John Caldigate had promised to go direct from Folking to the house of his friend Richard Shand, or rather, to the house in which lived Richard Shand’s father and family. The two young men had much to arrange together, and this had been thought to be expedient. When Caldigate, remembering how affairs were at his own home, had suggested that at so sad a moment he might be found to be in the way, Shand had assured him that there would be no sadness at all. ‘We are not a sentimental race,’ he had said. ‘There are a dozen of us, and the sooner some of us disperse ourselves, the more room will there be in the nest for the others.’
Shand had been Caldigate’s most intimate friend at college through the whole period of their residence and now he was to be his companion in a still more intimate alliance. And yet, though he liked the man, he did not altogether approve of him. Shand had also got into debt at Cambridge, but had not paid his debts; and had dealings also with Davis, as to which he was now quite indifferent. He had left the University without taking a degree, and had seemed to bear all these adversities with perfect equanimity. There had not been hitherto much of veneration in Caldigate’s character, but even he had, on occasions, been almost shocked at the want of respect evinced by his friend for conventional rules. All college discipline, all college authorities, all university traditions had been despised by Shand, who even in his dress had departed as far from recognised customs and fashions among the men as from the requisitions of the statutes and the milder requirements of the dignitaries of the day. Now, though he could not pay his debts — and intended, indeed, to run away from them — he was going to try his fortune with a certain small capital which his father had agreed to give him as his share of what there might be of the good things of the world among the Shands generally. As Shand himself said of both of them, he was about to go forth as a prodigal son, with a perfect assurance that, should he come back empty-handed, no calf would be killed for him. But he was an active man, with a dash of fun, and perhaps a sprinkling of wit, quick and brave, to whom life was apparently a joke, and who boasted of himself that, though he was very fond of beef and beer, he could live on bread and water, if put to it, without complaining. Caldigate almost feared that the man was a dangerous companion, but still there was a certain fitness about him for the thing contemplated; and, for such a venture, where could he find any other companion who would be fit?
Dr. Shand, the father, was a physician enjoying a considerable amount of provincial eminence in a small town in Essex. Here he had certainly been a succesful man; for, with all the weight of such a family on his back, he had managed to save some money. There had been small legacies from other Shands, and trifles of portion had come to them from the Potters, of whom Mrs. Shand had been one — Shand and Potter having been wholesale druggists in Smithfield. The young Shands had generally lived a pleasant life; had gone to school — the eldest son, as we have seen, to the university also — and had had governesses, and ponies to ride, and had been great at dancing, and had shot arrows, and played Badminton, and been subject to but little domestic discipline. They had lived crowded together in a great red-brick house, plenteously, roughly, quarrelling continually, but very fond of each other in their own way, and were known throughout that side of the country as a happy family. The girls had always gloves and shoes for dancing, and the boys had enjoyed a considerable amount of shooting and hunting without owning either guns or horses of their own. Now Dick was to go in quest of a fortune, and all the girls were stitching shirts for him, and were as happy as possible. Not a word was said about his debts, and no one threw it in his teeth that he had failed to take a degree. It was known of the Shands that they always made the best of everything.
When Caldigate got out of the railway carriage at Pollington, he was still melancholy with the remembrance of all that he had done and all that he had lost, and he expected to find something of the same feeling at his friend’s house. But before he had been there an hour he was laughing with the girls as though such an enterprise as theirs was the best joke in the world. And when a day and a night had passed, Mrs. Shand was deep among his shirts and socks, and had already given him much advice about flannel and soft soap. ‘I know Maria would like to go out with you,’ said the youngest daughter on the third day, a girl of twelve years old, who ought to have known better, and who, nevertheless, knew more than she ought to have done.
‘Indeed Maria would like nothing of the kind,’ said the young lady in question.
‘Only, Mr. Caldigate, of course you would have to marry her.’ Then the child was cuffed, and Maria declared that the proposed arrangement would suit neither her nor Mr. Caldigate in the least. The eldest daughter, Harriet, was engaged to marry a young clergyman in the neighbourhood, which event, however, was to be postponed till he had got a living; and the second, Matilda, was under a cloud because she would persist in being in love with Lieutenant Postlethwaite, of the Dragoons, whose regiment was quartered in the town. Maria was the third. All these family secrets were told to him quite openly as well as the fact that Josh, the third son, was to become a farmer because he could not be got to learn the multiplication table.
Between Pollington and London, Caldigate remained for six weeks, during which time he fitted himself out, took his passage, and executed the necessary deeds as to the estate. It might have been pleasant enough — this little interval before his voyage — as the Shands, though rough and coarse, were kind to him and good-humoured, had it not been that a great trouble befell him through over conscientiousness as to a certain matter. After what had passed at Babington House, it was expedient that he should, before he started for New South Wales, give some notice to his relatives there, so that Julia might know that destiny did not intend her to become Mrs. Caldigate of Folking. Aunt Polly had, no doubt, been too forward in that matter, and in wishing to dispose of her daughter had put herself in the way of merited rebuke and disappointment. It was, however, not the less necessary that she should be told of the altered circumstances of her wished-for son-in-law. But, had he been wise, he would so have written his letter that no answer should reach him before he had left the shores of England. His conscience however, pinched him, and before he had even settled the day on which he would start, he wrote to his aunt a long letter in which he told her everything — how he had disposed of his inheritance — how he had become so indebted to Davis as to have to seek a new fortune out of England — how he had bade farewell to Folking for ever — and how impossible it was under all these circumstances that he should aspire to the hand of his cousin Julia.
It was as though a thunderbolt had fallen among them at Babington. Mr. Babington himself was certainly not a clever man, but he knew enough of his own position, as an owner of acres, to be very proud of it, and he was affectionate enough towards his nephew to feel the full weight of this terrible disruption It seemed to him that his brother-in-law, Daniel Caldigate, was doing a very wicked thing, and he hurried across the country, to Folking, that he might say so. ‘You have not sense enough to understand the matter,’ said Daniel Caldigate. ‘You have no heart in your bowels if you can disinherit an only son,’ said the big squire. ‘Never mind where I carry my heart,’ said the smaller squire; ‘but it is a pity you should carry so small an amount of brain.’ No good could be done by such a meeting as that, nor by the journey which aunt Polly took to Pollington. The Caldigates, both father and son, were gifted with too strong a will to be turned from their purpose by such interference. But a great deal of confusion was occasioned; and aunt Polly among the Shands was regarded as a very wonderful woman indeed. ‘Oh, my son, my darling son!’ she said, weeping on John Caldigate’s shoulder. Now John Caldigate was certainly not her son, in the usual acceptation of the word, nor did Maria Shand believe that he was so even in that limited sense in which a daughter’s husband may be so designated. It was altogether very disagreeable, and made our hero almost resolve to get on board the ship a week before it started from the Thames instead of going down to Plymouth and catching it at the last moment. Of course it would have been necessary that the Babingtons should know all about it sooner or later, but John very much regretted that he had not delayed his letter till the day before his departure.
There is something jovial when you are young in preparing for a long voyage and for totally altered circumstances in life, especially when the surroundings are in themselves not melancholy. A mother weeping over a banished child may be sad enough — going as an exile when there is no hope of a return, But here among the Shands, with whom sons and daughters were plentiful, and with whom the feelings were of a useful kind, and likely to wear well, rather than of a romantic nature, the bustle, the purchasings, the arrangements, and the packings generally had in them a pleasantness of activity with no disagreeable accompaniments.
‘I do hope you will wear them, Dick,’ the mother said with something like a sob in her voice; but the tenderness came not from the approaching departure, but from her fear that the thick woollen drawers on which she was re-sewing all the buttons, should be neglected — after Dick’s usual fashion. ‘Mr. Caldigate I hope you will see that he wears them. He looks strong, but indeed he is not.’ Our hero who had always regarded his friend as a bull for strength of constitution generally, promised that he would be attentive to Dick’s drawers.
‘You may be sure that I shall wear them,’ said Dick; ‘but the time will come when I shall probably wear nothing else, so you had better make the buttons firm.’
Everything was to be done with strict economy, but yet there was plenty of money for purchases. There always is at such occasions. The quantity of clothes got together seemed to be more than any two men could ever wear; and among it all there were no dress-coats and no dress-trousers: or, if either of them had such articles, they were smuggled. The two young men were going out as miners, and took a delight in preparing themselves to be rough. Caldigate was at first somewhat modest in submitting his own belongings to the females of the establishment but that feeling soon wore off, and the markings and mendings, and buttonings and hemmings went on in a strictly impartial manner as though he himself were a chick out of the same brood.
‘What will you do?’ said the doctor, ‘if you spend your capital and make nothing?’
‘Work for wages,’ said Dick. ‘We shall have got, at any rate, enough experience out of our money to be able to do that. Men are getting 10s. a-day.’
‘But you’d have to go on doing that always,’ said the mother.
‘Not at all. Of course it’s a life of ups and downs. A man working for wages can put half what he earns into a claim, so that when a thing does come up trumps at last, he will have his chance. I have read a good deal about it now. There is plenty to be got if a man only knows how to keep it.’
‘Drinking is the worst,’ said the doctor.
‘I think I can trust myself for that,’ said Dick, whose hand at the moment was on a bottle of whisky, and who had been by no means averse to jollifications at Cambridge. ‘A miner when he’s at work should never drink.’
‘Nor when he’s not at work, if he wants to keep what he earns.’
‘I’m not going to take the pledge, or anything of that kind,’ continued the son, ‘but I think I know enough of it all, not to fall into that pit.’ During this discussion, Caldigate sat silent, for he had already had various conversations on this subject with his friend. He had entertained some fears, which were not, perhaps, quite removed by Dick’s manly assurances.
A cabin had been taken for the joint use of the young men on board the Goldfinder, a large steamer which was running at the time from London to Melbourne, doing the voyage generally in about two months. But they were going as second-class passengers and their accommodation therefore was limited. Dick had insisted on this economy, which was hardly necessary to Caldigate, and which was not absolutely pressed upon the other. But Dick had insisted. ‘Let us begin as we mean to go on,’ he had said; ‘of course we’ve got to rough it. We shall come across something a good deal harder than second-class fare before we have made our fortunes, and worked probably with mates more uncouth than second-class passengers.’ It was impossible to oppose counsel such as this, and therefore second-class tickets were taken on board the Goldfinder.
A terrible struggle was made during the last fortnight to prevent the going of John Caldigate. Mr. Babington was so shocked that he did not cease to stir himself. Allow a son to disinherit himself, merely because he had fallen into the hands of a money-lending Jew before he had left college! To have the whole condition of a property changed by such a simple accident! It was shocking to him; and he moved himself in the matter with much more energy than old Mr. Caldigate had expected from him. He wrote heartrending letters to Folking, in spite of the hard words which had been said to him there. He made a second journey to Cambridge, and endeavoured to frighten Mr. Bolton. Descent of acres from father to son was to him so holy a thing, that he was roused to unexpected energies. He was so far successful that Mr. Daniel Caldigate did write a long letter to his son, in which he offered to annul the whole proceeding. ‘Your uncle accuses me of injustice,’ he said. ‘I have not been unjust. But there is no reason whatever why the arrangement should stand. Even if the money has been paid to Davis I will bear that loss rather than you should think that I have taken advantage of you in your troubles.’ But John Caldigate was too firm and too determined for such retrogression. The money had been paid to Davis, and other monies had been used in other directions. He was quite contented with the bargain, and would certainly adhere to it.
Then came the last night before their departure; the evening before the day on which they were to go from Pollington to London, and from London to Plymouth. All the heavy packages, and all the clothes had, of course, been put on board the Goldfinder in the London docks. The pleasant task of preparation was at an end, and they were now to go forth upon their hard labours. Caldigate had become so intimate with the family, that it seemed as though a new life had sprung up for him, and that as he had parted from all that he then had of a family at Folking, he was now to break away from new ties under the doctor’s roof. They had dined early, and at ten o’clock there was what Mrs. Shand called a little bit of supper. They were all of them high in heart, and very happy — testifying their affection to the departing ones by helping them to the nicest bits, and by filling their tumblers the fullest. How it happened, no one could have said, but it did happen that, before the evening was over, Maria and Caldigate were together in a little room behind the front parlour. What still remained of their luggage was collected there, and this last visit had probably been made in order that the packages might be once more counted.
‘It does seem so odd that you should be going,’ she said.
‘It is so odd to me that I should ever have come.’
‘We had always heard of you since Dick went to Cambridge.’
‘I knew that there were so many of you, and that was all. Brothers never talk of their sisters, I suppose. But I seem to know you now so well! You have been so kind to me!’
‘Because you are Dick’s friend.’
‘I didn’t suppose that it was anything else.’
‘That’s not nice of you, Mr. Caldigate. You know that we are all very fond of you. We shall be so anxious to hear. You will be good to him, won’t you?’
‘And he to me, I hope.’
‘I think you are steadier than he is, and can do more for him than he can for you. I wonder, shall we ever see each other again, Mr. Caldigate?’
‘New South Wales is so far, and you will both marry there, and then you will not want to come back. I hope I may live to see dear Dick again some day.’
‘But only Dick?’
‘And you too, if you would care about it.’
‘Of course I should care about it,’ he said. And as he said so, of course he put his arm round her waist and kissed her. It did not mean much. She did not think it meant much. But it gave a little colouring of romance to that special moment of her life. He, when he went up to his bed, declared to himself that it meant nothing at all. He still had those large eyes clear before him, and was still fixed in his resolution to come back for them when some undefined point of his life should have passed by.
‘Now,’ said Dick Shand, as they were seated together in a third-class railway carriage on the following morning, ‘now I feel that I am beginning life.’
‘With proper resolutions, I hope, as to honesty, sobriety, and industry.’
‘With a fixed determination to make a fortune, and come back, and be facile princeps among all the Shands. I have already made up my mind as to the sum I will give each of the girls, and the way I will start the two younger boys in business. In the meantime let us light a pipe.’
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14