The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, by George Meredith

Chapter 26

Records the Rapid Development of the Hero

On the stroke of the hour when Ripton Thompson was accustomed to consult his good watch for practical purposes, and sniff freedom and the forthcoming dinner, a burglarious foot entered the clerk’s office where he sat, and a man of a scowling countenance, who looked a villain, and whom he was afraid he knew, slid a letter into his hands, nodding that it would be prudent for him to read, and be silent. Ripton obeyed in alarm. Apparently the contents of the letter relieved his conscience; for he reached down his hat, and told Mr. Beazley to inform his father that he had business of pressing importance in the West, and should meet him at the station. Mr. Beazley zealously waited upon the paternal Thompson without delay, and together making their observations from the window, they beheld a cab of many boxes, into which Ripton darted and was followed by one in groom’s dress. It was Saturday, the day when Ripton gave up his law-readings, magnanimously to bestow himself upon his family, and Mr. Thompson liked to have his son’s arm as he walked down to the station; but that third glass of Port which always stood for his second, and the groom’s suggestion of aristocratic acquaintances, prevented Mr. Thompson from interfering: so Ripton was permitted to depart.

In the cab Ripton made a study of the letter he held. It had the preciseness of an imperial mandate.

“DEAR RIPTON— You are to get lodgings for a lady immediately. Not a word to a soul. Then come along with Tom.

R. D. F.”

“Lodgings for a lady!” Ripton meditated aloud: “What sort of lodgings? Where am I to get lodgings? Who’s the lady? — I say!” he addressed the mysterious messenger. “So you’re Tom Bakewell, are you, Tom?”

Tom grinned his identity.

“Do you remember the rick, Tom? Ha! ha! We got out of that neatly. We might all have been transported, though. I could have convicted you, Tom, safe! It’s no use coming across a practised lawyer. Now tell me.” Ripton having nourished his powers, commenced his examination: “Who’s this lady?”

“Better wait till you see Mr. Richard, sir,” Tom resumed his scowl to reply.

“Ah!” Ripton acquiesced. “Is she young, Tom?”

Tom said she was not old.

“Handsome, Tom?”

“Some might think one thing, some another,” Tom said.

“And where does she come from now?” asked Ripton with the friendly cheerfulness of a baffled counsellor.

“Comes from the country, sir.”

“A friend of the family, I suppose? a relation?”

Ripton left this insinuating query to be answered by a look. Tom’s face was a dead blank.

“Ah!” Ripton took a breath, and eyed the mask opposite him. “Why, you’re quite a scholar, Tom! Mr. Richard is well? All right at home?”

“Come to town this mornin’ with his uncle,” said Tom. “All well, thank ye, sir.”

“Ha!” cried Ripton, more than ever puzzled, “now I see. You all came to town today, and these are your boxes outside. So, so! But Mr. Richard writes for me to get lodgings for a lady. There must be some mistake — he wrote in a hurry. He wants lodgings for you all — eh?”

“‘M sure I d’n know what he wants,” said Tom. “You’d better go by the letter, sir.”

Ripton reconsulted that document. “‘Lodgings for a lady, and then come along with Tom. Not a word to a soul.’ I say! that looks like — but he never cared for them. You don’t mean to say, Tom, he’s been running away with anybody?”

Tom fell back upon his first reply: “Better wait till ye see Mr. Richard, sir,” and Ripton exclaimed: “Hanged if you ain’t the tightest witness I ever saw! I shouldn’t like to have you in a box. Some of you country fellows beat any number of cockneys. You do!”

Tom received the compliment stubbornly on his guard, and Ripton, as nothing was to be got out of him, set about considering how to perform his friend’s injunctions; deciding firstly, that a lady fresh from the country ought to lodge near the parks, in which direction he told the cabman to drive. Thus, unaware of his high destiny, Ripton joined the hero, and accepted his character in the New Comedy.

It is, nevertheless, true that certain favoured people do have beneficent omens to prepare them for their parts when the hero is in full career, so that they really may be nerved to meet him; ay, and to check him in his course, had they that signal courage. For instance, Mrs. Elizabeth Berry, a ripe and wholesome landlady of advertised lodgings, on the borders of Kensington, noted, as she sat rocking her contemplative person before the parlour fire this very March afternoon, a supernatural tendency in that fire to burn all on one side: which signifies that a wedding approaches the house. Why — who shall say? Omens are as impassable as heroes. It may be because in these affairs the fire is thought to be all on one side. Enough that the omen exists, and spoke its solemn warning to the devout woman. Mrs. Berry, in her circle, was known as a certified lecturer against the snares of matrimony. Still that was no reason why she should not like a wedding. Expectant, therefore, she watched the one glowing cheek of Hymen, and with pleasing tremours beheld a cab of many boxes draw up by her bit of garden, and a gentleman emerge from it in the act of consulting an advertisement paper. The gentleman required lodgings for a lady. Lodgings for a lady Mrs. Berry could produce, and a very roseate smile for a gentleman; so much so that Ripton forgot to ask about the terms, which made the landlady in Mrs. Berry leap up to embrace him as the happy man. But her experienced woman’s eye checked her enthusiasm. He had not the air of a bridegroom: he did not seem to have a weight on his chest, or an itch to twiddle everything with his fingers. At any rate, he was not the bridegroom for whom omens fly abroad. Promising to have all ready for the lady within an hour, Mrs. Berry fortified him with her card, curtsied him back to his cab, and floated him off on her smiles.

The remarkable vehicle which had woven this thread of intrigue through London streets, now proceeded sedately to finish its operations. Ripton was landed at a hotel in Westminster. Ere he was half-way up the stairs, a door opened, and his old comrade in adventure rushed down. Richard allowed up time for salutations. “Have you done it?” was all he asked. For answer Ripton handed him Mrs. Berry’s card. Richard took it, and left him standing there. Five minutes elapsed, and then Ripton heard the gracious rustle of feminine garments above. Richard came a little in advance, leading and half supporting a figure in a black-silk mantle and small black straw bonnet; young — that was certain, though she held her veil so close he could hardly catch the outlines of her face; girlishly slender, and sweet and simple in appearance. The hush that came with her, and her soft manner of moving, stirred the silly youth to some of those ardours that awaken the Knight of Dames in our bosoms. He felt that he would have given considerable sums for her to lift her veil. He could see that she was trembling — perhaps weeping. It was the master of her fate she clung to. They passed him without speaking. As she went by, her head passively bent, Ripton had a glimpse of noble tresses and a lovely neck; great golden curls hung loosely behind, pouring from under her bonnet. She looked a captive borne to the sacrifice. What Ripton, after a sight of those curls, would have given for her just to lift her veil an instant and strike him blind with beauty, was, fortunately for his exchequer, never demanded of him. And he had absolutely been composing speeches as he came along in the cab! gallant speeches for the lady, and sly congratulatory ones for his friend, to be delivered as occasion should serve, that both might know him a man of the world, and be at their ease. He forgot the smirking immoralities he had revelled in. This was clearly serious. Ripton did not require to be told that his friend was in love, and meant that life and death business called marriage, parents and guardians consenting or not.

Presently Richard returned to him, and said hurriedly, “I want you now to go to my uncle at our hotel. Keep him quiet till I come. Say I had to see you — say anything. I shall be there by the dinner hour. Rip! I must talk to you alone after dinner.”

Ripton feebly attempted to reply that he was due at home. He was very curious to hear the plot of the New Comedy; and besides, there was Richard’s face questioning him sternly and confidently for signs of unhesitating obedience. He finished his grimaces by asking the name and direction of the hotel. Richard pressed his hand. It is much to obtain even that recognition of our devotion from the hero.

Tom Bakewell also received his priming, and, to judge by his chuckles and grins, rather appeared to enjoy the work cut out for him. In a few minutes they had driven to their separate destinations; Ripton was left to the unusual exercise of his fancy. Such is the nature of youth and its thirst for romance, that only to act as a subordinate is pleasant. When one unfurls the standard of defiance to parents and guardians, he may be sure of raising a lawless troop of adolescent ruffians, born rebels, to any amount. The beardless crew know that they have not a chance of pay; but what of that when the rosy prospect of thwarting their elders is in view? Though it is to see another eat the Forbidden Fruit, they will run all his risks with him. Gaily Ripton took rank as lieutenant in the enterprise, and the moment his heart had sworn the oaths, he was rewarded by an exquisite sense of the charms of existence. London streets wore a sly laugh to him. He walked with a dandified heel. The generous youth ogled aristocratic carriages, and glanced intimately at the ladies, overflowingly happy. The crossing-sweepers blessed him. He hummed lively tunes, he turned over old jokes in his mouth unctuously, he hugged himself, he had a mind to dance down Piccadilly, and all because a friend of his was running away with a pretty girl, and he was in the secret.

It was only when he stood on the door-step of Richard’s hotel, that his jocund mood was a little dashed by remembering that he had then to commence the duties of his office, and must fabricate a plausible story to account for what he knew nothing about — a part that the greatest of sages would find it difficult to perform. The young, however, whom sages well may envy, seldom fail in lifting their inventive faculties to the level of their spirits, and two minutes of Hippias’s angry complaints against the friend he serenely inquired for, gave Ripton his cue.

“We’re in the very street — within a stone’s-throw of the house, and he jumps like a harlequin out of my cab into another; he must be mad — that boy’s got madness in him! — and carries off all the boxes — my dinner-pills, too! and keeps away the whole of the day, though he promised to go to the doctor, and had a dozen engagements with me,” said Hippias, venting an enraged snarl to sum up his grievances.

Ripton at once told him that the doctor was not at home.

“Why, you don’t mean to say he’s been to the doctor?” Hippias cried out.

“He has called on him twice, sir,” said Ripton, expressively. “On leaving me he was going a third time. I shouldn’t wonder that’s what detains him — he’s so determined.”

By fine degrees Ripton ventured to grow circumstantial, saying that Richard’s case was urgent and required immediate medical advice; and that both he and his father were of opinion Richard should not lose an hour in obtaining it.

“He’s alarmed about himself,” said Ripton, and tapped his chest.

Hippias protested he had never heard a word from his nephew of any physical affliction.

“He was afraid of making you anxious, I think, sir.”

Algernon Feverel and Richard came in while he was hammering at the alphabet to recollect the first letter of the doctor’s name. They had met in the hall below, and were laughing heartily as they entered the room. Ripton jumped up to get the initiative.

“Have you seen the doctor?” he asked, significantly plucking at Richard’s fingers.

Richard was all abroad at the question.

Algernon clapped him on the back. “What the deuce do you want with doctor, boy?”

The solid thump awakened him to see matters as they were. “Oh, ay! the doctor!” he said, smiling frankly at his lieutenant. “Why, he tells me he’d back me to do Milo’s trick in a week from the present day. — Uncle,” he came forward to Hippias, “I hope you’ll excuse me for running off as I did. I was in a hurry. I left something at the railway. This stupid Rip thinks I went to the doctor about myself. The fact was, I wanted to fetch the doctor to see you here — so that you might have no trouble, you know. You can’t bear the sight of his instruments and skeletons — I’ve heard you say so. You said it set all your marrow in revolt —‘fried your marrow,’ I think were the words, and made you see twenty thousand different ways of sliding down to the chambers of the Grim King. Don’t you remember?”

Hippias emphatically did not remember, and he did not believe the story. Irritation at the mad ravishment of his pill-box rendered him incredulous. As he had no means of confuting his nephew, all he could do safely to express his disbelief in him, was to utter petulant remarks on his powerlessness to appear at the dinner-table that day: upon which — Berry just then trumpeting dinner — Algernon seized one arm of the Dyspepsy, and Richard another, and the laughing couple bore him into the room where dinner was laid, Ripton sniggering in the rear, the really happy man of the party.

They had fun at the dinner-table. Richard would have it; and his gaiety, his by-play, his princely superiority to truth and heroic promise of over-riding all our laws, his handsome face, the lord and possessor of beauty that he looked, as it were a star shining on his forehead, gained the old complete mastery over Ripton, who had been, mentally at least, half patronizing him till then, because he knew more of London and life, and was aware that his friend now depended upon him almost entirely.

After a second circle of the claret, the hero caught his lieutenant’s eye across the table, and said:

“We must go out and talk over that law-business, Rip, before you go. Do you think the old lady has any chance?”

“Not a bit!” said Ripton, authoritatively.

“But it’s worth fighting — eh, Rip?”

“Oh, certainly!” was Ripton’s mature opinion.

Richard observed that Ripton’s father seemed doubtful. Ripton cited his father’s habitual caution. Richard made a playful remark on the necessity of sometimes acting in opposition to fathers. Ripton agreed to it — in certain cases.

“Yes, yes! in certain cases,” said Richard.

“Pretty legal morality, gentlemen!” Algernon interjected; Hippias adding: “And lay, too!”

The pair of uncles listened further to the fictitious dialogue, well kept up on both sides, and in the end desired a statement of the old lady’s garrulous case; Hippias offering to decide what her chances were in law, and Algernon to give a common-sense judgment.

“Rip will tell you,” said Richard, deferentially signalling the lawyer. “I’ve a bad hand at these matters. Tell them how it stands, Rip.”

Ripton disguised his excessive uneasiness under endeavours to right his position on his chair, and, inwardly praying speed to the claret jug to come and strengthen his wits, began with a careless aspect: “Oh, nothing! She — very curious old character! She — a — wears a wig. She — a — very curious old character indeed! She — a — quite the old style. There’s no doing anything with her!” and Ripton took a long breath to relieve himself after his elaborate fiction.

“So it appears,” Hippias commented, and Algernon asked: “Well? and about her wig? Somebody stole it?” while Richard, whose features were grim with suppressed laughter, bade the narrator continue.

Ripton lunged for the claret jug. He had got an old lady like an oppressive bundle on his brain, and he was as helpless as she was. In the pangs of ineffectual authorship his ideas shot at her wig, and then at her one characteristic of extreme obstinacy, and tore back again at her wig, but she would not be animated. The obstinate old thing would remain a bundle. Law studies seemed light in comparison with this tremendous task of changing an old lady from a doll to a human creature. He flung off some claret, perspired freely, and, with a mental tribute to the cleverness of those author fellows, recommenced: “Oh, nothing! She — Richard knows her better than I do — an old lady — somewhere down in Suffolk. I think we had better advise her not to proceed. The expenses of litigation are enormous! She — I think we had better advise her to stop short, and not make any scandal.”

“And not make any scandal!” Algernon took him up. “Come, come! there’s something more than a wig, then?”

Ripton was commanded to proceed, whether she did or no. The luckless fictionist looked straight at his pitiless leader, and blurted out dubiously, “She — there’s a daughter.”

“Born with effort!” ejaculated Hippias. “Must give her pause after that! and I’ll take the opportunity to stretch my length on the sofa. Heigho! that’s true what Austin says: ‘The general prayer should be for a full stomach, and the individual for one that works well; for on that basis only are we a match for temporal matters, and able to contemplate eternal.’ Sententious, but true. I gave him the idea, though! Take care of your stomachs, boys! and if ever you hear of a monument proposed to a scientific cook or gastronomic doctor, send in your subscriptions. Or say to him while he lives, Go forth, and be a Knight. Ha! They have a good cook at this house. He suits me better than ours at Raynham. I almost wish I had brought my manuscript to town, I feel so much better. Aha! I didn’t expect to digest at all without my regular incentive. I think I shall give it up. — What do you say to the theatre to-night, boys!”

Richard shouted, “Bravo, uncle!”

“Let Mr. Thompson finish first,” said Algernon. “I want to hear the conclusion of the story. The old girl has a wig and a daughter. I’ll swear somebody runs away with one of the two! Fill your glass, Mr. Thompson, and forward!”

“So somebody does,” Ripton received his impetus. “And they’re found in town together,” he made a fresh jerk. “She — a — that is, the old lady — found them in company.”

“She finds him with her wig on in company!” said Algernon. “Capital! Here’s matter for the lawyers!”

“And you advise her not to proceed, under such circumstances of aggravation?” Hippias observed, humorously twinkling with his stomachic contentment.

“It’s the daughter,” Ripton sighed, and surrendering to pressure, hurried on recklessly, “A runaway match — beautiful girl! — the only son of a baronet — married by special licence. A— the point is,” he now brightened and spoke from his own element, “the point is whether the marriage can be annulled, as she’s of the Catholic persuasion and he’s a Protestant, and they’re both married under age. That’s the point.”

Having come to the point he breathed extreme relief, and saw things more distinctly; not a little amazed at his leader’s horrified face.

The two elders were making various absurd inquiries, when Richard sent his chair to the floor, crying, “What a muddle you’re in, Rip! You’re mixing half-a-dozen stories together. The old lady I told you about was old Dame Bakewell, and the dispute was concerning a neighbour of hers who encroached on her garden, and I said I’d pay the money to see her righted!”

“Ah,” said Ripton, humbly, “I was thinking of the other. Her garden! Cabbages don’t interest me”——

“Here, come along,” Richard beckoned to him savagely. “I’ll be back in five minutes, uncle,” he nodded coolly to either.

The young men left the room. In the hall-passage they met Berry, dressed to return to Raynham. Richard dropped a helper to the intelligence into his hand, and warned him not to gossip much of London. Berry bowed perfect discreetness.

“What on earth induced you to talk about Protestants and Catholics marrying, Rip?” said Richard, as soon as they were in the street.

“Why,” Ripton answered, “I was so hard pushed for it, ‘pon my honour, I didn’t know what to say. I ain’t an author, you know; I can’t make a story. I was trying to invent a point, and I couldn’t think of any other, and I thought that was just the point likely to make a jolly good dispute. Capital dinners they give at those crack hotels. Why did you throw it all upon me? I didn’t begin on the old lady.”

The hero mused, “It’s odd! It’s impossible you could have known! I’ll tell you why, Rip! I wanted to try you. You fib well at long range, but you don’t do at close quarters and single combat. You’re good behind walls, but not worth a shot in the open. I just see what you’re fit for. You’re staunch — that I am certain of. You always were. Lead the way to one of the parks — down in that direction. You know? — where she is!”

Ripton led the way. His dinner had prepared this young Englishman to defy the whole artillery of established morals. With the muffled roar of London around them, alone in a dark slope of green, the hero, leaning on his henchman, and speaking in a harsh clear undertone, delivered his explanations. Doubtless the true heroic insignia and point of view will be discerned, albeit in common private’s uniform.

“They’ve been plotting against me for a year, Rip! When you see her, you’ll know what it was to have such a creature taken away from you. It nearly killed me. Never mind what she is. She’s the most perfect and noble creature God ever made! It’s not only her beauty — I don’t care so much about that! — but when you’ve once seen her, she seems to draw music from all the nerves of your body; but she’s such an angel. I worship her. And her mind’s like her face. She’s pure gold. There, you’ll see her to-night.

“Well,” he pursued, after inflating Ripton with this rapturous prospect, “they got her away, and I recovered. It was Mister Adrian’s work. What’s my father’s objection to her? Because of her birth? She’s educated; her manners are beautiful — full of refinement — quick and soft! Can they show me one of their ladies like her? — she’s the daughter of a naval lieutenant! Because she’s a Catholic? What has religion to do with”— he pronounced “Love!” a little modestly — as it were a blush in his voice.

“Well, when I recovered I thought I did not care for her. It shows how we know ourselves! And I cared for nothing. I felt as if I had no blood. I tried to imitate my dear Austin. I wish to God he were here. I love Austin. He would understand her. He’s coming back this year, and then — but it’ll be too late then. — Well, my father’s always scheming to make me perfect — he has never spoken to me a word about her, but I can see her in his eyes — he wanted to give me a change, he said, and asked me to come to town with my uncle Hippy, and I consented. It was another plot to get me out of the way! As I live, I had no more idea of meeting her than of flying to heaven!”

He lifted his face. “Look at those old elm branches! How they seem to mix among the stars! — glittering; fruits of Winter!”

Ripton tipped his comical nose upward, and was in duty bound to say, Yes! though he observed no connection between them and the narrative.

“Well,” the hero went on, “I came to town. There I heard she was coming, too — coming home. It must have been fate, Ripton! Heaven forgive me! I was angry with her, and I thought I should like to see her once — only once — and reproach her for being false — for she never wrote to me. And, oh, the dear angel! what she must have suffered! — I gave my uncle the slip, and got to the railway she was coming by. There was a fellow going to meet her — a farmer’s son — and, good God! they were going to try and make her marry him! I remembered it all then. A servant of the farm had told me. That fellow went to the wrong station, I suppose, for we saw nothing of him. There she was — not changed a bit! — looking lovelier than ever! And when she saw me, I knew in a minute that she must love me till death! — You don’t know what it is yet, Rip! — Will you believe it? — Though I was as sure she loved me and had been true as steel, as that I shall see her to-night, I spoke bitterly to her. And she bore it meekly — she looked like a saint. I told her there was but one hope of life for me — she must prove she was true, and as I give up all, so must she. I don’t know what I said. The thought of losing her made me mad. She tried to plead with me to wait — it was for my sake, I know. I pretended, like a miserable hypocrite, that she did not love me at all. I think I said shameful things. Oh what noble creatures women are! She hardly had strength to move. I took her to that place where you found us. — Rip! she went down on her knees to me. I never dreamed of anything in life so lovely as she looked then. Her eyes were thrown up, bright with a crowd of tears — her dark brows bent together, like Pain and Beauty meeting in one; and her glorious golden hair swept off her shoulders as she hung forward to my hands. — Could I lose such a prize? — If anything could have persuaded me, would not that? — I thought of Dante’s Madonna — Guido’s Magdalen. — Is there sin in it? I see none! And if there is, it’s all mine! I swear she’s spotless of a thought of sin. I see her very soul! Cease to love her? Who dares ask me? Cease to love her? Why, I live on her! — To see her little chin straining up from her throat, as she knelt to me! — there was one curl that fell across her throat”. . . .

Ripton listened for more. Richard had gone off in a muse at the picture.

“Well?” said Ripton, “and how about that young farmer fellow?”

The hero’s head was again contemplating the starry branches. His lieutenant’s question came to him after an interval.

“Young Tom? Why, it’s young Tom Blaize — son of our old enemy, Rip! I like the old man now. Oh! I saw nothing of the fellow.”

“Lord!” cried Ripton, “are we going to get into a mess with Blaizes again? I don’t like that!”

His commander quietly passed his likes or dislikes.

“But when he goes to the train, and finds she’s not there?” Ripton suggested.

“I’ve provided for that. The fool went to the South-east instead of the South-west. All warmth, all sweetness, comes with the South-west! — I’ve provided for that, friend Rip. My trusty Tom awaits him there, as if by accident. He tells him he has not seen her, and advises him to remain in town, and go for her there tomorrow, and the day following. Tom has money for the work. Young Tom ought to see London, you know, Rip! — like you. We shall gain some good clear days. And when old Blaize hears of it — what then? I have her! she’s mine! — Besides, he won’t hear for a week. This Tom beats that Tom in cunning, I’ll wager. Ha! ha!” the hero burst out at a recollection. “What do you think, Rip? My father has some sort of System with me, it appears, and when I came to town the time before, he took me to some people — the Grandisons — and what do you think? one of the daughters is a little girl — a nice little thing enough — very funny — and he wants me to wait for her! He hasn’t said so, but I know it. I know what he means. Nobody understands him but me. I know he loves me, and is one of the best of men — but just consider! — a little girl who just comes up to my elbow. Isn’t it ridiculous? Did you ever hear such nonsense?”

Ripton emphasized his opinion that it certainly was foolish.

“No, no! The die’s cast!” said Richard. “They’ve been plotting for a year up to this day, and this is what comes of it! If my father loves me, he will love her. And if he loves me, he’ll forgive my acting against his wishes, and see it was the only thing to be done. Come! step out! what a time we’ve been!” and away he went, compelling Ripton to the sort of strides a drummer-boy has to take beside a column of grenadiers.

Ripton began to wish himself in love, seeing that it endowed a man with wind so that he could breathe great sighs, while going at a tremendous pace, and experience no sensation of fatigue. The hero was communing with the elements, his familiars, and allowed him to pant as he pleased. Some keen-eyed Kensington urchins, noticing the discrepancy between the pedestrian powers of the two, aimed their wit at Mr. Thompson junior’s expense. The pace, and nothing but the pace, induced Ripton to proclaim that they had gone too far, when they discovered that they had overshot the mark by half a mile. In the street over which stood love’s star, the hero thundered his presence at a door, and evoked a flying housemaid, who knew not Mrs. Berry. The hero attached significance to the fact that his instincts should have betrayed him, for he could have sworn to that house. The door being shut he stood in dead silence.

“Haven’t you got her card?” Ripton inquired, and heard that it was in the custody of the cabman. Neither of them could positively bring to mind the number of the house.

“You ought to have chalked it, like that fellow in the Forty Thieves,” Ripton hazarded a pleasantry which met with no response.

Betrayed by his instincts, the magic slaves of Love! The hero heavily descended the steps.

Ripton murmured that they were done for. His commander turned on him, and said: “Take all the houses on the opposite side, one after another. I’ll take these.” With a wry face Ripton crossed the road, altogether subdued by Richard’s native superiority to adverse circumstances.

Then were families aroused. Then did mortals dimly guess that something portentous was abroad. Then were labourers all day in the vineyard, harshly wakened from their evening’s nap. Hope and Fear stalked the street, as again and again the loud companion summonses resounded. Finally Ripton sang out cheerfully. He had Mrs. Berry before him, profuse of mellow curtsies.

Richard ran to her and caught her hands: “She’s well? — upstairs?”

“Oh, quite well! only a trifle tired with her journey, and fluttering-like,” Mrs. Berry replied to Ripton alone. The lover had flown aloft.

The wise woman sagely ushered Ripton into her own private parlour, there to wait till he was wanted.

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