The earl and John Eames, after their escape from the bull, walked up to the Manor House together.
“You can write a note to your mother, and I’ll send it by one of the boys,” said the earl. This was his lordship’s answer when Eames declined to dine at the Manor House, because he would be expected home.
“But I’m so badly off for clothes, my lord,” pleaded Johnny. “I tore my trousers in the hedge.”
“There will be nobody there beside us two and Dr Crofts. The doctor will forgive you when he hears the story; and as for me, I didn’t care if you hadn’t a stitch to your back. You’ll have company back to Guestwick, so come along.”
Eames had no further excuse to offer, and therefore did as he was bidden. He was by no means as much at home with the earl now as during those minutes of the combat. He would rather have gone home, being somewhat ashamed of being seen in his present tattered and bare-headed condition by the servants of the house; and moreover, his mind would sometimes revert to the scene which had taken place in the garden at Allington. But he found himself obliged to obey the earl, and so he walked on with him through the woods.
The earl did not say very much, being tired and somewhat thoughtful. In what little he did say he seemed to be specially hurt by the ingratitude of the bull towards himself.
“I never teased him, or annoyed him in any way.”
“I suppose they are dangerous beasts?” said Eames.
“Not a bit of it, if they’re properly treated. It must have been my handkerchief, I suppose. I remember that I did blow my nose.”
He hardly said a word in the way of thanks to his assistant.
“Where should I have been if you had not come to me?” he had exclaimed immediately after his deliverance; but having said that he didn’t think it necessary to say much more to Eames. But he made himself very pleasant, and by the time he had reached the house his companion was almost glad that he had been forced to dine at the Manor House.
“And now we’ll have a drink,” said the earl. “I don’t know how you feel, but I never was so thirsty in my life.”
Two servants immediately showed themselves, and evinced some surprise at Johnny’s appearance.
“Has the gentleman hurt hisself, my lord?” asked the butler, looking at the blood upon our friend’s face.
“He has hurt his trousers the worst, I believe,” said the earl. “And if he was to put on any of mine they’d be too short and too big, wouldn’t they? I am sorry you should be so uncomfortable, but you mustn’t mind it for once.”
“I don’t mind it a bit,” said Johnny.
“And I’m sure I don’t,” said the earl.
“Mr Eames is going to dine here, Vickers.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“And his hat is down in the middle of the nineteen acres. Let three or four men go for it.”
“Three or four men, my lord!”
“Yes — three or four men. There’s something gone wrong with that bull. And you must get a boy with a pony to take a note into Guestwick, to Mrs Eames. Oh dear, I’m better now,” and he put down the tumbler from which he’d been drinking.
“Write your note here, and then we’ll go and see my pet pheasants before dinner.”
Vickers and the footman knew that something had happened of much moment, for the earl was usually very particular about his dinner-table. He expected every guest who sat there to be dressed in such guise as the fashion of the day demanded; and he himself, though his morning costume was by no means brilliant, never dined, even when alone, without having put himself into a suit of black, with a white cravat, and having exchanged the old silver hunting-watch which he carried during the day tied round his neck by a bit of old ribbon, for a small gold watch, with a chain and seals, which in the evening always dangled over his waistcoat. Dr Gruffen had once been asked to dinner at Guestwick Manor.
“Just a bachelor’s chop,” said the earl; “for there’s nobody at home but myself.” Whereupon Dr Gruffen had come in coloured trousers — and had never again been asked to dine at Guestwick Manor. All this Vickers knew well; and now his lordship had brought young Eames home to dine with him with his clothes all hanging about him in a manner which Vickers declared in the servants’ hall wasn’t more than half decent. Therefore, they all knew that something very particular must have happened.
“It’s some trouble about the bull, I know,” said Vickers —“but bless you, the bull couldn’t have tore his things in that way!”
Eames wrote his note, in which he told his mother that he had had an adventure with Lord de Guest, and that his lordship had insisted on bringing him home to dinner.
“I have torn my trousers all to pieces,” he added in a postscript, “and have lost my hat. Everything else is all right.” He was not aware that the earl also sent a short note to Mrs Eames.
DEAR MADAM (ran the earl’s note)— Your son has, under Providence, probably saved my life. I will leave the story for him to tell. He has been good enough to accompany me home, and will return to Guestwick after dinner with Dr Crofts, who dines here. I congratulate you on having a son with so much cool courage and good feeling.
Your very faithful servant,
Thursday, October, 186-
And then they went to see the pheasants.
“Now, I’ll tell you what,” said the earl.
“I advise you to take to shooting. It’s the amusement of a gentleman when a man chances to have the command of game.”
“But I’m always up in London.”
“No, you’re not. You’re not up in London now. You always have your holidays. If you choose to try it, I’ll see that you have shooting enough while you’re here. It’s better than going to sleep under the trees. Ha, ha, ha! I wonder what made you lay yourself down there. You hadn’t been fighting a bull that day?”
“No, my lord. I hadn’t seen the bull then.”
“Well; you think of what I’ve been saying. When I say a thing, I mean it. You shall have shooting enough, if you have a mind to try it.” Then they looked at the pheasants, and pottered about the place till the earl said it was time to dress for dinner.
“That’s hard upon you, isn’t it?” said he. “But, at any rate, you can wash your hands, and get rid of the blood. I’ll be down in the little drawing-room five minutes before seven, and I suppose I’ll find you there.”
At five minutes before seven Lord de Guest came into the small drawing-room, and found Johnny seated there, with a book before him. The earl was a little fussy, and showed by his manner that he was not quite at his ease, as some men do when they have any piece of work on hand which is not customary with them. He held something in his hand, and shuffled a little as he made his way up the room. He was dressed, as usual, in black; but his gold chain was not, as usual, dangling over his waistcoat.
“Eames,” he said, “I want you to accept a little present from me — just as a memorial of our affair with the bull. It will make you think of it sometimes, when I’m perhaps gone.”
“Oh, my lord —”
“It’s my own watch, that I have been wearing for some time; but I’ve got another — two or three, I believe, somewhere upstairs. You mustn’t refuse me. I can’t bear being refused. There are two or three little seals, too, which I have worn. I have taken off the one with my arms, because that’s of no use to you, and it is to me. It doesn’t want a key, but winds up at the handle, in this way,” and the earl proceeded to explain the nature of the toy.
“My lord, you think too much of what happened today,” said Eames, stammering.
“No, I don’t; I think very little about it. I know what I think of. Put the watch in your pocket before the doctor comes. There; I hear his horse. Why didn’t he drive over, and then he could have taken you back?”
“I can walk very well.”
“I’ll make that all right. The servant shall ride Crofts’ horse, and bring back the little phaeton. How d’you do, doctor? You know Eames, I suppose? You needn’t look at him in that way. His leg is not broken; it’s only his trousers.” And then the earl told the story of the bull.
“Johnny will become quite a hero in town,” said Crofts.
“Yes; I fear he’ll get the most of the credit; and yet I was at it twice as long as he was. I’ll tell you what, young men, when I got to that gate I didn’t think I’d breath enough left in me to get over it. It’s all very well jumping into a hedge when you’re only two-and-twenty; but when a man comes to be sixty he likes to take his time about such things. Dinner ready, is it? So am I. I quite forgot that mutton chop of yours today, doctor. But I suppose a man may eat a good dinner after a fight with a bull?”
The evening passed by without any very pleasurable excitement, and I regret to say that the earl went fast to sleep in the drawing-room as soon as he had swallowed his cup of coffee. During dinner he had been very courteous to both his guests, but towards Eames he had used a good-humoured and, almost affectionate familiarity. He had quizzed him for having been found asleep under the tree, telling Crofts that he had looked very forlorn.
“So that I haven’t a doubt about his being in love,” said the earl. And he had asked Johnny to tell the name of the fair one, bringing up the remnants of his half-forgotten classicalities to bear out the joke.
“If I am to take more of the severe Falernian,” said he, laying his hand on the decanter of port,
“I must know the lady’s name. Whoever she be, I’m well sure you need not blush for her. What! you refuse to tell! Then I’ll drink no more.” And so the earl had walked out of the dining-room; but not till he had perceived by his guest’s cheeks that the joke had been too true to be pleasant. As he went, however, he leaned with his hand on Eames’s shoulder, and the servants looking on saw that the young man was to be a favourite.
“He’ll make him his heir,” said Vickers.
“I shouldn’t wonder a bit if he don’t make him his heir.” But to this the footman objected, endeavouring to prove to Mr Vickers that, in accordance with the law of the land, his lordship’s second cousin, once removed, whom the earl had never seen, but whom he was supposed to hate, must be his heir.
“A hearl can never choose his own heir, like you or me,” said the footman, laying down the law.
“Can’t he though really, now? That’s very hard on him; isn’t it?” said the pretty housemaid.
“Psha,” said Vickers: “you know nothing about it. My lord could make young Eames his heir tomorrow; that is, the heir of his property. He couldn’t make him a hearl, because that must go to the heirs of his body. As to his leaving him the place here, I don’t just know how that’d be; and I’m sure Richard don’t.”
“But suppose he hasn’t got any heirs of his body?” asked the pretty housemaid, who was rather fond of putting down Mr Vickers.
“He must have heirs of his body,” said the butler. “Everybody has ’em. If a man don’t know ’em himself, the law finds ’em out.” And then Mr Vickers walked away, avoiding further dispute.
In the meantime, the earl was asleep upstairs, and the two young men from Guestwick did not find that they could amuse themselves with any satisfaction. Each took up a book; but there are times at which a man is quite unable to read, and when a book is only a cover for his idleness or dulness. At last, Dr Crofts suggested, in a whisper, that they might as well begin to think of going home.
“Eh; yes; what?” said the earl, “I’m not asleep.” In answer to which the doctor said that he thought he’d go home, if his lordship would let him order his horse. But the earl was against fast bound in slumber, and took no further notice of the proposition.
“Perhaps we could get off without waking him,” suggested Eames, in a whisper.
“Eh; what?” said the earl. So they both resumed their books, and submitted themselves to their martyrdom for a further period of fifteen minutes. At the expiration of that time, the footman brought in tea.
“Eh, what? tea!” said the earl.
“Yes, we’ll have a little tea. I’ve heard every word you’ve been saying.” It was that assertion on the part of the earl which always made Lady Julia so angry.
“You cannot have heard what I have been saying, Theodore, because I have said nothing,” she would reply.
“But I should have heard it if you had,” the earl would rejoin, snappishly. On the present occasion neither Crofts nor Eames contradicted him, and he took his tea and swallowed it while still three parts asleep.
“If you’ll allow me, my lord, I think I’ll order my horse,” said the doctor.
“Yes; horse — yes —” said the earl, nodding.
“But what are you to do, Eames, if I ride?” said the doctor.
“I’ll walk,” whispered Eames, in his very lowest voice.
“What — what — what?” said the earl, jumping up on his feet.
“Oh, ah, yes; going away, are you? I suppose you might as well, as sit here and see me sleeping. But, doctor — I didn’t snore, did I?”
“Not loud, did I? Come, Eames, did I snore loud?
“Well, my lord, you did snore rather loud two or three times.”
“Did I?” said the earl, in a voice of great disappointment.
“And yet, do you know, I heard every word you said.”
The small phaeton had been already ordered, and the two young men started back to Guestwick together, a servant from the house riding the doctor’s horse behind them.
“Look here, Eames,” said the earl, as they parted on the steps of the hall door.
“You’re going back to town the day after tomorrow, you say, so I shan’t see you again?”
“No, my lord”, said Johnny.
“Look you here, now. I shall be up for the Cattle-show before Christmas. You must dine with me at my hotel, on the twenty-second of December, Pawkins’s, in Jermyn Street; seven o’clock, sharp. Mind you do not forget, now. Put it down in your pocket-book when you get home. Good-bye, doctor; good-bye. I see I must stick to that mutton chop in the middle of the day.” And then they drove off.
“He’ll make him his heir for certain,” said Vickers to himself, as he slowly returned to his own quarters.
“You were returning from Allington, I suppose,” said Crofts, “when you came across Lord de Guest and the bull?”
“Yes: I just walked over to say good-bye to them.”
“Did you find them all well?”
“I only saw one. The other two were out”
“Mrs Dale, was it?”
“No; it was Lily.”
“Sitting alone, thinking of her fine London lover, of course. I suppose we ought to look upon her as a very lucky girl. I have no doubt she thinks herself so.”
“I’m sure I don’t know,” said Johnny.
“I believe he’s a very good young man,” said the doctor; but I can’t say I quite liked his manner.”
“I should think not,” said Johnny. “But then in all probability he did not like mine a bit better, or perhaps yours either. And if so it’s all fair.”
“I don’t see that it’s a bit fair. He’s a snob,” said Eames “and I don’t believe that I am.” He had taken a glass or two of the earl’s “severe Falernian,” and was disposed to a more generous confidence, and perhaps also to stronger language, than might otherwise have been the case.
“No; I don’t think he is a snob,” said Crofts.
“Had he been so, Mrs Dale would have perceived it.”
“You’ll see,” said Johnny, touching up the earl’s horse with energy as he spoke.
“You’ll see. A man who gives himself airs is a snob; and he gives himself airs. And I don’t believe he’s a straightforward fellow. It was a bad day for us all when he came among them at Allington.”
“I can’t say that I see that.”
“I do. But mind, I haven’t spoken a word of this to any one. And I don’t mean. What would be the good? I suppose she must marry him now?”
“Of course she must.”
“And be wretched all her life. Oh-h-h-h!” and he muttered a deep groan.
“I’ll tell you what it is, Crofts. He is going to take the sweetest girl out of this country that ever was in it, and he don’t deserve her.”
“I don’t think she can be compared to her sister,” said Crofts slowly.
“What; not Lily?” said Eames, as though the proposition made by the doctor were one that could not hold water for a minute.
“I have always thought that Bell was the more admired of the two,” said Crofts.
“I’ll tell you what,” said Eames.
“I have never yet set my eyes on any human creature whom I thought so beautiful as Lily Dale. And now that beast is going to marry her! I’ll tell you what, Crofts; I’ll manage to pick a quarrel with him yet.” Whereupon the doctor, seeing the nature of the complaint from which his companion was suffering, said nothing more, either about Lily or about Bell.
Soon after this Eames was at his own door, and was received there by his mother and sister with all the enthusiasm due to a hero.
“He has saved the earl’s life!” Mrs Eames had exclaimed to her daughter on reading Lord de Guest’s note.
“Oh, goodness!” and she threw herself back upon the sofa almost in a fainting condition.
“Saved Lord de Guest’s life!” said Mary.
“Yes — under Providence,” said Mrs Eames, as though that latter fact added much to her son’s good deed.
“But how did he do it?”
“By cool courage and good feeling — so his lordship says. But I wonder how he really did do it?”
“Whatever way it was, he’s torn all his clothes and lost his hat,” said Mary.
“I don’t care a bit about that,” said Mrs Eames.
“I wonder whether the earl has any interest at the Income-tax. What a thing it would be if he could get Johnny a step. It would be seventy pounds a year at once. He was quite right to stay and dine when his lordship asked him. And so Dr Crofts is there. It couldn’t have been anything in the doctoring way, I suppose.”
“No, I should say not; because of what he says of his trousers.” And so the two ladies were obliged to wait for John’s return.
“How did you do it, John?” said his mother, embracing him, as soon as the door was opened.
“How did you save the earl’s life?” said Mary, who was standing behind her mother.
“Would his lordship really have been killed, if it had not been for you?” asked Mrs Eames.
“And was he very much hurt?” asked Mary.
“Oh, bother,” said Johnny, on whom the results of the day’s work, together with the earl’s Falernian, had made some still remaining impression. On ordinary occasions, Mrs Eames would have felt hurt at being so answered by her son; but at the present moment she regarded him as standing so high in general favour that she took no offence.
“Oh, Johnny, do tell us. Of course we must be very anxious to know it all.”
“There’s nothing to tell, except that a bull ran at the earl, as I was going by; so I went into the field and helped him, and then he made me stay and dine with him.”
“But his lordship says that you saved his life,” said Mary.
“Under Providence,” added their mother.
“At any rate, he has given me a gold watch and chain,” said Johnny, drawing the present out of his pocket.
“I wanted a watch badly. All the same, I didn’t like taking it.”
“It would have been very wrong to refuse,” said his mother.
“And I am so glad you have been so fortunate. And look here, Johnny: when a friend like that comes in your way, don’t turn your back on him.” Then, at last, he thawed beneath their kindness, and told them the whole of the story. I fear that, in recounting the earl’s efforts with the spud, he hardly spoke of his patron with all that deference which would have been appropriate.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01