Immediately upon these words there came another roar surprisingly hoarse, deep, and near at hand.
"Ay, ay, sir! here I be, Cap'n," the voice bellowed back. "Here I be, sir, my helm hard a-starboard, studden sails set, and all a-drawing alow and aloft, but making bad weather on it on account o' these here furrers and this here jury-mast o' mine, but I'll fetch up alongside in a couple o' tacks."
Now glancing in the direction of the voice, Barnabas perceived a head and face that bobbed up and down on the opposite side of the hedge. A red face it was, a jovial, good-humored face, lit up with quick, bright eyes that twinkled from under a prodigious pair of eyebrows; a square honest face whose broad good nature beamed out from a mighty bush of curling whisker and pigtail, and was surmounted by a shining, glazed hat.
Being come opposite to them, he paused to mop at his red face with a neckerchief of vivid hue, which done, he touched the brim of the glazed hat, and though separated from them by no more than the hedge and ditch, immediately let out another roar—for all the world as though he had been hailing the maintop of a Seventy-four in a gale of wind.
"Here I be, Cap'n!" he bellowed, "studden sails set an' drawing, tho' obleeged to haul my wind, d'ye see, on account o' this here spar o' mine a-running foul o' the furrers." Having said the which, he advanced again with a heave to port and a lurch to starboard very like a ship in a heavy sea; this peculiarity of gait was explained as he hove into full view, for then Barnabas saw that his left leg was gone from the knee and had been replaced by a wooden one.
"Bo'sun," said the Captain, indicating Barnabas, with a flap of his empty sleeve, "Bo'sun—favor me, I say oblige me by explaining to this young gentleman your opinion of a gentleman—I say tell him who you think is the First Gentleman in Europe!"
The Bo'sun stared from Barnabas to the Captain and back again.
"Begging your Honor's parding," said he, touching the brim of the glazed hat, "but surely nobody don't need to be told that 'ere?"
"It would seem so, Jerry."
"Why then, Cap'n—since you ax me, I should tell you—bold an' free like, as the First Gentleman in Europe—ah! or anywhere else—was Lord Nelson an' your Honor."
As he spoke the Bo'sun stood up very straight despite his wooden leg, and when he touched his hat again, his very pigtail seemed straighter and stiffer than ever.
"Young sir," said the Captain, regarding Barnabas from the corners of his eyes, "what d' ye say to that?"
"Why," returned Barnabas, "now I come to think of it, I believe the Bo'sun is right."
"Sir," nodded the Captain, "the Bo'sun generally is; my Bo'sun, sir, is as remarkable as that leg of his which he has contrived so that it will screw on or off—in sections sir—I mean the wooden one."
"But," said Barnabas, beginning to stroke his chin in the argumentative way that was all his father's, "but, sir, I was meaning gentlemen yet living, and Lord Nelson, unfortunately, is dead."
"Bo'sun," said the Captain, "what d' ye say to that?"
"Why, Cap'n, axing the young gentleman's pardon, I beg leave to remark, or as you might say, ob-serve, as men like 'im don't die, they jest gets promoted, so to speak."
"Very true, Jerry," nodded the Captain again, "they do, but go to a higher service, very true. And now, Bo'sun, the bread!"
"Ay, ay, sir!" said the Bo'sun, and, taking the neat parcel the Captain held out, dropped it forthwith into the crown of the glazed hat.
"Bo'sun, the meat! the young fool will be hungry by now, poor lad!"
"Ay, ay, Cap'n!" And, the meat having disappeared into the same receptacle, the Bo'sun resumed his hat. Now turning to Barnabas, the Captain held out his hand.
"Sir," said he, "I wish you good-by and a prosperous voyage, and may you find yourself too much a man ever to fall so low as 'fashion,'—I say dammit! The bread and meat, sir, are for a young fool who thinks, like yourself, that the World of Fashion is the world. By heaven, sir, I say by Gog and Magog! if I had a son with fashionable aspirations, I'd have him triced up to the triangles and flogged with the 'cat'—I say with the cat-o'-ninetails, sir, that is—no I wouldn't, besides I—never had a son—she—died, sir—and good-by!"
"Stay," said Barnabas, "pray tell me to whom I am indebted for so much good instruction."
"My name, sir, is Chumly—plain Chumly—spelt with a U and an M, sir; none of your olmondeleys for me, sir, and I beg you to know that I have no crest or monogram or coat of arms; there's neither or, azure, nor argent about me; I'm neither rampant, nor passant, nor even regardant. And I want none of your sables, ermines, bars, escallops, embattled fiddle-de-dees, or dencette tarradiddles, sir. I'm Chumly, Captain John Chumly, plain and without any fashionable varnish. Consequently, though I have commanded many good ships, sloops, frigates, and even one Seventy-four—"
"The 'Bully-Sawyer,' Trafalgar!" added the Bo'sun.
"Seeing I am only John Chumly, with a U and an M, I retire still a captain. Now, had I clapped in an olmondeley and the rest of the fashionable gewgaws, I should now be doubtless a Rear Admiral at the very least, for the polite world—the World of Fashion is rampant, sir, not to mention passant and regardant. So, if you would achieve a reputation among Persons of Quality nowadays—bow, sir, bow everywhere day in and day out—keep a supple back, young sir, and spell your name with as many unnecessary letters as you can. And as regards my idea of a gentleman, he is, I take it, a man—who is gentle—I say good morning, young sir." As he ended, the Captain took off his hat, with his remaining arm put it on again, and then reached out, suddenly, and clapped Barnabas upon the shoulder. "Here's wishing you a straight course, lad," said he with a smile, every whit as young and winning as that which curved the lips of Barnabas, "a fair course and a good, clean wind to blow all these fashionable fooleries out of your head. Good-by!" So he nodded, turned sharp about and went upon his way.
Hereupon the Bo'sun shook his head, took off the glazed hat, stared into it, and putting it on again, turned and stumped along beside Barnabas.
CONCERNING THE CAPTAIN'S ARM, THE BOSUN'S LEG, AND THE "BELISARIUS," SEVENTY-FOUR
"The 'Bully-Sawyer,' Trafalgar!" murmured the Bo'sun, as they went on side by side; "you've 'eerd o' the 'Bully-Sawyer,' Seventy-four, o' course, young sir?"
"I'm afraid not," said Barnabas, rather apologetically.
"Not 'eerd o' the 'Bully-Sawyer,' Seventy-four, Lord, young sir! axing your pardon, but—not 'eerd o' the—why, she were in the van that day one o' the first to engage the enemy—but a cable's length to wind'ard o' the 'Victory'—one o' the first to come up wi' the Mounseers, she were. An' now you tell me as you ain't 'eerd o' the—Lord, sir!" and the Bo'sun sighed, and shook his head till it was a marvel how the glazed hat kept its position.
"Won't you tell me of her, Bo'sun?"
"Tell you about the old 'Bully-Sawyer,' Seventy-four, ay surely, sir, surely. Ah! 't were a grand day for us, a grand day for our Nelson, and a grand day for England—that twenty-first o' October—though 't were that day as they French and Spanishers done for the poor old 'Bully-Sawyer,' Seventy-four, and his honor's arm and my leg, d' ye see. The wind were light that day as we bore down on their line—in two columns, d' ye see, sir—we was in Nelson's column, the weather line 'bout a cable's length astarn o' the 'Victory.' On we went, creeping nearer and nearer—the 'Victory,' the old 'Bully-Sawyer,' and the 'Temeraire'—and every now and then the Mounseers trying a shot at us to find the range, d' ye see. Right ahead o' us lay the 'Santissima Trinidado'—a great four-decker, young sir—astarn o' her was the 'Beaucenture,' and astarn o' her again, the 'Redoutable,' wi' eight or nine others. On we went wi' the Admiral's favorite signal flying, 'Engage the enemy more closely.' Ah, young sir, there weren't no stand-offishness about our Nelson, God bless him! As we bore closer their shot began to come aboard o' us, but the old 'Bully-Sawyer' never took no notice, no, not so much as a gun. Lord! I can see her now as she bore down on their line; every sail drawing aloft, the white decks below—the gleam o' her guns wi' their crews stripped to the waist, every eye on the enemy, every man at his post—very different she looked an hour arterwards. Well, sir, all at once the great 'Santissima Trinidado' lets fly at us wi' her whole four tiers o' broadside, raking us fore and aft, and that begun it; down comes our foretopmast wi' a litter o' falling spars and top-hamper, and the decks was all at once splashed, here and there, wi' ugly blotches. But, Lord! the old 'Bully-Sawyer' never paid no heed, and still the men stood to the guns, and his Honor, the Captain, strolled up and down, chatting to his flag officer. Then the enemy's ships opened on us one arter another, the 'Beaucenture,' the 'San Nicholas,' and the 'Redoutable' swept and battered us wi' their murderous broadsides; the air seemed full o' smoke and flame, and the old 'Bully-Sawyer' in the thick o' it. But still we could see the 'Victory' through the drifting smoke ahead o' us wi' the signal flying, 'Engage the enemy more closely,' and still we waited and waited very patient, and crept down on the enemy nearer and nearer."
"And every minute their fire grew hotter, and their aim truer—down came our mizzen-topgallant-mast, and hung down over our quarter; away went our bowsprit—but we held on till we struck their line 'twixt the 'Santissima Trinidado' and the 'Beaucenture,' and, as we crossed the Spanisher's wake, so close that our yard-arms grazed her gilded starn, up flashed his Honor's sword, 'Now, lads!' cried he, hailing the guns—and then—why then, afore I'd took my whistle from my lips, the old 'Bully-Sawyer,' as had been so patient, so very patient, let fly wi' every starboard gun as it bore, slap into the great Spanisher's towering starn, and, a moment arter, her larboard guns roared and flamed as her broadside smashed into the 'Beaucenture,' and 'bout five minutes arterwards we fell aboard o' the 'Fougeux,' and there we lay, young sir, and fought it out yard-arm to yard-arm, and muzzle to muzzle, so close that the flame o' their guns blackened and scorched us, and we was obliged to heave buckets o' water, arter every discharge, to put out the fire. Lord! but the poor old 'Bully-Sawyer' were in a tight corner then, what wi' the 'Fougeux' to port, the 'Beaucenture' to starboard, and the great Spanisher hammering us astarn, d' ye see. But there was our lads—what was left o' 'em—reeking wi' sweat, black wi' powder, splashed wi' blood, fighting the guns; and there was his Honor the Cap'n, leaning against the quarter-rail wi' his sword in one hand, and his snuff-box in t' other—he had two hands then, d'ye see, young sir; and there was me, hauling on the tackle o' one o' the quarter-guns—it happened to be short-handed, d'ye see—when, all at once, I felt a kind o' shock, and there I was flat o' my back, and wi' the wreckage o' that there quarter-gun on this here left leg o' mine, pinning me to the deck. As I lay there I heerd our lads a cheering above the roar and din, and presently, the smoke lifting a bit, I see the Spanisher had struck, but I likewise see as the poor old 'Bully-Sawyer' were done for; she lay a wreck—black wi' smoke, blistered wi' fire, her decks foul wi' blood, her fore and mainmasts beat overboard, and only the mizzen standing. All this I see in a glance—ah! and something more—for the mizzen-topgallant had been shot clean through at the cap, and hung dangling. But now, what wi' the quiver o' the guns and the roll o' the vessel, down she come sliding, and sliding, nearer and nearer, till the splintered end brought up ag'in the wreck o' my gun. But presently I see it begin to slide ag'in nearer to me—very slow, d'ye see—inch by inch, and there's me pinned on the flat o' my back, watching it come. 'Another foot,' I sez, 'and there's an end o' Jerry Tucker—another ten inches, another eight, another six.' Lord, young sir, I heaved and I strained at that crushed leg o' mine; but there I was, fast as ever, while down came the t'gallant—inch by inch. Then, all at once, I kinder let go o' myself. I give a shout, sir, and then—why then—there's his Honor the Cap'n leaning over me. 'Is that you, Jerry?' sez he—for I were black wi' powder, d' ye see, sir. 'Is that you, Jerry?' sez he. 'Ay, ay, sir,' sez I, 'it be me surely, till this here spar slips down and does for me.' 'It shan't do that,' sez he, very square in the jaw. 'It must,' sez I. 'No,' sez he. 'Nothing to stop it, sir,' sez I. 'Yes, there is,' sez he. 'What's that,' sez I. 'This,' sez he, 'twixt his shut teeth, young sir. And then, under that there hellish, murdering piece of timber, the Cap'n sets his hand and arm—his naked hand and arm, sir!' In the name o' God!' I sez, 'let it come, sir!' 'And lose my Bo'sun?—not me!' sez he. Then, sir, I see his face go white—and whiter. I heerd the bones o' his hand and arm crack—like so many sticks—and down he falls atop o' me in a dead faint, sir."
"But the t'gallant were stopped, and the life were kept in this here carcase o' mine. So—that's how the poor old 'Bully-Sawyer,' Seventy-four, were done for—that's how his Honor lost his arm, and me my leg, sir. And theer be the stocks, and theer be our young gentleman inside o' 'em, as cool and smiling and comfortable as you please."
WHICH CONCERNS ITSELF, AMONG OTHER MATTERS, WITH THE VIRTUES OF A PAIR OF STOCKS AND THE PERVERSITY OF FATHERS
Before them was a church, a small church, gray with age, and, like age, lonely. It stood well back from the road which wound away down the hill to the scattered cottages in the valley below.
About this church was a burial ground, upon whose green mounds and leaning headstones the great square tower cast a protecting shadow that was like a silent benediction. A rural graveyard this, very far removed from the strife and bustle of cities, and, therefore, a good place to sleep in.
A low stone wall was set about it, and in the wall was a gate with a weather-beaten porch, and beside the gate were the stocks, and in the stocks, with his hands in his pockets, and his back against the wall, sat a young gentleman.
A lonely figure, indeed, whose boots, bright and polished, were thrust helplessly enough through the leg-holes of the stocks, as though offering themselves to the notice of every passer-by. Tall he was, and point-de-vice from those same helpless boots to the gleaming silver buckle in his hat band.
Now observing the elegance of his clothes, and the modish languor of his lounging figure, Barnabas at once recognized him as a gentleman par excellence, and immediately the memory of his own country-made habiliments and clumsy boots arose and smote him. The solitary prisoner seemed in no whit cast down by his awkward and most undignified situation, indeed, as they drew nearer, Barnabas could hear him whistling softly to himself. At the sound of their approach, however, he glanced up, and observed them from under the brim of the buckled hat with a pair of the merriest blue eyes in the world.
"Aha, Jerry!" he cried, "whom do you bring to triumph over me in my abasement? For shame, Jerry! Is this the act of a loving and affectionate Bo'sun, the Bo'sun of my innocent childhood? Oh, bruise and blister me!"
"Why, sir," answered the Bo'sun, beaming through his whiskers, "this be only a young genelman, like yourself, as be bound for Lonnon, Master Horatio."
The face, beneath the devil-may-care rake of the buckled hat, was pale and handsome, and, despite its studied air of gentlemanly weariness, the eyes were singularly quick and young, and wholly ingenuous.
Now, as they gazed at each other, eye to eye—the merry blue and the steadfast gray—suddenly, unaffectedly, as though drawn by instinct, their hands reached out and met in a warm and firm clasp, and, in that instant, the one forgot his modish languor, and the other his country clothes and blunt-toed boots, for the Spirit of Youth stood between them, and smile answered smile.
"And so you are bound for London, sir; pray, are you in a hurry to get there?"
"Not particularly," Barnabas rejoined.
"Then there you have the advantage of me, for I am, sir. But here I sit, a martyr for conscience sake. Now, sir, if you are in no great hurry, and have a mind to travel in company with a martyr, just as soon as I am free of these bilboes, we'll take the road together. What d' ye say?"
"With pleasure!" answered Barnabas.
"Why then, sir, pray sit down. I blush to offer you the stocks, but the grass is devilish dewy and damp, and there's deuce a chair to be had—which is only natural, of course; but pray sit somewhere until the Bo'sun, like the jolly old dog he is, produces the key, and lets me out."
"Bo'sun, you'll perceive the gentleman is waiting, and, for that matter, so am I. The key, Jerry, the key."
"Axing your pardons, gentlemen both," began the Bo'sun, taking himself by the starboard whisker, "but orders is orders, and I was to tell you, Master Horatio, sir, as there was firstly a round o' beef cold, for breakfus!"
"Beef!" exclaimed the prisoner, striking himself on the crown of the hat.
"Next a smoked tongue—" continued the Bo'sun.
"Tongue!" sighed the prisoner, turning to Barnabas. "You hear that, sir, my unnatural father and uncle batten upon rounds of beef, and smoked tongues, while I sit here, my legs at a most uncomfortable angle, and my inner man as empty as a drum; oh, confound and curse it!"
"A brace o' cold fowl," went on the Bo'sun inexorably; "a biled 'am—"
"Enough, Jerry, enough, lest I forget filial piety and affection and rail upon 'em for heartless gluttons."
"And," pursued the Bo'sun, still busy with his whisker and abstracted of eye—"and I were to say as you was now free to come out of they stocks—"
"Aha, Jerry! even the most Roman of fathers can relent, then. Out with the key, Jerry! Egad! I can positively taste that beef from here; unlock me, Jerry, that I may haste to pay my respects to Roman parent, uncle, and beef—last, but not least, Jerry—"
"Always supposing," added the Bo'sun, giving a final twist to his whisker, "that you've 'ad time to think better on it, d' ye see, and change your mind, Master Horatio, my Lord."
Barnabas pricked up his ears; a lord, and in the stocks! preposterous! and yet surely these were the boots, and clothes, and hat of a lord.
"Change my mind, Jerry!" exclaimed his Lordship, "impossible; you know I never change my mind. What! yield up my freedom for a mess of beef and tongue, or even a brace of cold fowl—"
"Not to mention a cold biled 'am, Master Horatio, sir."
"No, Jerry, not for all the Roman parents, rounds of beef, tyrannical uncles and cold hams in England. Tempt me no more, Jerry; Bo'sun, avaunt, and leave me to melancholy and emptiness."
"Why then," said the Bo'sun, removing the glazed hat and extracting therefrom the Captain's meat packages, "I were to give you this meat, Master Horatio, beef and bread, my Lord."
"From the Captain, I'll be sworn, eh, Jerry?"
"Ay, ay, my Lord, from his Honor the Cap'n."
"Now God bless him for a tender-hearted old martinet, eh, Bo'sun?"
"Which I begs to say, amen, Master Horatio, sir."
"To be sure there is nothing Roman about my uncle." Saying which, his Lordship, tearing open the packages, and using his fingers as forks, began to devour the edibles with huge appetite.
"There was a tongue, I think you mentioned, Jerry," he inquired suddenly.
"Ay, sir, likewise a cold biled 'am."
His Lordship sighed plaintively.
"And yet," said he, sandwiching a slice of beef between two pieces of bread with great care and nicety, "who would be so mean-spirited as to sell that freedom which is the glorious prerogative of man (and which I beg you to notice is a not unpleasing phrase, sir) who, I demand, would surrender this for a base smoked tongue?"
"Not forgetting a fine, cold biled 'am, Master Horatio, my Lord. And now, wi' your permission, I'll stand away for the village, leaving you to talk wi' this here young gentleman and take them vittles aboard, till I bring up alongside again, Cap'n's orders, Master Horatio." Saying which, the Bo'sun touched the glazed hat, went about, and, squaring his yards, bore away for the village.
"Sir," said his Lordship, glancing whimsically at Barnabas over his fast-disappearing hunch of bread and meat, "you have never been—called upon to—sit in the stocks, perhaps?"
"Never—as yet," answered Barnabas, smiling.
"Why, then, sir, let me inform you the stocks have their virtues. I'll not deny a chair is more comfortable, and certainly more dignified, but give me the stocks for thought, there's nothing like 'em for profound meditation. The Bible says, I believe, that one should seek the seclusion of one's closet, but, believe me, for deep reverie there's nothing like the stocks. You see, a poor devil has nothing else to do, therefore he meditates."
"And pray," inquired Barnabas, "may I ask what brings you sitting in this place of thought?"
"Three things, sir, namely, matrimony, a horse race, and a father. Three very serious matters, sir, and the last the gravest of all. For you must know I am, shall I say—blessed? yes, certainly, blessed in a father who is essentially Roman, being a man of his word, sir. Now a man of his word, more especially a father, may prove a very mixed blessing. Speaking of fathers, generally, sir, you may have noticed that they are the most unreasonable class of beings, and delight to arrogate to themselves an authority which is, to say the least, trying; my father especially so—for, as I believe I hinted before, he is so infernally Roman."
"Indeed," smiled Barnabas, "the best of fathers are, after all, only human."
"Aha!" cried his Lordship, "there speaks experience. And yet, sir, these human fathers, one and all, believe in what I may term the divine right of fathers to thwart, and bother, and annoy sons old enough to be—ha—"
"To know their own minds," said Barnabas.
"Precisely," nodded his Lordship. "Consequently, my Roman father and I fell out—my honored Roman and I frequently do fall out—but this morning, sir, unfortunately 't was before breakfast." Here his Lordship snatched a hasty bite of bread and meat with great appetite and gusto, while Barnabas sat, dreamy of eye, staring away across the valley.
"Pray," said he suddenly, yet with his gaze still far away, "do you chance to be acquainted with a Sir Mortimer Carnaby?"
"Acquainted," cried his Lordship, speaking with his mouth full. "Oh, Gad, sir, every one who is any one is acquainted with Sir Mortimer Carnaby."
"Ah!" said Barnabas musingly, "then you probably know him."
"He honors me with his friendship."
"Hum!" said Barnabas.
Here his Lordship glanced up quickly and with a slight contraction of the brow.
"Sir," he retorted, with a very creditable attempt at dignity, despite the stocks and his hunch of bread and meat, "Sir, permit me to add that I am proud of his friendship."
"And pray," inquired Barnabas, turning his eyes suddenly to his companion's face, "do you like him?"
"Like him, sir!"
"Or trust him!" persisted Barnabas, steadfast-eyed.
"Trust him, sir," his Lordship repeated, his gaze beginning to wander, "trust him!" Here, chancing to espy what yet remained of the bread and meat, he immediately took another bite, and when he spoke it was in a somewhat muffled tone in consequence. "Trust him? Egad, sir, the boot's on t'other leg, for 'twixt you and me, I owe him a cool thousand, as it is!"
"He is a great figure in the fashionable world, I understand," said Barnabas.
"He is the most admired Buck in London, sir," nodded his Lordship, "the most dashing, the most sought after, a boon companion of Royalty itself, sir, the Corinthian of Corinthians."
"Do you mean," said Barnabas, with his eyes on the distance again, "that he is a personal friend of the Prince?"
"One of the favored few," nodded his Lordship, "and, talking of him, brings us back to my honored Roman."
"How so?" inquired Barnabas, his gaze on the distance once more.
"Because, sir, with that unreasonableness peculiar to fathers, he has taken a violent antipathy to my friend Carnaby, though, as far as I know, he has never met my friend Carnaby. This morning, sir, my father summoned me to the library. 'Horatio,' says he, in his most Roman manner,—he never calls me Horatio unless about to treat me to the divine right of fathers,—'Horatio,' says he, 'you're old enough to marry.' 'Indeed, I greatly fear so, sir,' says I. 'Then,' says he, solemn as an owl, 'why not settle down here and marry?' Here he named a certain lovely person whom, 'twixt you and me, sir, I have long ago determined to marry, but, in my own time, be it understood. 'Sir,' said I, 'believe me I would ride over and settle the matter with her this very morning, only that I am to race 'Moonraker' (a horse of mine, you'll understand, sir) against Sir Mortimer Carnaby's 'Clasher' and if I should happen to break my neck, it might disappoint the lady in question, or even break her heart.' 'Horatio,' says my Roman—more Roman than ever—'I strongly disapprove of your sporting propensities, and, more especially, the circle of acquaintances you have formed in London.' 'Blackguardedly Bucks and cursed Corinthians!' snarls my uncle, the Captain, flapping his empty sleeve at me. 'That, sirs, I deeply regret,' says I, preserving a polite serenity, 'but the match is made, and a man must needs form some circle of acquaintance when he lives in London.' 'Then,' says my honored Roman, with that lack of reasonableness peculiar to fathers, 'don't live in London, and as for the horse match give it up.' 'Quite impossible, sir,' says I, calmly determined, 'the match has been made and recorded duly at White's, and if you were as familiar with the fashionable sporting set as I, you would understand.' 'Pish, boy,' says my Roman—'t is a trick fathers have at such times of casting one's youth in one's teeth, you may probably have noticed this for yourself, sir—'Pish, boy,' says he, 'I know, I know, I've lived in London!' 'True, sir,' says I, 'but things have changed since your day, your customs went out with your tie-wigs, and are as antiquated as your wide-skirted coats and buckled shoes'—this was a sly dig at my worthy uncle, the Captain, sir. 'Ha!' cries he, flapping his empty sleeve at me again, 'and nice figure-heads you made of yourselves with your ridiculous stocks and skin-tight breeches,' and indeed," said his Lordship, stooping to catch a side-view of his imprisoned legs, "they are a most excellent fit, I think you'll agree."
"Marvellous!" sighed Barnabas, observing them with the eyes of envy.
"Well, sir," pursued his Lordship, "the long and short of it was—my honored Roman, having worked himself into a state of 'divine right' necessary to the occasion, vows that unless I give up the race and spend less time and money in London, he will clap me into the stocks. 'Then, sir,' says I, smiling and unruffled, 'pray clap me in as soon as you will'; and he being, as I told you, a man of his word,—well—here I am."
"Where I find you enduring your situation with a remarkable fortitude," said Barnabas.
"Egad, sir! how else should I endure it? I flatter myself I am something of a philosopher, and thus, enduring in the cause of freedom and free will, I scorn my bonds, and am consequently free. Though, I'll admit, 'twixt you and me, sir, the position cramps one's legs most damnably."
"Now in regard to Sir Mortimer Carnaby," persisted Barnabas, "your father, it would seem, neither likes nor trusts him."
"My father, sir, is—a father, consequently perverse. Sir Mortimer Carnaby is my friend, therefore, though my father has never met Sir Mortimer Carnaby, he takes a mortal antipathy to Sir Mortimer Carnaby, Q.E.D., and all the rest of it."
"On the other hand," pursued Barnabas the steadfast-eyed, "you—admire, respect, and honor your friend Sir Mortimer Carnaby!"
"Admire him, sir, who wouldn't? There isn't such another all-round sportsman in London—no, nor England. Only last week he drove cross-country in his tilbury over hedges and ditches, fences and all, and never turned a hair. Beat the 'Fighting Tanner' at Islington in four rounds, and won over ten thousand pounds in a single night's play from Egalite d'Orleans himself. Oh, egad, sir! Carnaby's the most wonderful fellow in the world!"
"Though a very indifferent boxer!" added Barnabas.
"Indiff—!" His Lordship let fall the last fragments of his bread and meat, and stared at Barnabas in wide-eyed amazement. "Did you say—indifferent?"
"I did," nodded Barnabas, "he is much too passionate ever to make a good boxer."
"Why, deuce take me! I tell you there isn't a pugilist in England cares to stand up to him with the muffles, or bare knuckles!"
"Probably because there are no pugilists left in England, worth the name," said Barnabas.
"Gad, sir! we are all pugilists nowadays—the Manly Art is all the fashion—and, I think, a very excellent fashion. And permit me to tell you I know what I'm talking of, I have myself boxed with nearly all the best 'milling coves' in London, and am esteemed no novice at the sport. Indeed love of the 'Fancy' was born in me, for my father, sir—though occasionally Roman—was a great patron of the game, and witnessed the great battle between 'Glorious John Barty' and Nathaniel Bell—"
"At Dartford!" added Barnabas.
"And when Bell was knocked down, at the end of the fight—"
"After the ninety-seventh round!" nodded Barnabas.
"My father, sir, was the first to jump into the ring and clasp the Champion's fist—and proud he is to tell of it!"
"Proud!" said Barnabas, staring.
"Proud, sir—yes, why not? so should I have been—so would any man have been. Why let me tell you, sir, at home, in the hall, between the ensign my uncle's ship bore through Trafalgar, and the small sword my grandfather carried at Blenheim, we have the belt John Barty wore that day."
"His belt!" exclaimed Barnabas, "my—John Barty's belt?"
"So you see I should know what I am talking about. Therefore, when you condemn such a justly celebrated man of his hands as my friend Carnaby, I naturally demand to know who you are to pronounce judgment?"
"I am one," answered Barnabas, "who has been taught the science by that very Nathaniel Bell and 'Glorious John' you mention."
"Hey—what?—what?" cried his Lordship.
"I have boxed with them regularly every day," Barnabas continued, "and I have learned that strength of arm, quickness of foot, and a true eye are all unavailing unless they be governed by a calm, unruffled temper, for passion clouds the judgment, and in fighting as in all else, it is judgment that tells in the long run."
"Now, by heaven!" exclaimed his Lordship, jerking his imprisoned legs pettishly, "if I didn't happen to be sitting trussed up here, and we had a couple of pair of muffles, why we might have had a friendly 'go' just to take each other's measures; as it is—"
But at this moment they heard a hoarse bellow, and, looking round, beheld the Bo'sun who, redder of face than ever and pitching and rolling in his course, bore rapidly down on them, and hauling his wind, took off the glazed hat.
"Ha, Jerry!" exclaimed his Lordship, "what now? If you happen to have anything else eatable in that hat of yours, out with it, for I am devilish sharp-set still."
"Why, I have got summat, Master Horatio, but it aren't bread nor yet beef, nor yet again biled 'am, my Lord—it can't be eat nor it can't be drank—and here it be!" and with the words the Bo'sun produced a ponderous iron key.
"Why, my dear old Jerry—my lovely Bo'sun—"
"Captured by his Honor, Master Horatio—carried off by the Cap'n under your own father's very own nose, sir—or as you might say, cut out under the enemy's guns, my Lord!" With which explanation the old sailor unfastened the padlock, raised the upper leg-board, and set the prisoner free.
"Ah!—but it's good to have the use of one's legs again!" exclaimed his Lordship, stretching the members in question, "and that," said he, turning to Barnabas with his whimsical smile, "that is another value of the stocks—one never knows how pleasant and useful a pair of legs can be until one has sat with 'em stretched out helplessly at right angles for an hour or two." Here, the Bo'sun having stowed back the key and resumed his hat, his Lordship reached out and gripped his hand. "So it was Uncle John, was it, Jerry—how very like Uncle John—eh, Jerry?"
"Never was nobody born into this here vale o' sorrer like the Cap'n—no, nor never will be—nohow!" said the Bo'sun with a solemn nod.
"God bless him, eh, Jerry?"
"Amen to that, my Lord."
"You'll let him know I said 'God bless him,' Jerry?"
"I will, my Lord, ay, ay, God bless him it is, Master Horatio!"
"Now as to my Roman—my father, Jerry, tell him—er—"
"Be you still set on squaring away for London, then, sir?"
"As a rock, Jerry, as a rock!"
"Then 't is 'good-by,' you're wishing me?"
"Yes, 'good-by,' Jerry, remember 'God bless Uncle John,' and—er—tell my father that—ah, what the deuce shall you tell him now?—it should be something a little affecting—wholly dutiful, and above all gently dignified—hum! Ah, yes—tell him that whether I win or lose the race, whether I break my unworthy neck or no, I shall never forget that I am the Earl of Bamborough's son. And as for you, Jerry, why, I shall always think of you as the jolly old sea dog who used to stoop down to let me get at his whiskers, they were a trifle blacker in those days. Gad! how I did pull 'em, Jerry, even then I admired your whiskers, didn't I? I swear there isn't such another pair in England. Good-by, Jerry!" Saying which his Lordship turned swiftly upon his heel and walked on a pace or two, while Barnabas paused to wring the old seaman's brown hand; then they went on down the hill together.
And the Bo'sun, sitting upon the empty stocks with his wooden pin sticking straight out before him, sighed as he watched them striding London-wards, the Lord's son, tall, slender, elegant, a gentleman to his finger tips, and the commoner's son, shaped like a young god, despite his homespun, and between them, as it were linking them together, fresh and bright and young as the morning, went the joyous Spirit of Youth.
Now whether the Bo'sun saw aught of this, who shall say, but old eyes see many things. And thus, perhaps, the sigh that escaped the battered old man-o'-war's man's lips was only because of his own vanished youth—his gray head and wooden leg, after all.
WHICH DESCRIBES A PERIPATETIC CONVERSATION
"Sir," said his Lordship, after they had gone some way in silence, "you are thoughtful, not to say, devilish grave!"
"And you," retorted Barnabas, "have sighed—three times."
"No, did I though?—why then, to be candid,—I detest saying 'Good-by!'—and I have been devoutly wishing for two pair of muffles, for, sir, I have taken a prodigious liking to you—but—"
"But?" inquired Barnabas.
"Some time since you mentioned the names of two men—champions both—ornaments of the 'Fancy'—great fighters of unblemished reputation."
"You mean my—er—that is, Natty Bell and John Barty."
"Precisely!—you claim to have—boxed with them, sir?"
"Every day!" nodded Barnabas.
"With both of them,—I understand?"
"With both of them."
"Sir," said Barnabas, growing suddenly polite, "do you doubt my word?"
"Well," answered his Lordship, with his whimsical look, "I'll admit I could have taken it easier had you named only one, for surely, sir, you must be aware that these were Masters of the Fist—the greatest since the days of Jack Broughton and Mendoza."
"I know each had been champion—but it would almost seem that I have entertained angels unawares!—and I boxed with both because they happened to live together."
"Then, sir," said the Viscount, extending his hand in his frank, impetuous manner, "you are blest of the gods. I congratulate you and, incidentally, my desire for muffles grows apace,—you must positively put 'em on with me at the first opportunity."
"Right willingly, sir," said Barnabas.
"But deuce take me!" exclaimed the Viscount, "if we are to become friends, which I sincerely hope, we ought at least to know each other's name. Mine, sir, is Bellasis, Horatio Bellasis; I was named Horatio after Lord Nelson, consequently my friends generally call me Tom, Dick, or Harry, for with all due respect to his Lordship, Horatio is a very devil of a name, now isn't it? Pray what's yours?"
"Barnabas—Beverley. At your service."
"Barnabas—hum! Yours isn't much better. Egad! I think 't is about as bad. Barnabas!—No, I'll call you Bev, on condition that you make mine Dick; what d' ye say, my dear Bev?"
"Agreed, Dick," answered Barnabas, smiling, whereupon they stopped, and having very solemnly shaken hands, went on again, merrier than ever.
"Now what," inquired the Viscount, suddenly, "what do you think of marriage, my dear Bev?"
"Marriage?" repeated Barnabas, staring.
"Marriage!" nodded his Lordship, airily, "matrimony, Bev,—wedlock, my dear fellow?"
"I—indeed I have never had occasion to think of it."
"Fortunate fellow!" sighed his companion.
"Until—this morning!" added Barnabas, as his fingers encountered a small, soft, lacy bundle in his pocket.
"Un-fortunate fellow!" sighed the Viscount, shaking his head. "So you are haunted by the grim spectre, are you? Well, that should be an added bond between us. Not that I quarrel with matrimony, mark you, Bev; in the abstract it is a very excellent institution, though—mark me again!—when a man begins to think of marriage it is generally the beginning of the end. Ah, my dear fellow! many a bright and promising career has been blighted—sapped—snapped off—and—er—ruthlessly devoured by the ravenous maw of marriage. There was young Egerton with a natural gift for boxing, and one of the best whips I ever knew—we raced our coaches to Brighton and back for a thousand a side and he beat me by six yards—a splendid all round sportsman—ruined by matrimony! He's buried somewhere in the country and passing his days in the humdrum pursuit of being husband and father. Oh, bruise and blister me! it's all very pitiful, and yet"—here the Viscount sighed again—"I do not quarrel with the state, for marriage has often proved a—er—very present help in the time of trouble, Bev."
"Trouble?" repeated Barnabas.
"Money-troubles, my dear Bev, pecuniary unpleasantnesses, debts, and duns, and devilish things of that kind."
"But surely," said Barnabas, "no man—no honorable man would marry and burden a woman with debts of his own contracting?"
At this, the Viscount looked at Barnabas, somewhat askance, and fell to scratching his chin. "Of course," he continued, somewhat hurriedly, "I shall have all the money I need—more than I shall need some day."
"You mean," inquired Barnabas, "when your father dies?"
Here the Viscount's smooth brow clouded suddenly.
"Sir," said he, "we will not mention that contingency. My father is a great Roman, I'll admit, but, 'twixt you and me,—I—I'm devilish fond of him, and, strangely enough, I prefer to have him Romanly alive and my purse empty—than to possess his money and have him dea—Oh damn it! let's talk of something else,—Carnaby for instance."
"Yes," nodded Barnabas, "your friend, Carnaby."
"Well, then, in the first place, I think I hinted to you that I owe him five thousand pounds?"
"Five thousand! indeed, no, it was only one, when you mentioned it to me last."
"Was it so? but then, d'ye see, Bev, we were a good two miles nearer my honored Roman when I mentioned the matter before, and trees sometimes have ears, consequently I—er—kept it down a bit, my dear Bev, I kept it down a bit; but the fact remains that it's five, and I won't be sure but that there's an odd hundred or two hanging on to it somewhere, beside."
"You led your father to believe it was only one thousand, then?"
"I did, Bev; you see money seems to make him so infernally Roman, and I've been going the pace a bit these last six months. There's another thousand to Jerningham, but he can wait, then there's six hundred to my tailor, deuce take him!"
"Six hundred!" exclaimed Barnabas, aghast.
"Though I won't swear it isn't seven."
"To be sure he is a very excellent tailor," Barnabas added.
"Gad, yes! and the fellow knows it! Then, let's see, there's another three hundred and fifty to the coach builders, how much does that make, Bev?"
"Six thousand, nine hundred and fifty pounds!"
"So much—deuce take it! And that's not all, you know."
"No, Bev, I dare say I could make you up another three or four hundred or so if I were to rake about a bit, but six thousand is enough to go on with, thank you!"
"Six thousand pounds is a deal of money to owe!" said Barnabas.
"Yes," answered the Viscount, scratching his chin again, "though, mark me, Bev, it might be worse! Slingsby, a friend of mine, got plucked for fifteen thousand in a single night last year. Oh! it might be worse. As it is, Bev, the case lies thus: unless I win the race some three weeks from now—I've backed myself heavily, you'll understand—unless I win, I am between the deep sea of matrimony and the devil of old Jasper Gaunt."
"And who is Jasper Gaunt?"
"Oh, delicious innocence! Ah, Bev! it's evident you are new to London. Gaunt is an outcome of the City, as harsh and dingy as its bricks, as flinty and hard as its pavements. Gad! most of our set know Jasper Gaunt—to their cost! Who is Jasper Gaunt, you ask; well, my dear fellow, question Slingsby of the Guards, he's getting deeper every day, poor old Sling! Ask it, but in a whisper, at Almack's, or White's, or Brooke's, and my Lord this, that, or t'other shall tell you pat and to the point in no measured terms. Ask it of wretched debtors in the prisons, of haggard toilers in the streets, of pale-faced women and lonely widows, and they'll tell you, one and all, that Jasper Gaunt is the harshest, most merciless bloodsucker that ever battened and grew rich on the poverty and suffering of his fellow men, and—oh here we are!"
Saying which, his Lordship abruptly turned down an unexpected and very narrow side lane, where, screened behind three great trees, was a small inn, or hedge tavern with a horse-trough before the door and a sign whereon was the legend, "The Spotted Cow," with a representation of that quadruped below, surely the very spottiest of spotted cows that ever adorned an inn sign.
"Not much to look at, my dear Bev," said the Viscount, with a wave of his hand towards the inn, "but it's kept by an old sailor, a shipmate of the Bo'sun's. I can at least promise you a good breakfast, and the ale you will find excellent. But first I want to show you a very small demon of mine, a particularly diminutive fiend; follow me, my dear fellow."
So, by devious ways, the Viscount led Barnabas round to the back of the inn, and across a yard to where, beyond a gate, was a rick-yard, and beyond that again, a small field or paddock. Now, within this paddock, the admired of a group of gaping rustics, was the very smallest groom Barnabas had ever beheld, for, from the crown of his leather postilion's hat to the soles of his small top boots, he could not have measured more than four feet at the very most.
"There he is, Bev, behold him!" said the Viscount, with his whimsical smile, "the very smallest fiend, the most diminutive demon that ever wore top boots!"
The small groom was engaged in walking a fine blood horse up and down the paddock, or rather the horse was walking the groom, for the animal being very tall and powerful and much given to divers startings, snortings, and tossings of the head, it thus befell that to every step the diminutive groom marched on terra firma, he took one in mid-air, at which times, swinging pendulum-like, he poured forth a stream of invective that the most experienced ostler, guard, or coachman might well have envied, and all in a voice so gruff, so hoarse and guttural, despite his tender years, as filled the listening rustics with much apparent awe and wonder.
"And he can't be a day older than fourteen, my dear Bev," said the Viscount, with a complacent nod, as they halted in the perfumed shade of an adjacent rick; "that's his stable voice assumed for the occasion, and, between you and me, I can't think how he does it. Egad! he's the most remarkable boy that ever wore livery, the sharpest, the gamest. I picked him up in London, a ragged urchin—caught him picking my pocket, Been with me ever since, and I wouldn't part with him for his weight in gold."
"Picking your pocket!" said Barnabas, "hum!"
The Viscount looked a trifle uncomfortable. "Why you see, my dear fellow," he explained, "he was so—so deuced—small, Bev, a wretched little pale-faced, shivering atomy, peeping up at me over a ragged elbow waiting to be thrashed, and I liked him because he didn't snivel, and he was too insignificant for prison, so, when he told me how hungry he was, I forgot to cuff his shrinking, dirty little head, and suggested a plate of beef at one of the a la mode shops. 'Beef?' says he. 'Yes, beef,' says I, 'could you eat any?' 'Beef?' says he again, 'couldn't I? why, I could eat a ox whole, I could!' So I naturally dubbed him Milo of Crotona on the spot."
"And has he ever tried to pick your pocket since?"
"No, Bev; you see, he's never hungry nowadays. Gad!" said the Viscount, taking Barnabas by the arm, "I've set the fashion in tigers, Bev. Half the fellows at White's and Brooke's are wild to get that very small demon of mine; but he isn't to be bought or bribed or stolen—for what there is of him is faithful, Bev,—and now come in to breakfast."
So saying, the Viscount led Barnabas across the yard to a certain wing or off-shoot of the inn, where beneath a deep, shadowy gable was a door. Yet here he must needs pause a moment to glance down at himself to settle a ruffle and adjust his hat ere, lifting the latch, he ushered Barnabas into a kitchen.
A kitchen indeed? Ay, but such a kitchen! Surely wood was never whiter, nor pewter more gleaming than in this kitchen; surely no flagstones ever glowed a warmer red; surely oak panelling never shone with a mellower lustre; surely no viands could look more delicious than the great joint upon the polished sideboard, flanked by the crisp loaf and the yellow cheese; surely no flowers could ever bloom fairer or smell sweeter than those that overflowed the huge punch bowl at the window and filled the Uncle Toby jugs upon the mantel; surely nowhere could there be at one and the same time such dainty orderliness and comfortable comfort as in this kitchen.
Indeed the historian is bold to say that within no kitchen in this world were all things in such a constant state of winking, twinkling, gleaming and glowing purity, from the very legs of the oaken table and chairs, to the hacked and battered old cutlass above the chimney, as in this self-same kitchen of "The Spotted Cow."
And yet—and yet! Sweeter, whiter, warmer, purer, and far more delicious than anything in this kitchen (or out of it) was she who had started up to her feet so suddenly, and now stood with blushing cheeks and hurried bosom, gazing shy-eyed upon the young Viscount; all dainty grace from the ribbons in her mob-cap to the slender, buckled shoe peeping out beneath her print gown; and Barnabas, standing between them, saw her flush reflected as it were for a moment in the Viscount's usually pale cheek.
"My Lord!" said she, and stopped.
"Why, Clemency, you—you are—handsomer than ever!" stammered the Viscount.
"Oh, my Lord!" she exclaimed; and as she turned away Barnabas thought there were tears in her eyes.
"Did we startle you, Clemency? Forgive me—but I—that is, we are—hungry, ravenous. Er—this is a friend of mine—Mr. Beverley—Mistress Clemency Dare; and oh, Clemency, I've had no breakfast!"
But seeing she yet stood with head averted, the Viscount with a freedom born of long acquaintance, yet with a courtly deference also, took the hand that hung so listless, and looked down into the flushed beauty of her face, and, as he looked, beheld a great tear that crept upon her cheek.
"Why, Clemency!" he exclaimed, his raillery gone, his voice suddenly tender, "Clemency—you're crying, my dear maid; what is it?"
Now, beholding her confusion, and because of it, Barnabas turned away and walked to the other end of the kitchen, and there it chanced that he spied two objects that lay beneath the table, and stooping, forthwith, he picked them up. They were small and insignificant enough in themselves—being a scrap of crumpled paper, and a handsome embossed coat button; yet as Barnabas gazed upon this last, he smiled grimly, and so smiling slipped the objects into his pocket.
"Come now, Clemency," persisted the Viscount, gently, "what is wrong?"
"Nothing; indeed, nothing, my Lord."
"Ay, but there is. See how red your eyes are; they quite spoil your beauty—"
"Beauty!" she cried. "Oh, my Lord; even you!"
"What? What have I said? You are beautiful you know, Clem, and—"
"Beauty!" she cried again, and turned upon him with clenched hands and dark eyes aflame. "I hate it—oh, I hate it!" and with the words she stamped her foot passionately, and turning, sped away, banging the door behind her.
"Now, upon my soul!" said the Viscount, taking off his hat and ruffling up his auburn locks, "of all the amazing, contradictory creatures in the world, Bev! I've known Clemency—hum—a goodish time, my dear fellow; but never saw her like this before, I wonder what the deuce—"
But at this juncture a door at the further end of the kitchen opened, and a man entered. He, like the Bo'sun, was merry of eye, breezy of manner, and hairy of visage; but there all similarity ended, for, whereas the Bo'sun was a square man, this man was round—round of head, round of face, and round of eye. At the sight of the Viscount, his round face expanded in a genial smile that widened until it was lost in whisker, and he set two fingers to his round forehead and made a leg.
"Lord love me, my Lord, and is it you?" he exclaimed, clasping the hand the Viscount had extended. "Now, from what that imp of a bye—axing his parding—your tiger, Mr. Milo, told me, I were to expect you at nine sharp—and here it be nigh on to ten—"
"True, Jack; but then both he and I reckoned without my father. My father had the bad taste to—er—disagree with me, hence I am late, Jack, and breakfastless, and my friend Mr. Beverley is as hungry as I am. Bev, my dear fellow, this is a very old friend of mine—Jack Truelove, who fought under my uncle at Trafalgar."
"Servant, sir!" says Jack, saluting Barnabas.
"The 'Belisarius,' Seventy-four!" smiled Barnabas.
"Ay, ay," says Jack, with a shake of his round head, "the poor old 'Bully-Sawyer'—But, Lord love me! if you be hungry—"
"Devilish!" said the Viscount, "but first, Jack—what's amiss with Clemency?"
"Clemency? Why, where be that niece o' mine?"
"She's run away, Jack. I found her in tears, and I had scarce said a dozen words to her when—hey presto! She's off and away."
"Tears is it, my Lord?—and 'er sighed, too, I reckon. Come now—'er sighed likewise. Eh, my Lord?"
"Why, yes, she may have sighed, but—"
"There," says Jack, rolling his round head knowingly, "it be nought but a touch o' love, my Lord."
"Love!" exclaimed the Viscount sharply.
"Ah, love! Nieces is difficult craft, and very apt to be took all aback by the wind o' love, as you might say—but Lord! it's only natural arter all. Ah! the rearing o' motherless nieces is a ticklish matter, gentlemen—as to nevvys, I can't say, never 'aving 'ad none to rear—but nieces—Lord! I could write a book on 'em, that is, s'posing I could write, which I can't; for, as I've told you many a time, my Lord, and you then but a bye over here on a visit, wi' the Bo'sun, or his Honor the Cap'n, and you no older then than—er—Mr. Milo, though longer in the leg, as I 've told you many a time and oft—a very ob-servant man I be in most things, consequent' I aren't observed this here niece—this Clem o' mine fair weather and foul wi'out larning the kind o' craft nieces be. Consequent', when you tell me she weeps, and likewise sighs, then I make bold to tell you she's got a touch o' love, and you can lay to that, my Lord."
"Love," exclaimed the Viscount again, and frowning this time; "now, who the devil should she be in love with!"
"That, my Lord, I can't say, not having yet observed. But now, by your leave, I'll pass the word for breakfast."
Hereupon the landlord of "The Spotted Cow" opened the lattice, and sent a deep-lunged hail across the yard.
"Ahoy!" he roared, "Oliver, Penelope, Bess—breakfast ho!—breakfast for the Viscount—and friend. They be all watching of that theer imp—axing his pardon—that theer groom o' yours, what theer be of him, which though small ain't by no means to be despised, him being equally ready wi' his tongue as his fist."
Here entered two maids, both somewhat flushed with haste but both equally bright of eye, neat of person, and light of foot, who very soon had laid a snowy cloth and duly set out thereon the beef, the bread and cheese, and a mighty ham, before which the Viscount seated himself forthwith, while their sailor host, more jovial than ever, pointed out its many beauties with an eloquent thumb. And so, having seen his guests seated opposite each other, he pulled his forelock at them, made a leg to them, and left them to their breakfast.
IN WHICH FISTS ARE CLENCHED; AND OF A SELFISH MAN, WHO WAS AN APOSTLE OF PEACE
Conversation, though in itself a blessed and delightful thing, yet may be sometimes out of place, and wholly impertinent. If wine is a loosener of tongues, surely food is the greatest, pleasantest, and most complete silencer; for what man when hunger gnaws and food is before him—what man, at such a time, will stay to discuss the wonders of the world, of science—or even himself?
Thus our two young travellers, with a very proper respect for the noble fare before them, paid their homage to it in silence—but a silence that was eloquent none the less. At length, however, each spoke, and each with a sigh.
The Viscount. "The ham, my dear fellow—!"
Barnabas. "The beef, my dear Dick—!"
The Viscount and Barnabus. "Is beyond words."
Having said which, they relapsed again into a silence, broken only by the occasional rattle of knife and fork.
The Viscount (hacking at the loaf). "It's a grand thing to be hungry, my dear fellow."
Barnabas (glancing over the rim of his tankard). "When you have the means of satisfying it—yes."
The Viscount (becoming suddenly abstracted, and turning his piece of bread over and over in his fingers). "Now regarding—Mistress Clemency, my dear Bev; what do you think of her?"
Barnabas (helping himself to more beef). "That she is a remarkably handsome girl!"
The Viscount (frowning at his piece of bread). "Hum! d'you think so?"
Barnabas. "Any man would. I'll trouble you for the mustard, Dick."
The Viscount. "Yes; I suppose they would."
Barnabas. "Some probably do—especially men with an eye for fine women."
The Viscount (frowning blacker than ever). "Pray, what mean you by that?"
Barnabas. "Your friend Carnaby undoubtedly does."
The Viscount (starting). "Carnaby! Why what the devil put him into your head? Carnaby's never seen her."
Barnabas. "Indeed, I think it rather more than likely."
The Viscount (crushing the bit of bread suddenly in his fist). "Carnaby! But I tell you he hasn't—he's never been near this place."
Barnabas. "There you are quite wrong."
The Viscount (flinging himself back in his chair). "Beverley, what the devil are you driving at?"
Barnabas. "I mean that he was here this morning."
The Viscount. "Carnaby? Here? Impossible! What under heaven should make you think so?"
"This," said Barnabas, and held out a small, crumpled piece of paper. The Viscount took it, glanced at it, and his knife clattered to the floor.
"Sixty thousand pounds!" he exclaimed, and sat staring down at the crumpled paper, wide-eyed. "Sixty thousand!" he repeated. "Is it sixty or six, Bev? Read it out," and he thrust the torn paper across to Barnabas, who, taking it up, read as follows:—
—felicitate you upon your marriage with the lovely heiress, Lady M., failing which I beg most humbly to remind you, my dear Sir Mortimer Carnaby, that the sixty thousand pounds must be paid back on the day agreed upon, namely July 16,
Your humble, obedient Servant,
"Jasper Gaunt!" exclaimed the Viscount. "Sixty thousand pounds! Poor Carnaby! Sixty thousand pounds payable on July sixteenth! Now the fifteenth, my dear Bev, is the day of the race, and if he should lose, it looks very much as though Carnaby would be ruined, Bev."
"Unless he marries 'the lovely heiress'!" added Barnabas.
"Hum!" said the Viscount, frowning. "I wish I'd never seen this cursed paper, Bev!" and as he spoke he crumpled it up and threw it into the great fireplace. "Where in the name of mischief did you get it?"
"It was in the corner yonder," answered Barnabas. "I also found this." And he laid a handsomely embossed coat button on the table. "It has been wrenched off you will notice."
"Yes," nodded the Viscount, "torn off! Do you think—"
"I think," said Barnabas, putting the button back into his pocket, "that Mistress Clemency's tears are accounted for—"
"By God, Beverley," said the Viscount, an ugly light in his eyes, "if I thought that—!" and the hand upon the table became a fist.
"I think that Mistress Clemency is a match for any man—or brute," said Barnabas, and drew his hand from his pocket.
Now the Viscount's fist was opening and shutting convulsively, the breath whistled between his teeth, he glanced towards the door, and made as though he would spring to his feet; but in that moment came a diversion, for Barnabas drew his hand from his pocket, and as he did so, something white fluttered to the floor, close beside the Viscount's chair. Both men saw it and both stooped to recover it, but the Viscount, being nearer, picked it up, glanced at it, looked at Barnabas with a knowing smile, glanced at it again, was arrested by certain initials embroidered in one corner, stooped his head suddenly, inhaling its subtle perfume, and so handed it back to Barnabas, who took it with a word of thanks and thrust it into an inner pocket, while the Viscount stared at him under his drawn brows. But Barnabas, all unconscious, proceeded to cut himself another slice of beef, offering to do the same for the Viscount.
"Thank you—no," said he.
"What—have you done, so soon?"
"Yes," said he, and thereafter sat watching Barnabas ply knife and fork, who, presently catching his eye, smiled.
"Pray," said the Viscount after a while, "pray are you acquainted with the Lady Cleone Meredith?"
"No," answered Barnabas. "I'll trouble you for the mustard, Dick."
"Have you ever met the Lady Cleone Meredith?"
"Never", answered Barnabas, innocent of eye.
Hereupon the Viscount rose up out of the chair and leaned across the table.
"Sir," said he, "you are a most consummate liar!"
Hereupon Barnabas helped himself to the mustard with grave deliberation, then, leaning back in his chair, he smiled up into the Viscount's glowing eyes as politely and with as engaging an air as might be.
"My Lord," said he gently, "give me leave to remark that he who says so, lies himself most foully." Having said which Barnabas set down the mustard, and bowed.
"Mr. Beverley," said the Viscount, regarding him calm-eyed across the table, "there is a place I know of near by, a very excellent place, being hidden by trees, a smooth, grassy place—shall we go?"
"Whenever you will, my Lord," said Barnabas, rising.
Forthwith having bowed to each other and put on their hats, they stepped out into the yard, and so walked on side by side, a trifle stiffer and more upright than usual maybe, until they came to a stile. Here they must needs pause to bow once more, each wishful to give way to the other, and, having duly crossed the stile, they presently came to a place, even as the Viscount had said, being shady with trees, and where a brook ran between steep banks. Here, too, was a small foot-bridge, with hand-rails supported at either end by posts. Now upon the right-hand post the Viscount set his hat and coat, and upon the left, Barnabas hung his. Then, having rolled up their shirt-sleeves, they bowed once more, and coming to where the grass was very smooth and level they faced each other with clenched fists.
"Mr. Beverley," said the Viscount, "you will remember I sighed for muffles, but, sir, I count this more fortunate, for to my mind there is nothing like bare fists, after all, to try a man's capabilities."
"My Lord," said Barnabas, "you will also remember that when I told you I had boxed daily both with 'Glorious John' and Nathaniel Bell, you doubted my word? I therefore intend to try and convince you as speedily as may be."
"Egad!" exclaimed the Viscount, his blue eyes a-dance, "this is positively more than I had ventured to hope, my dear fell—Ah! Mr. Beverley, at your service, sir?"
And, after a season, Barnabas spoke, albeit pantingly, and dabbing at his bloody mouth the while.
"Sir," said he, "I trust—you are not—incommoded at all?" whereupon the Viscount, coming slowly to his elbow and gazing round about him with an expression of some wonder, made answer, albeit also pantingly and short of breath:
"On the contrary, sir, am vastly—enjoying myself—shall give myself the pleasure—of continuing—just as soon as the ground subsides a little."
Therefore Barnabas, still dabbing at his mouth, stepped forward being minded to aid him to his feet, but ere he could do so, a voice arrested him.
"Stop!" said the voice.
Now glancing round, Barnabas beheld a man, a small man and slender, whose clothes, old and worn, seemed only to accentuate the dignity and high nobility of his face.
Bareheaded he advanced towards them and his hair glistened silver white in the sunshine, though his brows were dark, like the glowing eyes below. Upon his cheek was the dark stain of blood, and on his lips was a smile ineffably sweet and gentle as he came forward, looking from one to the other.
"And pray, sir," inquired the Viscount, sitting cross-legged upon the green, "pray, who might you be?"
"I am an apostle of peace, young sir," answered the stranger, "a teacher of forgiveness, though, doubtless, an unworthy one."
"Peace, sir!" cried the Viscount, "deuce take me!—but you are the most warlike Apostle of Peace that eyes ever beheld; by your looks you might have been fighting the Seven Champions of Christendom, one down, t' other come on—"
"You mean that I am bleeding, sir; indeed, I frequently do, and therein is my joy, for this is the blood of atonement."
"The blood of atonement?" said Barnabas.
"Last night," pursued the stranger in his gentle voice, "I sought to teach the Gospel of Mercy and Universal Forgiveness at a country fair not so very far from here, and they drove me away with sticks and stones; indeed, I fear our rustics are sometimes woefully ignorant, and Ignorance is always cruel. So, to-day, as soon as the stiffness is gone from me, I shall go back to them, sirs, for even Ignorance has ears."
Now whereupon, the Viscount got upon his legs, rather unsteadily, and bowed.
"Sir," said he, "I humbly ask your pardon; surely so brave an apostle should do great works."
"Then," said the stranger, drawing nearer, "if such is your thought, let me see you two clasp hands."
"But, sir," said the Viscount, somewhat taken aback, "indeed we have—scarcely begun—"
"So much the better," returned the teacher of forgiveness with his gentle smile, and laying a hand upon the arm of each.
"But, sir, I went so far as to give this gentleman the lie!" resumed the Viscount.
"Which I went so far as to—return," said Barnabas.
"But surely the matter can be explained?" inquired the stranger.
"Possibly!" nodded the Viscount, "though I generally leave explanations until afterwards."
"Then," said the stranger, glancing from one proud young face to the other, "in this instance, shake hands first. Hate and anger are human attributes, but to forgive is Godlike. Therefore now, forget yourselves and in this thing be gods. For, young sirs, as it seems to me, it was ordained that you two should be friends. And you are young and full of great possibilities and friendship is a mighty factor in this hard world, since by friendship comes self-forgctfulness, and no man can do great works unless he forgets Self. So, young sirs, shake hands!"
Now, as they looked upon each other, of a sudden, despite his split lip, Barnabas smiled and, in that same moment, the Viscount held out his hand.
"Beverley," said he, as their fingers gripped, "after your most convincing—shall we say, argument?—if you tell me you have boxed with all and every champion back to Mendoza, Jack Slack, and Broughton, egad! I'll believe you, for you have a devilish striking and forcible way with you at times!" Here the Viscount cherished his bruised ribs with touches of tender inquiry. "Yes," he nodded, "there is a highly commendable thoroughness in your methods, my dear Bev, and I'm free to confess I like you better and better—but—!"
"But?" inquired Barnabas.
"As regards the handkerchief now—?"
"I found it—on a bramble-bush—in a wood," said Barnabas.
"In a wood!"
"In Annersley Wood; I found a lady there also."
"A lady—oh, egad!"
"A very beautiful woman," said Barnabas thoughtfully, "with wonderful yellow hair!"
"The Lady Cleone Meredith!" exclaimed the Viscount, "but in a—wood!"
"She had fallen from her horse."
"How? When? Was she hurt?"
"How, I cannot tell you, but it happened about two hours ago, and her hurt was trifling."
"And you—found her?"
"I also saw her safely out of the wood."
"And you did not know her name?"
"I quite—forgot to ask it," Barnabas admitted, "and I never saw her until this morning."
"Why, then, my dear Bev," said the Viscount, his brow clearing, "let us go back to breakfast, all three of us."
But, now turning about, they perceived that the stranger was gone, yet, coming to the bridge, they presently espied him sitting beside the stream laving his hurts in the cool water.
"Sir," said Barnabas, "our thanks are due to you—"
"And you must come back to the inn with us," added the Viscount; "the ham surpasses description."
"And I would know what you meant by the 'blood of atonement,'" said Barnabas, the persistent.
"As to breakfast, young sirs," said the stranger, shaking his head, "I thank you, but I have already assuaged my hunger; as to my story, well, 'tis not over long, and indeed it is a story to think upon—a warning to heed, for it is a story of Self, and Self is the most insidious enemy that man possesses. So, if you would listen to the tale of a selfish man, sit down here beside me, and I'll tell you."
OF THE STRANGER'S TALE, WHICH, BEING SHORT, MAY PERHAPS MEET WITH THE READER'S KIND APPROBATION.
"In ancient times, sirs," began the stranger, with his gaze upon the hurrying waters of the brook, "when a man had committed some great sin he hid himself from the world, and lashed himself with cruel stripes, he walked barefoot upon sharp flints and afflicted himself with grievous pains and penalties, glorying in the blood of his atonement, and wasting himself and his remaining years in woeful solitude, seeking, thereby, to reclaim his soul from the wrath to come. But, as for me, I walk the highways preaching always forgiveness and forgetfulness of self, and if men grow angry at my teaching and misuse me, the pain of wounds, the hardships, the fatigue, I endure them all with a glad and cheerful mind, seeking thereby to work out my redemption and atonement, for I was a very selfish man." Here the stranger paused, and his face seemed more lined and worn, and his white hair whiter, as he stared down into the running waters of the brook.
"Sirs," he continued, speaking with bent head, "I once had a daughter, and I loved her dearly, but my name was dearer yet. I was proud of her beauty, but prouder of my ancient name, for I was a selfish man."
"We lived in the country, a place remote and quiet, and consequently led a very solitary, humdrum life, because I was ever fond of books and flowers and the solitude of trees—a selfish man always. And so, at last, because she was young and high-spirited, she ran away from my lonely cottage with one who was a villain. And I grieved for her, young sirs, I grieved much and long, because I was lonely, but I grieved more for my name, my honorable name that she had besmirched, because, as I told you, I was a selfish man." Again the stranger was silent, sitting ever with bent head staring down at the crystal waters of the brook, only he clasped his thin hands and wrung them as he continued:
"One evening, as I sat among my roses with a book in my hand, she came back to me through the twilight, and flung herself upon her knees before me, and besought my forgiveness with sobs and bitter, bitter tears. Ah, young sirs! I can hear her weeping yet. The sound of it is always in my ears. So she knelt to me in her abasement with imploring hands stretched out to me. Ah, the pity of those white appealing hands, the pity of them! But I, sirs, being as I say a selfish man and remembering only my proud and honorable name, I, her father, spurned her from me with reproaches and vile words, such burning, searing words as no daughter should hear or father utter."
"And so, weeping still, she turned away wearily, hopelessly, and I stood to watch her bowed figure till she had crept away into the evening and was gone."
"Thus, sirs, I drove her from me, this wounded lamb, this poor broken-hearted maid—bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh—I drove her from me, I who should have comforted and cherished her, I drove her out into the night with hateful words and bitter curses. Oh, was ever sin like mine? Oh, Self, Self! In ancient times, sirs, when a man had committed some great sin he lashed himself with cruel stripes, but I tell you no rod, no whip of many thongs ever stung or bit so sharp and deep as remorse—it is an abiding pain. Therefore I walk these highways preaching always forgiveness and forgetfulness of self, and so needs must I walk until my days be done, or until—I find her again." The stranger rose suddenly and so stood with bent head and very still, only his hands griped and wrung each other. Yet when he looked up his brow was serene and a smile was on his lips."
"But you, sirs, you are friends again, and that is good, for friendship is a blessed thing. And you have youth and strength, and all things are possible to you, therefore. But oh, beware of self, take warning of a selfish man, forget self, so may you achieve great things."
"But, as for me, I never stand upon a country road when evening falls but I see her, a broken, desolate figure, creeping away from me, always away from me, into the shadows, and the sound of her weeping comes to me in the night silences." So saying, the stranger turned from them and went upon his way, limping a little because of his hurts, and his hair gleamed silver in the sunshine as he went.
IN WHICH BARNABAS MAKES A CONFESSION
"A very remarkable man!" said the Viscount, taking up his hat.
"And a very pitiful story!" said Barnabas, thoughtfully.
"Though I could wish," pursued the Viscount, dreamy of eye, and settling his hat with a light tap on the crown, "yes, I do certainly wish that he hadn't interfered quite so soon, I was just beginning to—ah—enjoy myself."
"It must be a terrible thing to be haunted by remorse so bitter as his, 'to fancy her voice weeping in the night,' and to see her creeping on into the shadows always—away from him," said Barnabas.
But now, having helped each other into their coats, they set off back to the inn.
"My ribs," said the Viscount, feeling that region of his person with tender solicitude as he spoke, "my ribs are infernally sore, Bev, though it was kind of you not to mark my face; I'm sorry for your lip, my dear fellow, but really it was the only opening you gave me; I hope it isn't painful?"
"Indeed I had forgotten it," returned Barnabas.
"Then needs must I try to forget my bruised ribs," said the Viscount, making a wry face as he clambered over the stile.
But here Barnabas paused to turn and look back at the scene of their encounter, quite deserted now, for the stranger had long since disappeared in the green.
"Yes, a very remarkable man!" sighed Barnabas, thoughtfully. "I wish he had come back with us to the inn and—Clemency. Yes, a very strange man. I wonder now—"
"And I beg you to remember," added the Viscount, taking him by the arm, "he said that you and I were ordained to be friends, and by Gad! I think he spoke the truth, Bev."
"I feel sure of it, Viscount," Barnabas nodded.
"Furthermore, Bev, if you are 'Bev' to me, I must be 'Dick' to you henceforth—amen and so forth!"
"Then, my dear Bev?" said the Viscount impulsively.
"Yes, my dear Dick?"
"Suppose we shake hands on it?"
"Willingly, Dick, yet, first, I think it but honorable to tell you that I—love the Lady Cleone Meredith."
"Eh—what?" exclaimed the Viscount, falling back a step, "you love her? the devil you do! since when?"
"Since this morning."
"Love her!" repeated the Viscount, "but you've seen her but once in your life."
"True," said Barnabas, "but then I mean to see her many times, henceforth."
"Ah! the deuce you do!"
"Yes," answered Barnabas. "I shall possibly marry her—some day."
The Viscount laughed, and frowned, and laughed again, then noting the set mouth and chin of the speaker, grew thoughtful, and thereafter stood looking at Barnabas with a new and suddenly awakened interest. Who was he? What was he? From his clothes he might have been anything between a gentleman farmer and a gamekeeper.
As for Barnabas himself, as he leaned there against the stile with his gaze on the distance, his eyes a-dream, he had clean forgotten his awkward clothes and blunt-toed boots.
And after all, what can boots or clothes matter to man or woman? indeed, they sink into insignificance when the face of their wearer is stamped with the serene yet determined confidence that marked Barnabas as he spoke.
"Marry—Cleone Meredith?" said the Viscount at last.
"Marry her—yes," said Barnabas slowly.
"Why then, in the first place let me tell you she's devilish high and proud."
"'T is so I would have her!" nodded Barnabas.
"And cursedly hard to please."
"So I should judge her," nodded Barnabas.
"And heiress to great wealth."
"No matter for that," said Barnabas.
"And full of whims and fancies."
"And therefore womanly," said Barnabas.
"My dear Beverley," said the Viscount, smiling again, "I tell you the man who wins Cleone Meredith must be stronger, handsomer, richer, and more accomplished than any 'Buck,' 'Corinthian,' or 'Macaroni' of 'em all—"
"Or more determined!" added Barnabas.
"Or more determined, yes," nodded the Viscount.
"Then I shall certainly marry her—some day," said Barnabas.
Again the Viscount eyed Barnabas a while in silence, but this time, be it noted, he smiled no more.
"Hum!" said he at last, "so it seems in finding a friend I have also found myself another rival?"
"I greatly fear so," said Barnabas, and they walked on together.
But when they had gone some distance in moody silence, the Viscount spoke:
"Beverley," said he, "forewarned is forearmed!"
"Yes," answered Barnabas, "that is why I told you."
"Then," said the Viscount, "I think we'll—shake hands—after all."
The which they did forthwith.
Now it was at this moment that Milo of Crotona took it upon himself to become visible.
CONCERNING THE BUTTONS OF ONE MILO OF CROTONA
Never did a pair of top boots, big or little, shine with a lustre more resplendent; never was postilion's jacket more excellent of fit, nattier, or more carefully brushed; and nowhere could there be found two rows of crested silver buttons with such an air of waggish roguery, so sly, so knowing, and so pertinaciously on the everlasting wink, as these same eight buttons that adorned the very small person of his groomship, Milo of Crotona. He had slipped out suddenly from the hedge, and now stood cap in hand, staring from the Viscount to Barnabas, and back again, with his innocent blue eyes, and with every blinking, twinkling button on his jacket. And his eyes were wide and guileless—the eyes of a cherub; but his buttons!
Yea, forsooth, it was all in his buttons as they winked slyly one to another as much as to say:
"Aha! we don't know why his Lordship's nankeens are greened at the knees, not we! nor why the gent's lower lip is unduly swelled. Lord love your eyes and limbs, oh no!"
"What, my imp of innocence!" exclaimed the Viscount. "Where have you sprung from?"
"Ah! and what might you have been doing in the hedge now?"
"And what were you thinking?"
"I were think'n', m'lud, as the tall genelman here is a top-sawyer wi' 'is daddies, m'lud. I was."
"Aha! so you've been watching, eh?"
"Not watchin'—oh no, m'lud; I just 'appened ter notice—that's all, m'lud."
"Ha!" exclaimed the Viscount; "then I suppose you happened to notice me being—knocked down?"
"No, m'lud; ye see, I shut my eyes—every time."
"Every time, eh!" said his Lordship, with his whimsical smile. "Oh Loyalty, thy name is Milo! But hallo!" he broke off, "I believe you've been fighting again—come here!"
"Fightin', m'lud! What, me?"
"What's the matter with your face—it's all swollen; there, your cheek?"
"Swellin', m'lud; I don't feel no swellin'."
"No, no; the other cheek."
"Oh, this, m'lud. Oh, 'e done it, 'e did; but I weren't fightin'."
"Who did it?"
"S' Mortimer's friend, 'e done it, 'e did."
"Sir Mortimer's friend?"
"Ah, 'im, m'lud."
"But, how in the world—"
"Wi' his fist, m'lud."
"'Cos I kicked 'im, I did."
"You—kicked Sir Mortimer Carnaby's friend!" exclaimed the Viscount. "What in heaven's name did you do that for?"
"'Cos you told me to, m'lud, you did."
"I told you to kick—"
"Yes, m'lud, you did. You sez to me, last week—arter I done up that butcher's boy—you sez to me, 'don't fight 'cept you can't 'elp it,' you sez; 'but allus pertect the ladies,' you sez, 'an if so be as 'e's too big to reach wi' your fists—why, use your boots,' you sez, an' so I did, m'lud."
"So you were protecting a lady, were you, Imp?"
"Miss Clemency, mam; yes, m'lud. She's been good ter me, Miss Clemency, mam 'as—an' so when I seen 'im strugglin' an' a-tryin' to kiss 'er—when I 'eered 'er cry out—I came in froo de winder, an' I kicked 'im, I did, an' then—"
"Imp," said the Viscount gravely, "you are forgetting your aitches! And so Sir Mortimer's friend kissed her, did he? Mind your aitches now!"
"Yes, m' lud; an' when Hi seen the tears hin her eyes—"
"Now you are mixing them, Imp!—tears in her eyes. Well?"
"Why then I kicked him, m' lud, an' he turned round an' give me this 'ere."
"And what was Sir Mortimer's friend like?"
"A tall—werry sleepy gentleman, wot smiled, m' lud."
"Ha!" exclaimed the Viscount, starting; "and with a scar upon one cheek?"
His Lordship frowned. "That would be Chichester," said he thoughtfully. "Now I wonder what the devil should bring that fellow so far from London?"
"Well, m' lud," suggested Milo, shaking his golden curls, "I kind of 'specks there's a woman at the bottom of it. There mostly generally is."
"Hum!" said the Viscount.
"'Sides, m' lud, I 'eard 'im talkin' 'bout a lady to S' Mortimer!"
"Did they mention her name?"
"The sleepy one 'e did, m' lud. Jist as S' Mortimer climbed into the chaise—'Here's wishing you luck wi' the lovely Meredyth,' 'e sez."
"Meredith!" exclaimed the Viscount.
"Meredith, m' lud; 'the lovely Meredith,' 'e sez, an' then, as he stood watchin' the chaise drive away, 'may the best man win,' sez 'e to himself, 'an' that's me,' sez'e."
"Boy," said the Viscount, "have the horses put to—at once."
"Werry good, m' lud," and, touching his small hat, Milo of Crotona turned and set off as fast as his small legs would carry him.
"Gad!" exclaimed his Lordship, "this is more than I bargained for. I must be off."
"Indeed!" said Barnabas, who for the last minute or so had been watching a man who was strolling idly up the lane, a tall, languid gentleman in a jaunty hat. "You seem all at once in a mighty hurry to get to London."
"London!" repeated the Viscount, staring blankly. "London? Oh, why yes, to be sure, I was going to London; but—hum—fact of the matter is, I've changed my mind about it, my dear Bev; I'm going—back. I'm following Carnaby."
"Ah!" said Barnabas, still intent upon the man in the lane, "Carnaby again."
"Oh, damn the fellow!" exclaimed the Viscount.
"But—he is your friend."
"Hum!" said the Viscount; "but Carnaby is always—Carnaby, and she—"
"Meaning the Lady Cleone," said Barnabas.
"Is a woman—"
"'The lovely Meredith'!" nodded Barnabas.
"Exactly!" said the Viscount, frowning; "and Carnaby is the devil with women."
"But not this woman," answered Barnabas, frowning a little also.
"My dear fellow, men like Carnaby attract all women—"
"That," said Barnabas, shaking his head, "that I cannot believe."
"Have you known many women, Bev?"
"No," answered Barnabas; "but I have met the Lady Cleone—"
"Once!" added the Viscount significantly.
"Once!" nodded Barnabas.
"Hum," said the Viscount. "And, therefore," added Barnabas, "I don't think that we need fear Sir Mortimer as a rival."
"That," retorted the Viscount, shaking his head, "is because you don't know him—either."
Hereupon, having come to the inn and having settled their score, the Viscount stepped out to the stables accompanied by the round-faced landlord, while Barnabas, leaning out from the open casement, stared idly into the lane. And thus he once more beheld the gentleman in the jaunty hat, who stood lounging in the shade of one of the great trees that grew before the inn, glancing up and down the lane in the attitude of one who waits. He was tall and slender, and clad in a tight-fitting blue coat cut in the extreme of the prevailing fashion, and beneath his curly-brimmed hat, Barnabas saw a sallow face with lips a little too heavy, nostrils a little too thin, and eyes a little too close together, at least, so Barnabas thought, but what he noticed more particularly was the fact that one of the buttons of the blue coat had been wrenched away.
Now, as the gentleman lounged there against the tree, he switched languidly at a bluebell that happened to grow within his reach, cut it down, and with gentle, lazy taps beat it slowly into nothingness, which done, he drew out his watch, glanced at it, frowned, and was in the act of thrusting it back into his fob when the hedge opposite was parted suddenly and a man came through. A wretched being he looked, dusty, unkempt, unshorn, whose quick, bright eyes gleamed in the thin oval of his pallid face. At sight of this man the gentleman's lassitude vanished, and he stepped quickly forward.
"Well," he demanded, "did you find her?"
"And a cursed time you've been about it."
"Annersley is further than I thought, sir, and—"
"Pah! no matter, give me her answer," and the gentleman held out a slim white hand.
"She had no time to write, sir," said the man, "but she bid me tell you—"
"Damnation!" exclaimed the gentleman, glancing towards the inn, "not here, come further down the lane," and with the word he turned and strode away, with the man at his heels.
"Annersley," said Barnabas, as he watched them go; "Annersley."
But now, with a prodigious clatter of hoofs and grinding of wheels, the Viscount drove round in his curricle, and drew up before the door in masterly fashion; whereupon the two high-mettled bloods immediately began to rear and plunge (as is the way of their kind), to snort, to toss their sleek heads, and to dance, drumming their hoofs with a sound like a brigade of cavalry at the charge, whereupon the Viscount immediately fell to swearing at them, and his diminutive groom to roaring at them in his "stable voice," and the two ostlers to cursing them, and one another; in the midst of which hubbub out came Barnabas to stare at them with the quick, appraising eye of one who knows and loves horses.
To whom, thusly, the Viscount, speaking both to him and the horses:
"Oh, there you are, Bev—stand still, damn you! There's blood for you, eh, my dear fellow—devil burn your hide! Jump up, my dear fellow—Gad, they're pulling my arms off."
"Then you want me to come with you, Dick?"
"My dear Bev, of course I do—stand still, damn you—though we are rivals, we're friends first—curse your livers and bones—so jump up, Bev, and—oh dammem, there's no holding 'em—quick, up with you."
Now, as Barnabas stepped forward, afar off up the lane he chanced to espy a certain jaunty hat, and immediately, acting for once upon impulse, he shook his head.
"No, thanks," said he.
"Eh—no?" repeated the Viscount, "but you shall see her, I'll introduce you myself."
"Thanks, Dick, but I've decided not to go back."
"What, you won't come then?"
"Ah, well, we shall meet in London. Inquire for me at White's or Brooke's, any one will tell you where to find me. Good-by!"
Then, settling his feet more firmly, he took a fresh grip upon the reins, and glanced over his shoulder to where Milo of Crotona sat with folded arms in the rumble.
"All right behind?"
"Then give 'em their heads, let 'em go!"
The grooms sprang away, the powerful bays reared, once, twice, and then, with a thunder of hoofs, started away at a gallop that set the light vehicle rocking and swaying, yet which in no whit seemed to trouble Milo of Crotona, who sat upon his perch behind with folded arms as stiff and steady as a small graven image, until he and the Viscount and the curricle had been whirled into the distance and vanished in a cloud of dust.
IN WHICH THE PATIENT READER MAY LEARN SOMETHING OF THE GENTLEMAN IN THE JAUNTY HAT
"Lord, but this is a great day for the old 'Cow,' sir," said the landlord, as Barnabas yet stood staring down the road, "we aren't had so many o' the quality here for years. Last night the young Vi-count, this morning, bright and early, Sir Mortimer Carnaby and friend, then the Vi-count again, along o' you, sir, an' now you an' Sir Mortimer's friend; you don't be no ways acquainted wi' Sir Mortimer's friend, be you, sir?"
"No," answered Barnabas, "what is his name?"
"Well, Sir Mortimer hailed him as 'Chichester,' I fancy, sir, though I aren't prepared to swear it, no more yet to oath it, not 'aving properly ob-served, but 'Chichester,' I think it were; and, 'twixt you an' me, sir, he be one o' your fine gentlemen as I aren't no wise partial to, an' he's ordered dinner and supper."
"Has he," said Barnabas, "then I think I'll do the same."
"Ay, ay, sir, very good."
"In the meantime could you let me have pen, ink and paper?"
"Ay, sir, surely, in the sanded parlor, this way, sir."
Forthwith he led Barnabas into a long, low panelled room, with a wide fireplace at the further end, beside which stood a great high-backed settle with a table before it. Then Barnabas sat down and wrote a letter to his father, as here follows:—
* * * * *
My Dear Father and Natty Bell,—I have read somewhere in my books that 'adventures are to the adventurous,' and, indeed, I have already found this to be true. Now, since I am adventuring the great world, I adventure lesser things also.
Thus I have met and talked with an entertaining pedler, from whom I have learned that the worst place in the world is Giles's Rents down by the River; from him, likewise, I purchased a book as to the merits of which I begin to entertain doubts.
Then I have already thrashed a friend of the Prince Regent, and somewhat spoiled a very fine gentleman, and, I fear, am like to be necessitated to spoil another before the day is much older; from each of whom I learn that a Prince's friend may be an arrant knave.
Furthermore, I have become acquainted with the son of an Earl, and finding him a man also, have formed a friendship with him, which I trust may endure.
Thus far, you see, much has happened to me; adventures have befallen me in rapid succession. 'Wonderful!' say you. 'Not at all,' say I, since I have found but what I sought after, for, as has been said—'adventures are to the adventurous.' Therefore, within the next few hours, I confidently expect other, and perchance weightier, happenings to overtake me because—I intend them to. So much for myself.
Now, as for you and Natty Bell, it is with deep affection that I think of you—an affection that shall abide with me always. Also, you are both in my thoughts continually. I remember our bouts with the 'muffles,' and my wild gallops on unbroken horses with Natty Bell; surely he knows a horse better than any, and is a better rider than boxer, if that could well be. Indeed, I am fortunate in having studied under two such masters.
Furthermore, I pray you to consider that this absence of mine will only draw us closer together, in a sense. Indeed, now, when I think of you both, I am half-minded to give up this project and come back to you. But my destiny commands me, and destiny must be obeyed. Therefore I shall persist unto the end; but whether I succeed or no, remember, I pray of you, that I am always,