is that you, Mr. Hadrian?" called Benson, starting, as he puffed, and
exercised his handkerchief.
"Is it you, Benson, who have had the audacity to spy upon these
Mysteries?" Adrian called back, and coming close to him, added, "You
look as if you had just been well thrashed."
"Isn't it dreadful, sir?" snuffled Benson. "And his father in ignorance,
"He shall know, Benson! He shall know how, you have endangered your
valuable skin in his service. If Mr. Richard had found you there just
now I wouldn't answer for the consequences."
"Ha!" Benson spitefully retorted. "This won't go on; Mr. Hadrian. It
shan't, sir. It will be put a stop to tomorrow, sir. I call it
corruption of a young gentleman like him, and harlotry, sir, I call it.
I'd have every jade flogged that made a young innocent gentleman go on
like that, sir."
"Then, why didn't you stop it yourself, Benson? Ah, I see! you waited--
what? This is not the first time you have been attendant on Apollo and
Miss Dryope? You have written to headquarters?"
"I did my duty, Mr. Hadrian."
The wise youth returned to Lady Blandish, and informed her of Benson's
zeal. The lady's eyes flashed. "I hope Richard will treat him as he
deserves," she said.
"Shall we home?" Adrian inquired.
"Do me a favour;" the lady replied. "Get my carriage sent round to meet
me at the park-gates."
"I want to be alone."
Adrian bowed and left her. She was still sitting with her hands clasped
round one knee, gazing towards the dim ray-strewn valley.
"An odd creature!" muttered the wise youth. "She's as odd as any of
them. She ought to be a Feverel. I suppose she's graduating for it.
Hang that confounded old ass of a Benson! He has had the impudence to
steal a march on me!"
The shadow of the cypress was lessening on the lake. The moon was
climbing high. As Richard rowed the boat, Lucy, sang to him softly. She
sang first a fresh little French song, reminding him of a day when she
had been asked to sing to him before, and he did not care to hear. "Did
I live?" he thinks. Then she sang to him a bit of one of those majestic
old Gregorian chants, that, wherever you may hear them, seem to build up
cathedral walls about you. The young man dropped the sculls. The
strange solemn notes gave a religions tone to his love, and wafted him
into the knightly ages and the reverential heart of chivalry.
Hanging between two heavens on the lake: floating to her voice: the moon
stepping over and through white shoal's of soft high clouds above and
below: floating to her void--no other breath abroad! His soul went out
of his body as he listened.
They must part. He rows her gently shoreward.
"I never was so happy as to-night," she murmurs.
"Look, my Lucy. The lights of the old place are on the lake. Look where
you are to live."
"Which is your room, Richard?"
He points it out to her.
"O Richard! that I were one of the women who wait on you! I should ask
nothing more. How happy she must be!"
"My darling angel-love. You shall be happy; but all shall wait on you,
and I foremost, Lucy."
"Dearest! may I hope for a letter?"
"By eleven to-morrow. And I?"
"Oh! you will have mine, Richard."
"Tom shall wait far it. A long one, mind! Did you like my last song?"
She pats her hand quietly against her bosom, and he knows where it rests.
O love! O heaven!
They are aroused by the harsh grating of the bow of the boat against the
shingle. He jumps out, and lifts her ashore.
"See!" she says, as the blush of his embrace subsides--"See!" and
prettily she mimics awe and feels it a little, "the cypress does point
towards us. O Richard! it does!"
And he, looking at her rather than at the cypress, delighting in her arch
"Why, there's hardly any shadow at all, Lucy. She mustn't dream, my
darling! or dream only of me."
"Dearest! but I do."
"To-morrow, Lucy! The letter in the morning, and you at night. O happy
"You will be sure to be there, Richard?"
"If I am not dead, Lucy."
"O Richard! pray, pray do not speak of that. I shall not survive you."
"Let us pray, Lucy, to die together, when we are to die. Death or life,
with you! Who is it yonder? I see some one--is it Tom? It's Adrian!"
"Is it Mr. Harley?" The fair girl shivered.
"How dares he come here!" cried Richard.
The figure of Adrian, instead of advancing, discreetly circled the lake.
They were stealing away when he called. His call was repeated. Lucy
entreated Richard to go to him; but the young man preferred to summon his
attendant, Tom, from within hail, and send him to know what was wanted.
"Will he have seen me? Will he have known me?" whispered Lucy,
"And if he does, love?" said Richard.
"Oh! if he does, dearest--I don't know, but I feel such a presentiment.
You have not spoken of him to-night, Richard. Is he good?"
"Good?" Richard clutched her hand for the innocent maiden phrase. "He's
very fond of eating; that's all I know of Adrian."
Her hand was at his lips when Tom returned.
"Mr. Adrian wishes particular to speak to you, sir," said Tom.
"Do go to him, dearest! Do go!" Lucy begs him.
"Oh, how I hate Adrian!" The young man grinds his teeth.
"Do go!" Lucy urges him. "Tom--good Tom--will see me home. To-morrow,
dear love! To-morrow!"
"You wish to part from me?"
"Oh, unkind! but you must not come with me now. It may be news of
importance, dearest. Think, Richard!"
"Tom! go back!"
At the imperious command the well-drilled Tom strides off a dozen paces,
and sees nothing. Then the precious charge is confided to him. A heart
is cut in twain.
Richard made his way to Adrian. "What is it you want with me, Adrian?"
"Are we seconds, or principals, O fiery one?" was Adrian's answer.
"I want nothing with you, except to know whether you have seen Benson."
"Where should I see Benson? What do I know of Benson's doings?"
"Of course not--such a secret old fist as he is! I want some one to tell
him to order Lady Blandish's carriage to be sent round to the park-gates.
I thought he might be round your way over there--I came upon him
accidentally just now in Abbey-wood. What's the matter, boy?"
"You saw him there?"
"Hunting Diana, I suppose. He thinks she's not so chaste as they say,"
continued Adrian. "Are you going to knock down that tree?"
Richard had turned to the cypress, and was tugging at the tough wood. He
left it and went to an ash.
"You'll spoil that weeper," Adrian cried. "Down she comes! But good-
night, Ricky. If you see Benson mind you tell him."
Doomed Benson following his burly shadow hove in sight on the white road
while Adrian spoke. The wise youth chuckled and strolled round the lake,
glancing over his shoulder every now and then.
It was not long before he heard a bellow for help--the roar of a dragon
in his throes. Adrian placidly sat down on the grass, and fixed his eyes
on the water. There, as the roar was being repeated amid horrid
resounding echoes, the wise youth mused in this wise--
"'The Fates are Jews with us when they delay a punishment,' says The
Pilgrim's Scrip, or words to that effect. The heavens evidently love
Benson, seeing that he gets his punishment on the spot. Master Ricky is
a peppery young man. He gets it from the apt Gruffudh. I rather believe
in race. What a noise that old ruffian makes! He'll require poulticing
with The Pilgrim's Scrip. We shall have a message to-morrow, and a
hubbub, and perhaps all go to town, which won't be bad for one who's been
a prey to all the desires born of dulness. Benson howls: there's life in
the old dog yet! He bays the moon. Look at her. She doesn't care.
It's the same to her whether we coo like turtle-doves or roar like twenty
lions. How complacent she looks! And yet she has dust as much sympathy
for Benson as for Cupid. She would smile on if both were being birched.
Was that a raven or Benson? He howls no more. It sounds guttural: frog-
like--something between the brek-kek-kek and the hoarse raven's croak.
The fellow'll be killing him. It's time to go to the rescue. A
deliverer gets more honour by coming in at the last gasp than if he
forestalled catastrophe.--Ho, there, what's the matter?"
So saying, the wise youth rose, and leisurely trotted to the scene of
battle, where stood St. George puffing over the prostrate Dragon.
"Holloa, Ricky! is it you?" said Adrian. "What's this? Whom have we
here?--Benson, as I live!"
"Make this beast get up," Richard returned, breathing hard, and shaking
his great ash-branch.
"He seems incapable, my dear boy. What have you been up to?--Benson!
Benson!--I say, Ricky, this looks bad."
"He's shamming!" Richard clamoured like a savage. "Spy upon me, will he?
I tell you, he's shamming. He hasn't had half enough. Nothing's too bad
for a spy. Let him getup!"
"Insatiate youth! do throw away that enormous weapon."
"He has written to my father," Richard shouted. "The miserable spy! Let
him get up!"
"Ooogh? I won't!" huskily groaned Benson. "Mr. Hadrian, you're a
witness--he's my back!"-- Cavernous noises took up the tale of his
"I daresay you love your back better than any part of your body now,"
Adrian muttered. "Come, Benson! be a man. Mr. Richard has thrown away
the stick. Come, and get off home, and let's see the extent of the
"Ooogh! he's a devil! Mr. Hadrian, sir, he's a devil!" groaned Benson,