How near the end we are getting, and yet so much to come. Never mind. We will tell it all naturally and straightforwardly, and then there will be nothing to offend you.
By-and-by it became necessary that Charles should have air and exercise. His arm was well Every splinter had been taken out of it, and he must lie on the sofa no longer.
So he was driven out through pleasant places, through the budding spriag, in one of Lord Hainault’s carriages. AU the meadows had been bush-harrowed and rolled long ago, and now the orchises and fritillaries were begianing to make the grass look purple. Lady Hainault had a low carriage, and a pair of small cobs, and this was given up to Charles; and Lady Hainault’s first coachman declined to drive her ladyship out in the daytime, for fear that the second coachman (a meritorious young man of forty) should frighten Charles by a reckless and inexperienced way of driving.
Consequently Lady Hainault went a buying flannel petticoats and tliat sort of thing, for the poor people in Casterton and Henley, driven by her second coachman; and Charles was trundled all over the country by the first coachman, in a low carriage with the pair of cobs. But Lady Hainault was as well pleased with the arrangement as the old coachman himself, and so it is no business of ours. For the curious thing was, that no one who ever knew Charles, would have hesitated for an instant in giving up to him, his or her, bed, or dinner, or carriage, or any other thing in this world. For people are great fools, you know.
Perhaps the reason of it was that every one who made Charles’s acquaintance, knew by instinct that he would have cut off his right hand to serve them. I don’t know why it was. But there is the fact.
Sometimes Lady Ascot would go with him, and sometimes William. And one day, when William was with him, they were bowling quietly along a by-road on the opposite side of the water from Hurley. And in a secret place, they came on a wicked old gentleman, breaking the laws of his country, and catching perch in close time, out of a punt, with a chair, and a stone bottle, and a fisherman from Maidenliead, who shall be nameless, but who must consider himself cautioned.
The Eajah of Ahmednuggur lives close by there; nd he was reading the Times, when Charles asked the coachman to pull up, that he might see the sport. The Eajah’s attention was caught by seeing the carriage stop; and he looked through a double-barrelled opera glass, and not only saw Charles and William in the carriage, but saw, through the osiers, the hoary old profligate with his paternoster pulling the perch out as fast as he could put his line in. Fired by a virtuous indignation (I wish every gentleman on the Thames would do likewise), he ran in his breeches and slippers down the lawn, and began blowing up like Old Gooseberry.
The old gentleman who was fishing looked at the rajah’s red-brick house, and said, “If my face was as ugly as that house, I would wear a green veil; “but he ordered the fisherman to take up the rypecks, and he floated away down stream.
And as Charles and William drove along, Charles said, “My dear boy, there could not be any harm in catching a few roach. I should so like to go about among pleasant places in a punt once more.”
When they got home, the head keeper was sent for. Charles told him that he would so much like to go fishing, and that a few roach would not make much difference. The keeper scornfully declined arguing about the matter, but only wanted to know what time
Mr. Ravenshoe would like to go, adding that any one who made objections would be brought up uncommon short.
So William and he went fishing in a punt, and one day Charles said, “I don’t care about this punt-fishing much. I wish — I wish I could get back to the trout at Ravenshoe.”
“Do you really mean that?” said William.
“Ah, Willy!” said Charles. “If I could only see it again!”
“How I have been waiting to hear you say that!” said William. “Come to your home with me; why, the people are wondering where we are. My darling bird will be jealous, if I stay here much longer. Come down to my wedding.”
“When are you to be married, William?”
“On the same day as yourself,” said William sturdily.
Said Charles, “Put the punt ashore, will you?” And they did. And Charles, with his nose in the air, and his chest out, walked beside William across the spring meadows, through the lengthening grass, through the calthas, and the orchises, and the ladies’ slippers, and the cowslips, and the fritillaries, through the budding flower garden which one finds in spring among the English meadows, a hale strong man. And when they had clomb the precipitous slope of the deer-park,
Charles picked a rhododendron flower, and put it in his buttonhole, and turned round to William, with the flush of health on his face, and said —
“Brother, we will go to Ravenshoe, and you will be with your love. Shall we be married in London?”
“In St. Petersburgh, if you like, now I see you looking your old self again. But why?”
“A fancy of mine. When I remember what I went through in London through my own obstinacy, I should like to take my revenge on the place, by spending the happiest day of my life there. Do you agree?”
“Ask Lady Ascot and Mary and the children down to Ravenshoe. Lady Hainault will come too, but he can’t. And have General Mainwaring and the Tiernays. Have as many of the old circle as we can get.”
“This is something like life again,” said William. “Remember, Charles, I am not spending the revenues of Ravenshoe. They are yours. I know it. I am spending about 400?. a year. When our grandfather’s marriage is proved, you will provide for me and my wife, I know that. Be quiet. But we shall never prove that till we find Ellen.”
“Find Ellen!” exclaimed Charles, turning round. “I will not go near Ellen yet.”
“Do you know where she is?” asked William, eagerly.
“Of course I do.” said Charles. “She is at Hackney. Hornby told me so when he was dying. But let her be or a time.”
“I tell you,” said William, “that I am sure that she knows everything. At Hackney!”
The allied powers, General Mainwaring, Lady Ascot, Lord Hainault, and William, were not long before they searched every hole and corner of Hackney, in and out. There was only one nunnery there, but, in that nunnery, there was no young lady at all resembling Ellen. The priests, particularly Father Mackworth’s friend Butler, gave them every assistance in their power. But it was no good.
As Charles and William were in the railway carriage going westward, Charles said —
“Well, we have failed to find Ellen. Mackworth, poor fellow, is still at Ravenshoe.”
“Yes,” said William, “and nearly idiotic. All his fine-spun cobwebs cast to the winds. But he holds the clue to this mystery, or I am mistaken. The younger Tiernay takes care of him. He probably won’t know you. But Charles, when you come into Ravenshoe, keep a corner for Mackworth.”
“He ought to be an honoured guest of the house as long as he lives,” said Charles. “You still persist in saying that Ravenshoe is mine.”
“I am sure it is,” said William.
And, at this same time, William wrote to two other people telling all about the state of affairs, and asking them to come and join the circle. And John Marston came across into my room and said, “Let us go.” And I said, “My dear John, we ought to go. It is not every day that we see a man, and such a man, risen from the dead, as Charles Ravenshoe.”
And so we went.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10