That afternoon Charles said nothing more, but lay and looked out of the window at the rhododendrons just bursting into bloom, at the deer, at the rabbits, at the pheasants; and beyond, where the park dipped down so suddenly, at the river which spouted and foamed away as of old; and to the right at the good old town of Casterton, and at the blue smoke from its chimneys, drifting rapidly away before the soft south-westerly wind; and he lay and looked at these and thought.
And before sundown an arch arose in the west which grew and spread; an arch of pale green sky, which grew till it met the sun, and then the wet grass in the park shone out all golden, and the topmost cedar boughs began to blaze like burnished copper.
And then he spoke. He said, ”William, my dear old friend — loved more deeply than any words can tell — come here, for I have something to say to you.”
And good William came and stood beside him. And
William looked at him and saw that his face was animated, and that his eyes were sparkling. And he stood and said not a word, but smiled and waited for him to go on.
And Charles said, “Old boy, I have been looking through that glass today, and I saw Mr. Jackson catch the trout, and I saw Welter, and I saw Mary, and I want you to go and fetch Mary here.”
And William straightway departed; and as he went up the staircase he met the butler, and he looked so happy, so radiant, and so thoroughly kind-hearted and merry, that the butler, a solemn man, found himself smiling as he drew politely aside to let him pass.
I hope you like this fellow, William. He was, in reality, only a groom, say you. Well, that is true enough. A fellow without education or breeding, though highly born. But still, I hope you like him. I was forgetting myself a little though. At this time he is master of Ravenshoe, with certainly nine, and probably twelve, thousand a year — a most eminently respectable person. One year’s income of his would satisfy a man I know, very well, and yet I am talking of him apologetically. But then we novel writers have an unlimited command of money, if we could only realize it.
However, this great capitalist went up stairs towards the nursery; and here I must break off, if you please, nd take up the thread of my narrative in another place (I don’t mean the House of Lords).
In point of fact, there had been a shindy (I use the word advisedly, and will repeat it) — a shindy, in the nursery that evening. The duty of a story-teller is to stick in a moral reflection wherever he can, and so at this place I pitchfork in this caution to young governesses, that nothing can be more incautious or reprehensible, than to give children books to keep them quiet without first seeing what these books are about.
Mary was very much to blame in this case (you see I tell the truth, and spare nobody). Gus, Flora, and Archy had been out to walk with her, as we know, and had come home in a very turbulent state of mind. They had demanded books as the sole condition on which they would be good; and Mary being in a fidget about her meeting with Lord Ascot, over the trout, and being not quite herself, had promptly supplied Gus with a number of Blackwood's Magazine, and Flora with a “Shakspeare.”
This happened early in the afternoon. Remember this; for if we are not particular in our chronology, we are naught.
Gus turned to the advertisements. He read among other things a testimonial to a great corn-cutter, from a potentate who keeps a very small army, and don’t mean any harm:—
“Professor Homberg has cut my corns with a dexterity ruly marvellous.
From a country baronet:—
“I am satisfied with Professor Homberg.
(Signed) “Pitchceoft Cockpole, Bart.”
From a bishop in the South Sea Islands:—
“Professor Homberg has cut my corns in a manner which does equal honour to his head and his heart.
(His real name is Jones, but that is neither here nor there); and in the mean time Flora had been studying a certain part of “King Lear.”
Later in the afternoon it occurred to Gus, that he would like to be a corn-cutter and have testimonials. He proposed to cut nurse’s corns, but she declined, assigning reasons. Failing here, he determined to cut Flora’s doll’s corns, and, with this view, possessed himself of her person during Flora’s temporary absence.
He began by snicking the corner of her foot off with nurse’s scissors. Then he found that the sawdust ribbled out at the orifice. This was very delightful. He shook her and it dribbled faster. Then he cut the other foot off and shook her again. And she, not having any stitches put in about the knee (as all dolls should), lost, not only the sawdust from her legs, but also from her stomach and body, leaving nothing but collapsed calico and a bust, with an undisturbed countenance of wax above all.
At this time Flora had rushed in to the rescue; she felt the doll’s body and she saw the heap of sawdust; whereupon she, remembering her “King Lear,” turned on him and said scornfully:
“Nero is an angler in the lake of darkness.” At this awful taunt, Gus butted her in the stomach, and she got hold of him by the hair. Archy, excited for the first time in his life, threw a box of ninepins at them, which exploded. Mary rushed in to separate them, and at the same moment in came William with a radiant face, and he quietly took Mary round the waist (like his impudence), and he said, “My dear creature, go down to Charles, and leave these Turks to me.”
And she left these Turks to him. And he sat on a chair and administered justice; and in a very few minutes, under the influence of that kind, happy, sunny face of his, Flora had kissed Gus, and Archy had cuddled up on his knee, and was sucking his thumb in peace.
And going down to the hall, he found Lady Ascot hobbling up and down, taking her afternoon’s exercise, and she said to him, “Ravenshoe, you best and kindest of souls, she is there with him now. My dear, we had better not move in this matter any more. I tried to dispossess you before I knew your worth and goodness, but I will do nothing now. He is rich, and perhaps it is better, my dear, that Ravenshoe should be in Papist hands — at least, in such hands as yours.”
He said, “My dear madam, I am not Ravenshoe. I feel sure that you are right. We must find Ellen.”
And Mary came out and came toward them; and she said, “Lady Ascot and Mr. Ravenshoe, Charles and I are engaged to be married.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10