Part 5 out of 10
Every time he glanced at his uncle the song sprang up, and he laughed so
immoderately that it looked like madness come upon him.
"Why, why, why, what are you laughing at, my dear boy," said Hippias, and
was provoked by the contagious exercise to a modest "ha! ha!"
"Why, what are you laughing at, uncle?" cried Richard.
"I really don't know," Hippias chuckled.
"Nor I, uncle! Sing, cuckoo!"
They laughed themselves into the pleasantest mood imaginable. Hippias
not only came aboveground, he flew about in the very skies, verting like
any blithe creature of the season. He remembered old legal jokes, and
anecdotes of Circuit; and Richard laughed at them all, but more at him--
he was so genial, and childishly fresh, and innocently joyful at his own
transformation, while a lurking doubt in the bottom of his eyes, now and
then, that it might not last, and that he must go underground again, lent
him a look of pathos and humour which tickled his youthful companion
irresistibly, and made his heart warm to him.
"I tell you what, uncle," said Richard, "I think travelling's a capital
"The best thing in the world, my dear boy," Hippias returned. "It makes
me wish I had given up that Work of mine, and tried it before, instead of
chaining myself to a task. We're quite different beings in a minute. I
am. Hem! what shall we have for dinner?"
"Leave that to me, uncle. I shall order for you. You know, I intend to
make you well. How gloriously we go along! I should like to ride on a
railway every day."
Hippias remarked: "They say it rather injures the digestion."
"Nonsense! see how you'll digest to-night and to-morrow."
"Perhaps I shall do something yet," sighed Hippias, alluding to the vast
literary fame he had aforetime dreamed of. "I hope I shall have a good
"Of course you will! What! after laughing like that?"
"Ugh!" Hippias grunted, "I daresay, Richard, you sleep the moment you get
"The instant my head's on my pillow, and up the moment I wake. Health's
"Health's everything!" echoed Hippias, from his immense distance.
"And if you'll put yourself in my hands," Richard continued, "you shall
do just as I do. You shall be well and strong, and sing 'Jolly!' like
Adrian's blackbird. You shall, upon my honour, uncle!"
He specified the hours of devotion to his uncle's recovery--no less than
twelve a day--that he intended to expend, and his cheery robustness
almost won his uncle to leap up recklessly and clutch health as his own.
"Mind," quoth Hippias, with a half-seduced smile, "mind your dishes are
not too savoury!"
"Light food and claret! Regular meals and amusement! Lend your heart to
all, but give it to none!" exclaims young Wisdom, and Hippias mutters,
"Yes! yes!" and intimates that the origin of his malady lay in his not
following that maxim earlier.
"Love ruins us, my dear boy," he said, thinking to preach Richard a
lesson, and Richard boisterously broke out:
"The love of Monsieur Francatelli,
It was the ruin of--et coetera."
Hippias blinked, exclaiming, "Really, my dear boy! I never saw you so
"It's the railway! It's the fun, uncle!"
"Ah!" Hippias wagged a melancholy head, "you've got the Golden Bride!
Keep her if you can. That's a pretty fable of your father's. I gave him
the idea, though. Austin filches a great many of my ideas!"
"Here's the idea in verse, uncle:
'O sunless walkers by the tide!
O have you seen the Golden Bride!
They say that she is fair beyond
All women; faithful, and more fond!
"You know, the young inquirer comes to a group of penitent sinners by the
brink of a stream. They howl, and answer:
Faithful she is, but she forsakes:
And fond, yet endless woe she makes:
And fair! but with this curse she's cross'd;
To know her not till she is lost!'
"Then the doleful party march off in single file solemnly, and the
'She hath a palace in the West:
Bright Hesper lights her to her rest:
And him the Morning Star awakes
Whom to her charmed arms she takes.
So lives he till he sees, alas!
The maids of baser metal pass.'
"And prodigal of the happiness she lends him, he asks to share it with one
of them. There is the Silver Maid, and the Copper, and the Brassy Maid,
and others of them. First, you know, he tries Argentine, and finds her
only twenty to the pound, and has a worse experience with Copperina, till
he descends to the scullery; and the lower he goes, the less obscure
become the features of his Bride of Gold, and all her radiance shines
forth, my uncle."
"Verse rather blunts the point. Well, keep to her, now you've got her,"
"We will, uncle!--Look how the farms fly past! Look at the cattle in the
fields! And how the lines duck, and swim up!
'She claims the whole, and not the part--
The coin of an unused heart!
To gain his Golden Bride again,
He hunts with melancholy men,'
--and is waked no longer by the Morning Star!"
"Not if he doesn't sleep till an hour before it rises!" Hippias
interjected. "You don't rhyme badly. But stick to prose. Poetry's a
Base-metal maid. I'm not sure that any writing's good for the digestion.
I'm afraid it has spoilt mine."
"Fear nothing, uncle!" laughed Richard. "You shall ride in the park with
me every day to get an appetite. You and I and the Golden Bride. You
know that little poem of Sandoe's?
'She rides in the park on a prancing bay,
She and her squires together;
Her dark locks gleam from a bonnet of grey,
And toss with the tossing feather.
'Too calmly proud for a glance of pride
Is the beautiful face as it passes;
The cockneys nod to each other aside,
The coxcombs lift their glasses.
'And throng to her, sigh to her, you that can breach
The ice-wall that guards her securely;
You have not such bliss, though she smile on you each,
As the heart that can image her purely.'
"Wasn't Sandoe once a friend of my father's? I suppose they quarrelled.
He understands the heart. What does he make his 'Humble Lover' say?
'True, Madam, you may think to part
Conditions by a glacier-ridge,
But Beauty's for the largest heart,
And all abysses Love can bridge!
"Hippias now laughed; grimly, as men laugh at the emptiness of words."
"Largest heart!" he sneered. "What's a 'glacier-ridge'? I've never seen
one. I can't deny it rhymes with 'bridge.' But don't go parading your
admiration of that person, Richard. Your father will speak to you on the
subject when he thinks fit."
"I thought they had quarrelled," said Richard. "What a pity!" and he
murmured to a pleased ear:
"Beauty's for the largest heart!"
The flow of their conversation was interrupted by the entrance of
passengers at a station. Richard examined their faces with pleasure.
All faces pleased him. Human nature sat tributary at the feet of him and
his Golden Bride. As he could not well talk his thoughts before them, he
looked out at the windows, and enjoyed the changing landscape, projecting
all sorts of delights for his old friend Ripton, and musing hazily on the
wondrous things he was to do in the world; of the great service he was to
be to his fellow-creatures. In the midst of his reveries he was landed
in London. Tom Bakewell stood at the carriage door. A glance told
Richard that his squire had something curious on his mind; and he gave
Tom the word to speak out. Tom edged his master out of hearing, and
began sputtering a laugh.
"Dash'd if I can help it, sir!" he said. "That young Tom! He've come to
town dressed that spicy! and he don't know his way about no more than a
stag. He's come to fetch somebody from another rail, and he don't know
how to get there, and he ain't sure about which rail 'tis. Look at him,
Mr. Richard! There he goes."
Young Tom appeared to have the weight of all London on his beaver.
"Who has he come for?" Richard asked.
"Don't you know, sir? You don't like me to mention the name," mumbled
Tom, bursting to be perfectly intelligible.
"Is it for her, Tom?"
"Miss Lucy, sir."
Richard turned away, and was seized by Hippias, who begged him to get out
of the noise and pother, and caught hold of his slack arm to bear him
into a conveyance; but Richard, by wheeling half to the right, or left,
always got his face round to the point where young Tom was manoeuvring to
appear at his ease. Even when they were seated in the conveyance,
Hippias could not persuade him to drive off. He made the excuse that he
did not wish to start till there was a clear road. At last young Tom
cast anchor by a policeman, and, doubtless at the official's suggestion,
bashfully took seat in a cab, and was shot into the whirlpool of London.
Richard then angrily asked his driver what he was waiting for.
"Are you ill, my boy?" said Hippias. "Where's your colour?"
He laughed oddly, and made a random answer that he hoped the fellow would
"I hate slow motion after being in the railway," he said.
Hippias assured him there was something the matter with him.
"Nothing, uncle! nothing!" said Richard, looking fiercely candid.
They say, that when the skill and care of men rescue a drowned wretch
from extinction, and warm the flickering spirit into steady flame, such
pain it is, the blood forcing its way along the dry channels, and the
heavily-ticking nerves, and the sullen heart--the struggle of life and
death in him--grim death relaxing his gripe; such pain it is, he cries
out no thanks to them that pull him by inches from the depths of the dead
river. And he who has thought a love extinct, and is surprised by the
old fires, and the old tyranny, he rebels, and strives to fight clear of
the cloud of forgotten sensations that settle on him; such pain it is,
the old sweet music reviving through his frame, and the charm of his
passion filing him afresh. Still was fair Lucy the one woman to Richard.
He had forbidden her name but from an instinct of self-defence. Must the
maids of baser metal dominate him anew, it is in Lucy's shape. Thinking
of her now so near him--his darling! all her graces, her sweetness, her
truth; for, despite his bitter blame of her, he knew her true--swam in a
thousand visions before his eyes; visions pathetic, and full of glory,
that now wrung his heart, and now elated it. As well might a ship
attempt to calm the sea, as this young man the violent emotion that began
to rage in his breast. "I shall not see her!" he said to himself
exultingly, and at the same instant thought, how black was every corner
of the earth but that one spot where Lucy stood! how utterly cheerless
the place he was going to! Then he determined to bear it; to live in
darkness; there was a refuge in the idea of a voluntary martyrdom. "For
if I chose I could see her--this day within an hour!--I could see her,
and touch her hand, and, oh, heaven!--But I do not choose." And a great
wave swelled through him, and was crushed down only to swell again more
Then Tom Bakewell's words recurred to him that young Tom Blaize was
uncertain where to go for her, and that she might be thrown on this
Babylon alone. And flying from point to point, it struck him that they
had known at Raynham of her return, and had sent him to town to be out of
the way--they had been miserably plotting against him once more. "They
shall see what right they have to fear me. I'll shame them!" was the
first turn taken by his wrathful feelings, as he resolved to go, and see
her safe, and calmly return to his uncle, whom he sincerely believed not
to be one of the conspirators. Nevertheless, after forming that resolve,
he sat still, as if there were something fatal in the wheels that bore
him away from it--perhaps because he knew, as some do when passion is
lord, that his intelligence juggled with him; though none the less keenly
did he feel his wrongs and suspicions. His Golden Bride was waning fast.
But when Hippias ejaculated to cheer him: "We shall soon be there!" the
spell broke. Richard stopped the cab, saying he wanted to speak to Tom,
and would ride with him the rest of the journey. He knew well enough
which line of railway his Lucy must come by. He had studied every town
and station on the line. Before his uncle could express more than a mute
remonstrance, he jumped out and hailed Tom Bakewell, who came behind with
the boxes and baggage in a companion cab, his head a yard beyond the
window to make sure of his ark of safety, the vehicle preceding.
"What an extraordinary, impetuous boy it is," said Hippias. "We're in
the very street!"
Within a minute the stalwart Berry, despatched by the baronet to arrange
everything for their comfort, had opened the door, and made his bow.
"Mr. Richard, sir?--evaporated?" was Berry's modulated inquiry.
"Behind--among the boxes, fool!" Hippias growled, as he received Berry's
muscular assistance to alight. "Lunch ready--eh!"
"Luncheon was ordered precise at two o'clock, sir--been in attendance one
quarter of an hour. Heah!" Berry sang out to the second cab, which, with
its pyramid of luggage, remained stationary some thirty paces distant.
At his voice the majestic pile deliberately turned its back on them, and
went off in a contrary direction.
On the stroke of the hour when Ripton Thompson was accustomed to consult
his gold watch for practical purposes, and sniff freedom and the
forthcoming dinner, a burglarious foot entered the clerk's office where
he sat, and a man of a scowling countenance, who looked a villain, and
whom he was afraid he knew, slid a letter into his hands, nodding that it
would be prudent for him to read, and be silent. Ripton obeyed in alarm.
Apparently the contents of the letter relieved his conscience; for he
reached down his hat, and told Mr. Beazley to inform his father that he
had business of pressing importance in the West, and should meet him at
the station. Mr. Beazley zealously waited upon the paternal Thompson
without delay, and together making their observations from the window,
they beheld a cab of many boxes, into which Ripton darted and was
followed by one in groom's dress. It was Saturday, the day when Ripton
gave up his law-readings, magnanimously to bestow himself upon his
family, and Mr. Thompson liked to have his son's arm as he walked down to
the station; but that third glass of Port which always stood for his
second, and the groom's suggestion of aristocratic acquaintances,
prevented Mr. Thompson from interfering: so Ripton was permitted to
In the cab Ripton made a study of the letter he held. It had the
preciseness of an imperial mandate.
Dear Ripton,--You are to get lodgings for a lady immediately. Not a word
to a soul. Then come along with Tom. R.D.F."
"Lodgings for a lady!" Ripton meditated aloud: "What sort of lodgings?
Where am I to get lodgings? Who's the lady?--I say!" he addressed the
mysterious messenger. "So you're Tom Bakewell, are you, Tom?"
Tom grinned his identity.
"Do you remember the rick, Tom? Ha! ha! We got out of that neatly. We
might all have been transported, though. I could have convicted you,
Tom, safe! It's no use coming across a practised lawyer. Now tell me."
Ripton having flourished his powers, commenced his examination: "Who's
"Better wait till you see Mr. Richard, sir," Tom resumed his scowl to
"Ah!" Ripton acquiesced. "Is she young, Tom?"
Tom said she was not old.
"Some might think one thing, some another," Tom said.
"And where does she come from now?" asked Ripton, with the friendly
cheerfulness of a baffled counsellor.
"Comes from the country, sir."
"A friend of the family, I suppose? a relation?"
Ripton left this insinuating query to be answered by a look. Tom's face
was a dead blank.
"Ah!" Ripton took a breath, and eyed the mask opposite him. "Why, you're
quite a scholar, Tom! Mr. Richard is well. All right at home?"
"Come to town this mornin' with his uncle," said Tom. "All well, thank
"Ha!" cried Ripton, more than ever puzzled, "now I see. You all came to
town to-day, and these are your boxes outside. So, so! But Mr. Richard
writes for me to get lodgings for a lady. There must be some mistake--he
wrote in a hurry. He wants lodgings for you all--eh?"
"'M sure I d'n know what he wants," said Tom. "You'd better go by the
Ripton re-consulted that document. "'Lodgings for a lady, and then come
along with Tom. Not a word to a soul.' I say! that looks like--but he
never cared for them. You don't mean to say, Tom, he's been running away
Tom fell back upon his first reply: "Better wait till ye see Mr. Richard,
sir," and Ripton exclaimed: "Hanged if you ain't the tightest witness I
ever saw! I shouldn't like to have you in a box. Some of you country
fellows beat any number of cockneys. You do!"
Tom received the compliment stubbornly on his guard, and Ripton, as
nothing was to be got out of him, set about considering how to perform
his friend's injunctions; deciding firstly, that a lady fresh from the
country ought to lodge near the parks, in which direction he told the
cabman to drive. Thus, unaware of his high destiny, Ripton joined the
hero, and accepted his character in the New Comedy.
It is, nevertheless, true that certain favoured people do have beneficent
omens to prepare them for their parts when the hero is in full career, so
that they really may be nerved to meet him; ay, and to check him in his
course, had they that signal courage. For instance, Mrs. Elizabeth
Berry, a ripe and wholesome landlady of advertised lodgings, on the
borders of Kensington, noted, as she sat rocking her contemplative person
before the parlour fire this very March afternoon, a supernatural
tendency in that fire to burn all on one side: which signifies that a
wedding approaches the house. Why--who shall say? Omens are as
impassable as heroes. It may be because in these affairs the fire is
thought to be all on one side. Enough that the omen exists, and spoke
its solemn warning to the devout woman. Mrs. Berry, in her circle, was
known as a certificated lecturer against the snares of matrimony. Still
that was no reason why she should not like a wedding. Expectant,
therefore, she watched the one glowing cheek of Hymen, and with pleasing
tremours beheld a cab of many boxes draw up by her bit of garden, and a
gentleman emerge from it in the set of consulting an advertisement paper.
The gentleman required lodgings for a lady. Lodgings for a lady Mrs.
Berry could produce, and a very roseate smile for a gentleman; so much so
that Ripton forgot to ask about the terms, which made the landlady in
Mrs. Berry leap up to embrace him as the happy man. But her experienced
woman's eye checked her enthusiasm. He had not the air of a bridegroom:
he did not seem to have a weight on his chest, or an itch to twiddle
everything with his fingers. At any rate, he was not the bridegroom for
whom omens fly abroad. Promising to have all ready for the lady within
an hour, Mrs. Berry fortified him with her card, curtsied him back to his
cab, and floated him off on her smiles.
The remarkable vehicle which had woven this thread of intrigue through
London streets, now proceeded sedately to finish its operations. Ripton
was landed at a hotel in Westminster. Ere he was halfway up the stairs,
a door opened, and his old comrade in adventure rushed down. Richard
allowed no time for salutations. "Have you done it?" was all he asked.
For answer Ripton handed him Mrs. Berry's card. Richard took it, and
left him standing there. Five minutes elapsed, and then Ripton heard the
gracious rustle of feminine garments above. Richard came a little in
advance, leading and half-supporting a figure in a black-silk mantle and
small black straw bonnet; young--that was certain, though she held her
veil so close he could hardly catch the outlines of her face; girlishly
slender, and sweet and simple in appearance. The hush that came with
her, and her soft manner of moving, stirred the silly youth to some of
those ardours that awaken the Knight of Dames in our bosoms. He felt
that he would have given considerable sums for her to lift her veil. He
could see that she was trembling--perhaps weeping. It was the master of
her fate she clung to. They passed him without speaking. As she went
by, her head passively bent, Ripton had a glimpse of noble tresses and a
lovely neck; great golden curls hung loosely behind, pouring from under
her bonnet. She looked a captive borne to the sacrifice. What Ripton,
after a sight of those curls, would have given for her just to lift her
veil an instant and strike him blind with beauty, was, fortunately for
his exchequer, never demanded of him. And he had absolutely been
composing speeches as he came along in the cab! gallant speeches for the
lady, and sly congratulatory ones for his friend, to be delivered as
occasion should serve, that both might know him a man of the world, and
be at their ease. He forgot the smirking immoralities he had revelled
in. This was clearly serious. Ripton did not require to be told that
his friend was in love, and meant that life and death business called
marriage, parents and guardians consenting or not.
Presently Richard returned to him, and said hurriedly, "I want you now to
go to my uncle at our hotel. Keep him quiet till I come. Say I had to
see you--say anything. I shall be there by the dinner hour. Rip! I must
talk to you alone after dinner."
Ripton feebly attempted to reply that he was due at home. He was very
curious to hear the plot of the New Comedy; and besides, there was
Richard's face questioning him sternly and confidently for signs of
unhesitating obedience. He finished his grimaces by asking the name and
direction of the hotel. Richard pressed his hand. It is much to obtain
even that recognition of our devotion from the hero.
Tom Bakewell also received his priming, and, to judge by his chuckles and
grins, rather appeared to enjoy the work cut out for him. In a few
minutes they had driven to their separate destinations; Ripton was left
to the unusual exercise of his fancy. Such is the nature of youth and
its thirst for romance, that only to act as a subordinate is pleasant.
When one unfurls the standard of defiance to parents and guardians, he
may be sure of raising a lawless troop of adolescent ruffians, born
rebels, to any amount. The beardless crew know that they have not a
chance of pay; but what of that when the rosy prospect of thwarting their
elders is in view? Though it is to see another eat the Forbidden Fruit,
they will run all his risks with him. Gaily Ripton took rank as
lieutenant in the enterprise, and the moment his heart had sworn the
oaths, he was rewarded by an exquisite sense of the charms of existence.
London streets wore a sly laugh to him. He walked with a dandified heel.
The generous youth ogled aristocratic carriages, and glanced intimately
at the ladies, overflowingly happy. The crossing-sweepers blessed him.
He hummed lively tunes, he turned over old jokes in his mouth unctuously,
he hugged himself, he had a mind to dance down Piccadilly, and all
because a friend of his was running away with a pretty girl, and he was
in the secret.
It was only when he stood on the doorstep of Richard's hotel, that his
jocund mood was a little dashed by remembering that he had then to
commence the duties of his office, and must fabricate a plausible story
to account for what he knew nothing about--a part that the greatest of
sages would find it difficult to perform. The young, however, whom sages
well may envy, seldom fail in lifting their inventive faculties to the
level of their spirits, and two minutes of Hippias's angry complaints
against the friend he serenely inquired for, gave Ripton his cue.
"We're in the very street--within a stone's-throw of the house, and he
jumps like a harlequin out of my cab into another; he must be mad--that
boy's got madness in him!--and carries off all the boxes--my dinner-
pills, too! and keeps away the whole of the day, though he promised to go
to the doctor, and had a dozen engagements with me," said Hippias,
venting an enraged snarl to sum up his grievances.
Ripton at once told him that the doctor was not at home.
"Why, you don't mean to say he's been to the doctor?" Hippias cried out.
"He has called on him twice, sir," said Ripton, expressively. "On
leaving me he was going a third time. I shouldn't wonder that's what
detains him--he's so determined."
By fine degrees Ripton ventured to grow circumstantial, saying that
Richard's case was urgent and required immediate medical advice; and that
both he and his father were of opinion Richard should not lose an hour in
"He's alarmed about himself," said Ripton, and tapped his chest.
Hippias protested he had never heard a word from his nephew of any
"He was afraid of making you anxious, I think, sir."
Algernon Feverel and Richard came in while he was hammering at the
alphabet to recollect the first letter of the doctor's name. They had
met in the hall below, and were laughing heartily as they entered the
room. Ripton jumped up to get the initiative.
"Have you seen the doctor?" he asked, significantly plucking at Richard's
Richard was all abroad at the question.
Algernon clapped him on the back. "What the deuce do you want with
The solid thump awakened him to see matters as they were. "Oh, ay! the
doctor!" he said, smiling frankly at his lieutenant." Why, he tells me
he'd back me to do Milo's trick in a week from the present day.--Uncle,"
he came forward to Hippias, "I hope you'll excuse me for running off as I
did. I was in a hurry. I left something at the railway. This stupid
Rip thinks I went to the doctor about myself. The fact was, I wanted to
fetch the doctor to see you here--so that you might have no trouble, you
know. You can't bear the sight of his instruments and skeletons--I've
heard you say so. You said it set all your marrow in revolt--'fried your
marrow,' I think were the words, and made you see twenty thousand
different ways of sliding down to the chambers of the Grim King. Don't
Hippias emphatically did not remember, and he did not believe the story.
Irritation at the mad ravishment of his pill-box rendered him
incredulous. As he had no means of confuting his nephew, all he could do
safely to express his disbelief in him, was to utter petulant remarks on
his powerlessness to appear at the dinner-table that day: upon which--
Berry just then trumpeting dinner--Algernon seized one arm of the
Dyspepsy, and Richard another, and the laughing couple bore him into
the room where dinner was laid, Ripton sniggering in the rear, the really
happy man of the party.
They had fun at the dinner-table. Richard would have it; and his gaiety,
his by-play, his princely superiority to truth and heroic promise of
overriding all our laws, his handsome face, the lord and possessor of
beauty that he looked, as it were a star shining on his forehead, gained
the old complete mastery over Ripton, who had been, mentally at least,
half patronizing him till then, because he knew more of London and life,
and was aware that his friend now depended upon him almost entirely.
After a second circle of the claret, the hero caught his lieutenant's eye
across the table, and said:
"We must go out and talk over that law-business, Rip, before you go. Do
you think the old lady has any chance?"
"Not a bit!" said Ripton, authoritatively.
"But it's worth fighting--eh, Rip?"
"Oh, certainly!" was Ripton's mature opinion.
Richard observed that Ripton's father seemed doubtful. Ripton cited his
father's habitual caution. Richard made a playful remark on the
necessity of sometimes acting in opposition to fathers. Ripton agreed to
it--in certain cases.
"Yes, yes! in certain cases," said Richard.
"Pretty legal morality, gentlemen!" Algernon interjected; Hippias adding:
"And lay, too!"
The pair of uncles listened further to the fictitious dialogue, well kept
up on both sides, and in the end desired a statement of the old lady's
garrulous case; Hippias offering to decide what her chances were in law,
and Algernon to give a common-sense judgment.
"Rip will tell you," said Richard, deferentially signalling the lawyer.
"I'm a bad hand at these matters. Tell them how it stands, Rip."
Ripton disguised his excessive uneasiness under endeavours to right his
position on his chair, and, inwardly praying speed to the claret jug to
come and strengthen his wits, began with a careless aspect: "Oh, nothing!
She very curious old character! She--a--wears a wig. She--a--very
curious old character indeed! She--a--quite the old style. There's no
doing anything with her!" and Ripton took a long breath to relieve
himself after his elaborate fiction.
"So it appears," Hippias commented, and Algernon asked: "Well? and about
her wig? Somebody stole it?" while Richard, whose features were grim
with suppressed laughter, bade the narrator continue.
Ripton lunged for the claret jug. He had got an old lady like an
oppressive bundle on his brain, and he was as helpless as she was. In
the pangs of ineffectual authorship his ideas shot at her wig, and then
at her one characteristic of extreme obstinacy, and tore back again at
her wig, but she would not be animated. The obstinate old thing would
remain a bundle. Law studies seemed light in comparison with this
tremendous task of changing an old lady from a doll to a human creature.
He flung off some claret, perspired freely, and, with a mental tribute to
the cleverness of those author fellows, recommenced: "Oh, nothing! She--
Richard knows her better than I do--an old lady--somewhere down in
Suffolk. I think we had better advise her not to proceed. The expenses
of litigation are enormous! She--I think we had better advise her to
stop short, and not make any scandal."
"And not make any scandal!" Algernon took him up. "Come, come! there's
something more than a wig, then?"
Ripton was commanded to proceed, whether she did or no. The luckless
fictionist looked straight at his pitiless leader, and blurted out
dubiously, "She--there's a daughter."
"Born with effort!" ejaculated Hippias. "Must give her pause after that!
and I'll take the opportunity to stretch my length on the sofa. Heigho!
that's true what Austin says: 'The general prayer should be for a full
stomach, and the individual for one that works well; for on that basis
only are we a match for temporal matters, and able to contemplate
eternal.' Sententious, but true. I gave him the idea, though! Take
care of your stomachs, boys! and if ever you hear of a monument proposed
to a scientific cook or gastronomic doctor, send in your subscriptions.
Or say to him while he lives, Go forth, and be a Knight! Ha! They have
a good cook at this house. He suits me better than ours at Raynham. I
almost wish I had brought my manuscript to town, I feel so much better.
Aha! I didn't expect to digest at all without my regular incentive. I
think I shall give it up.--What do you say to the theatre to-night,
Richard shouted, "Bravo, uncle!"
"Let Mr. Thompson finish first," said Algernon. "I want to hear the
conclusion of the story. The old girl has a wig and a daughter. I'll
swear somebody runs away with one of the two! Fill your glass,
Mr. Thompson, and forward!"
"So somebody does," Ripton received his impetus. "And they're found in
town together," he made a fresh jerk. "She--a--that is, the old lady--
found them in company."
"She finds him with her wig on in company!" said Algernon. "Capital!
Here's matter for the lawyers!"
"And you advise her not to proceed, under such circumstances of
aggravation?" Hippias observed, humorously twinkling with his stomachic
"It's the daughter," Ripton sighed, and surrendering to pressure, hurried
on recklessly, "A runaway match--beautiful girl!--the only son of a
baronet--married by special licence. A--the point is," he now brightened
and spoke from his own element, "the point is whether the marriage can be
annulled, as she's of the Catholic persuasion and he's a Protestant, and
they're both married under age. That's the point."
Having come to the point he breathed extreme relief, and saw things more
distinctly; not a little amazed at his leader's horrified face.
The two elders were making various absurd inquiries, when Richard sent
his chair to the floor, crying, "What a muddle you're in, Rip! You're
mixing half-a-dozen stories together. The old lady I told you about was
old Dame Bakewell, and the dispute was concerning a neighbour of hers who
encroached on her garden, and I said I'd pay the money to see her
"Ah," said Ripton, humbly, "I was thinking of the other. Her garden!
Cabbages don't interest me"--
"Here, come along," Richard beckoned to him savagely. "I'll be back in
five minutes, uncle," he nodded coolly to either.
The young men left the room. In the hall-passage they met Berry, dressed
to return to Raynham. Richard dropped a helper to the intelligence into
his hand, and warned him not to gossip much of London. Berry bowed
"What on earth induced you to talk about Protestants and Catholics
marrying, Rip?" said Richard, as soon as they were in the street.
"Why," Ripton answered, "I was so hard pushed for it, 'pon my honour, I
didn't know what to say. I ain't an author, you know; I can't make a
story. I was trying to invent a point, and I couldn't think of any
other, and I thought that was just the point likely to make a jolly good
dispute. Capital dinners they give at those crack hotels. Why did you
throw it all upon me? I didn't begin on the old lady."
The hero mused, "It's odd! It's impossible you could have known! I'll
tell you why, Rip! I wanted to try you. You fib well at long range, but
you don't do at close quarters and single combat. You're good behind
walls, but not worth a shot in the open. I just see what you're fit for.
You're staunch--that I am certain of. You always were. Lead the way to
one of the parks--down in that direction. You know?--where she is!"
Ripton led the way. His dinner had prepared this young Englishman to
defy the whole artillery of established morals. With the muffled roar of
London around them, alone in a dark slope of green, the hero, leaning on
his henchman, and speaking in a harsh clear undertone, delivered his
explanations. Doubtless the true heroic insignia and point of view will
be discerned, albeit in common private's uniform.
"They've been plotting against me for a year, Rip! When you see her,
you'll know what it was to have such a creature taken away from you. It
nearly killed me. Never mind what she is. She's the most perfect and
noble creature God ever made! It's not only her beauty--I don't care so
much about that!--but when you've once seen her, she seems to draw music
from all the nerves of your body; but she's such an angel. I worship
her. And her mind's like her face. She's pure gold. There, you'll see
"Well," he pursued, after inflating Ripton with this rapturous prospect,
"they got her away, and I recovered. It was Mister Adrian's work.
What's my father's objection to her? Because of her birth? She's
educated; her manners are beautiful--full of refinement--quick and soft!
Can they show me one of their ladies like her?--she's the daughter of a
naval lieutenant! Because she's a Catholic? What has religion to do
with"--he pronounced "Love!" a little modestly--as it were a blush in his
"Well, when I recovered I thought I did not care for her. It shows how
we know ourselves! And I cared for nothing. I felt as if I had no
blood. I tried to imitate my dear Austin. I wish to God he were here.
I love Austin. He would understand her. He's coming back this year, and
then--but it'll be too late then.--Well, my father's always scheming to
make me perfect--he has never spoken to me a word about her, but I can
see her in his eyes--he wanted to give me a change, he said, and asked me
to come to town with my uncle Hippy, and I consented. It was another
plot to get me out of the way! As I live, I had no more idea of meeting
her than of flying to heaven!"
He lifted his face. "hook at those old elm branches! How they seem to
mix among the stars!--glittering fruits of Winter!"
Ripton tipped his comical nose upward, and was in duty bound to say, Yes!
though he observed no connection between them and the narrative.
"Well," the hero went on, "I came to town. There I heard she was coming,
too--coming home. It must have been fate, Ripton! Heaven forgive me! I
was angry with her, and I thought I should like to see her once--only
once--and reproach her for being false--for she never wrote to me. And,
oh, the dear angel! what she must have suffered!--I gave my uncle the
slip, and got to the railway she was coming by. There was a fellow going
to meet her--a farmer's son--and, good God! they were going to try and
make her marry him! I remembered it all then. A servant of the farm had
told me. That fellow went to the wrong station, I suppose, for we saw
nothing of him. There she was--not changed a bit!--looking lovelier than
ever! And when she saw me, I knew in a minute that she must love me till
death!--You don't know what it is yet, Rip!--Will you believe, it?--
Though I was as sure she loved me and had been true as steel, as that I
shall see her to-night, I spoke bitterly to her. And she bore it meekly-
-she looked like a saint. I told her there was but one hope of life for
me--she must prove she was true, and as I give up all, so must she. I
don't know what I said. The thought of losing her made me mad. She
tried to plead with me to wait--it was for my sake, I know. I pretended,
like a miserable hypocrite, that she did not love me at all. I think I
said shameful things. Oh what noble creatures women are! She hardly had
strength to move. I took her to that place where you found us, Rip! she
went down on her knees to me, I never dreamed of anything in life so
lovely as she looked then. Her eyes were thrown up, bright with a crowd
of tears--her dark brows bent together, like Pain and Beauty meeting in
one; and her glorious golden hair swept off her shoulders as she hung
forward to my hands.--Could I lose such a prize.--If anything could have
persuaded me, would not that?--I thought of Dante's Madonna--Guido's
Magdalen.--Is there sin in it? I see none! And if there is, it's all
mine! I swear she's spotless of a thought of sin. I see her very soul?
Cease to love her? Who dares ask me? Cease to love her? Why, I live on
her!--To see her little chin straining up from her throat, as she knelt
to me!--there was one curl that fell across her throat"....
Ripton listened for more. Richard had gone off in a muse at the picture.
"Well?" said Ripton, "and how about that young farmer fellow?"
The hero's head was again contemplating the starry branches. His
lieutenant's question came to him after an interval.
"Young Tom? Why, it's young Torn Blaize--son of our old enemy, Rip! I
like the old man now. Oh! I saw nothing of the fellow."
"Lord!" cried Ripton, "are we going to get into a mess with Blaizes
again? I don't like that!"
His commander quietly passed his likes or dislikes.
"But when he goes to the train, and finds she's not there?" Ripton
"I've provided for that. The fool went to the South-east instead of the
South-west. All warmth, all sweetness, comes with the South-west!--I've
provided for that, friend Rip. My trusty Tom awaits him there, as if by
accident. He tells him he has not seen her, and advises him to remain in
town, and go for her there to-morrow, and the day following. Tom has
money for the work. Young Tom ought to see London, you know, Rip!--like
you. We shall gain some good clear days. And when old Blaize hears of
it--what then? I have her! she's mine!--Besides, he won't hear for a
week. This Tom beats that Tom in cunning, I'll wager. Ha! ha!" the
hero burst out at a recollection. "What do you think, Rip? My father
has some sort of System with me, it appears, and when I came to town the
time before, he took me to some people--the Grandisons--and what do you
think? one of the daughters is a little girl--a nice little thing enough
very funny--and he wants me to wait for her! He hasn't said so, but I
know it. I know what he means. Nobody understands him but me. I know
he loves me, and is one of the best of men--but just consider!--a little
girl who just comes up to my elbow. Isn't it ridiculous? Did you ever
hear such nonsense?"
Ripton emphasized his opinion that it certainly was foolish.
"No, no! The die's cast!" said Richard. "They've been plotting for a
year up to this day, and this is what comes of it! If my father loves
me, he will love her. And if he loves me, he'll forgive my acting
against his wishes, and see it was the only thing to be done. Come! step
out! what a time we've been!" and away he went, compelling Ripton to the
sort of strides a drummer-boy has to take beside a column of grenadiers.
Ripton began to wish himself in love, seeing that it endowed a man with
wind so that he could breathe great sighs, while going at a tremendous
pace, and experience no sensation of fatigue. The hero was communing
with the elements, his familiars, and allowed him to pant as he pleased.
Some keen-eyed Kensington urchins, noticing the discrepancy between the
pedestrian powers of the two, aimed their wit at Mr. Thompson junior's
expense. The pace, and nothing but the pace, induced Ripton to proclaim
that they had gone too far, when they discovered that they had over shot
the mark by half a mile. In the street over which stood love's star, the
hero thundered his presence at a door, and evoked a flying housemaid, who
knew not Mrs. Berry. The hero attached significance to the fact that his
instincts should have betrayed him, for he could have sworn to that
house. The door being shut he stood in dead silence.
"Haven't you got her card?" Ripton inquired, and heard that it was in the
custody of the cabman. Neither of them could positively bring to mind
the number of the house.
"You ought to have chalked it, like that fellow in the Forty Thieves,"
Ripton hazarded a pleasantry which met with no response.
Betrayed by his instincts, the magic slaves of Love! The hero heavily
descended the steps.
Ripton murmured that they were done for. His commander turned on him,
and said: "Take all the houses on the opposite side, one after another.
I'll take these." With a wry face Ripton crossed the road, altogether
subdued by Richard's native superiority to adverse circumstances.
Then were families aroused. Then did mortals dimly guess that something
portentous was abroad. Then were labourers all day in the vineyard,
harshly wakened from their evening's nap. Hope and Fear stalked the
street, as again and again the loud companion summonses resounded.
Finally Ripton sang out cheerfully. He had Mrs. Berry before him,
profuse of mellow curtsies.
Richard ran to her and caught her hands: "She's well?--upstairs?"
"Oh, quite well! only a trifle tired with her journey, and fluttering-
like," Mrs. Berry replied to Ripton alone. The lover had flown aloft.
The wise woman sagely ushered Ripton into her own private parlour, there
to wait till he was wanted.
"In all cases where two have joined to commit an offence, punish one of
the two lightly," is the dictum of The Pilgrim's's Scrip.
It is possible for young heads to conceive proper plans of action, and
occasionally, by sheer force of will, to check the wild horses that are
ever fretting to gallop off with them. But when they have given the
reins and the whip to another, what are they to do? They may go down on
their knees, and beg and pray the furious charioteer to stop, or moderate
his pace. Alas! each fresh thing they do redoubles his ardour: There is
a power in their troubled beauty women learn the use of, and what wonder?
They have seen it kindle Ilium to flames so often! But ere they grow
matronly in the house of Menelaus, they weep, and implore, and do not, in
truth, know how terribly two-edged is their gift of loveliness. They
resign themselves to an incomprehensible frenzy; pleasant to them,
because they attribute it to excessive love. And so the very sensible
things which they can and do say, are vain.
I reckon it absurd to ask them to be quite in earnest. Are not those
their own horses in yonder team? Certainly, if they were quite in
earnest, they might soon have my gentleman as sober as a carter. A
hundred different ways of disenchanting him exist, and Adrian will point
you out one or two that shall be instantly efficacious. For Love, the
charioteer, is easily tripped, while honest jog-trot Love keeps his legs
to the end. Granted dear women are not quite in earnest, still the mere
words they utter should be put to their good account. They do mean them,
though their hearts are set the wrong way. 'Tis a despairing, pathetic
homage to the judgment of the majority, in whose faces they are flying.
Punish Helen, very young, lightly. After a certain age you may select
her for special chastisement. An innocent with Theseus, with Paris she
is an advanced incendiary.
The fair young girl was sitting as her lover had left her; trying to
recall her stunned senses. Her bonnet was un-removed, her hands clasped
on her knees; dry tears in her eyes. Like a dutiful slave, she rose to
him. And first he claimed her mouth. There was a speech, made up of all
the pretty wisdom her wild situation and true love could gather, awaiting
him there; but his kiss scattered it to fragments. She dropped to her
seat weeping, and hiding her shamed cheeks.
By his silence she divined his thoughts, and took his hand and drew it to
He bent beside her, bidding her look at him.
"Keep your eyes so."
She could not.
"Do you fear me, Lucy?"
A throbbing pressure answered him.
"Do you love me, darling?"
She trembled from head to foot.
"Then why do you turn from me?"
She wept: "O Richard, take me home! take me home!"
"Look at me, Lucy!"
Her head shrank timidly round.
"Keep your eyes on me, darling! Now speak!"
But she could not look and speak too. The lover knew his mastery when he
had her eyes.
"You wish me to take you home?"
She faltered: "O Richard? it is not too late."
"You regret what you have done for me?"
"Dearest! it is ruin."
"You weep because you have consented to be mine?"
"Not for me! O Richard!"
"For me you weep? Look at me! For me?"
"How will it end! O Richard!"
"You weep for me?"
"Dearest! I would die for you!"
"Would you see me indifferent to everything in the world? Would you have
me lost? Do you think I will live another day in England without you? I
have staked all I have on you, Lucy. You have nearly killed me once. A
second time, and the earth will not be troubled by me. You ask me to
wait, when they are plotting against us on all sides? Darling Lucy! look
on me. Fix--your fond eyes on me. You ask me to wait when here you are
given to me when you have proved my faith--when we know we love as none
have loved. Give me your eyes! Let them tell me I have your heart!"
Where was her wise little speech? How could she match such mighty
eloquence? She sought to collect a few more of the scattered fragments.
"Dearest! your father may be brought to consent by and by, and then--oh!
if you take me home now"--
The lover stood up. "He who has been arranging that fine scheme to
disgrace and martyrize you? True, as I live! that's the reason of their
having you back. Your old servant heard him and your uncle discussing
it. He!--Lucy! he's a good man, but he must not step in between you and
me. I say God has given you to me."
He was down by her side again, his arms enfolding her.
She had hoped to fight a better battle than in the morning, and she was
weaker and softer.
Ah! why should she doubt that his great love was the first law to her?
Why should she not believe that she would wreck him by resisting? And if
she suffered, oh sweet to think it was for his sake! Sweet to shut out
wisdom; accept total blindness, and be led by him!
The hag Wisdom annoyed them little further. She rustled her garments
ominously, and vanished.
"Oh, my own Richard!" the fair girl just breathed.
He whispered, "Call me that name."
She blushed deeply.
"Call me that name," he repeated. "You said it once today."
She was won. The rosy gate from which the word had issued was closed
with a seal.
Ripton did not enjoy his introduction to the caged bird of beauty that
night. He received a lesson in the art of pumping from the worthy
landlady below, up to an hour when she yawned, and he blinked, and their
common candle wore with dignity the brigand's hat of midnight, and cocked
a drunken eye at them from under it.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A young philosopher's an old fool!
Cold charity to all
I cannot get on with Gibbon
In our House, my son, there is peculiar blood. We go to wreck!
Our most diligent pupil learns not so much as an earnest teacher
THE ORDEAL OF RICHARD FEVEREL
By GEORGE MEREDITH
XXVIII. RELATES HOW PREPARATIONS FOR ACTION WERE
CONDUCTED UNDER THE APRIL OF LOVERS
XIX. IN WHICH THE LAST ACT OF THE COMEDY TAKES
THE PLACE OF THE FIRST
XXX. CELEBRATES THE BREAKFAST
XXXI. THE PHILOSOPHER APPEARS IN PERSON
XXXII. PROCESSION OF THE CAKE
XXXIII. NURSING THE DEVIL
Beauty, of course, is for the hero. Nevertheless, it is not always he on
whom beauty works its most conquering influence. It is the dull
commonplace man into whose slow brain she drops like a celestial light,
and burns lastingly. The poet, for instance, is a connoisseur of beauty:
to the artist she is a model. These gentlemen by much contemplation of
her charms wax critical. The days when they had hearts being gone, they
are haply divided between the blonde and the brunette; the aquiline nose
and the Proserpine; this shaped eye and that. But go about among simple
unprofessional fellows, boors, dunderheads, and here and there you shall
find some barbarous intelligence which has had just strength enough to
conceive, and has taken Beauty as its Goddess, and knows but one form to
worship, in its poor stupid fashion, and would perish for her. Nay,
more: the man would devote all his days to her, though he is dumb as a
dog. And, indeed, he is Beauty's Dog. Almost every Beauty has her Dog.
The hero possesses her; the poet proclaims her; the painter puts her upon
canvas; and the faithful Old Dog follows her: and the end of it all is
that the faithful Old Dog is her single attendant. Sir Hero is revelling
in the wars, or in Armida's bowers; Mr. Poet has spied a wrinkle; the
brush is for the rose in its season. She turns to her Old Dog then. She
hugs him; and he, who has subsisted on a bone and a pat till there he
squats decrepit, he turns his grateful old eyes up to her, and has not a
notion that she is hugging sad memories in him: Hero, Poet, Painter, in
one scrubby one! Then is she buried, and the village hears languid
howls, and there is a paragraph in the newspapers concerning the
extraordinary fidelity of an Old Dog.
Excited by suggestive recollections of Nooredeen and the Fair Persian,
and the change in the obscure monotony of his life by his having quarters
in a crack hotel, and living familiarly with West-End people--living on
the fat of the land (which forms a stout portion of an honest youth's
romance), Ripton Thompson breakfasted next morning with his chief at
half-past eight. The meal had been fixed overnight for seven, but Ripton
slept a great deal more than the nightingale, and (to chronicle his exact
state) even half-past eight rather afflicted his new aristocratic senses
and reminded him too keenly of law and bondage. He had preferred to
breakfast at Algernon's hour, who had left word for eleven. Him,
however, it was Richard's object to avoid, so they fell to, and Ripton no
longer envied Hippias in bed. Breakfast done, they bequeathed the
consoling information for Algernon that they were off to hear a popular
preacher, and departed.
"How happy everybody looks!" said Richard, in the quiet Sunday streets.
"Yes--jolly!" said Ripton.
"When I'm--when this is over, I'll see that they are, too--as many as I
can make happy," said the hero; adding softly: "Her blind was down at a
quarter to six. I think she slept well!"
"You've been there this morning?" Ripton exclaimed; and an idea of what
love was dawned upon his dull brain.
"Will she see me, Ricky?"
"Yes. She'll see you to-day. She was tired last night."
Richard assured him that the privilege would be his.
"Here," he said, coming under some trees in the park, "here's where I
talked to you last night. What a time it seems! How I hate the night!"
On the way, that Richard might have an exalted opinion of him, Ripton
hinted decorously at a somewhat intimate and mysterious acquaintance with
the sex. Headings of certain random adventures he gave.
"Well!" said his chief, "why not marry her?"
Then was Ripton shocked, and cried, "Oh!" and had a taste of the feeling
of superiority, destined that day to be crushed utterly.
He was again deposited in Mrs. Berry's charge for a term that caused him
dismal fears that the Fair Persian still refused to show her face, but
Richard called out to him, and up Ripton went, unaware of the
transformation he was to undergo. Hero and Beauty stood together to
receive him. From the bottom of the stairs he had his vivaciously
agreeable smile ready for them, and by the time he entered the room his
cheeks were painfully stiff, and his eyes had strained beyond their exact
meaning. Lucy, with one hand anchored to her lover, welcomed him kindly.
He relieved her shyness by looking so extremely silly. They sat down,
and tried to commence a conversation, but Ripton was as little master of
his tongue as he was of his eyes. After an interval, the Fair Persian
having done duty by showing herself, was glad to quit the room. Her lord
and possessor then turned inquiringly to Ripton.
"You don't wonder now, Rip?" he said.
"No, Richard!" Ripton waited to reply with sufficient solemnity, "indeed
He spoke differently; he looked differently. He had the Old Dog's eyes
in his head. They watched the door she had passed through; they listened
for her, as dogs' eyes do. When she came in, bonneted for a walk, his
agitation was dog-like. When she hung on her lover timidly, and went
forth, he followed without an idea of envy, or anything save the secret
raptures the sight of her gave him, which are the Old Dog's own. For
beneficent Nature requites him: His sensations cannot be heroic, but they
have a fulness and a wagging delight as good in their way. And this
capacity for humble unaspiring worship has its peculiar guerdon. When
Ripton comes to think of Miss Random now, what will he think of himself?
Let no one despise the Old Dog. Through him doth Beauty vindicate her
It did not please Ripton that others should have the bliss of beholding
her, and as, to his perceptions, everybody did, and observed her
offensively, and stared, and turned their heads back, and interchanged
comments on her, and became in a minute madly in love with her, he had to
smother low growls. They strolled about the pleasant gardens of
Kensington all the morning, under the young chestnut buds, and round the
windless waters, talking, and soothing the wild excitement of their
hearts. If Lucy spoke, Ripton pricked up his ears. She, too, made the
remark that everybody seemed to look happy, and he heard it with thrills
of joy. "So everybody is, where you are!" he would have wished to say,
if he dared, but was restrained by fears that his burning eloquence would
commit him. Ripton knew the people he met twice. It would have been
difficult to persuade him they were the creatures of accident.
From the Gardens, in contempt of Ripton's frowned protest, Richard boldly
struck into the park, where solitary carriages were beginning to perform
the circuit. Here Ripton had some justification for his jealous pangs.
The young girl's golden locks of hair; her sweet, now dreamily sad, face;
her gentle graceful figure in the black straight dress she wore; a sort
of half-conventual air she had--a mark of something not of class, that
was partly beauty's, partly maiden innocence growing conscious, partly
remorse at her weakness and dim fear of the future it was sowing--did
attract the eye-glasses. Ripton had to learn that eyes are bearable, but
eye-glasses an abomination. They fixed a spell upon his courage; for
somehow the youth had always ranked them as emblems of our nobility, and
hearing two exquisite eye-glasses, who had been to front and rear several
times, drawl in gibberish generally imputed to lords, that his heroine
was a charming little creature, just the size, but had no style,--he was
abashed; he did not fly at them and tear them. He became dejected.
Beauty's dog is affected by the eye-glass in a manner not unlike the
common animal's terror of the human eye.
Richard appeared to hear nothing, or it was homage that he heard. He
repeated to Lucy Diaper Sandoe's verses--
"The cockneys nod to each other aside,
The coxcombs lift their glasses,"
and projected hiring a horse for her to ride every day in the park, and
shine among the highest.
They had turned to the West, against the sky glittering through the bare
trees across the water, and the bright-edged rack. The lover, his
imagination just then occupied in clothing earthly glories in celestial,
felt where his senses were sharpest the hand of his darling falter, and
instinctively looked ahead. His uncle Algernon was leisurely jolting
towards them on his one sound leg. The dismembered Guardsman talked to a
friend whose arm supported him, and speculated from time to time on the
fair ladies driving by. The two white faces passed him unobserved.
Unfortunately Ripton, coming behind, went plump upon the Captain's live
toe--or so he pretended, crying, "Confound it, Mr. Thompson! you might
have chosen the other."
The horrible apparition did confound Ripton, who stammered that it was
"Not at all," said Algernon. "Everybody makes up to that fellow.
Instinct, I suppose!"
He had not to ask for his nephew. Richard turned to face the matter.
"Sorry I couldn't wait for you this morning, uncle," he said, with the
coolness of relationship. "I thought you never walked so far."
His voice was in perfect tone--the heroic mask admirable.
Algernon examined the downcast visage at his side, and contrived to
allude to the popular preacher. He was instantly introduced to Ripton's
sister, Miss Thompson.
The Captain bowed, smiling melancholy approval of his nephew's choice of
a minister. After a few stray remarks, and an affable salute to Miss
Thompson, he hobbled away, and then the three sealed volcanoes breathed,
and Lucy's arm ceased to be squeezed quite so much up to the heroic
This incident quickened their steps homeward to the sheltering wings of
Mrs. Berry. All that passed between them on the subject comprised a
stammered excuse from Ripton for his conduct, and a good-humoured
rejoinder from Richard, that he had gained a sister by it: at which
Ripton ventured to wish aloud Miss Desborough would only think so, and a
faint smile twitched poor Lucy's lips to please him. She hardly had
strength to reach her cage. She had none to eat of Mrs. Berry's nice
little dinner. To be alone, that she might cry and ease her heart of its
accusing weight of tears, was all she prayed for. Kind Mrs. Berry,
slipping into her bedroom to take off her things, found the fair body in
a fevered shudder, and finished by undressing her completely and putting
her to bed.
"Just an hour's sleep, or so," the mellifluous woman explained the case
to the two anxious gentlemen. "A quiet sleep and a cup of warm tea goes
for more than twenty doctors, it do--when there's the flutters," she
pursued. "I know it by myself. And a good cry beforehand's better than
the best of medicine."
She nursed them into a make-believe of eating, and retired to her softer
charge and sweeter babe, reflecting, "Lord! Lord! the three of 'em don't
make fifty! I'm as old as two and a half of 'em, to say the least."
Mrs. Berry used her apron, and by virtue of their tender years took them
all three into her heart.
Left alone, neither of the young men could swallow a morsel.
"Did you see the change come over her?" Richard whispered.
Ripton fiercely accused his prodigious stupidity.
The lover flung down his knife and fork: "What could I do? If I had said
nothing, we should have been suspected. I was obliged to speak. And she
hates a lie! See! it has struck her down. God forgive me!"
Ripton affected a serene mind: "It was a fright, Richard," he said.
"That's what Mrs. Berry means by flutters. Those old women talk in that
way. You heard what she said. And these old women know. I'll tell you
what it is. It's this, Richard!--it's because you've got a fool for your
"She regrets it," muttered the lover. "Good God! I think she fears me."
He dropped his face in his hands.
Ripton went to the window, repeating energetically for his comfort: "It's
because you've got a fool for your friend!"
Sombre grew the street they had last night aroused. The sun was buried
alive in cloud. Ripton saw himself no more in the opposite window. He
watched the deplorable objects passing on the pavement. His aristocratic
visions had gone like his breakfast. Beauty had been struck down by his
egregious folly, and there he stood--a wretch!
Richard came to him: "Don't mumble on like that, Rip!" he said. "Nobody
"Ah! you're very kind, Richard," interposed the wretch, moved at the face
of misery he beheld.
"Listen to me, Rip! I shall take her home to-night. Yes! If she's
happier away from me!--do you think me a brute, Ripton? Rather than have
her shed a tear, I'd!--I'll take her home to-night!"
Ripton suggested that it was sudden; adding from his larger experience,
people perhaps might talk.
The lover could not understand what they should talk about, but he said:
"If I give him who came for her yesterday the clue? If no one sees or
hears of me, what can they say? O Rip! I'll give her up. I'm wrecked
for ever! What of that? Yes--let them take her! The world in arms
should never have torn her from me, but when she cries--Yes! all's over.
I'll find him at once."
He searched in out-of-the-way corners for the hat of resolve. Ripton
looked on, wretcheder than ever.
The idea struck him:--"Suppose, Richard, she doesn't want to go?"
It was a moment when, perhaps, one who sided with parents and guardians
and the old wise world, might have inclined them to pursue their
righteous wretched course, and have given small Cupid a smack and sent
him home to his naughty Mother. Alas!(it is The Pilgrim's Scrip
interjecting) women are the born accomplices of mischief! In bustles
Mrs. Berry to clear away the refection, and finds the two knights helmed,
and sees, though 'tis dusk, that they wear doubtful brows, and guesses
bad things for her dear God Hymen in a twinkling.
"Dear! dear!" she exclaimed, "and neither of you eaten a scrap! And
there's my dear young lady off into the prettiest sleep you ever see!"
"Ha?" cried the lover, illuminated.
"Soft as a baby!" Mrs. Berry averred. "I went to look at her this very
moment, and there's not a bit of trouble in her breath. It come and it
go like the sweetest regular instrument ever made. The Black Ox haven't
trod on her foot yet! Most like it was the air of London. But only
fancy, if you had called in a doctor! Why, I shouldn't have let her take
any of his quackery. Now, there!"
Ripton attentively observed his chief, and saw him doff his hat with a
curious caution, and peer into its recess, from which, during Mrs.
Berry's speech, he drew forth a little glove--dropped there by some freak
"Keep me, keep me, now you have me!" sang the little glove, and amused
the lover with a thousand conceits.
"When will she wake, do you think, Mrs. Berry?" he asked.
"Oh! we mustn't go for disturbing her," said the guileful good creature.
"Bless ye! let her sleep it out. And if you young gentlemen was to take
my advice, and go and take a walk for to get a appetite--everybody should
eat! it's their sacred duty, no matter what their feelings be! and I say
it who'm no chicken!--I'll frickashee this--which is a chicken--against
your return. I'm a cook, I can assure ye!"
The lover seized her two hands. "You're the best old soul in the world!"
he cried. Mrs. Berry appeared willing to kiss him. "We won't disturb
her. Let her sleep. Keep her in bed, Mrs. Berry. Will you? And we'll
call to inquire after her this evening, and come and see her to-morrow.
I'm sure you'll be kind to her. There! there!" Mrs. Berry was preparing
to whimper. "I trust her to you, you see. Good-bye, you dear old soul."
He smuggled a handful of gold into her keeping, and went to dine with his
uncles, happy and hungry.
Before they reached the hotel, they had agreed to draw Mrs. Berry into
their confidence, telling her (with embellishments) all save their names,
so that they might enjoy the counsel and assistance of that trump of a
woman, and yet have nothing to fear from her. Lucy was to receive the
name of Letitia, Ripton's youngest and best-looking sister. The
heartless fellow proposed it in cruel mockery of an old weakness of hers.
"Letitia!" mused Richard. "I like the name. Both begin with L. There's
something soft--womanlike--in the L.'s."
Material Ripton remarked that they looked like pounds on paper. The
lover roamed through his golden groves. "Lucy Feverel! that sounds
better! I wonder where Ralph is. I should like to help him. He's in
love with my cousin Clare. He'll never do anything till he marries. No
man can. I'm going to do a hundred things when it's over. We shall
travel first. I want to see the Alps. One doesn't know what the earth
is till one has seen the Alps. What a delight it will be to her! I
fancy I see her eyes gazing up at them.
'And oh, your dear blue eyes, that heavenward glance
With kindred beauty, banished humbleness,
Past weeping for mortality's distress--
Yet from your soul a tear hangs there in trance.
And fills, but does not fall;
Softly I hear it call
At heaven's gate, till Sister Seraphs press
To look on you their old love from the skies:
Those are the eyes of Seraphs bright on your blue eyes!
"Beautiful! These lines, Rip, were written by a man who was once a friend
of my father's. I intend to find him and make them friends again. You
don't care for poetry. It's no use your trying to swallow it, Rip!"
"It sounds very nice," said Ripton, modestly shutting his mouth.
"The Alps! Italy! Rome! and then I shall go to the East," the hero
continued. "She's ready to go anywhere with me, the dear brave heart!
Oh, the glorious golden East! I dream of the desert. I dream I'm chief
of an Arab tribe, and we fly all white in the moonlight on our mares, and
hurry to the rescue of my darling! And we push the spears, and we
scatter them, and I come to the tent where she crouches, and catch her to
my saddle, and away!--Rip! what a life!"
Ripton strove to imagine he could enjoy it.
"And then we shall come home, and I shall lead Austin's life, with her to
help me. First be virtuous, Rip! and then serve your country heart and
soul. A wise man told me that. I think I shall do something."
Sunshine and cloud, cloud and sunshine, passed over the lover. Now life
was a narrow ring; now the distances extended, were winged, flew
illimitably. An hour ago and food was hateful. Now he manfully
refreshed his nature, and joined in Algernon's encomiums on Miss Letitia
Meantime Beauty slept, watched by the veteran volunteer of the hero's
band. Lucy awoke from dreams which seemed reality, to the reality which
was a dream. She awoke calling for some friend, "Margaret!" and heard
one say, "My name is Bessy Berry, my love! not Margaret." Then she
asked piteously where she was, and where was Margaret, her dear friend,
and Mrs. Berry whispered, "Sure you've got a dearer!"
"Ah!" sighed Lucy, sinking on her pillow, overwhelmed by the strangeness
of her state.
Mrs. Berry closed the frill of her nightgown and adjusted the bedclothes
Her name was breathed.
"Yes, my love?" she said.
"Is he here?"
"He's gone, my dear."
"Gone?--Oh, where?" The young girl started up in disorder.
"Gone, to be back, my love! Ah! that young gentleman!" Mrs. Berry
chanted: "Not a morsel have he eat; not a drop have he drunk!"
"O Mrs. Berry! why did you not make him?" Lucy wept for the famine-struck
hero, who was just then feeding mightily.
Mrs. Berry explained that to make one eat who thought the darling of his
heart like to die, was a sheer impossibility for the cleverest of women;
and on this deep truth Lucy reflected, with her eyes wide at the candle.
She wanted one to pour her feelings out to. She slid her hand from under
the bedclothes, and took Mrs. Berry's, and kissed it. The good creature
required no further avowal of her secret, but forthwith leaned her
consummate bosom to the pillow, and petitioned heaven to bless them
both!--Then the little bride was alarmed, and wondered how Mrs. Berry
could have guessed it.
"Why," said Mrs. Berry, "your love is out of your eyes, and out of
everything ye do." And the little bride wondered more. She thought she
had been so very cautious not to betray it. The common woman in them
made cheer together after their own April fashion. Following which Mrs.
Berry probed for the sweet particulars of this beautiful love-match; but
the little bride's lips were locked. She only said her lover was above
her in station.
"And you're a Catholic, my dear!"
"Yes, Mrs. Berry!"
"And him a Protestant."
"Yes, Mrs. Berry!"
"Dear, dear!--And why shouldn't ye be?" she ejaculated, seeing sadness
return to the bridal babe. "So as you was born, so shall ye be! But
you'll have to make your arrangements about the children. The girls to
worship with yet, the boys with him. It's the same God, my dear! You
mustn't blush at it, though you do look so pretty. If my young gentleman
could see you now!"
"Please, Mrs. Berry!" Lucy murmured.
"Why, he will, you know, my dear!"
"Oh, please, Mrs. Berry!"
"And you that can't bear the thoughts of it! Well, I do wish there was
fathers and mothers on both sides and dock-ments signed, and bridesmaids,
and a breakfast! but love is love, and ever will be, in spite of them."
She made other and deeper dives into the little heart, but though she
drew up pearls, they were not of the kind she searched for. The one fact
that hung as a fruit upon her tree of Love, Lucy had given her; she would
not, in fealty to her lover, reveal its growth and history, however sadly
she yearned to pour out all to this dear old Mother Confessor.
Her conduct drove Mrs. Berry from the rosy to the autumnal view of
matrimony, generally heralded by the announcement that it is a lottery.
"And when you see your ticket," said Mrs. Berry, "you shan't know whether
it's a prize or a blank. And, Lord knows! some go on thinking it's a
prize when it turns on 'em and tears 'em. I'm one of the blanks, my
dear! I drew a blank in Berry. He was a black Berry to me, my dear!
Smile away! he truly was, and I a-prizin' him as proud as you can
conceive! My dear!" Mrs. Berry pressed her hands flat on her apron.
"We hadn't been a three months man and wife, when that man--it wasn't
the honeymoon, which some can't say--that man--Yes! he kicked me.
His wedded wife he kicked! Ah!" she sighedto Lucy's large eyes,
"I could have borne that. A blow don't touch the heart," the poor
creature tapped her sensitive side. "I went on loving of him, for
I'm a soft one. Tall as a Grenadier he is, and when out of service
grows his moustache. I used to call him my body-guardsman like a
Queen! I flattered him like the fools we women are. For, take my word
for it, my dear, there's nothing here below so vain as a man! That I
know. But I didn't deserve it.... I'm a superior cook .... I did not
deserve that noways." Mrs. Berry thumped her knee, and accentuated up
her climax: "I mended his linen. I saw to his adornments--he called his
clothes, the bad man! I was a servant to him, my dear! and there--it was
nine months--nine months from the day he swear to protect and cherish and
that--nine calendar months, and my gentleman is off with another woman!
Bone of his bone!--pish!" exclaimed Mrs. Berry, reckoning her wrongs over
vividly. "Here's my ring. A pretty ornament! What do it mean? I'm for
tearin' it off my finger a dozen times in the day. It's a symbol? I
call it a tomfoolery for the dead-alive to wear it, that's a widow and
not a widow, and haven't got a name for what she is in any Dixonary, I've
looked, my dear, and"--she spread out her arms--"Johnson haven't got a
name for me!"
At this impressive woe Mrs. Berry's voice quavered into sobs. Lucy spoke
gentle words to the poor outcast from Johnson. The sorrows of Autumn
have no warning for April. The little bride, for all her tender pity,
felt happier when she had heard her landlady's moving tale of the
wickedness of man, which cast in bright relief the glory of that one hero
who was hers. Then from a short flight of inconceivable bliss, she fell,
shot by one of her hundred Argus-eyed fears.
"O Mrs. Berry! I'm so young! Think of me--only just seventeen!"
Mrs. Berry immediately dried her eyes to radiance. "Young, my dear!
Nonsense! There's no so much harm in being young, here and there. I
knew an Irish lady was married at fourteen. Her daughter married close
over fourteen. She was a grandmother by thirty! When any strange man
began, she used to ask him what pattern caps grandmothers wore. They'd
stare! Bless you! the grandmother could have married over and over
again. It was her daughter's fault, not hers, you know."
"She was three years younger," mused Lucy.
"She married beneath her, my dear. Ran off with her father's bailiff's
son. 'Ah, Berry!' she'd say, 'if I hadn't been foolish, I should be my
lady now--not Granny!' Her father never forgave her--left all his
estates out of the family."
"Did her husband always love her?" Lucy preferred to know.
"In his way, my dear, he did," said Mrs. Berry, coming upon her
matrimonial wisdom. "He couldn't help himself. If he left off, he began
again. She was so clever, and did make him so comfortable. Cook! there
wasn't such another cook out of a Alderman's kitchen; no, indeed! And
she a born lady! That tells ye it's the duty of all women! She had her
saying 'When the parlour fire gets low, put coals on the ketchen fire!'
and a good saying it is to treasure. Such is man! no use in havin' their
hearts if ye don't have their stomachs."
Perceiving that she grew abstruse, Mrs. Berry added briskly: "You know
nothing about that yet, my dear. Only mind me and mark me: don't neglect
your cookery. Kissing don't last: cookery do!"
Here, with an aphorism worthy a place in The Pilgrim'S Scrip, she broke
off to go posseting for her dear invalid. Lucy was quite well; very
eager to be allowed to rise and be ready when the knock should come.
Mrs. Berry, in her loving considerateness for the little bride,
positively commanded her to lie down, and be quiet, and submit to be
nursed and cherished. For Mrs. Berry well knew that ten minutes alone
with the hero could only be had while the little bride was in that
Thanks to her strategy, as she thought, her object was gained. The night
did not pass before she learnt, from the hero's own mouth, that Mr.
Richards, the father of the hero, and a stern lawyer, was adverse to his
union with this young lady he loved, because of a ward of his, heiress to
an immense property, whom he desired his son to espouse; and because his
darling Letitia was a Catholic--Letitia, the sole daughter of a brave
naval officer deceased, and in the hands of a savage uncle, who wanted to
sacrifice this beauty to a brute of a son. Mrs. Berry listened
credulously to the emphatic narrative, and spoke to the effect that the
wickedness of old people formed the excuse for the wildness of young
ones. The ceremonious administration of oaths of secrecy and devotion
over, she was enrolled in the hero's band, which now numbered three, and
entered upon the duties with feminine energy, for there are no
conspirators like women. Ripton's lieutenancy became a sinecure, his
rank merely titular. He had never been married--he knew nothing about
licences, except that they must be obtained, and were not difficult--he
had not an idea that so many days' warning must be given to the clergyman
of the parish where one of the parties was resident. How should he? All
his forethought was comprised in the ring, and whenever the discussion of
arrangements for the great event grew particularly hot and important, he
would say, with a shrewd nod: "We mustn't forget the ring, you know, Mrs.
Berry!" and the new member was only prevented by natural complacence from
shouting: "Oh, drat ye! and your ring too." Mrs. Berry had acted
conspicuously in fifteen marriages, by banns, and by licence, and to have
such an obvious requisite dinned in her ears was exasperating. They
could not have contracted alliance with an auxiliary more invaluable, an
authority so profound; and they acknowledged it to themselves. The hero
marched like an automaton at her bidding; Lieutenant Thompson was
rejoiced to perform services as errand-boy in the enterprise.
"It's in hopes you'll be happier than me, I do it," said the devout and
charitable Berry. "Marriages is made in heaven, they say; and if that's
the case, I say they don't take much account of us below!"
Her own woeful experiences had been given to the hero in exchange for his
story of cruel parents.
Richard vowed to her that he would henceforth hold it a duty to hunt out
the wanderer from wedded bonds, and bring him back bound and suppliant.
"Oh, he'll come!" said Mrs. Berry, pursing prophetic wrinkles: "he'll
come of his own accord. Never anywhere will he meet such a cook as Bessy
Berry! And he know her value in his heart of hearts. And I do believe,
when he do come, I shall be opening these arms to him again, and not
slapping his impidence in the face--I'm that soft! I always was--in
matrimony, Mr. Richards!"
As when nations are secretly preparing for war, the docks and arsenals
hammer night and day, and busy contractors measure time by inches, and
the air hums around: for leagues as it were myriads of bees, so the house
and neighbourhood of the matrimonial soft one resounded in the heroic
style, and knew little of the changes of light decreed by Creation. Mrs.
Berry was the general of the hour. Down to Doctors' Commons she
expedited the hero, instructing him how boldly to face the Law, and fib:
for that the Law never could mist a fib and a bold face. Down the hero
went, and proclaimed his presence. And lo! the Law danced to him its
sedatest lovely bear's-dance. Think ye the Lawless susceptible to him
than flesh and blood? With a beautiful confidence it put the few
familiar questions to him, and nodded to his replies: then stamped the
bond, and took the fee. It must be an old vagabond at heart that can
permit the irrevocable to go so cheap, even to a hero. For only mark him
when he is petitioned by heroes and heroines to undo what he does so
easily! That small archway of Doctors' Commons seems the eye of a
needle, through which the lean purse has a way, somehow, of slipping more
readily than the portly; but once through, all are camels alike, the lean
purse an especially big camel. Dispensing tremendous marriage as it
does, the Law can have no conscience.
"I hadn't the slightest difficulty," said the exulting hero.
"Of course not!" returns Mrs. Berry. "It's as easy, if ye're in earnest,
as buying a plum bun."
Likewise the ambassador of the hero went to claim the promise of the
Church to be in attendance on a certain spot, on a certain day, and there
hear oath of eternal fealty, and gird him about with all its forces:
which the Church, receiving a wink from the Law, obsequiously engaged to
do, for less than the price of a plum-cake.
Meantime, while craftsmen and skilled women, directed by Mrs. Berry, were
toiling to deck the day at hand, Raynham and Belthorpe slept,--the former
soundly; and one day was as another to them. Regularly every morning a
letter arrived from Richard to his father, containing observations on the
phenomena of London; remarks (mainly cynical) on the speeches and acts of
Parliament; and reasons for not having yet been able to call on the
Grandisons. They were certainly rather monotonous and spiritless. The
baronet did not complain. That cold dutiful tone assured him there was
no internal trouble or distraction. "The letters of a healthful
physique!" he said to Lady Blandish, with sure insight. Complacently he
sat and smiled, little witting that his son's ordeal was imminent, and
that his son's ordeal was to be his own. Hippias wrote that his nephew
was killing him by making appointments which he never kept, and
altogether neglecting him in the most shameless way, so that his
ganglionic centre was in a ten times worse state than when he left
Raynham. He wrote very bitterly, but it was hard to feel compassion for
his offended stomach.
On the other hand, young Tom Blaize was not forthcoming, and had
despatched no tidings whatever. Farmer Blaize smoked his pipe evening
after evening, vastly disturbed. London was a large place--young Tom
might be lost in it, he thought; and young Tom had his weaknesses. A
wolf at Belthorpe, he was likely to be a sheep in London, as yokels have
proved. But what had become of Lucy? This consideration almost sent
Farmer Blaize off to London direct, and he would have gone had not his
pipe enlightened him. A young fellow might play truant and get into a
scrape, but a young man and a young woman were sure to be heard of,
unless they were acting in complicity. Why, of course, young Tom had
behaved like a man, the rascal! and married her outright there, while he
had the chance. It was a long guess. Still it was the only reasonable
way of accounting for his extraordinary silence, and therefore the farmer
held to it that he had done the deed. He argued as modern men do who
think the hero, the upsetter of ordinary calculations, is gone from us.
So, after despatching a letter to a friend in town to be on the outlook
for son Tom, he continued awhile to smoke his pipe, rather elated than
not, and mused on the shrewd manner he should adopt when Master Honeymoon
Toward the middle of the second week of Richard's absence, Tom Bakewell
came to Raynham for Cassandra, and privately handed a letter to the
Eighteenth Century, containing a request for money, and a round sum. The
Eighteenth Century was as good as her word, and gave Tom a letter in
return, enclosing a cheque on her bankers, amply providing to keep the
heroic engine in motion at a moderate pace. Tom went back, and Raynham
and Lobourne slept and dreamed not of the morrow. The System, wedded to
Time, slept, and knew not how he had been outraged--anticipated by seven
pregnant seasons. For Time had heard the hero swear to that legalizing
instrument, and had also registered an oath. Ah me! venerable Hebrew
Time! he is unforgiving. Half the confusion and fever of the world comes
of this vendetta he declares against the hapless innocents who have once
done him a wrong. They cannot escape him. They will never outlive it.
The father of jokes, he is himself no joke; which it seems the business
of men to discover.
The days roll round. He is their servant now. Mrs. Berry has a new
satin gown, a beautiful bonnet, a gold brooch, and sweet gloves,
presented to her by the hero, wherein to stand by his bride at the altar
to-morrow; and, instead of being an old wary hen, she is as much a
chicken as any of the party, such has been the magic of these articles.
Fathers she sees accepting the facts produced for them by their children;
a world content to be carved out as it pleases the hero.
At last Time brings the bridal eve, and is blest as a benefactor. The
final arrangements are made; the bridegroom does depart; and Mrs. Berry
lights the little bride to her bed. Lucy stops on the landing where
there is an old clock eccentrically correct that night. 'Tis the
palpitating pause before the gates of her transfiguration. Mrs. Berry
sees her put her rosy finger on the One about to strike, and touch all
the hours successively till she comes to the Twelve that shall sound
"Wife" in her ears on the morrow, moving her lips the while, and looking
round archly solemn when she has done; and that sight so catches at Mrs.
Berry's heart that, not guessing Time to be the poor child's enemy, she
endangers her candle by folding Lucy warmly in her arms, whimpering;
"Bless you for a darling! you innocent lamb! You shall be happy! You
Old Time gazes grimly ahead.
Although it blew hard when Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the passage of
that river is commonly calm; calm as Acheron. So long as he gets his
fare, the ferryman does not need to be told whom he carries: he pulls
with a will, and heroes may be over in half-an-hour. Only when they
stand on the opposite bank, do they see what a leap they have taken. The
shores they have relinquished shrink to an infinite remoteness. There
they have dreamed: here they must act. There lie youth and irresolution:
here manhood and purpose. They are veritably in another land: a moral
Acheron divides their life. Their memories scarce seem their own! The
Philosophical Geography (about to be published) observes that each man
has, one time or other, a little Rubicon--a clear or a foul water to
cross. It is asked him: "Wilt thou wed this Fate, and give up all behind
thee?" And "I will," firmly pronounced, speeds him over. The above-
named manuscript authority informs us, that by far the greater number of
caresses rolled by this heroic flood to its sister stream below, are
those of fellows who have repented their pledge, and have tried to swim
back to the bank they have blotted out. For though every man of us may
be a hero for one fatal minute, very few remain so after a day's march
even: and who wonders that Madam Fate is indignant, and wears the
features of the terrible Universal Fate to him? Fail before her, either
in heart or in act, and lo, how the alluring loves in her visage wither
and sicken to what it is modelled on! Be your Rubicon big or small,
clear or foul, it is the same: you shall not return. On--or to Acheron!-
-I subscribe to that saying of The Pilgrim's Scrip:
"The danger of a little knowledge of things is disputable: but beware the
little knowledge of one's self!"
Richard Feverel was now crossing the River of his Ordeal. Already the
mists were stealing over the land he had left: his life was cut in two,
and he breathed but the air that met his nostrils. His father, his
father's love, his boyhood and ambition, were shadowy. His poetic dreams
had taken a living attainable shape. He had a distincter impression of
the Autumnal Berry and her household than of anything at Raynham. And
yet the young man loved his father, loved his home: and I daresay Caesar
loved Rome: but whether he did or no, Caesar when he killed the Republic
was quite bald, and the hero we are dealing with is scarce beginning to
feel his despotic moustache. Did he know what he was made of?
Doubtless, nothing at all. But honest passion has an instinct that can
be safer than conscious wisdom. He was an arrow drawn to the head,
flying from the bow. His audacious mendacities and subterfuges did not
strike him as in any way criminal; for he was perfectly sure that the
winning and securing of Lucy would in the end be boisterously approved
of, and in that case, were not the means justified? Not that he took
trouble to argue thus, as older heroes and self-convicting villains are
in the habit of doing; to deduce a clear conscience. Conscience and Lucy
It was a soft fair day. The Rubicon sparkled in the morning sun. One of
those days when London embraces the prospect of summer, and troops forth
all its babies. The pavement, the squares, the parks, were early alive
with the cries of young Britain. Violet and primrose girls, and organ
boys with military monkeys, and systematic bands very determined in tone
if not in tune, filled the atmosphere, and crowned the blazing procession
of omnibuses, freighted with business men, Cityward, where a column of
reddish brown smoke,--blown aloft by the South-west, marked the scene of
conflict to which these persistent warriors repaired. Richard had seen
much of early London that morning. His plans were laid. He had taken
care to ensure his personal liberty against accidents, by leaving his
hotel and his injured uncle Hippias at sunrise. To-day or to-morrow his
father was to arrive. Farmer Blaize, Tom Bakewell reported to him, was
raging in town. Another day and she might be torn from him: but to-day
this miracle of creation would be his, and then from those glittering
banks yonder, let them summon him to surrender her who dared! The
position of things looked so propitious that he naturally thought the
powers waiting on love conspired in his behalf. And she, too--since she
must cross this river, she had sworn to him to be brave, and do him
honour, and wear the true gladness of her heart in her face. Without a
suspicion of folly in his acts, or fear of results, Richard strolled into
Kensington Gardens, breakfasting on the foreshadow of his great joy, now
with a vision of his bride, now of the new life opening to him. Mountain
masses of clouds, rounded in sunlight, swung up the blue. The flowering
chestnut pavilions overhead rustled and hummed. A sound in his ears as
of a banner unfolding in the joyful distance lulled him.
He was to meet his bride at the church at a quarter past eleven. His
watch said a quarter to ten. He strolled on beneath the long-stemmed
trees toward the well dedicated to a saint obscure. Some people were
drinking at the well. A florid lady stood by a younger one, who had a
little silver mug half-way to her mouth, and evinced undisguised dislike
to the liquor of the salutary saint.
"Drink, child!" said the maturer lady. "That is only your second mug. I
insist upon your drinking three full ones every morning we're in town.
Your constitution positively requires iron!"
"But, mama," the other expostulated, "it's so nasty. I shall be sick."
"Drink!" was the harsh injunction. "Nothing to the German waters, my
dear. Here, let me taste." She took the mug and gave it a flying kiss.
"I declare I think it almost nice--not at all objectionable. Pray, taste
it," she said to a gentleman standing below them to act as cup-bearer.
An unmistakable cis-Rubicon voice replied: "Certainly, if it's good
fellowship; though I confess I don't think mutual sickness a very
Can one never escape from one's relatives? Richard ejaculated inwardly.
Without a doubt those people were Mrs. Doria, Clare, and Adrian. He had
them under his eyes.
Clare, peeping up from her constitutional dose to make sure no man was
near to see the possible consequence of it, was the first to perceive
him. Her hand dropped.
"Now, pray, drink, and do not fuss!" said Mrs. Doria.
"Mama!" Clare gasped.
Richard came forward and capitulated honourably, since retreat was out of
the question. Mrs. Doria swam to meet him: "My own boy! My dear
Richard!" profuse of exclamations. Clare shyly greeted him. Adrian kept
in the background.
"Why, we were coming for you to-day, Richard," said Mrs. Doria, smiling
effusion; and rattled on, "We want another cavalier. This is delightful!
My dear nephew! You have grown from a boy to a man. And there's down on
his lip! And what brings you here at such an hour in the morning?
Poetry, I suppose! Here, take my, arm, child.--Clare! finish that mug
and thank your cousin for sparing you the third. I always bring her,
when we are by a chalybeate, to take the waters before breakfast. We
have to get up at unearthly hours. Think, my dear boy! Mothers are
sacrifices! And so you've been alone a fortnight with your agreeable
uncle! A charming time of it you must have had! Poor Hippias! what may
be his last nostrum?"
"Nephew!" Adrian stretched his head round to the couple. "Doses of
nephew taken morning and night fourteen days! And he guarantees that it
shall destroy an iron constitution in a month."
Richard mechanically shook Adrian's hand as he spoke.
"Quite well, Ricky?"
"Yes: well enough," Richard answered.
"Well?" resumed his vigorous aunt, walking on with him, while Clare and
Adrian followed. "I really never saw you looking so handsome. There's
something about your face--look at me--you needn't blush. You've grown
to an Apollo. That blue buttoned-up frock coat becomes you admirably--
and those gloves, and that easy neck-tie. Your style is irreproachable,
quite a style of your own! And nothing eccentric. You have the instinct
of dress. Dress shows blood, my dear boy, as much as anything else.
Boy!--you see, I can't forget old habits. You were a boy when I left,
and now!--Do you see any change in him, Clare?" she turned half round to
"Richard is looking very well, mama," said Clare, glancing at him under
"I wish I could say the same of you, my dear.--Take my arm, Richard. Are
you afraid of your aunt? I want to get used to you. Won't it be
pleasant, our being all in town together in the season? How fresh the
Opera will be to you! Austin, I hear, takes stalls. You can come to the
Forey's box when you like. We are staying with the Foreys close by here.
I think it's a little too far out, you know; but they like the
neighbourhood. This is what I have always said: Give him more liberty!
Austin has seen it at last. How do you think Clare looking?"
The question had to be repeated. Richard surveyed his cousin hastily,
and praised her looks.
"Pale!" Mrs. Doria sighed.
"Rather pale, aunt."
"Grown very much--don't you think, Richard?"
"Very tall girl indeed, aunt."
"If she had but a little more colour, my dear Richard! I'm sure I give
her all the iron she can swallow, but that pallor still continues. I
think she does not prosper away from her old companion. She was
accustomed to look up to you, Richard"--
"Did you get Ralph's letter, aunt?" Richard interrupted her.
"Absurd!" Mrs. Doria pressed his arm. "The nonsense of a boy! Why did
you undertake to forward such stuff?"
"I'm certain he loves her," said Richard, in a serious way.
The maternal eyes narrowed on him. "Life, my dear Richard, is a game of
cross-purposes," she observed, dropping her fluency, and was rather
angered to hear him laugh. He excused himself by saying that she spoke
so like his father.
"You breakfast with us," she freshened off again. "The Foreys wish to
see you; the girls are dying to know you. Do you know, you have a
reputation on account of that"--she crushed an intruding adjective--
"System you were brought up on. You mustn't mind it. For my part, I
think you look a credit to it. Don't be bashful with young women, mind!
As much as you please with the old ones. You know how to behave among
men. There you have your Drawing-room Guide! I'm sure I shall be proud
of you. Am I not?"
Mrs. Doria addressed his eyes coaxingly.
A benevolent idea struck Richard, that he might employ the minutes to
spare, in pleading the case of poor Ralph; and, as he was drawn along, he
pulled out his watch to note the precise number of minutes he could
dedicate to this charitable office.
"Pardon me," said Mrs. Doria. "You want manners, my dear boy. I think
it never happened to me before that a man consulted his watch in my
Richard mildly replied that he had an engagement at a particular hour, up
to which he was her servant.
"Fiddlededee!" the vivacious lady sang. "Now I've got you, I mean to
keep you. Oh! I've heard all about you. This ridiculous indifference
that your father makes so much of! Why, of course, you wanted to see the
world! A strong healthy young man shut up all his life in a lonely
house--no friends, no society, no amusements but those of rustics! Of
course you were indifferent! Your intelligence and superior mind alone
saved you from becoming a dissipated country boor.--Where are the
Clare and Adrian came up at a quick pace.
"My damozel dropped something," Adrian explained.
Her mother asked what it was.
"Nothing, mama," said Clare, demurely, and they proceeded as before.
Overborne by his aunt's fluency of tongue, and occupied in acute
calculation of the flying minutes, Richard let many pass before he edged
in a word for Ralph. When he did, Mrs. Doria stopped him immediately.
"I must tell you, child, that I refuse to listen to such rank idiotcy."
"It's nothing of the kind, aunt."
"The fancy of a boy."
"He's not a boy. He's half-a-year older than I am!"
"You silly child! The moment you fall in love, you all think yourselves
"On my honour, aunt! I believe he loves her thoroughly."
"Did he tell you so, child?"
"Men don't speak openly of those things," said Richard.