A Tale of the Great War
By R. D. Blackmore
WHEN THE SHIP COMES HOME
In the days when England trusted mainly to the vigor and valor of one man, against a world of enemies, no part of her coast was in greater peril than the fair vale of Springhaven. But lying to the west of the narrow seas, and the shouts both of menace and vigilance, the quiet little village in the tranquil valley forbore to be uneasy.
For the nature of the place and race, since time has outlived memory, continually has been, and must be, to let the world pass easily. Little to talk of, and nothing to do, is the healthy condition of mankind just there. To all who love repose and shelter, freedom from the cares of money and the cark of fashion, and (in lieu of these) refreshing air, bright water, and green country, there is scarcely any valley left to compare with that of Springhaven. This valley does not interrupt the land, but comes in as a pleasant relief to it. No glaring chalk, no grim sandstone, no rugged flint, outface it; but deep rich meadows, and foliage thick, and cool arcades of ancient trees, defy the noise that men make. And above the trees, in shelving distance, rise the crests of upland, a soft gray lias, where orchards thrive, and greensward strokes down the rigor of the rocks, and quick rills lace the bosom of the slope with tags of twisted silver.
In the murmur of the valley twenty little waters meet, and discoursing their way to the sea, give name to the bay that receives them and the anchorage they make. And here no muddy harbor reeks, no foul mouth of rat-haunted drains, no slimy and scraggy wall runs out, to mar the meeting of sweet and salt. With one or two mooring posts to watch it, and a course of stepping-stones, the brook slides into the peaceful bay, and is lost in larger waters. Even so, however, it is kindly still, for it forms a tranquil haven.
Because, where the ruffle of the land stream merges into the heavier disquietude of sea, slopes of shell sand and white gravel give welcome pillow to the weary keel. No southerly tempest smites the bark, no long groundswell upheaves her; for a bold point, known as the "Haven-head," baffles the storm in the offing, while the bulky rollers of a strong spring-tide, that need no wind to urge them, are broken by the shifting of the shore into a tier of white-frilled steps. So the deep-waisted smacks that fish for many generations, and even the famous "London trader" (a schooner of five-and-forty tons), have rest from their labors, whenever they wish or whenever they can afford it, in the arms of the land, and the mouth of the water, and under the eyes of Springhaven.
At the corner of the wall, where the brook comes down, and pebble turns into shingle, there has always been a good white gate, respected (as a white gate always is) from its strong declaration of purpose. Outside of it, things may belong to the Crown, the Admiralty, Manor, or Trinity Brethren, or perhaps the sea itself—according to the latest ebb or flow of the fickle tide of Law Courts—but inside that gate everything belongs to the fine old family of Darling.
Concerning the origin of these Darlings divers tales are told, according to the good-will or otherwise of the diver. The Darlings themselves contend and prove that stock and name are Saxon, and the true form of the name is "Deerlung," as witness the family bearings. But the foes of the race, and especially the Carnes, of ancient Sussex lineage, declare that the name describes itself. Forsooth, these Darlings are nothing more, to their contemptuous certainty, than the offset of some court favorite, too low to have won nobility, in the reign of some light-affectioned king.
If ever there was any truth in that, it has been worn out long ago by friction of its own antiquity. Admiral Darling owns that gate, and all the land inside it, as far as a Preventive man can see with his spy-glass upon the top bar of it. And this includes nearly all the village of Springhaven, and the Hall, and the valley, and the hills that make it. And how much more does all this redound to the credit of the family when the gazer reflects that this is nothing but their younger tenement! For this is only Springhaven Hall, while Darling Holt, the headquarters of the race, stands far inland, and belongs to Sir Francis, the Admiral's elder brother.
When the tides were at their spring, and the year 1802 of our era in the same condition, Horatia Dorothy Darling, younger daughter of the aforesaid Admiral, choosing a very quiet path among thick shrubs and under-wood, came all alone to a wooden building, which her father called his Round-house. In the war, which had been patched over now, but would very soon break out again, that veteran officer held command of the coast defense (westward of Nelson's charge) from Beachy Head to Selsey Bill. No real danger had existed then, and no solid intent of invasion, but many sharp outlooks had been set up, and among them was this at Springhaven.
Here was established under thatch, and with sliding lights before it, the Admiral's favorite Munich glass, mounted by an old ship's carpenter (who had followed the fortunes of his captain) on a stand which would have puzzled anybody but the maker, with the added security of a lanyard from the roof. The gear, though rough, was very strong and solid, and afforded more range and firmer rest to the seven-feet tube and adjustments than a costly mounting by a London optician would have been likely to supply. It was a pleasure to look through such a glass, so clear, and full of light, and firm; and one who could have borne to be looked at through it, or examined even by a microscope, came now to enjoy that pleasure.
Miss Dolly Darling could not be happy—though her chief point was to be so—without a little bit of excitement, though it were of her own construction. Her imagination, being bright and tender and lively, rather than powerful, was compelled to make its own material, out of very little stuff sometimes. She was always longing for something sweet and thrilling and romantic, and what chance of finding it in this dull place, even with the longest telescope? For the war, with all its stirring rumors and perpetual motion on shore and sea, and access of gallant visitors, was gone for the moment, and dull peace was signed.
This evening, as yet, there seemed little chance of anything to enliven her. The village, in the valley and up the stream, was hidden by turns of the land and trees; her father's house beneath the hill crest was out of sight and hearing; not even a child was on the beach; and the only movement was of wavelets leisurely advancing toward the sea-wall fringed with tamarisk. The only thing she could hope to see was the happy return of the fishing-smacks, and perhaps the "London trader," inasmuch as the fishermen (now released from fencible duty and from French alarm) did their best to return on Saturday night to their moorings, their homes, the disposal of fish, and then the deep slumber of Sunday. If the breeze should enable them to round the Head, and the tide avail for landing, the lane to the village, the beach, and even the sea itself would swarm with life and bustle and flurry and incident. But Dolly's desire was for scenes more warlike and actors more august than these.
Beauty, however, has an eye for beauty beyond its own looking-glass. Deeply as Dolly began to feel the joy of her own loveliness, she had managed to learn, and to feel as well, that so far as the strength and vigor of beauty may compare with its grace and refinement, she had her own match at Springhaven. Quite a hardworking youth, of no social position and no needless education, had such a fine countenance and such bright eyes that she neither could bear to look at him nor forbear to think of him. And she knew that if the fleet came home she would see him on board of the Rosalie.
Flinging on a shelf the small white hat which had scarcely covered her dark brown curls, she lifted and shored with a wooden prop the southern casement of leaded glass. This being up, free range was given to the swinging telescope along the beach to the right and left, and over the open sea for miles, and into the measureless haze of air. She could manage this glass to the best advantage, through her father's teaching, and could take out the slide and clean the lenses, and even part the object-glass, and refix it as well as possible. She belonged to the order of the clever virgins, but scarcely to that of the wise ones.
WITH HER CREW AND CARGO
Long after the time of those who write and those who read this history, the name of Zebedee Tugwell will be flourishing at Springhaven.
To achieve unmerited honor is the special gift of thousands, but to deserve and win befalls some few in every century, and one of these few was Zebedee. To be the head-man of any other village, and the captain of its fishing fleet, might prove no lofty eminence; but to be the leader of Springhaven was true and arduous greatness. From Selsey Bill to Orfordness, taking in all the Cinque Ports and all the port of London, there was not a place that insisted on, and therefore possessed, all its own rights so firmly as this village did. Not less than seven stout fishing-smacks—six of them sloops, and the seventh a dandy—formed the marine power of this place, and behaved as one multiplied by seven. All the bold fishermen held their line from long-established ancestry, and stuck to the stock of their grandfathers, and their wisdom and freedom from prejudice. Strength was condensed into clear law with them—as sinew boils down into jelly—and character carried out its force as the stamp of solid impress. What the father had been, the son became, as the generation squared itself, and the slates for the children to do their copies were the tombstones of their granddads. Thus brave Etruria grew, and thus the Rome which was not built in a day became the flower of the world, and girt in unity of self seven citadels.
There was Roman blood—of the Tenth Legion, perhaps—in the general vein of Springhaven. There was scarcely a man who pretended to know much outside of his own business, and there was not a woman unable to wait (when her breath was quite gone) for sound reason. Solidity, self-respect, pure absence of frivolous humor, ennobled the race and enabled them to hold together, so that everybody not born in Springhaven might lament, but never repair, his loss.
This people had many ancient rules befitting a fine corporation, and among them were the following: "Never do a job for a stranger; sleep in your own bed when you can; be at home in good time on a Saturday; never work harder than you need; throw your fish away rather than undersell it; answer no question, but ask another; spend all your money among your friends; and above all, never let any stranger come a-nigh your proper fishing ground, nor land any fish at Springhaven."
These were golden laws, and made a snug and plump community. From the Foreland to the Isle of Wight their nets and lines were sacred, and no other village could be found so thriving, orderly, well-conducted, and almost well-contented. For the men were not of rash enterprise, hot labor, or fervid ambition; and although they counted things by money, they did not count one another so. They never encouraged a friend to work so hard as to grow too wealthy, and if he did so, they expected him to grow more generous than he liked to be. And as soon as he failed upon that point, instead of adoring, they growled at him, because every one of them might have had as full a worsted stocking if his mind had been small enough to forget the difference betwixt the land and sea, the tide of labor and the time of leisure.
To these local and tribal distinctions they added the lofty expansion of sons of the sea. The habit of rising on the surge and falling into the trough behind it enables a biped, as soon as he lands, to take things that are flat with indifference. His head and legs have got into a state of firm confidence in one another, and all these declare—with the rest of the body performing as chorus gratis—that now they are come to a smaller affair, upon which they intend to enjoy themselves. So that, while strenuous and quick of movement—whenever they could not help it—and sometimes even brisk of mind (if anybody strove to cheat them), these men generally made no griefs beyond what they were born to.
Zebedee Tugwell was now their chief, and well deserved to be so. Every community of common-sense demands to have somebody over it, and nobody could have felt ashamed to be under Captain Tugwell. He had built with his own hands, and bought—for no man's work is his own until he has paid for as well as made it—the biggest and smartest of all the fleet, that dandy-rigged smack, the Rosalie. He was proud of her, as he well might be, and spent most of his time in thinking of her; but even she was scarcely up to the size of his ideas. "Stiff in the joints," he now said daily—"stiff in the joints is my complaint, and I never would have believed it. But for all that, you shall see, my son, if the Lord should spare you long enough, whether I don't beat her out and out with the craft as have been in my mind this ten year."
But what man could be built to beat Zebedee himself, in an age like this, when yachts and men take the prize by profundity of false keel? Tugwell yearned for no hot speed in his friends, or his house, or his wife, or his walk, or even his way of thinking. He had seen more harm come from one hour's hurry than a hundred years of care could cure, and the longer he lived the more loath he grew to disturb the air around him.
"Admirable Nelson," he used to say—for his education had not been so large as the parts allotted to receive it; "to my mind he is a brave young man, with great understanding of his dooties. But he goeth too fast, without clearing of his way. With a man like me 'longside of 'un, he'd have brought they boats out of Bulong. See how I brings my boats in, most particular of a Saturday!"
It was Saturday now, when Miss Dolly was waiting to see this great performance, of which she considered herself, as the daughter of an admiral, no mean critic. And sure enough, as punctual as in a well-conducted scheme of war, and with nice forecast of wind and tide, and science of the supper-time, around the westward headland came the bold fleet of Springhaven!
Seven ships of the line—the fishing line—arranged in perfect order, with the Rosalie as the flag-ship leading, and three upon either quarter, in the comfort and leisure of the new-born peace, they spread their sails with sunshine. Even the warlike Dolly could not help some thoughts of peacefulness, and a gentle tide of large good-will submerged the rocks of glory.
"Why should those poor men all be killed?" she asked herself, as a new thing, while she made out, by their faces, hats, fling of knee or elbow, patch upon breeches, or sprawl of walking toward the attentive telescope, pretty nearly who everybody of them was, and whatever else there was about him. "After all, it is very hard," she said, "that they should have to lose their lives because the countries fight so."
But these jolly fellows had no idea of losing their lives, or a hair of their heads, or anything more than their appetites, after waging hot war upon victuals. Peace was proclaimed, and peace was reigning; and the proper British feeling of contempt for snivelly Frenchmen, which produces the entente cordiale, had replaced the wholesome dread of them. Not that Springhaven had ever known fear, but still it was glad to leave off terrifying the enemy. Lightness of heart and good-will prevailed, and every man's sixpence was going to be a shilling.
In the tranquil afternoon the sun was making it clear to the coast of Albion that he had crossed the line once more, and rediscovered a charming island. After a chilly and foggy season, worse than a brave cold winter, there was joy in the greeting the land held out, and in the more versatile expression of the sea. And not beneath the contempt of one who strives to get into everything, were the creases and patches of the sails of smacks, and the pattern of the resin-wood they called their masts, and even the little striped things (like frogs with hats on, in the distance) which had grown to believe themselves the only object the sun was made to shine upon.
But he shone upon the wide sea far behind, and the broad stretch of land before them, and among their slowly gliding canvas scattered soft touches of wandering light. Especially on the spritsail of the Rosalie, whereunder was sitting, with the tiller in his hand and a very long pipe in his mouth, Captain Zebedee Tugwell. His mighty legs were spread at ease, his shoulders solid against a cask, his breast (like an elephant's back in width, and bearing a bright blue crown tattooed) shone out of the scarlet woolsey, whose plaits were filled with the golden shower of a curly beard, untouched with gray. And his face was quite as worthy as the substance leading up to it, being large and strengthful and slow to move, though quick to make others do so. The forehead was heavy, and the nose thickset, the lower jaw backed up the resolution of the other, and the wide apart eyes, of a bright steel blue, were as steady as a brace of pole-stars.
"What a wonderful man!" fair Dolly thought, as the great figure, looking even grander in the glass, came rising upon a long slow wave—"what a wonderful man that Tugwell is! So firmly resolved to have his own way, so thoroughly dauntless, and such a grand beard! Ten times more like an admiral than old Flapfin or my father is, if he only knew how to hold his pipe. There is something about him so dignified, so calm, and so majestic; but, for all that, I like the young man better. I have a great mind to take half a peep at him; somebody might ask whether he was there or not."
Being a young and bashful maid, as well as by birth a lady, she had felt that it might be a very nice thing to contemplate sailors in the distance, abstract sailors, old men who pulled ropes, or lounged on the deck, if there was one. But to steal an unsuspected view at a young man very well known to her, and acknowledged (not only by his mother and himself, but also by every girl in the parish) as the Adonis of Springhaven—this was a very different thing, and difficult to justify even to one's self. The proper plan, therefore, was to do it, instead of waiting to consider it.
"How very hard upon him it does seem," she whispered to herself, after a good gaze at him, "that he must not even dream of having any hope of me, because he has not happened to be born a gentleman! But he looks a thousand times more like one than nine out of ten of the great gentlemen I know—or at any rate he would if his mother didn't make his clothes."
For Zebedee Tugwell had a son called "Dan," as like him as a tender pea can be like a tough one; promising also to be tough, in course of time, by chafing of the world and weather. But at present Dan Tugwell was as tender to the core as a marrowfat dallying till its young duck should be ready; because Dan was podding into his first love. To the sympathetic telescope his heart was low, and his mind gone beyond astronomical range, and his hands (instead of briskly pairing soles) hung asunder, and sprawled like a star-fish.
"Indeed he does look sad," said Miss Dolly, "he is thinking of me, as he always does; but I don't see how anybody can blame me. But here comes daddy, with dear old Flapfin! I am not a bit afraid of either of them; but perhaps I had better run away."
AND HER TRUE COMMANDER
The nature of "Flapfin"—as Miss Dolly Darling and other young people were pleased to call him—was to make his enemies run away, but his friends keep very near to him. He was one of the simplest-minded men that ever trod the British oak. Whatever he thought he generally said; and whatever he said he meant and did. Yet of tricks and frauds he had quick perception, whenever they were tried against him, as well as a marvellous power of seeing the shortest way to everything. He enjoyed a little gentle piece of vanity, not vainglory, and he never could sec any justice in losing the credit of any of his exploits. Moreover, he was gifted with the highest faith in the hand of the Almighty over him (to help him in all his righteous deeds), and over his enemies, to destroy them. Though he never insisted on any deep piety in his own behavior, he had a good deal in his heart when time allowed, and the linstocks were waiting the signal. His trust was supreme in the Lord and himself; and he loved to be called "My Lord Admiral."
And a man of this noble type deserved to be met with his own nobility. But the English government, according to its lights—which appear to be everlasting—regarded him as the right man, when wanted, but at other times the wrong one. They liked him to do them a very good turn, but would not let him do himself one; and whenever he looked for some fair chance of a little snug prize-money, they took him away from the likely places, and set him to hard work and hard knocks. But his sense of duty and love of country enabled him to bear it, with grumbling.
"I don't care a rope's end," he was saying, with a truthfulness simple and solid as beefsteak is, "whether we have peace or war; but let us have one or the other of them. I love peace—it is a very fine thing—and I hate to see poor fellows killed. All I want is to spend the rest of my life ashore, and lay out the garden. You must come and see what a bridge I have made to throw across the fish-pond. I can do well enough with what I have got, as soon as my farm begins to pay, and I hope I may never hear another shotted cannon; but, my dear Lingo, you know as well as I do how much chance there is of that."
"Laudo manentem. Let us praise her while we have got her. Parson Twemlow keeps up my Latin, but you have forgotten all yours, my friend. I brought you down here to see the fish come in, and to choose what you like best for dinner. In the days when you were my smallest youngster, and as proud as Punch to dine with me, your taste was the finest in the ship, because your stomach was the weakest. How often I thought that the fish would eat you! and but for your wonderful spirit, my friend, that must have happened long ago. But your nature was to fight, and you fought through, as you always do. A drumstick for your praise of peace!"
Admiral Darling, a tall, stout man in the sixty-fifth year of his age, looked down at his welcome and famous guest as if he knew a great deal more of his nature than the owner did. And this made that owner, who thought very highly of his own perception, look up and laugh.
"Here comes the fish!" he cried. "Come along, Darling. Never lose a moment—that's my rule. You can't get along as fast as I can. I'll go and settle all the business for you."
"Why should you be in such a hurry always? You will never come to my age if you carry on so. You ought to tow a spar astern. Thank God, they don't know who he is, and I'll take good care not to let them know. If this is what comes of quick promotion, I am glad that I got on slowly. Well, he may do as he likes for me. He always does—that's one thing."
Stoutly grumbling thus, the elder and far heavier Admiral descended the hill to the white gate slowly, as behooved the owner. And, by the time he halted there, the other had been upon the beach five minutes, and taken command of the fishing fleet.
"Starboard there! Brail up your gaff! Is that the way to take the ground? Ease helm, Rosalie. Smartly, smartly. Have a care, you lubber there. Fenders out! So, so. Now stand by, all! There are two smart lads among you, and no more. All the rest are no better than a pack of Crappos. You want six months in a man-of-war's launch. This is what comes of peace already!"
The fishermen stared at this extraordinary man, who had taken all the business out of Master Tugwell's hands; but without thinking twice about it, all obeyed him with a speed that must have robbed them of a quantity of rust. For although he was not in uniform, and bore no sword, his dress was conspicuous, as he liked to have it, and his looks and deeds kept suit with it. For he wore a blue coat (very badly made, with gilt buttons and lappets too big for him), a waistcoat of dove-colored silk, very long, coming over the place where his stomach should have been, and white plush breeches, made while he was blockading Boulogne in 1801, and therefore had scarcely any flesh upon his bones. Peace having fattened him a little, these breeches had tightened upon him (as their way is with a boy having six weeks' holiday); but still they could not make his legs look big, though they showed them sharp and muscular. Below them were brisk little sinewy calves in white silk hose, with a taper descent to ankles as fine as a lady's, and insteps bright with large silver buckles. Yet that which surpassed all the beauty of the clothes was the vigor of the man inside them, who seemed to quicken and invigorate the whole, even to the right sleeve, doubled up from the want of any arm inside it. But the loss of the right arm, and the right eye also, seemed to be of no account to the former owner, so hard did he work with the residue of his body, and so much did he express with it.
His noble cocked hat was in its leathern box yet, for he was only just come from Merton; but the broad felt he wore was looped up in front, and displayed all the power of his countenance, or rather the vigor; for power is heavy, and his face was light and quickness. Softness also, and a melancholy gift of dreaminess and reflection, enlarged and impressed the effect of a gaze and a smile which have conquered history.
"Why don't 'ee speak up to 'un, Cap'en Zeb?" cried young Harry Shanks, of the Peggy, the smartest smack next to the Rosalie. "Whoever can 'a be, to make thee so dumb? Doth 'a know our own business afore our own selves? If 'ee don't speak up to 'un, Cap'en Zeb, I'll never take no more commands from thee."
"Harry Shanks, you was always a fool, and you always will be," Master Tugwell replied, with his deep chest voice, which no gale of wind could blow away. "Whether he be wrong or right—and I won't say but what I might have done it better—none but a fool like you would dare to set his squeak up against Admirable Lord Nelson."
AND HER FAITHFUL CHAPLAIN
"I am not a man of the world, but a man of the Word," said Parson Twemlow, the Rector of Springhaven; "and I shall not feel that I have done my duty unless I stir him up to-morrow. His valor and glory are nothing to me, nor even his value to the country. He does his duty, and I shall do mine. It is useless to talk to me, Maria; I never shall have such a chance again."
"Well, dear, you know best," replied Mrs. Twemlow; "and duty is always the highest and best and most sacred consideration. But you surely should remember, for Eliza's sake, that we never shall dine at the Hall again."
"I don't care a snap for their dinners, or the chance of Eliza catching some young officer; and very few come while this peace goes on. I won't shirk my duty for any of that."
"Nothing would ever make you shirk your duty, Joshua. And I hope that you know me too well to suppose that I ever would dream of suggesting it. But I do want to see you a Canon, and I know that he begins to have influence in the Church, and therefore the Church is not at all the place to allude to his private affairs in. And, after all, what do we know about them? It does seem so low to be led away by gossip."
"Maria," said the Rector, severely sorry, "I must beg you to leave me to my conscience. I shall not refer to his private affairs. I shall put leading truths in a general way, and let him make the home application."
"Put the cap on if it fits. Very well: you will injure yourself, and do no one any good. Lord Nelson won't know it; he is too simple-minded. But Admiral Darling will never forgive us for insulting him while he is staying at the Hall."
"Maria! Well, I have long given up all attempts at reasoning with you. If I see a man walking into a furnace, do I insult him by saying beware?"
"As I am beyond all reason, Joshua, it is far above me to understand that. But if you escape insulting him, what you do is far worse, and quite unlike a gentleman. You heap a whole pile of insults upon your own brother clergymen."
"I do not at all understand you, Maria: you fly off in such a way from one thing to another!"
"Not at all. Anybody who is not above paying attention must understand me. When he is at Merton he goes to church, and his Rector is bound to look after him. When he is at sea, he has his Chaplain, who preaches whenever the weather permits, and dare not neglect his duties. But the strongest point of all is this—his very own father and brother are clergymen, and bound to do their best for him. All these you insult, and in so many words condemn for neglecting their duty, because you are unable to resist the pleasure of a stray shot at a celebrated man when he comes down here for hospitality."
"My dear, you have put the matter in a new light," said the Rev. Joshua Twemlow; "I would be the last man in the world to cast a slur upon any brother clergyman. But it is a sad denial to me, because I had put it so neatly, and a line of Latin at the end of it."
"Never mind, dear. That will do for some one else who deserves it, and has got no influence. And if you could only put instead of it one of your beautifully turned expressions about our debt of gratitude to the noble defender of our country—"
"No, no, Maria!" said her husband, with a smile; "be content without pushing your victory further than Nelson himself would push it. It may be my duty to spare him, but I will not fall down and worship him."
Joshua Twemlow, Bachelor of Divinity, was not very likely to worship anybody, nor even to admire, without due cause shown. He did not pretend to be a learned man, any more than he made any other pretense which he could not justify. But he loved a bit of Latin, whenever he could find anybody to share it with him, and even in lack of intelligent partners he indulged sometimes in that utterance. This was a grievance to the Squire of the parish, because he was expected to enjoy at ear-shot that which had passed out of the other ear in boyhood, with a painful echo behind it. But the Admiral had his revenge by passing the Rector's bits of Latin on—when he could remember them—to some one entitled to an explanation, which he, with a pleasant smile, vouchsafed. This is one of the many benefits of a classical education.
But what are such little tags, compared with the pith and marrow of the man himself? Parson Twemlow was no prig, no pedant, and no popinjay, but a sensible, upright, honorable man, whose chief defect was a quick temper. In parish affairs he loved to show his independence of the Hall, and having a stronger will than Admiral Darling, he mostly conquered him. But he knew very well how far to go, and never pressed the supremacy of the Church beyond endurance.
His wife, who was one of the Carnes of Carne Castle, some few miles to the westward, encouraged him strongly in holding his own when the Admiral strove to override him. That was her manner of putting the case; while Admiral Darling would rather have a score of nightmares than override any one. But the Carnes were a falling as much as the Darlings were a rising family, and offense comes down the hill like stones dislodged by the upward traveller. Mrs. Twemlow knew nothing she disliked so much as any form of haughtiness; it was so small, so petty, so opposed to all true Christianity. And this made her think that the Darlings were always endeavoring to patronize her—a thing she would much rather die than put up with.
This excellent couple had allowed, however, their only son Erle, a very fine young man, to give his heart entirely to Faith Darling, the Admiral's eldest daughter, and to win hers to an equal extent; and instead of displaying any haughtiness, her father had simply said: "Let them wait two years; they are both very young, and may change their minds. If they keep of the same mind for two years, they are welcome to one another."
For a kinder-hearted man than Admiral Darling never saw the sun. There was nothing about him wonderful in the way of genius, heroism, large-mindedness, or unselfishness. But people liked him much better than if he combined all those vast rarities; because he was lively, genial, simple, easily moved to wrath or grief, free-handed, a little fond, perhaps, of quiet and confidential brag, and very fond of gossip.
"I tell you," he said to Lord Nelson now, as they walked down the hill to the church together that lovely Sunday morning, "you will not have seen a finer sight than our fishermen in church—I dare say never. Of course they don't all go. Nobody could expect it. But as many as a reasonable man could desire come there, because they know I like it. Twemlow thinks that they come to please him; but he finds a mighty difference in his congregation when I and my daughters are out of the parish. But if he goes away, there they are all the same, or perhaps even more, to get a change from him. That will show which of us they care about pleasing."
"And they are quite right. I hate the levelling system," the hero of the Nile replied. "A man should go to church to please his landlord, not to please the parson. Is the Chaplain to settle how many come to prayers?"
"That is the right way to look at the thing," said the larger-bodied Admiral; "and I only wish Twemlow could have heard you. I asked him to dine with us yesterday, as you know, because you would have done him so much good; but he sent some trumpery excuse, although his wife was asked to come with him. She stopped him, no doubt; to look big, I dare say; as if they could dine with a Lord Nelson every day!"
"They can do that every day, when they dine with a man who has done his duty. But where is my pretty godchild Dolly? Horatia seems too long for you. What a long name they gave me! It may have done very well for my granduncle. But, my dear Lingo, look sharp for your Dolly. She has no mother, nor even a duenna—she has turned her off, she said yesterday. Your daughter Faith is an angel, but Dolly—"
"My Dolly is a little devil, I suppose! You always found out everything. What have you found my Dolly at? Perhaps she got it at her baptism." A word against his pet child was steel upon flint to Admiral Darling.
"I am not concerned with your opinion," Lord Nelson answered, loftily. "But Horatia Dorothy Darling is my godchild by baptism, and you will find her down in my will for a thousand pounds, if she behaves well, and if it should please the Lord to send me some of the prize-money I deserve."
This was announced in such a manner, with the future testator's useful eye bearing brightly on his comrade, and his cocked hat lifted as he spoke of the great Awarder of prizes, that no one able to smile could help a friendly and simple smile at him. So Admiral Darling forgot his wrath, which never had long memory, and scorning even to look round for Dolly, in whom he felt such confidence, took the mighty warrior by the good arm and led him toward the peaceful bells.
"Hurry; we shall be late," he said. "You remember when we called you 'Hurry,' because of being always foremost? But they know better than to stop the bells till they see me in the church porch. Twemlow wanted to upset that, for the parsons want to upset everything. And I said: 'Very well; then I shall square it by locking the gate from your shrubbery. That will give me five minutes to come down the hill.' For my grandfather put up that gate, you must know, and of course the key belongs to me. It saves Twemlow a cable's-length every time, and the parsons go to church so often now, he would have to make at least another knot a month. So the bells go on as they used to do. How many bells do you make it, Mr. Nelson?"
"Eight bells, sir," Lord Nelson replied, saluting like the middy in charge of the watch. And at this little turn they both laughed, and went on, with memory of ancient days, to church.
OPINION, MALE AND FEMALE
The fine young parsons of the present generation are too fond of asking us why we come to church, and assigning fifty reasons out of their own heads, not one of which is to our credit or theirs; whereas their proper business is to cure the fish they have caught, instead of asking how they caught them. Mr. Twemlow had sense enough for this, and treated the largest congregation he had ever preached to as if they were come for the good of their souls, and should have it, in spite of Lord Nelson. But, alas! their bodies fared not so well, and scarcely a man got his Sunday dinner according to his liking. Never a woman would stay by the fire for the sake of a ten-pound leg of mutton, and the baker put his shutters up at half past ten against every veal pie and every loin of pork. Because in the church there would be seen this day (as the servants at the Hall told every one) the man whom no Englishman could behold without pride, and no Frenchman with it—the victor of the Nile, and of Copenhagen, and countless other conflicts. Knowing that he would be stared at well, he was equal to the occasion, and the people who saw him were so proud of the sight that they would talk of it now if they were alive.
But those who were not there would exhibit more confidence than conscience by describing every item of his raiment, which verily even of those who beheld it none could do well, except a tailor or a woman. Enough that he shone in the light of the sun (which came through a windowful of bull's-eyes upon him, and was surprised to see stars by daylight), but the glint of his jewels and glow of his gold diverted no eye from the calm, sad face which in the day of battle could outflash them all. That sensitive, mild, complaisant face (humble, and even homely now, with scathe and scald and the lines of middle age) presented itself as a great surprise to the many who came to gaze at it. With its child-like simplicity and latent fire, it was rather the face of a dreamer and poet than of a warrior and hero.
Mrs. Cheeseman, the wife of Mr. Cheeseman, who kept the main shop in the village, put this conclusion into better English, when Mrs. Shanks (Harry's mother) came on Monday to buy a rasher and compare opinions.
"If I could have fetched it to my mind," she said, "that Squire Darling were a tarradiddle, and all his wenches liars—which some of them be, and no mistake—and if I could refuse my own eyes about gold-lace, and crown jewels, and arms off, happier would I sleep in my bed, ma'am, every night the Lord seeth good for it. I would sooner have found hoppers in the best ham in the shop than have gone to church so to delude myself. But there! that Cheeseman would make me do it. I did believe as we had somebody fit to do battle for us against Boney, and I laughed about all they invasion and scares. But now—why, 'a can't say bo to a goose! If 'a was to come and stand this moment where you be a-standing, and say, 'Mrs. Cheeseman, I want a fine rasher,' not a bit of gristle would I trim out, nor put it up in paper for him, as I do for you, ma'am."
And Widow Shanks quite agreed with her.
"Never can I tell you what my feelings was, when I seed him a-standing by the monument, ma'am. But I said to myself—'why, my poor John, as is now in heaven, poor fellow, would 'a took you up with one hand, my lord, stars and garters and crowns and all, and put you into his sow-west pocket.' And so he could have done, Mrs. Cheeseman."
But the opinion of the men was different, because they knew a bee from a bull's foot.
"He may not be so very big," they said, "nor so outrageous thunderin', as the missus looked out for from what she have read. They always goes by their own opinions, and wrong a score of times out of twenty. But any one with a fork to his leg can see the sort of stuff he is made of. He 'tended his duty in the house of the Lord, and he wouldn't look after the women; but he kept his live eye upon every young chap as were fit for a man-of-war's-man—Dan Tugwell especial, and young Harry Shanks. You see if he don't have both of they afore ever the war comes on again!"
Conscious of filling the public eye, with the privilege of being upon private view, Lord Nelson had faced the position without flinching, and drawn all the fire of the enemy. After that he began to make reprisals, according to his manner, taking no trouble to regard the women—which debarred them from thinking much of him—but settling with a steady gaze at each sea-faring man, whether he was made of good stuff or of pie-crust. And to the credit of the place it must be said that he found very little of that soft material, but plenty of good stuff, slow, perhaps, and heavy, but needing only such a soul as his to rouse it.
"What a fine set of fellows you have in your village!" he said to Miss Darling after dinner, as she sat at the head of her father's table, for the Admiral had long been a widower. "The finest I have seen on the south coast anywhere. And they look as if they had been under some training. I suppose your father had most of them in the Fencibles, last summer?"
"Not one of them," Faith answered, with a sweet smile of pride. "They have their own opinions, and nothing will disturb them. Nobody could get them to believe for a moment that there was any danger of invasion. And they carried on all their fishing business almost as calmly as they do now. For that, of course, they may thank you, Lord Nelson; but they have not the smallest sense of the obligation."
"I am used to that, as your father knows; but more among the noble than the simple. For the best thing I ever did I got no praise, or at any rate very little. As to the Boulogne affair, Springhaven was quite right. There was never much danger of invasion. I only wish the villains would have tried it. Horatia, would you like to see your godfather at work? I hope not. Young ladies should be peaceful."
"Then I am not peaceful at all," cried Dolly, who was sitting by the maimed side of her "Flapfin," as her young brother Johnny had nicknamed him. "Why, if there was always peace, what on earth would any but very low people find to do? There could scarcely be an admiral, or a general, or even a captain, or—well, a boy to beat the drums."
"But no drum would want to be beaten, Horatia," her elder sister Faith replied, with the superior mind of twenty-one; "and the admirals and the generals would have to be—"
"Doctors, or clergymen, or something of that sort, or perhaps even worse—nasty lawyers." Then Dolly (whose name was "Horatia" only in presence of her great godfather) blushed, as befitted the age of seventeen, at her daring, and looked at her father.
"That last cut was meant for me," Frank Darling, the eldest of the family, explained from the opposite side of the table. "Your lordship, though so well known to us, can hardly be expected to know or remember all the little particulars of our race. We are four, as you know; and the elder two are peaceful, while the younger pair are warlike. And I am to be the 'nasty lawyer,' called to the bar in the fullness of time—which means after dining sufficiently—to the great disgust of your little godchild, whose desire from her babyhood has been to get me shot."
"LITTLE, indeed! What a word to use about me! You told a great story. But now you'll make it true."
"To wit—as we say at Lincoln's Inn—she has not longed always for my death in battle, but henceforth will do so; but I never shall afford her that gratification. I shall keep out of danger as zealously as your lordship rushes into it."
"Franky going on, I suppose, with some of his usual nonsense," Admiral Darling, who was rather deaf, called out from the bottom of the table. "Nobody pays much attention to him, because he does not mean a word of it. He belongs to the peace—peace—peace-at-any-price lot. But when a man wanted to rob him last winter, he knocked him down, and took him by the throat, and very nearly killed him."
"That's the only game to play," exclaimed Lord Nelson, who had been looking at Frank Darling with undisguised disgust. "My young friend, you are not such a fool after all. And why should you try to be one?"
"My brother," said the sweet-tempered Faith, "never tries to be a fool, Lord Nelson; he only tries to be a poet."
This made people laugh; and Nelson, feeling that he had been rude to a youth who could not fairly answer him, jumped from his chair with the lightness of a boy, and went round to Frank Darling, with his thin figure leaning forward, and his gray unpowdered hair tossed about, and upon his wrinkled face that smile which none could ever resist, because it was so warm and yet so sad.
"Shake hands, my dear young friend," he cried, "though I can not offer the right one. I was wrong to call you a fool because you don't look at things as I do. Poets are almost as good as sailors, and a great deal better than soldiers. I have felt a gift that way myself, and turned out some very tidy lines. But I believe they were mainly about myself, and I never had time to go on with them."
Such little touches of simplicity and kindness, from a man who never knew the fear of men, helped largely to produce that love of Nelson which England felt, and will always feel.
"My lord," replied the young man, bending low—for he was half a cubit higher than the mighty captain—"it is good for the world that you have no right arm, when you disarm it so with your left one."
AS OTHERS SEE US
Admiral Darling was very particular in trying to keep his grounds and garden tolerably tidy always. But he never succeeded, for the simple reason that he listened to every one's excuses; and not understanding a walk or a lawn half so well as the deck of a battle-ship, he was always defeated in argument.
"Here's a state of things!" he used to say in summer-time; "thistles full of seed within a biscuit-heave of my front door, and other things—I forget their names—with heads like the head of a capstan bursting, all as full of seeds as a purser is of lies!"
"Your lordship do not understand them subjects," Mr. Swipes, the head gardener, was in the habit of replying; "and small blame to you, in my opinion, after so many years upon the briny wave. Ah! they can't grow them things there."
"Swipes, that is true, but to my mind not at all a satisfactory reason for growing them here, just in front of the house and the windows. I don't mind a few in the kitchen-garden, but you know as well as I do, Swipes, that they can have no proper business here."
"I did hear tell down to the Club, last night," Mr. Swipes would reply, after wiping his forehead, as if his whole mind were perspired away, "though I don't pretend to say how far true it may be, that all the land of England is to be cultivated for the public good, same as on the continence, without no propriety or privacy, my lord. But I don't altogether see how they be to do it. So I thought I'd better ask your lordship."
"For the public good! The public-house good, you mean." The Admiral answered nine times out of ten, being easily led from the track of his wrath, and tired of telling Swipes that he was not a lord. "How many times more must I tell you, Swipes, that I hate that Jacobin association? Can you tell me of one seaman belonging to it? A set of fish-jobbers, and men with barrows, and cheap-jacks from up the country. Not one of my tenants would be such a fool as to go there, even if I allowed him. I make great allowances for you, Swipes, because of your obstinate nature. But don't let me hear of that Club any more, or YOU may go and cultivate for the public good."
"Your lordship knows that I goes there for nothing except to keep up my burial. And with all the work there is upon this place, the Lord only knows when I may be requiring of it. Ah! I never see the like; I never did. And a blade of grass the wrong way comes down on poor old Swipes!"
Hereupon the master, having done his duty, was relieved from overdoing it, and went on other business with a peaceful mind. The feelings, however, of Mr. Swipes were not to be appeased so lightly, but demanded the immediate satisfaction of a pint of beer. And so large was his charity that if his master fell short of duty upon that point, he accredited him with the good intention, and enabled him to discharge it.
"My dear soul," he said, with symptoms of exhaustion, to good Mrs. Cloam, the housekeeper, who had all the keys at her girdle, about ten o'clock on the Monday morning, "what a day we did have yesterday!"
"A mercy upon me, Mr. Swipes," cried Mrs. Cloam, who was also short of breath, "how you did exaggerate my poor narves, a-rushing up so soft, with the cold steel in both your hands!"
"Ah! ma'am, it have right to be a good deal wuss than that," the chivalrous Swipes made answer, with the scythe beside his ear. "It don't consarn what the masters say, though enough to take one's legs off. But the ladies, Mrs. Cloam, the ladies—it's them as takes our heads off."
"Go 'long with you, Mr. Swipes! You are so disastrous at turning things. And how much did he say you was to have this time? Here's Jenny Shanks coming up the passage."
"Well, he left it to myself; he have that confidence in me. And little it is I should ever care to take, with the power of my own will, ma'am. Why, the little brown jug, ma'am, is as much as I can manage even of our small beer now. Ah! I know the time when I would no more have thought of rounding of my mouth for such small stuff than of your growing up, ma'am, to be a young woman with the sponsorship of this big place upon you. Wonderful! wonderful! And only yesterday, as a man with a gardening mind looks at it, you was the prettiest young maiden on the green, and the same—barring marriage—if you was to encounter with the young men now."
"Oh," said Mrs. Cloam, who was fifty, if a day, "how you do make me think of sad troubles, Mr. Swipes! Jenny, take the yellow jug with the three beef-eaters on it, and go to the third cask from the door—the key turns upside down, mind—and let me hear you whistle till you bring me back the key. Don't tell me nonsense about your lips being dry. You can whistle like a blackbird when you choose."
"Here's to your excellent health, Mrs. Cloam, and as blooming as it finds you now, ma'am! As pretty a tap as I taste since Christmas, and another dash of malt would 'a made it worthy a'most to speak your health in. Well, ma'am, a leetle drop in crystal for yourself, and then for my business, which is to inquire after your poor dear health to-day. Blooming as you are, ma'am, you must bear in mind that beauty is only skin-deep, Mrs. Cloam; and the purtier a flower is, the more delicate it grows. I've a-been a-thinking of you every night, ma'am, knowing how you must 'a been put about and driven. The Admiral have gone down to the village, and Miss Dolly to stare at the boats going out."
"Then I may speak a word for once at ease, Mr. Swipes, though the Lord alone knows what a load is on my tongue. It requires a fine gardener, being used to delicacy, to enter into half the worry we have to put up with. Heroes of the Nile, indeed, and bucklers of the country! Why, he could not buckle his own shoe, and Jenny Shanks had to do it for him. Not that I blame him for having one arm, and a brave man he is to have lost it, but that he might have said something about the things I got up at a quarter to five every morning to make up for him. For cook is no more than a smoke-jack, Mr. Swipes; if she keeps the joint turning, that's as much as she can do."
"And a little too fond of good beer, I'm afeard," replied Mr. Swipes, having emptied his pot. "Men's heads was made for it, but not women's, till they come to superior stations in life. But, oh, Mrs. Cloam, what a life we lead with the crotchets of they gentry!"
"It isn't that so much, Mr. Swipes, if only there was any way of giving satisfaction. I wish everybody who is born to it to have the very best of everything, likewise all who have fought up to it. But to make all the things and have nothing made of them, whether indigestion or want of appetite, turns one quite into the Negroes almost, that two or three people go on with."
"I don't look at what he hath aten or left," Mr. Swipes made answer, loftily; "that lieth between him and his own stommick. But what hath a' left for me, ma'am? He hath looked out over the garden when he pleased, and this time of year no weeds is up, and he don't know enough of things to think nothing of them. When his chaise come down I was out by the gate with a broom in my hand, and I pulled off my hat, but his eye never seemed to lay hold of me."
"His eye lays hold of everything, whether he makes 'em feel or no. One thing I'm sure of—he was quite up to Miss Dolly, and the way she carries on with you know who, every blessed Sunday. If that is what they go to church for—"
"But, my dear soul," said the genial Swipes, whose heart was enlarged with the power of good beer, "when you and I was young folk, what did we go to church for? I can't speak for you, ma'am, being ever so much younger, and a baby in the gallery in long clothes, if born by that time; but so far as myself goes, it was the girls I went to look at, and most of 'em come as well to have it done to them."
"That never was my style, Mr. Swipes, though I know there were some not above it. And amongst equals I won't say that there need be much harm in it. But for a young man in the gallery, with a long stick of the vile-base in his hand, and the only clean shirt of the week on his back, and nothing but a plank of pitch to keep him, however good-looking he may be, to be looking at the daughter, and the prettiest one too, though not the best, some people think, of the gentleman that owns all the houses and the haven—presumption is the smallest word that I can find to use for it; and for her to allow it, fat—fat something in the nation."
"Well, ma'am," said Mr. Swipes, whose views were loose and liberal, "it seems a little shock at first to those on trust in families. But Dannel is a brave boy, and might fight his way to glory, and then they has the pick of the femmels up to a thousand pound a year. You know what happened the miller's son, no further off than Upton. And if it hadn't been for Dannel, when she was a little chit, where would proud Miss Dolly be, with her feathers and her furbelows? Natur' is the thing I holds by, and I sees a deal of it. And betwixt you and me and the bedpost, ma'am, whoever hath Miss Dolly will have to ride to London on this here scythe. Miss Faith is the lass for a good quiet man, without no airs and graces, and to my judgment every bit as comely, and more of her to hold on by. But the Lord 'a mercy upon us. Mrs. Cloam, you've a-been married like my poor self; and you knows what we be, and we knows what you be. Looks 'ain't much to do with it after the first week or two. It's the cooking, and the natur', and the not going contrairy. B'lieve Miss Dolly would go contrairy to a hangel, if her was j'ined to him three days."
"Prejudice! prejudice!" the housekeeper replied, while shaking her finger severely at him. "You ought to be above such opinions, Mr. Swipes, a superior man, such as you are. If Miss Faith came into your garden reading books, and finding fault here and there, and sniffing at the flowers, a quarter so often as pretty Dolly does, perhaps you wouldn't make such a perfect angel of her, and run down her sister in comparison. But your wonderful Miss Faith comes peeping here and poking there into pots and pans, and asking the maids how their mothers are, as if her father kept no housekeeper. She provoked me so in the simple-room last week, as if I was hiding thieves there, that I asked her at last whether she expected to find Mr. Erle there. And you should have seen how she burst out crying; for something had turned on her mind before."
"Well, I couldn't have said that to her," quoth the tender-hearted Swipes—"not if she had come and routed out every key and every box, pot, pan, and pannier in the tool-house and stoke-hole and vinery! The pretty dear! the pretty dear! And such a lady as she is! Ah, you women are hard-hearted to one another, when your minds are up! But take my word for it, Mrs. Cloam, no one will ever have the chance of making your beautiful Miss Dolly cry by asking her where her sweetheart is."
A SQUADRON IN THE DOWNS
"My dear girls, all your courage is gone," said Admiral Darling to his daughters at luncheon, that same Monday; "departed perhaps with Lord Nelson and Frank. I hate the new style of such come-and-go visits, as if there was no time for anything. Directly a man knows the ways of the house, and you can take him easily, off he goes. Just like Hurry, he never can stop quiet. He talks as if peace was the joy of his life, and a quiet farm his paradise, and very likely he believes it. But my belief is that a year of peace would kill him, now that he has made himself so famous. When that sort of thing begins, it seems as if it must go on."
"But, father dear," exclaimed the elder daughter, "you could have done every single thing that Lord Nelson has ever contrived to do, if you had only happened to be there, and equally eager for destruction. I have heard you say many times, though not of course before him, that you could have managed the battle of the Nile considerably better than he did. And instead of allowing the great vessel to blow up, you would have brought her safe to Spithead."
"My dear, you must have quite misunderstood me. Be sure that you never express such opinions, which are entirely your own, in the presence of naval officers. Though I will not say that they are quite without foundation."
"Why, papa," cried Miss Dolly, who was very truthful, when her own interests were not involved, "you have often said twice as much as that. How well I remember having heard you say—"
"You young people always back up one another, and you don't care what you make your poor father say. I wonder you don't vow that I declared I could jump over the moon with my uniform on. But I'll tell you what we'll do, to bring back your senses—we will go for a long ride this fine afternoon. I've a great mind to go as far as Stonnington."
"Now how many times have you told us that? I won't believe it till we get there," young Dolly answered, with her bright eyes full of joy. "You must be ashamed of yourself, papa, for neglecting your old friend's son so long."
"Well, to tell you the truth, I am, my dear," confessed the good-natured Admiral; "but no one but myself has the least idea of the quantity of things I have to do."
"Exactly what old Swipes said this very morning, only much more impressively. And I really did believe him, till I saw a yellow jug, and a horn that holds a pint, in the summer-house. He threw his coat over them, but it was too late."
"Dolly, I shall have to put you in the blackhole. You belong too much to the rising generation, or the upstart generation is the proper word. What would Lord Nelson say? I must have him back again. He is the man for strict discipline."
"Oh, I want to ask one thing about my great godfather. You know he only came down with one portmanteau, and his cocked-hat box, and two hampers. But when I went into his bedroom to see, as a goddaughter should, that his pillow was smooth, there he had got tacked up at the head of his bed a picture of some very beautiful lady, and another at the side, and another at the foot! And Jenny Shanks, who couldn't help peeping in, to see how a great hero goes to sleep, wishes that she may be an old maid forever if she did not see him say his prayers to them. Now the same fate befall me if I don't find out who it is. You must know, papa, so you had better tell at once."
"That hussy shall leave the house tomorrow. I never heard of anything so shameless. Mrs. Cloam seems to have no authority whatever. And you too, Dolly, had no business there. If any one went to see the room comfortable, it should have been Faith, as the lady of the house. Ever since you persuaded me that you were too old for a governess, you seem to be under no discipline at all."
"Now you know that you don't mean that, papa. You say those cruel things just to make me kiss you," cried Dolly, with the action suited to the word, and with her bright hair falling upon his snowy beard the father could not help returning the salute; "but I must know who that lady is. And what can he want with three pictures of her?"
"How should I know, Dolly? Perhaps it is his mother, or perhaps it is the Queen of Naples, who made a Duke of him for what he did out there. Now be quick, both of you, or no ride to-day. It is fifteen long miles to Stonnington, I am sure, and I am not going to break my neck. As it is, we must put dinner off till half past six, and we shall all be starved by that time. Quick, girls, quick! I can only give you twenty minutes."
The Admiral, riding with all the vigor of an ancient mariner, looked well between his two fair daughters, as they turned their horses' heads inland, and made over the downs for Stonnington. Here was beautiful cantering ground, without much furze or many rabbit-holes, and lovely air flowing over green waves of land, to greet and to deepen the rose upon young cheeks. Behind them was the broad sea, looking steadfast, and spread with slowly travelling tints; before them and around lay the beauty of the earth, with the goodness of the sky thrown over it. The bright world quivered with the breath of spring, and her smile was shed on everything.
"What a lovely country we have been through! I should like to come here every day," said Faith, as they struck into the London road again. "If Stonnington is as nice as this, Mr. Scudamore must be happy there."
"Well, we shall see," her father answered. "My business has been upon the coast so much, that I know very little about Stonnington. But Scudamore has such a happy nature that nothing would come much amiss to him. You know why he is here, of course?"
"No, I don't, papa. You are getting so mysterious that you never tell us anything now," replied Dolly. "I only know that he was in the navy, and now he is in a grammar school. The last time I saw him he was about a yard high."
"He is a good bit short of two yards now," said the Admiral, smiling as he thought of him, "but quite tall enough for a sailor, Dolly, and the most active young man I ever saw in my life, every inch of him sound and quick and true. I shall think very little of your judgment unless you like him heartily; not at first, perhaps, because he is so shy, but as soon as you begin to know him. I mean to ask him to come down as soon as he can get a holiday. His captain told me, when he served in the Diomede, that there was not a man in the ship to come near him for nimbleness and quiet fearlessness."
"Then what made him take to his books again? Oh, how terribly dull he must find them! Why, that must be Stonnington church, on the hill!"
"Yes, and the old grammar school close by. I was very near going there once myself, but they sent me to Winchester instead. It was partly through me that he got his berth here, though not much to thank me for, I am afraid. Sixty pounds a year and his rations isn't much for a man who has been at Cambridge. But even that he could not get in the navy when the slack time came last year. He held no commission, like many other fine young fellows, but had entered as a first-class volunteer. And so he had no rating when this vile peace was patched up—excuse me, my dear, what I meant to say was, when the blessings of tranquillity were restored. And before that his father, my dear old friend, died very suddenly, as you have heard me say, without leaving more than would bury him. Don't talk any more of it. It makes me sad to think of it."
"But," persisted Dolly, "I could never understand why a famous man like Sir Edmond Scudamore—a physician in large practice, and head doctor to the King, as you have often told us—could possibly have died in that sort of way, without leaving any money, or at least a quantity of valuable furniture and jewels. And he had not a number of children, papa, to spend all his money, as I do yours, whenever I get the chance; though you are growing so dreadfully stingy now that I never can look even decent."
"My dear, it is a very long sad story. Not about my stinginess, I mean—though that is a sad story, in another sense, but will not move my compassion. As to Sir Edmond, I can only tell you now that, while he was a man of great scientific knowledge, he knew very little indeed of money matters, and was not only far too generous, but what is a thousand times worse, too trustful. Being of an honorable race himself, and an honorable sample of it, he supposed that a man of good family must be a gentleman; which is not always the case. He advanced large sums of money, and signed bonds for a gentleman, or rather a man of that rank, whose name does not concern you; and by that man he was vilely betrayed; and I would rather not tell you the rest of it. Poor Blyth had to leave Cambridge first, where he was sure to have done very well indeed, and at his wish he was sent afloat, where he would have done even better; and then, as his father's troubles deepened, and ended in his death of heart complaint, the poor boy was left to keep his broken-hearted mother upon nothing but a Latin Grammar. And I fear it is like a purser's dip. But here we are at Stonnington—a long steep pitch. Let us slacken sail, my dears, as we have brought no cockswain. Neither of you need land, you know, but I shall go into the schoolroom."
"One thing I want to know," said the active-minded Dolly, as the horses came blowing their breath up the hill: "if his father was Sir Edmond, and he is the only child, according to all the laws of nature, he ought to be Sir Blyth Scudamore."
"It shows how little you have been out—as good Mrs. Twemlow expresses it—that you do not even understand the laws of nature as between a baronet and a knight."
"Oh, to be sure; I recollect! How very stupid of me! The one goes on, and the other doesn't, after the individual stops. But whose fault is it that I go out so little? So you see you are caught in your own trap, papa."
A LESSON IN THE AENEID
In those days Stonnington was a very pretty village, and such it continued to be until it was ravaged by a railway. With the railway came all that is hideous and foul, and from it fled all that is comely. The cattle-shed, called by rail-highwaymen "the Station," with its roof of iron Pan-pipes and red bull's-eyes stuck on stack-poles, whistles and stares where the grand trees stood and the village green lay sleeping. On the site of the gray-stone grammar school is an "Operative Institute," whose front (not so thick as the skin of a young ass) is gayly tattooed with a ringworm of wind-bricks. And the old manor-house, where great authors used to dine, and look out with long pipes through the ivy, has been stripped of every shred of leaf, and painted red and yellow, and barge-boarded into "the Temperance Tap."
Ere ever these heathen so furiously raged, there was peace and content, and the pleasure of the eyes, and of neighborly feeling abundance. The men never burst with that bubble of hurry which every man now is inflated with; and the women had time enough to mind one another's affairs, without which they grow scandalous. And the trees, that kept company with the houses, found matter for reflection in their calm blue smoke, and the green crop that promised a little grove upon the roof. So that as the road went up the hill, the traveller was content to leave his legs to nature, while his eyes took their leisure of pleasant views, and of just enough people to dwell upon.
At the top of the hill rose the fine old church, and next to it, facing on the road itself, without any kind of fence before it, stood the grammar school of many generations. This was a long low building, ridged with mossy slabs, and ribbed with green, where the drip oozed down the buttresses. But the long reach of the front was divided by a gable projecting a little into the broad high-road. And here was the way, beneath a low stone arch, into a porch with oak beams bulging and a bell-rope dangling, and thence with an oaken door flung back into the dark arcade of learning.
This was the place to learn things in, with some possibility of keeping them, and herein lay the wisdom of our ancestors. Could they ever have known half as much as they did, and ten times as much as we know, if they had let the sun come in to dry it all up, as we do? Will even the fourteen-coated onion root, with its bottom exposed to the sun, or will a clever puppy grow long ears, in the power of strong daylight?
The nature and nurture of solid learning were better understood when schools were built from which came Shakespeare and Bacon and Raleigh; and the glare of the sun was not let in to baffle the light of the eyes upon the mind. And another consideration is that wherever there is light, boys make a noise, which conduces but little to doctrine; whereas in soft shadow their muscles relax, and their minds become apprehensive. Thus had this ancient grammar school of Stonnington fostered many scholars, some of whom had written grammars for themselves and their posterity.
The year being only at the end of March, and the day going on for five o'clock, the light was just right, in the long low room, for correction of manners and for discipline. Two boys had been horsed and brushed up well, which had strengthened the conscience of all the rest, while sobs and rubs of the part affected diffused a tender silence. Dr. Swinks, the head-master, was leaning back in his canopied oaken chair, with the pride inspired by noble actions.
"What wonderfully good boys!" Dolly whispered, as she peeped in through the dark porch with Faith, while her father was giving the horses in charge to the hostler from the inn across the way; "I declare that I shall be frightened even to look at Mr. Scudamore, if this is a specimen of what he does. There is scarcely a boy looking off his book. But how old he does look! I suppose it must be the effect of so much hard teaching."
"You silly thing," her sister answered; "you are looking at the great head-master. Mr. Scudamore is here at the bottom of the school. Between these big hinges you can see him; and he looks as young as you do."
Miss Dolly, who dearly loved any sly peep, kept her light figure back and the long skirt pulled in, as she brought her bright eyes to the slit between the heavy black door and the stone-work. And she speedily gave her opinion.
"He is nothing but a regular frump. I declare I am dreadfully disappointed. No wonder the title did not come on! He is nothing but a very soft-natured stupe. Why, the boys can do what they like with him!"
Certainly the scholars of the Virgil class, which Blyth Scudamore was dealing with, had recovered from the querimonies of those two sons of Ovid, on the further side of Ister, and were having a good laugh at the face of "Captain Scuddy," as they called their beloved preceptor. For he, being gifted with a gentle sense of humor, together with a patient love of the origin of things, was questing in his quiet mind what had led a boy to render a well-known line as follows: "Such a quantity of salt there was, to season the Roman nation." Presently he hit upon the clue to this great mystery. "Mola, the salted cake," he said; "and the next a little error of conjugation. You have looked out your words, Smith, but chanced upon the wrong ones."
"Oh, Captain Scuddy," cried the head boy, grinning wisely, though he might have made just the same blunder himself; "after that, do tell us one of your sea-stories. It will strike five in about five minutes. Something about Nelson, and killing ten great Frenchmen."
"Oh, do," cried the other little fellows, crowding round him. "It is ever so much better than Virgil, Captain Scuddy!"
"I am not Captain Scuddy, as I tell you every day. I'm afraid I am a great deal too good-natured with you. I shall have to send a dozen of you up to be caned."
"No, you couldn't do that if you tried, Captain Scuddy. But what are you thinking of, all this time? There are two pretty ladies in riding-habits peeping at you from the bell porch. Why, you have got sweethearts, Captain Scuddy! What a shame of you never to have told us!"
The youngest and fairest of all the boys there could scarcely have blushed more deeply than their classical tutor did, as he stooped for his hat, and shyly went between the old desks to the door in the porch. All the boys looked after him with the deepest interest, and made up their minds to see everything he did. This was not at all what he desired, and the sense of it increased his hesitation and confusion. Of the Admiral's lovely daughters he had heard while in the navy, and now he was frightened to think that perhaps they were come here to reconnoitre him. But luckily the Admiral was by this time to the fore, and he marched into the school-room and saluted the head-master.
"Dr. Swinks," he said, "I am your very humble servant, Vice-Admiral of the Blue, Charles Darling, and beg a thousand pardons for intrusion on deep learning. But they tell me that your watch is over in some half a minute. Allow me to ask for the son of an old friend, Blyth Scudamore, late of the Diomede frigate, but now of this ancient and learned grammar school. When his labors are over, I would gladly speak with him."
"Boys may go," the head-master pronounced, as the old clock wheezed instead of striking. "Sir, my valued young coadjutor is advancing from the fourth form toward you."
The Doctor was nice in his choice of words, and prided himself on Johnsonian precision, but his young coadjutor's advance was hardly to be distinguished from a fine retreat. Like leaves before the wind, the boys rushed out by a back door into the play-ground, while the master solemnly passed to his house, with a deep slow bow to the ladies; and there was poor Scudamore—most diffident of men whenever it came to lady-work—left to face the visitors with a pleasing knowledge that his neckcloth was dishevelled, and his hair sheafed up, the furrows of his coat broadcast with pounce, and one of his hands gone to sleep from holding a heavy Delphin for three-quarters of an hour.
As he came out thus into the evening light, which dazed his blue eyes for a moment, Miss Dolly turned away to hide a smile, but Faith, upon her father's introduction, took his hand and looked at him tenderly. For she was a very soft-hearted young woman, and the tale of his troubles and goodness to his mother had moved her affection toward him, while as one who was forever pledged—according to her own ideas—to a hero beyond comparison, she was able to regard young men with mercy, and with pity, if they had none to love. "How hard you have been at work!" she said; "it makes us seem so lazy! But we never can find any good thing to do."
"That's a cut at me," cried the Admiral. "Scudamore, when you come to my age, be wiser than to have any daughters. Sure enough, they find no good to do; and they not only put all the fault of that on me, but they make me the victim of all the mischief they invent. Dolly, my darling, wear that cap if it fits. But you have not shaken hands with Mr. Scudamore yet. I hope you will do so, some hundreds of times."
"Not all at once, papa; or how thankful he would be! But stop, I have not got half my glove off; this fur makes them stick so."
Miss Dolly was proud of her hands, and lost few chances of getting them looked at. Then with a little smile, partly at herself for petulance, partly to him for forgiveness, she offered her soft warm rich white hand, and looked at him beautifully as he took it. Alack and alas for poor "Captain Scuddy"!
His eyes, with a quick shy glance, met hers; and hers with soft inquiry answered, "I wonder what you think of me?" Whenever she met a new face, this was her manner of considering it.
"Scudamore, I shall not allow you any time to think about it," Admiral Darling broke in suddenly, so that the young man almost jumped. "Although you have cut the service for a while, because of our stingy peacefulness, you are sure to come back to us again when England wants English, not Latin and Greek. I am your commanding officer, and my orders are that you come to us from Saturday till Monday. I shall send a boat—or at least I mean a buggy—to fetch you, as soon as you are off duty, and return you the same way on Monday. Come, girls, 'twill be dark before we are home; and since the patrols were withdrawn, I hear there's a highwayman down this road again. That is one of the blessings of peace, Scudamore; even as Latin and Greek are. 'Apertis otia portis'—Open the gates for laziness. Ah, I should have done well at old Winton, they tell me, if I had not happened to run away to sea."
If yet there remained upon our southern coast a home for the rarer virtues, such as gratitude, content, liberality (not of other people's goods alone), faith in a gracious Providence, and strict abstinence from rash labor, that home and stronghold was Springhaven. To most men good success brings neither comfort, nor tranquillity, nor so much as a stool to sit upon, but comes as a tread-mill which must be trodden without any getting to the top of it. Not so did these wise men take their luck. If ever they came from the fickle wave-bosom to the firm breast of land on a Saturday, with a fine catch of fish, and sold it well—and such was their sagacity that sooner would they keep it for cannibal temptation than sell it badly—did they rush into the waves again, before they had dried their breeches? Not they; nor did their wives, who were nearly all good women, stir them up to be off again. Especially at this time of year, with the days pulling out, and the season quickening, and the fish coming back to wag their tails upon the shallows, a pleasant race of men should take their pleasure, and leave flints to be skinned by the sons of flint.
This was the reason why Miss Dolly Darling had watched in vain at the Monday morning tide for the bold issue of the fishing fleet. The weariless tide came up and lifted the bedded keel and the plunged forefoot, and gurgled with a quiet wash among the straky bends, then lurched the boats to this side and to that, to get their heft correctly, and dandled them at last with their bowsprits dipped and their little mast-heads nodding. Every brave smack then was mounted, and riding, and ready for a canter upon the broad sea: but not a blessed man came to set her free. Tethered by head and by heel, she could only enjoy the poised pace of the rocking-horse, instead of the racer's delight in careering across the free sweep of the distance.
Springhaven had done so well last week, that this week it meant to do still better, by stopping at home till the money was gone, and making short work afterward. Every man thoroughly enjoyed himself, keeping sober whenever good manners allowed, foregoing all business, and sauntering about to see the folk hard at work who had got no money. On Wednesday, however, an order was issued by Captain Zebedee Tugwell that all must be ready for a three days' trip when the tide should serve, which would be at the first of the ebb, about ten in the morning. The tides were slackening now, and the smacks had required some change of berth, but still they were not very far from the Admiral's white gate.
"I shall go down to see them, papa, if you please," Dolly said to her father at breakfast-time. "They should have gone on Monday; but they were too rich; and I think it very shameful of them. I dare say they have not got a halfpenny left, and that makes them look so lively. Of course they've been stuffing, and they won't move fast, and they can't expect any more dinner till they catch it. But they have got so much bacon that they don't care."
"What could they have better, I should like to know?" asked the Admiral, who had seen hard times. "Why, I gave seven men three dozen apiece for turning their noses up at salt horse, just because he whisked his tail in the copper. Lord bless my soul! what is the nation coming to, when a man can't dine upon cold bacon?"
"No, it is not that, papa. They are very good in that way, as their wives will tell you. Jenny Shanks tells me the very same thing, and of course she knows all about them. She knew they would never think of going out on Monday, and if I had asked her I might have known it too. But she says that they are sure to catch this tide."
"Very well, Dolly. Go you and catch them. You are never content without seeing something. Though what there is to see in a lot of lubberly craft pushing off with punt-poles—"
"Hush, papa, hush! Don't be so contemptuous. What did my godfather say the other day? And I suppose he understands things."
"Don't quote your godfather against your father. It was never intended in the Catechism. And if it was, I would never put up with it."
Dolly made off; for she knew that her father, while proud of his great impartiality, candor, and scorn of all trumpery feeling, was sometimes unable to make out the reason why a queer little middy of his own should now stand upon the giddy truck of fame, while himself, still ahead of him in the Navy List, might pace his quarter-deck and have hats touched to him, but never a heart beat one pulse quicker. Jealous he was not; but still, at least in his own family—
Leaving her dear father to his meditations, which Faith ran up to kiss away, fair Dolly put on a plain hat and scarf, quite good enough for the fishermen, and set off in haste for the Round-house, to see the expedition start. By the time she was there, and had lifted the sashes, and got the spy-glass ready, the flow of the tide was almost spent, and the brimming moment of the slack was nigh. For this all the folk of the village waited, according to the tradition of the place; the manhood and boyhood, to launch forth; old age, womanhood, and childhood, to contribute the comfort of kind looks and good-by. The tides, though not to be compared to the winds in fickleness, are capricious here, having sallies of irregularity when there has been a long period of northeast winds, bringing a counter-flow to the Atlantic influx. And a man must be thoroughly acquainted with the coast, as well as the moon and the weather, to foretell how the water will rise and fall there. For the present, however, there was no such puzzle. The last lift of the quiet tide shone along the beach in three straight waves, shallow steps that arose inshore, and spent themselves without breaking.
"Toorn o' the tide!" the Captain shouted; "all aboord, aboord, my lads! The more 'ee bide ashore, the wuss 'ee be. See to Master Cheeseman's craft! Got a good hour afront of us. Dannel, what be mooning at? Fetch 'un a clout on his head, Harry Shanks; or Tim, you run up and do it. Doubt the young hosebird were struck last moon, and his brains put to salt in a herring-tub. Home with you, wife! And take Dan, if you will. He'd do more good at the chipping job, with the full moon in his head so."
"Then home I will take my son, Master Tugwell," his wife answered, with much dignity, for all the good wives of Springhaven heard him, and what would they think of her if she said nothing? "Home I will take my son and yours, and the wisest place for him to abide in, with his father set agin him so. Dannel, you come along of me. I won't have my eldest boy gainsaid so."
Zebedee Tugwell closed his lips, and went on with his proper business. All the women would side with him if he left them the use of their own minds, and the sound of his wife's voice last; while all the men in their hearts felt wisdom. But the young man, loath to be left behind, came doubtfully down to the stern of the boat, which was pushed off for the Rosalie. And he looked at the place where he generally sat, and then at his father and the rest of them.
"No gappermouths here!" cried his father, sternly. "Get theezell home with the vemmelvolk. Shove off without him, Tim! How many more tides would 'ee lose?"
Young Dan, whose stout legs were in the swirling water, snatched up his striped woolsey from under the tiller, threw it on his shoulder, and walked off, without a farewell to any one. The whole of Springhaven that could see saw it, and they never had seen such a thing before. Captain Zeb stood up and stared, with his big forehead coming out under his hat, and his golden beard shining in the morning sun; but the only satisfaction for his eyes was the back of his son growing smaller and smaller.
"Chip of the old block!" "Sarve 'ee right, Cap'en!" "Starve 'un back to his manners again!" the inferior chieftains of the expedition cried, according to their several views of life. But Zebedee Tugwell paid no heed to thoughts outside of his own hat and coat. "Spake when I ax you," he said, urbanely, but with a glance which conveyed to any too urgent sympathizer that he would be knocked down, when accessible.
But, alas! the less-disciplined women rejoiced, with a wink at their departing lords, as Mrs. Zebedee set off in chase of her long-striding Daniel. The mother, enriched by home affections and course of duties well performed, was of a rounded and ample figure, while the son was tall, and thin as might be one of strong and well-knit frame. And the sense of wrong would not permit him to turn his neck, or take a glance at the enterprise which had rejected him.
"How grand he does look! what a noble profile!" thought Dolly, who had seen everything without the glass, but now brought it to bear upon his countenance. "He is like the centurion in the painted window, or a Roman medallion with a hat on. But that old woman will never catch him. She might just as well go home again. He is walking about ten miles an hour, and how beautifully straight his legs are! What a shame that he should not be a gentleman! He is ten times more like one than most of the officers that used to come bothering me so. I wonder how far he means to go? I do hope he won't make away with himself. It is almost enough to make him do it, to be so insulted by his own father, and disgraced before all the village, simply because he can't help having his poor head so full of me! Nobody shall ever say that I did anything to give him the faintest encouragement, because it would be so very wicked and so cruel, considering all he has done for me. But if he comes back, when his father is out of sight, and he has walked off his righteous indignation, and all these people are gone to dinner, it might give a turn to his thoughts if I were to put on my shell-colored frock and the pale blue sash, and just go and see, on the other side of the stepping-stones, how much longer they mean to be with that boat they began so long ago."
ACROSS THE STEPPING-STONES
Very good boats were built at this time in the south of England, stout, that is to say, and strong, and fit to ride over a heavy sea, and plunge gallantly into the trough of it. But as the strongest men are seldom swift of foot or light of turn, so these robust and sturdy boats must have their own time and swing allowed them, ere ever they would come round or step out. Having met a good deal of the sea, they knew, like a man who has felt a good deal of the world, that heavy endurance and patient bluffness are safer to get through the waves somehow than sensitive fibre and elegant frame.
But the sea-going folk of Springhaven had learned, by lore of generations, to build a boat with an especial sheer forward, beam far back, and deep run of stern, so that she was lively in the heaviest of weather, and strong enough to take a good thump smiling, when unable to dance over it. Yet as a little thing often makes all the difference in great things, it was very difficult for anybody to find out exactly the difference between a boat built here and a boat built ten or twenty miles off, in imitation of her. The sea, however, knew the difference in a moment between the true thing and the counterfeit, and encouraged the one to go merrily on, while it sent back the other staggering. The secret lay chiefly in a hollow curve forward of nine or ten planks upon either side, which could only be compassed by skilful use of adze and chisel, frame-saw and small tools, after choice of the very best timber, free from knots, tough, and flexible. And the best judge of these points was Zebedee Tugwell.