The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, by George Meredith

Chapter 25

In which the Hero Takes a Step

Let it be some apology for the damage caused by the careering hero, and a consolation to the quiet wretches, dragged along with him at his chariot-wheels, that he is generally the last to know when he has made an actual start; such a mere creature is he, like the rest of us, albeit the head of our fates. By this you perceive the true hero, whether he be a prince or a pot-boy, that he does not plot; Fortune does all for him. He may be compared to one to whom, in an electric circle, it is given to carry the battery. We caper and grimace at his will; yet not his the will, not his the power. ’Tis all Fortune’s, whose puppet he is. She deals her dispensations through him. Yea, though our capers be never so comical, he laughs not. Intent upon his own business, the true hero asks little services of us here and there; thinks it quite natural that they should be acceded to, and sees nothing ridiculous in the lamentable contortions we must go through to fulfil them. Probably he is the elect of Fortune, because of that notable faculty of being intent upon his own business: “Which is,” says THE PILGRIM’S SCRIP, “with men to be valued equal to that force which in water makes a stream.” This prelude was necessary to the present chapter of Richard’s history.

It happened that in the turn of the year, and while old earth was busy with her flowers, the fresh wind blew, the little bird sang, and Hippias Feverel, the Dyspepsy, amazed, felt the Spring move within him. He communicated his delightful new sensations to the baronet, his brother, whose constant exclamation with regard to him, was: “Poor Hippias! All his machinery is bare!” and had no hope that he would ever be in a condition to defend it from view. Nevertheless Hippias had that hope, and so he told his brother, making great exposure of his machinery to effect the explanation. He spoke of all his physical experiences exultingly, and with wonder. The achievement of common efforts, not usually blazoned, he celebrated as triumphs, and, of course, had Adrian on his back very quickly. But he could bear him, or anything, now. It was such ineffable relief to find himself looking out upon the world of mortals instead of into the black phantasmal abysses of his own complicated frightful structure. “My mind doesn’t so much seem to haunt itself, now,” said Hippias, nodding shortly and peering out of intense puckers to convey a glimpse of what hellish sufferings his had been: “I feel as if I had come above-ground.”

A poor Dyspepsy may talk as he will, but he is the one who never gets sympathy, or experiences compassion: and it is he whose groaning petitions for charity do at last rout that Christian virtue. Lady Blandish, a charitable soul, could not listen to Hippias, though she had a heart for little mice and flies, and Sir Austin had also small patience with his brother’s gleam of health, which was just enough to make his disease visible. He remembered his early follies and excesses, and bent his ear to him as one man does to another who complains of having to pay a debt legally incurred.

“I think,” said Adrian, seeing how the communications of Hippias were received, “that when our Nemesis takes lodgings in the stomach, it’s best to act the Spartan, smile hard, and be silent.”

Richard alone was decently kind to Hippias; whether from opposition, or real affection, could not be said, as the young man was mysterious. He advised his uncle to take exercise, walked with him, cultivated cheerful impressions in him, and pointed out innocent pursuits. He made Hippias visit with him some of the poor old folk of the village, who bewailed the loss of his cousin Austin Wentworth, and did his best to waken him up, and give the outer world a stronger hold on him. He succeeded in nothing but in winning his uncle’s gratitude. The season bloomed scarce longer than a week for Hippias, and then began to languish. The poor Dyspepsy’s eager grasp at beatification relaxed: he went underground again. He announced that he felt “spongy things”— one of the more constant throes of his malady. His bitter face recurred: he chewed the cud of horrid hallucinations. He told Richard he must give up going about with him: people telling of their ailments made him so uncomfortable — the birds were so noisy, pairing — the rude bare soil sickened him.

Richard treated him with a gravity equal to his father’s. He asked what the doctors said.

“Oh! the doctors!” cried Hippias with vehement scepticism. “No man of sense believes in medicine for chronic disorder. Do you happen to have heard of any new remedy then, Richard? No? They advertise a great many cures for indigestion, I assure you, my dear boy. I wonder whether one can rely upon the authenticity of those signatures? I see no reason why there should be no cure for such a disease? — Eh? And it’s just one of the things a quack, as they call them, would hit upon sooner than one who is in the beaten track. Do you know, Richard, my dear boy, I’ve often thought that if we could by any means appropriate to our use some of the extraordinary digestive power that a boa constrictor has in his gastric juices, there is really no manner of reason why we should not comfortably dispose of as much of an ox as our stomachs will hold, and one might eat French dishes without the wretchedness of thinking what’s to follow. And this makes me think that those fellows may, after all, have got some truth in them: some secret that, of course, they require to be paid for. We distrust each other in this world too much, Richard. I’ve felt inclined once or twice — but it’s absurd! — If it only alleviated a few of my sufferings I should be satisfied. I’ve no hesitation in saying that I should be quite satisfied if it only did away with one or two, and left me free to eat and drink as other people do. Not that I mean to try them. It’s only a fancy — Eh? What a thing health is, my dear boy! Ah! if I were like you! I was in love once!”

“Were you!” said Richard, coolly regarding him.

“I’ve forgotten what I felt!” Hippias sighed. “You’ve very much improved, my dear boy.”

“So people say,” quoth Richard.

Hippias looked at him anxiously: “If I go to town and get the doctor’s opinion, about trying a new course — Eh, Richard? will you come with me? I should like your company. We could see London together, you know. Enjoy ourselves,” and Hippias rubbed his hands.

Richard smiled at the feeble glimmer of enjoyment promised by his uncle’s eyes, and said he thought it better they should stay where they were — an answer that might mean anything. Hippias immediately became possessed by the beguiling project. He went to the baronet, and put the matter before him, instancing doctors as the object of his journey, not quacks, of course; and requesting leave to take Richard. Sir Austin was getting uneasy about his son’s manner. It was not natural. His heart seemed to be frozen: he had no confidences: he appeared to have no ambition — to have lost the virtues of youth with the poison that had passed out of him. He was disposed to try what effect a little travelling might have on him, and had himself once or twice hinted to Richard that it would be good for him to move about, the young man quietly replying that he did not wish to quit Raynham at all, which was too strict a fulfilment of his father’s original views in educating him there entirely. On the day that Hippias made his proposal, Adrian, seconded by Lady Blandish, also made one. The sweet Spring season stirred in Adrian as well as in others: not to pastoral measures: to the joys of the operatic world and bravura glories. He also suggested that it would be advisable to carry Richard to town for a term, and let him know his position, and some freedom. Sir Austin weighed the two proposals. He was pretty certain that Richard’s passion was consumed, and that the youth was now only under the burden of its ashes. He had found against his heart, at the Bellingham inn: a great lock of golden hair. He had taken it, and the lover, after feeling about for it with faint hands, never asked for it. This precious lock (Miss Davenport had thrust it into his hand at Belthorpe as Lucy’s last gift), what sighs and tears it had weathered! The baronet laid it in Richard’s sight one day, and beheld him take it up, turn it over, and drop it down again calmly, as if he were handling any common curiosity. It pacified him on that score. The young man’s love was dead. Dr. Clifford said rightly: he wanted distractions. The baronet determined that Richard should go. Hippias and Adrian then pressed their several suits as to which should have him. Hippias, when he could forget himself, did not lack sense. He observed that Adrian was not at present a proper companion for Richard, and would teach him to look on life from the false point.

“You don’t understand a young philosopher,” said the baronet.

“A young philosopher’s an old fool!” returned Hippias, not thinking that his growl had begotten a phrase.

His brother smiled with gratification, and applauded him loudly: “Excellent! worthy of your best days! You’re wrong, though, in applying it to Adrian. He has never been precocious. All he has done has been to bring sound common sense to bear upon what he hears and sees. I think, however,” the baronet added, “he may want faith in the better qualities of men.” And this reflection inclined him not to let his son be alone with Adrian. He gave Richard his choice, who saw which way his father’s wishes tended, and decided so to please him. Naturally it annoyed Adrian extremely. He said to his chief:

“I suppose you know what you are doing, sir. I don’t see that we derive any advantage from the family name being made notorious for twenty years of obscene suffering, and becoming a byword for our constitutional tendency to stomachic distention before we fortunately encountered Quackem’s Pill. My uncle’s tortures have been huge, but I would rather society were not intimate with them under their several headings.” Adrian enumerated some of the most abhorrent. “You know him, sir. If he conceives a duty, he will do it in the face of every decency — all the more obstinate because the conception is rare. If he feels a little brisk the morning after the pill, he sends the letter that makes us famous! We go down to posterity with heightened characteristics, to say nothing of a contemporary celebrity nothing less than our being turned inside-out to the rabble. I confess I don’t desire to have my machinery made bare to them.”

Sir Austin assured the wise youth that Hippias had arranged to go to Dr. Bairam. He softened Adrian’s chagrin by telling him that in about two weeks they would follow to London: hinting also at a prospective Summer campaign. The day was fixed for Richard to depart, and the day came. Madame the Eighteenth Century called him to her chamber and put into his hand a fifty-pound note, as her contribution toward his pocket-expenses. He did not want it, he said, but she told him he was a young man, and would soon make that fly when he stood on his own feet. The old lady did not at all approve of the System in her heart, and she gave her grand-nephew to understand that, should he require more, he knew where to apply, and secrets would be kept. His father presented him with a hundred pounds — which also Richard said he did not want — he did not care for money. “Spend it or not,” said the baronet, perfectly secure in him.

Hippias had few injunctions to observe. They were to take up quarters at the hotel, Algernon’s general run of company at the house not being altogether wholesome. The baronet particularly forewarned Hippias of the imprudence of attempting to restrict the young man’s movements, and letting him imagine he was under surveillance. Richard having been, as it were, pollarded by despotism, was now to grow up straight, and bloom again, in complete independence, as far as he could feel. So did the sage decree; and we may pause a moment to reflect how wise were his previsions, and how successful they must have been, had not Fortune, the great foe to human cleverness, turned against him, or he against himself.

The departure took place on a fine March morning. The bird of Winter sang from the budding tree; in the blue sky sang the bird of Summer. Adrian rode between Richard and Hippias to the Bellingham station, and vented his disgust on them after his own humorous fashion, because it did not rain and damp their ardour. In the rear came Lady Blandish and the baronet, conversing on the calm summit of success.

“You have shaped him exactly to resemble yourself,” she said, pointing with her riding-whip to the grave, stately figure of the young man.

“Outwardly, perhaps,” he answered, and led to a discussion on Purity and Strength, the lady saying that she preferred Purity.

“But you do not,” said the baronet. “And there I admire the always true instinct of women, that they all worship Strength in whatever form, and seem to know it to be the child of heaven; whereas Purity is but a characteristic, a garment, and can be spotted — how soon! For there are questions in this life with which we must grapple or be lost, and when, hunted by that cold eye of intense inner-consciousness, the clearest soul becomes a cunning fox, if it have not courage to stand and do battle. Strength indicates a boundless nature — like the Maker. Strength is a God to you — Purity a toy. A pretty one, and you seem to be fond of playing with it,” he added, with unaccustomed slyness.

The lady listened, pleased at the sportive malice which showed that the constraint on his mind had left him. It was for women to fight their fight now; she only took part in it for amusement. This is how the ranks of our enemies are thinned; no sooner do poor women put up a champion in their midst than she betrays them.

“I see,” she said archly, “we are the lovelier vessels; you claim the more direct descent. Men are seedlings: Women — slips! Nay, you have said so,” she cried out at his gestured protestation, laughing.

“But I never printed it.”

“Oh! what you speak answers for print with me.”

Exquisite Blandish! He could not choose but love her.

“Tell me what are your plans?” she asked. “May a woman know?”

He replied, “I have none or you would share them. I shall study him in the world. This indifference must wear off. I shall mark his inclinations now, and he shall be what he inclines to. Occupation will be his prime safety. His cousin Austin’s plan of life appears most to his taste, and he can serve the people that way as well as in Parliament, should he have no stronger ambition. The clear duty of a man of any wealth is to serve the people as he best can. He shall go among Austin’s set, if he wishes it, though personally I find no pleasure in rash imaginations, and undigested schemes built upon the mere instinct of principles.”

“Look at him now,” said the lady. “He seems to care for nothing; not even for the beauty of the day.”

“Or Adrian’s jokes,” added the baronet.

Adrian could be seen to be trying zealously to torment a laugh, or a confession of irritation, out of his hearers, stretching out his chin to one, and to the other, with audible asides. Richard he treated as a new instrument of destruction about to be let loose on the slumbering metropolis; Hippias as one in an interesting condition; and he got so much fun out of the notion of these two journeying together, and the mishaps that might occur to them, that he esteemed it almost a personal insult for his hearers not to laugh. The wise youth’s dull life at Raynham had afflicted him with many peculiarities of the professional joker.

“Oh! the Spring! the Spring!” he cried, as in scorn of his sallies they exchanged their unmeaning remarks on the sweet weather across him. “You seem both to be uncommonly excited by the operations of turtles, rooks, and daws. Why can’t you let them alone?

‘Wind bloweth,

Cock croweth,

Doodle-doo;

Hippy verteth,

Ricky sterteth,

Sing Cuckoo!’

There’s an old native pastoral! — Why don’t you write a Spring sonnet, Ricky? The asparagus-beds are full of promise, I hear, and eke the strawberry. Berries I fancy your Pegasus has a taste for. What kind of berry was that I saw some verses of yours about once? — amatory verses to some kind of berry — yewberry, blueberry, glueberry! Pretty verses, decidedly warm. Lips, eyes, bosom, legs — legs? I don’t think you gave her any legs. No legs and no nose. That appears to be the poetic taste of the day. It shall be admitted that you create the very beauties for a chaste people.

‘O might I lie where leans her lute!’

and offend no moral community. That’s not a bad image of yours, my dear boy:

‘Her shape is like an antelope

Upon the Eastern hills.’

But as a candid critic, I would ask you if the likeness can be considered correct when you give her no legs? You will see at the ballet that you are in error about women at present, Richard. That admirable institution which our venerable elders have imported from Gallia for the instruction of our gaping youth, will edify and astonish you. I assure you I used, from reading THE PILGRIM’S SCRIP, to imagine all sorts of things about them, till I was taken there, and learnt that they are very like us after all, and then they ceased to trouble me. Mystery is the great danger to youth, my son! Mystery is woman’s redoubtable weapon, O Richard of the Ordeal! I’m aware that you’ve had your lessons in anatomy, but nothing will persuade you that an anatomical figure means flesh and blood. You can’t realize the fact. Do you intend to publish when you’re in town? It’ll be better not to put your name. Having one’s name to a volume of poems is as bad as to an advertising pill.”

“I will send you an early copy, Adrian, when I publish,” quoth Richard. “Hark at that old blackbird, uncle.”

“Yes!” Hippias quavered, looking up from the usual subject of his contemplation, and trying to take an interest in him, “fine old fellow!”

“What a chuckle he gives out before he flies! Not unlike July nightingales. You know that bird I told you of — the blackbird that had its mate shot, and used to come to sing to old Dame Bakewell’s bird from the tree opposite. A rascal knocked it over the day before yesterday, and the dame says her bird hasn’t sung a note since.”

“Extraordinary!” Hippias muttered abstractedly. “I remember the verses.”

“But where’s your moral?” interposed the wrathful Adrian. “Where’s constancy rewarded?

‘The ouzel-cock so black of hue,

The orange-tawny bill;

The rascal with his aim so true;

The Poet’s little quill!’

Where’s the moral of that? except that all’s game to the poet! Certainly we have a noble example of the devotedness of the female, who for three entire days refuses to make herself heard, on account of a defunct male. I suppose that’s what Ricky dwells on.”

“As you please, my dear Adrian,” says Richard, and points out larch-buds to his uncle, as they ride by the young green wood.

The wise youth was driven to extremity. Such a lapse from his pupil’s heroics to this last verge of Arcadian coolness, Adrian could not believe in. “Hark at this old blackbird!” he cried, in his turn, and pretending to, interpret his fits of song:

“Oh, what a pretty comedy! — Don’t we wear the mask well, my Fiesco? — Genoa will be our own tomorrow! — Only wait until the train has started — jolly! jolly! jolly! We’ll be winners yet!

“Not a bad verse — eh, Ricky? my Lucius Junius!”

“You do the blackbird well,” said Richard, and looked at him in a manner mildly affable.

Adrian shrugged. “You’re a young man of wonderful powers,” he emphatically observed; meaning to say that Richard quite beat him; for which opinion Richard gravely thanked him, and with this they rode into Bellingham.

There was young Tom Blaize at the station, in his Sunday beaver and gala waistcoat and neck-cloth, coming the lord over Tom Bakewell, who had preceded his master in charge of the baggage. He likewise was bound for London. Richard, as he was dismounting, heard Adrian say to the baronet: “The Beast, sir, appears to be going to fetch Beauty;” but he paid no heed to the words. Whether young Tom heard them or not, Adrian’s look took the lord out of him, and he shrunk away into obscurity, where the nearest approach to the fashions which the tailors of Bellingham could supply to him, sat upon him more easily, and he was not stiffened by the eyes of the superiors whom he sought to rival. The baronet, Lady Blandish, and Adrian remained on horseback, and received Richard’s adieux across the palings. He shook hands with each of them in the same kindly cold way, eliciting from Adrian a marked encomium on his style of doing it. The train came up, and Richard stepped after his uncle into one of the carriages.

Now surely there will come an age when the presentation of science at war with Fortune and the Fates will be deemed the true epic of modern life; and the aspect of a scientific humanist who, by dint of incessant watchfulness, has maintained a System against those active forces, cannot be reckoned less than sublime, even though at the moment he but sit upon his horse, on a fine March morning such as this, and smile wistfully to behold the son of his heart, his System incarnate, wave a serene adieu to tutelage, neither too eager nor morbidly unwilling to try his luck alone for a term of two weeks. At present, I am aware, an audience impatient for blood and glory scorns the stress I am putting on incidents so minute, a picture so little imposing. An audience will come to whom it will be given to see the elementary machinery at work: who, as it were, from some slight hint of the straws, will feel the winds of March when they do not blow. To them will nothing be trivial, seeing that they will have in their eyes the invisible conflict going on around us, whose features a nod, a smile, a laugh of ours perpetually changes. And they will perceive, moreover, that in real life all hangs together: the train is laid in the lifting of an eyebrow, that bursts upon the field of thousands. They will see the links of things as they pass, and wonder not, as foolish people now do, that this great matter came out of that small one.

Such an audience, then, will participate in the baronet’s gratification at his son’s demeanour, wherein he noted the calm bearing of experience not gained in the usual wanton way: and will not be without some excited apprehension at his twinge of astonishment, when, just as the train went sliding into swiftness, he beheld the grave, cold, self-possessed young man throw himself back in the carriage violently laughing. Science was at a loss to account for that. Sir Austin checked his mind from inquiring, that he might keep suspicion at a distance, but he thought it odd, and the jarring sensation that ran along his nerves at the sight, remained with him as he rode home.

Lady Blandish’s tender womanly intuition bade her say: “You see it was the very thing he wanted. He has got his natural spirits already.”

“It was,” Adrian put in his word, “the exact thing he wanted. His spirits have returned miraculously.”

“Something amused him,” said the baronet, with an eye on the puffing train.

“Probably something his uncle said or did,” Lady Blandish suggested, and led off at a gallop.

Her conjecture chanced to be quite correct. The cause for Richard’s laughter was simple enough. Hippias, on finding the carriage-door closed on him, became all at once aware of the bright-haired hope which dwells in Change, for one who does not woo her too frequently; and to express his sudden relief from mental despondency at the amorous prospect, the Dyspepsy bent and gave his hands a sharp rub between his legs: which unlucky action brought Adrian’s pastoral,

“Hippy verteth,

Sing cuckoo!”

in such comic colours before Richard, that a demon of laughter seized him.

“Hippy verteth!”

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 above-ground, 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 thing.”

“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 tomorrow.”

“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 night to-night.”

“Of course you will! What! after laughing like that?”

“Ugh!” Hippias grunted, “I daresay, Richard, you sleep the moment you get into bed!”

“The instant my head’s on my pillow, and up the moment I wake. Health’s everything!”

“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 cætera.”

Hippias blinked, exclaiming, “Really, my dear boy! I never saw you so excited.”

“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 fabulist pursues —

‘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,” says Hippias.

“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 unusëd 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 drive fast.

“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 fixing 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 stormily.

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 was 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.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 17:11