THE AMATEUR GENTLEMAN
AUTHOR OF "THE BROAD HIGHWAY"
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
TO MY FATHER WHO HAS EVER CHOSEN THE "HARDER WAY," WHICH IS A PATH THAT CAN BE TRODDEN ONLY BY THE FOOT OF A MAN
I In which Barnabas Knocks Down his Father, though as Dutifully as may be.
II In which is Much Unpleasing Matter regarding Silk Purses, Sows' Ears, Men, and Gentlemen.
III How Barnabas Set Out for London Town.
IV How Barnabas Fell In with a Pedler of Books, and Purchased a "Priceless Wollum".
V In which the Historian Sees Fit to Introduce a Lady of Quality; and Further Narrates How Barnabas Tore a Wonderful Bottle-green Coat.
VI Of the Bewitchment of Black Eyelashes; and of a Fateful Lace Handkerchief
VII In which may be Found Divers Rules and Maxims for the Art of Bowing.
VIII Concerning the Captain's Arm, the Bo'sun's Leg, and the "Belisarius," Seventy-four.
IX Which Concerns Itself, among Other Matters, with the Virtues of a Pair of Stocks and the Perversity of Fathers.
X Which Describes a Peripatetic Conversation.
XI In which Fists are Clenched; and of a Selfish Man, who was an Apostle of Peace.
XII Of the Stranger's Tale, which, being Short, may perhaps Meet with the Reader's Kind Approbation.
XIII In which Barnabas Makes a Confession.
XIV Concerning the Buttons of One Milo of Crotona.
XV In which the Patient Reader may Learn Something of the Gentleman in the Jaunty Hat.
XVI In which Barnabas Engages One without a Character.
XVII In which Barnabas Parts Company with the Person of Quality.
XVIII How Barnabas Came to Oakshott's Barn.
XIX Which Tells How Barnabas Talks with my Lady Cleone for the Second Time.
XX Of the Prophecy of One Billy Button, a Madman.
XXI In which Barnabas Undertakes a Mission.
XXII In which the Reader is Introduced to an Ancient Finger-post.
XXIII How Barnabas Saved his Life—because he was Afraid.
XXIV Which Relates Something of the "White Lion" at Tenterden.
XXV Of the Coachman's Story.
XXVI Concerning the Duties of a Valet—and a Man.
XXVII How Barnabas Bought an Unridable Horse—and Rode it.
XXVIII Concerning, among Other Things, the Legs of a Gentleman-in-powder.
XXIX Which Describes Something of the Misfortunes of Ronald Barrymaine.
XXX In which Ronald Barrymaine Makes his Choice.
XXXI Which Describes some of the Evils of Vindictiveness.
XXXII Of Corporal Richard Roe, late of the Grenadiers; and Further Concerning Mr. Shrig's Little Reader.
XXXIII Concerning the Duty of Fathers; more Especially the Viscount's "Roman".
XXXIV Of the Luck of Captain Slingsby, of the Guards.
XXXV How Barnabas Met Jasper Gaunt, and what Came of It.
XXXVI Of an Ethical Discussion, which the Reader is Advised to Skip.
XXXVII In which the Bo'sun Discourses on Love and its Symptoms.
XXXVIII How Barnabas Climbed a Wall.
XXXIX In which the Patient Reader is Introduced to an Almost Human Duchess.
XL Which Relates Sundry Happenings at the Garden Fete.
XLI In which Barnabas Makes a Surprising Discovery, that may not Surprise the Reader in the Least.
XLII In which shall be Found Further Mention of a Finger-post.
XLIII In which Barnabas Makes a Bet, and Receives a Warning.
XLIV Of the Tribulations of the Legs of the Gentleman-in-powder.
XLV How Barnabas Sought Counsel of the Duchess.
XLVI Which Concerns Itself with Small Things in General, and a Pebble in Particular.
XLVII How Barnabas Found his Manhood.
XLVIII In which "The Terror," Hitherto Known as "Four-Legs," Justifies his New Name.
XLIX Which, being Somewhat Important, is Consequently Short.
L In which Ronald Barrymaine Speaks his Mind.
LI Which Tells How and Why Mr. Shrig's Case was Spoiled.
LII Of a Breakfast, a Roman Parent, and a Kiss.
LIII In which shall be Found some Account of the Gentleman's Steeplechase.
LIV Which Concerns itself Chiefly with a Letter.
LV Which Narrates Sundry Happenings at Oakshott's Barn.
LVI Of the Gathering of the Shadows.
LVII Being a Parenthetical Chapter on Doubt, which, though Uninteresting, is very Short.
LVIII How Viscount Devenham Found him a Viscountess.
LIX Which Relates, among other Things, How Barnabas Lost his Hat.
LX Which Tells of a Reconciliation.
LXI How Barnabas Went to his Triumph.
LXII Which Tells How Barnabas Triumphed in Spite of All.
LXIII Which Tells How Barnabas Heard the Ticking of a Clock.
LXIV Which Shows Something of the Horrors of Remorse.
LXV Which Tells How Barnabas Discharged his Valet.
LXVI Of Certain Con-clusions Drawn by Mr. Shrig.
LXVII Which Gives some Account of the Worst Place in the World.
LXVIII Concerning the Identity of Mr. Bimby's Guest.
LXIX How Barnabas Led a Hue and Cry.
LXX Which Tells How Barnabas Rode Another Race.
LXXI Which Tells How Barnabas, in his Folly, Chose the Harder Course.
LXXII How Ronald Barrymaine Squared his Account.
LXXIII Which Recounts Three Awakenings.
LXXIV How the Duchess Made up her Mind, and Barnabas Did the Like.
LXXV Which Tells Why Barnabas Forgot his Breakfast.
LXXVI How the Viscount Proposed a Toast.
LXXVII How Barnabas Rode Homewards, and Took Counsel of a Pedler of Books.
LXXVIII Which Tells How Barnabas Came Home Again, and How he Awoke for the Fourth Time.
Barnabas frowned, tore the letter across in sudden fury, and looked up to find Cleone frowning also.
"Man Jack, 't is proud you should be to lie there."
"Oh, sir, I grieve to disappoint you," said she, and rose.
"Let me pass, I warn you!" For a minute they fronted each other, eye to eye.
"But this is murder—positive murder!" cried Mr. Dalton.
Sir Mortimer paused, and with a sudden gesture tore the rose from his coat and tossed it away.
"So you meant to buy me, sir, as you would a horse or dog?"
All at once, Sir Mortimer was on his feet and had caught up a heavy riding-whip.
Barnabas espied a face amid the hurrying throng
IN WHICH BABNABAS KNOCKS DOWN HIS FATHER, THOUGH AS DUTIFULLY AS MAY BE
John Barty, ex-champion of England and landlord of the "Coursing Hound," sat screwed round in his chair with his eyes yet turned to the door that had closed after the departing lawyer fully five minutes ago, and his eyes were wide and blank, and his mouth (grim and close-lipped as a rule) gaped, becoming aware of which, he closed it with a snap, and passed a great knotted fist across his brow.
"Barnabas," said he slowly, "I beant asleep an' dreaming be I, Barnabas?"
"But—seven—'undred—thousand—pound. It were seven—'undred thousand pound, weren't it, Barnabas?"
"Seven—'undred—thou—! No! I can't believe it, Barnabas my bye."
"Neither can I, father," said Barnabas, still staring down at the papers which littered the table before him.
"Nor I aren't a-going to try to believe it, Barnabas."
"And yet—here it is, all written down in black and white, and you heard what Mr. Crabtree said?"
"Ah,—I heered, but arter all Crabtree's only a lawyer—though a good un as lawyers go, always been honest an' square wi' me—leastways I 've never caught him trying to bamboozle John Barty yet—an' what the eye don't ob-serve the heart don't grieve, Barnabas my bye, an' there y'are. But seven 'undred thousand pound is coming it a bit too strong—if he'd ha' knocked off a few 'undred thousand I could ha' took it easier Barnabas, but, as it is—no, Barnabas!"
"It's a great fortune!" said Barnabas in the same repressed tone and with his eyes still intent.
"Fortun'," repeated the father, "fortun'—it's fetched me one in the ribs—low, Barnabas, low!—it's took my wind an' I'm a-hanging on to the ropes, lad. Why, Lord love me! I never thought as your uncle Tom 'ad it in him to keep hisself from starving, let alone make a fortun'! My scapegrace brother Tom—poor Tom as sailed away in a emigrant ship (which is a un-common bad kind of a ship to sail in—so I've heered, Barnabas) an' now, to think as he went an' made all that fortun'—away off in Jamaiky—out o' vegetables."
"And lucky speculation, father—!"
"Now, Barnabas," exclaimed his father, beginning to rasp his fingers to and fro across his great, square, shaven chin, "why argufy? Your uncle Tom was a planter—very well! Why is a man a planter—because he plants things, an' what should a man plant but vegetables? So Barnabas, vegetables I says, an' vegetables I abide by, now an' hereafter. Seven 'undred thousand pound all made in Jamaiky—out o' vegetables—an' there y' are!"
Here John Barty paused and sat with his chin 'twixt finger and thumb in expectation of his son's rejoinder, but finding him silent, he presently continued:
"Now what astonishes an' fetches me a leveller as fair doubles me up is—why should my brother Tom leave all this money to a young hop o' me thumb like you, Barnabas? you, as he never see but once and you then a infant (and large for your age) in your blessed mother's arms, Barnabas, a-kicking an' a-squaring away wi' your little pink fists as proper as ever I seen inside the Ring or out. Ah, Barnabas!" sighed his father shaking his head at him, "you was a promising infant, likewise a promising bye; me an' Natty Bell had great hopes of ye, Barnabas; if you'd been governed by me and Natty Bell you might ha' done us all proud in the Prize Ring. You was cut out for the 'Fancy.' Why, Lord! you might even ha' come to be Champion o' England in time—you 're the very spit o' what I was when I beat the Fighting Quaker at Dartford thirty years ago."
"But you see, father—"
"That was why me an' Natty Bell took you in hand—learned you all we knowed o' the game—an' there aren't a fighting man in all England as knows so much about the Noble Art as me an' Natty Bell."
"If you 'd only followed your nat'ral gifts, Barnabas, I say you might ha' been Champion of England to-day, wi' Markisses an' Lords an' Earls proud to shake your hand—if you'd only been ruled by Natty Bell an' me, I'm disappointed in ye, Barnabas—an' so's Natty Bell."
"I'm sorry, father—but as I told you—"
"Still Barnabas, what ain't to be, ain't—an' what is, is. Some is born wi' a nat'ral love o' the 'Fancy' an' gift for the game, like me an' Natty Bell—an' some wi' a love for reading out o' books an' a-cyphering into books—like you: though a reader an' a writer generally has a hard time on it an' dies poor—which, arter all, is only nat'ral—an' there y' are!"
Here John Barty paused to take up the tankard of ale at his elbow, and pursed up his lips to blow off the foam, but in that moment, observing his son about to speak, he immediately set down the ale untasted and continued:
"Not as I quarrels wi' your reading and writing, Barnabas, no, and because why? Because reading and writing is apt to be useful now an' then, and because it were a promise—as I made—to—your mother. When—your mother were alive, Barnabas, she used to keep all my accounts for me. She likewise larned me to spell my own name wi' a capital G for John, an' a capital B for Barty, an' when she died, Barnabas (being a infant, you don't remember), but when she died, lad! I was that lost—that broke an' helpless, that all the fight were took out o' me, and it's a wonder I didn't throw up the sponge altogether. Ah! an' it's likely I should ha' done but for Natty Bell."
"No man ever 'ad a better friend than Natty Bell—Ah! yes, though I did beat him out o' the Championship which come very nigh breaking his heart at the time, Barnabas; but—as I says to him that day as they carried him out of the ring—it was arter the ninety-seventh round, d' ye see, Barnabas—'what is to be, is, Natty Bell,' I says, 'an' what ain't, ain't. It were ordained,' I says, 'as I should be Champion o' England,' I says—'an' as you an' me should be friends—now an' hereafter,' I says—an' right good friends we have been, as you know, Barnabas."
"Indeed, yes, father," said Barnabas, with another vain attempt to stem his father's volubility.
"But your mother, Barnabas, your mother, God rest her sweet soul!—your mother weren't like me—no nor Natty Bell—she were away up over me an' the likes o' me—a wonderful scholard she were, an'—when she died, Barnabas—" here the ex-champion's voice grew uncertain and his steady gaze wavered—sought the sanded floor—the raftered ceiling—wandered down the wall and eventually fixed upon the bell-mouthed blunderbuss that hung above the mantel, "when she died," he continued, "she made me promise as you should be taught to read an' cypher—an' taught I've had you according—for a promise is a promise, Barnabas—an' there y' are."
"For which I can never be sufficiently grateful, both to her—and to you!" said Barnabas, who sat with his chin propped upon his hand, gazing through the open lattice to where the broad white road wound away betwixt blooming hedges, growing ever narrower till it vanished over the brow of a distant hill. "Not as I holds wi' eddication myself, Barnabas, as you know," pursued his father, "but that's why you was sent to school, that's why me an' Natty Bell sat by quiet an' watched ye at your books. Sometimes when I've seen you a-stooping your back over your reading, or cramping your fist round a pen, Barnabas, why—I've took it hard, Barnabas, hard, I'll not deny—But Natty Bell has minded me as it was her wish and so—why—there y' are."
It was seldom his father mentioned to Barnabas the mother whose face he had never seen, upon which rare occasions John Barty's deep voice was wont to take on a hoarser note, and his blue eyes, that were usually so steady, would go wandering off until they fixed themselves on some remote object. Thus he sat now, leaning back in his elbow chair, gazing in rapt attention at the bell-mouthed blunderbuss above the mantel, while his son, chin on fist, stared always and ever to where the road dipped, and vanished over the hill—leading on and on to London, and the great world beyond.
"She died, Barnabas—just twenty-one years ago—buried at Maidstone where you were born. Twenty-one years is a longish time, lad, but memory's longer, an' deeper,—an' stronger than time, arter all, an' I know that her memory will go wi' me—all along the way—d' ye see lad: and so Barnabas," said John Barty lowering his gaze to his son's face, "so Barnabas, there y' are."
"Yes, father!" nodded Barnabas, still intent upon the road.
"And now I come to your uncle Tom—an' speaking of him—Barnabas my lad,—what are ye going to do wi' all this money?"
Barnabas turned from the window and met his father's eye.
"Do with it," he began, "why first of all—"
"Because," pursued his father, "we might buy the 'White Hart'—t' other side o' Sevenoaks,—to be sure you're over young to have any say in the matter—still arter all the money's yours, Barnabas—what d' ye say to the 'White Hart'?"
"A very good house!" nodded Barnabas, stealing a glance at the road again—"but—"
"To be sure there's the 'Running Horse,'" said his father, "just beyond Purley on the Brighton Road—a coaching-house, wi' plenty o' custom, what d' ye think o' the 'Running Horse'?"
"Any one you choose, father, but—"
"Then there's the 'Sun in the Sands' on Shooter's Hill—a fine inn an' not to be sneezed at, Barnabas—we might take that."
"Just as you wish, father, only—"
"Though I've often thought the 'Greyhound' at Croydon would be a comfortable house to own."
"Buy whichever you choose, father, it will be all one to me!"
"Good lad!" nodded John, "you can leave it all to Natty Bell an' me."
"Yes," said Barnabas, rising and fronting his father across the table, "you see I intend to go away, sir."
"Eh?" exclaimed his father, staring—"go away—where to?"
"London? and what should you want in London—a slip of a lad like you?"
"I'm turned twenty-two, father!"
"And what should a slip of a lad of twenty-two want in London? You leave London alone, Barnabas. London indeed! what should you want wi' London?"
"Learn to be a gentleman."
"A—what?" As he spoke, John Barty rose up out of his chair, his eyes wide, his mouth agape with utter astonishment. As he encountered his son's look, however, his expression slowly changed from amazement to contempt, from contempt to growing ridicule, and from ridicule to black anger. John Barty was a very tall man, broad and massive, but, even so, he had to look up to Barnabas as they faced each other across the table. And as they stood thus eye to eye, the resemblance between them was marked. Each possessed the same indomitable jaw, the same square brow and compelling eyes, the same grim prominence of chin; but there all likeness ended. In Barnabas the high carriage of the head, the soft brilliancy of the full, well-opened gray eye, the curve of the sensitive nostrils, the sweet set of the firm, shapely mouth—all were the heritage of that mother who was to him but a vague memory. But now while John Barty frowned upon his son, Barnabas frowned back at his father, and the added grimness of his chin offset the sweetness of the mouth above.
"Barnabas," said his father at last, "did you say a—gentleman, Barnabas?"
"What—you?" Here John Barty's frown vanished suddenly and, expanding his great chest, he threw back his head and roared with laughter. Barnabas clenched his fists, and his mouth lost something of its sweetness, and his eyes glinted through their curving lashes, while his father laughed and laughed till the place rang again, which of itself stung Barnabas sharper than any blow could have done.
But now having had his laugh out, John Barty frowned again blacker than ever, and resting his two hands upon the table, leaned towards Barnabas with his great, square chin jutted forward, and his deep-set eyes narrowed to shining slits—the "fighting face" that had daunted many a man ere now.
"So you want to be a gentleman—hey?"
"You aren't crazed in your 'ead, are ye, Barnabas?"
"Not that I know of, father."
"This here fortun' then—it's been an' turned your brain, that's what it is."
Barnabas smiled and shook his head.
"Listen, father," said he, "it has always been the dream and ambition of my life to better my condition, to strive for a higher place in the world—to be a gentleman. This was why I refused to become a pugilist, as you and Natty Bell desired, this was why I worked and studied—ah! a great deal harder than you ever guessed—though up till to-day I hardly dared hope my dream would ever be realized—but now—"
"Now you want to go to London and be a gentleman—hey?"
"Which all comes along o' your reading o' fool book! Why, Lord! you can no more become a gentleman than I can or the—blunderbuss yonder. And because why? Because a gentleman must be a gentleman born, and his father afore him, and his father afore him. You, Barnabas, you was born the son of a Champion of England, an' that should be enough for most lads; but your head's chock full o' fool's notions an' crazy fancies, an' as your lawful father it's my bounden duty to get 'em out again, Barnabas my lad." So saying, John Barty proceeded to take off his coat and belcher neckerchief, and rolled his shirt sleeves over his mighty forearms, motioning Barnabas to do the like.
"A father's duty be a very solemn thing, Barnabas," he continued slowly, "an' your 'ead being (as I say) full o' wild idees, I'm going to try to punch 'em out again as a well-meaning father should, so help me back wi' the table out o' the road, an' off wi' your coat and neckercher."
Well knowing the utter futility of argument with his father at such a time, Barnabas obediently helped to set back the table, thus leaving the floor clear, which done, he, in turn, stripped off coat and neckcloth, and rolled up his sleeves, while his father watched him with sharply appraising eye.
"You peel well, Barnabas," he nodded. "You peel like a fighting man, you've a tidy arm an' a goodish spread o' shoulder, likewise your legs is clean an' straight, but your skin's womanish, Barnabas, womanish, an' your muscles soft wi' books. So, lad!—are ye ready? Then come on."
Thus, without more ado they faced each other foot to foot, bare-armed and alert of eye. For a moment they sparred watchfully, then John Barty feinted Barnabas into an opening, in that same moment his fist shot out and Barnabas measured his length on the floor.
"Ah—I knowed as much!" John sighed mournfully as he aided Barnabas to his feet, "and 't were only a love-tap, so to speak,—this is what comes o' your book reading."
"Try me again," said Barnabas.
"It'll be harder next time!" said his father.
"As hard as you like!" nodded Barnabas.
Once more came the light tread of quick-moving feet, once more John Barty feinted cunningly—once more his fist shot out, but this time it missed its mark, for, ducking the blow, Barnabas smacked home two lightning blows on his father's ribs and danced away again light and buoyant as a cork.
"Stand up an' fight, lad!" growled his father, "plant your feet square—never go hopping about on your toe-points like a French dancing-master."
"Why as to that, father, Natty Bell, as you know, holds that it is the quicker method," here Barnabas smote his father twice upon the ribs, "and indeed I think it is," said he, deftly eluding the ex-champion's return.
"Quicker, hey?" sneered his father, and with the words came his fist—to whizz harmlessly past Barnabas's ear—"we'll prove that."
"Haven't we had almost enough?" inquired Barnabas, dropping his fists.
"Enough? why we aren't begun yet, lad."
"Then how long are we to go on?"
"How long?" repeated John, frowning; "why—that depends on you, Barnabas."
"How on me, father?"
"Are ye still minded to go to London?"
"Then we'll go on till you think better of it—or till you knock me down, Barnabas my lad."
"Why then, father, the sooner I knock you down the better!"
"What?" exclaimed John Barty, staring, "d' ye mean to say—you think you can?—me?—you?"
"Yes," nodded Barnabas.
"My poor lad!" sighed his father, "your head's fair crazed, sure as sure, but if you think you can knock John Barty off his pins, do it, and there y' are."
"I will," said Barnabas, "though as gently as possible."
And now they fell to it in silence, a grim silence broken only by the quick tread and shuffle of feet and the muffled thud of blows. John Barty, resolute of jaw, indomitable and calm of eye, as in the days when champions had gone down before the might of his fist; Barnabas, taller, slighter, but full of the supreme confidence of youth. Moreover, he had not been the daily pupil of two such past masters in the art for nothing; and now he brought to bear all his father's craft and cunning, backed up by the lightning precision of Natty Bell. In all his many hard-fought battles John Barty had ever been accounted most dangerous when he smiled, and he was smiling now. Twice Barnabas staggered back to the wall, and there was an ugly smear upon his cheek, yet as they struck and parried, and feinted, Barnabas, this quick-eyed, swift-footed Barnabas, was smiling also. Thus, while they smiled upon and smote each other, the likeness between them was more apparent than ever, only the smile of Barnabas was the smile of youth, joyous, exuberant, unconquerable. Noting which Experienced Age laughed short and fierce, and strode in to strike Youth down—then came a rush of feet, the panting hiss of breath, the shock of vicious blows, and John Barty, the unbeaten ex-champion of all England, threw up his arms, staggered back the length of the room, and went down with a crash.
For a moment Barnabas stood wide-eyed, panting, then ran towards him with hands outstretched, but in that moment the door was flung open, and Natty Bell stood between them, one hand upon the laboring breast of Barnabas, the other stretched down to the fallen ex-champion.
"Man Jack," he exclaimed, in his strangely melodious voice. "Oh, John!—John Barty, you as ever was the king o' the milling coves, here's my hand, shake it. Lord, John, what a master o' the Game we've made of our lad. He's stronger than you and quicker than ever I was. Man Jack, 'twas as sweet, as neat, as pretty a knockdown as ever we gave in our best days, John. Man Jack, 'tis proud you should be to lie there and know as you have a son as can stop even your rush wi' his left an' down you wi' his right as neat and proper, John, as clean an' delicate as ever man saw. Man Jack, God bless him, and here's my hand, John."
So, sitting there upon the floor, John Barty solemnly shook the hand Natty Bell held out to him, which done, he turned and looked at his son as though he had never seen him before.
"Why, Barnabas!" said he; then, for all his weight, sprang nimbly to his feet and coming to the mantel took thence his pipe and began to fill it, staring at Barnabas the while.
"Father," said Barnabas, advancing with hand outstretched, though rather diffidently—"Father!"
John Barty pursed up his lips into a soundless whistle and went on filling his pipe.
"Father," said Barnabas again, "I did it—as gently—as I could." The pipe shivered to fragments on the hearth, and Barnabas felt his fingers caught in his father's mighty grip.
"Why, Barnabas, lad, I be all mazed like; there aren't many men as have knocked me off my pins, an' I aren't used to it, Barnabas, lad, but 't was a clean blow, as Natty Bell says, and why—I be proud of thee, Barnabas, an'—there y' are."
"Spoke like true fighting men!" said Natty Bell, standing with a hand on the shoulder of each, "and, John, we shall see this lad, this Barnabas of ours, Champion of England yet." John frowned and shook his head.
"No," said he, "Barnabas'll never be Champion, Natty Bell—there aren't a fighting man in the Ring to-day as could stand up to him, but he'll never be Champion, an' you can lay to that, Natty Bell. And if you ask me why," said he, turning to select another pipe from the sheaf in the mantel-shelf, "I should tell you because he prefers to go to London an' try to turn himself into a gentleman."
"London," exclaimed Natty Bell, "a gentleman—our Barnabas—what?"
"Bide an' listen, Natty Bell," said the ex-champion, beginning to fill his new pipe.
"I'm listening, John."
"Well then, you must know, then, his uncle, my scapegrace brother Tom—you'll mind Tom as sailed away in a emigrant ship—well, Natty Bell, Tom has took an' died an' left a fortun' to our lad here."
"A fortun', John!—how much?"
"Seven—'undred—thousand—pound," said John, with a ponderous nod after each word, "seven—'undred—thousand—pound, Natty Bell, and there y' are."
Natty Bell opened his mouth, shut it, thrust his hands down into his pockets and brought out a short clay pipe.
"Man Jack," said he, beginning to fill the pipe, yet with gaze abstracted, "did I hear you say aught about a—gentleman?"
"Natty Bell, you did; our lad's took the idee into his nob to be a gentleman, an' I were trying to knock it out again, but as it is. Natty Bell, I fear me," and John Barty shook his handsome head and sighed ponderously.
"Why then, John, let's sit down, all three of us, and talk this matter over."
IN WHICH IS MUCH UNPLEASING MATTER REGARDING SILK PURSES, SOWS' EARS, MEN, AND GENTLEMEN
A slender man was Natty Bell, yet bigger than he looked, and prodigiously long in the reach, with a pair of very quick, bright eyes, and a wide, good-humored mouth ever ready to curve into a smile. But he was solemn enough now, and there was trouble in his eyes as he looked from John to Barnabas, who sat between them, his chair drawn up to the hearth, gazing down into the empty fireplace.
"An' you tell me, John," said he, as soon as his pipe was well alight,—"you tell me that our Barnabas has took it into his head to set up as a gentleman, do you?"
"Ah!" nodded John. Whereupon Natty Bell crossed his legs and leaning back in his chair fell a-singing to himself in his sweet voice, as was his custom when at all inclined to deep thought:
"A true Briton from Bristol, a rum one to fib, He's Champion of England, his name is Tom Cribb;"
"Ah! and you likewise tell me as our Barnabas has come into a fortun'."
"Hum!" said Natty Bell,—"quite a tidy sum, John."
"Come list, all ye fighting gills And coves of boxing note, sirs, While I relate some bloody mills In our time have been fought, sirs."
"Yes, a good deal can be done wi' such a sum as that, John."
"But it can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, Natty Bell,—nor yet a gentlemen out o' you or me—or Barnabas here."
"For instance," continued Natty Bell, "for instance, John:
"Since boxing is a manly game, And Britain's recreation, By boxing we will raise our fame 'Bove every other nation."
"As I say, John, a young and promising life can be wrecked, and utterly blasted by a much less sum than seven hundred thousand pound."
"Ah!" nodded John, "but a sow's ear aren't a silk purse, Natty Bell, no, nor never can be."
"True, John; but, arter all, a silk purse ain't much good if 't is empty—it's the gold inside of it as counts."
"But a silk purse is ever and always a silk purse—empty or no, Natty Bell."
"An' a man is always a man, John, which a gentleman often ain't."
"But surely," said Barnabas, speaking for the first time, "a gentleman is both."
"No—not nohow, my lad!" exclaimed John, beginning to rasp at his chin again. "A man is ever and allus a man—like me and you, an' Natty Bell, an' a gentleman's a gentleman like—Sir George Annersley—up at the great house yonder."
"But—" began Barnabas.
"Now, Barnabas"—remonstrated his father, rasping his chin harder than ever—"wherefore argufy—if you do go for to argufy—"
"We come back to the silk purses and the sows' ears," added Natty Bell.
"And I believe," said Barnabas, frowning down at the empty hearth, "I'm sure, that gentility rests not so much on birth as upon hereditary instinct."
"Hey?" said his father, glancing at him from the corners of his eyes—"go easy, Barnabas, my lad—give it time—on what did 'ee say?"
"On instinct, father."
"Instinct!" repeated John Barty, puffing out a vast cloud of smoke— "instinct does all right for 'osses, Barnabas, dogs likewise; but what's nat'ral to 'osses an' dogs aren't nowise nat'ral to us! No, you can't come instinct over human beings,—not nohowsoever, Barnabas, my lad. And, as I told you afore, a gentleman is nat'rally born a gentleman an' his feyther afore him an' his grand-feyther afore him, back an' back—"
"To Adam?" inquired Barnabas; "now, if so, the question is—was Adam a gentleman?"
"Lord, Barnabas!" exclaimed John Barty, with a reproachful look— "why drag in Adam? You leave poor old Adam alone, my lad. Adam indeed! What's Adam got to do wi' it?"
"Everything, we being all his descendants,—at least the Bible says so.—Lords and Commons, Peers and Peasants—all are children of Adam; so come now, father, was Adam a gentleman, Yes or No?"
John Barty frowned up at the ceiling, frowned down at the floor, and finally spoke:
"What do you say to that, Natty Bell?"
"Why, I should say, John—hum!"
"Pray haven't you heard of a jolly young coal-heaver, Who down at Hungerford used for to ply, His daddles he used with such skill and dexterity Winning each mill, sir, and blacking each eye."
"Ha!—I should say, John, that Adam being in the habit o' going about—well, as you might put it—in a free and easy, airy manner, fig leaves an' suchlike, John,—I should say as he didn't have no call to be a gentleman, seeing as there weren't any tailors."
"Tailors!" exclaimed John, staring. "Lord! and what have tailors got to do wi' it, Natty Bell?"
"A great deal more than you 'd think, John; everything, John, seeing 't was tailors as invented gentlemen as a matter o' trade, John. So, if Barnabas wants to have a try at being one—he must first of all go dressed in the fashion."
"That is very true," said Barnabas, nodding.
"Though," pursued Natty Bell, "if you were the best dressed, the handsomest, the strongest, the bravest, the cleverest, the most honorable man in the world—that wouldn't make you a gentleman. I tell you, Barnabas, if you went among 'em and tried to be one of 'em,—they'd find you out some day an' turn their gentlemanly backs on you."
"Ah," nodded John, "and serve you right, lad,—because if you should try to turn yourself into a gentleman, why, Lord, Barnabas!—you'd only be a sort of a amitoor arter all, lad."
"Then," said Barnabas, rising up from his chair and crossing with resolute foot to the door, "then, just so soon as this law business is settled and the money mine, an Amateur Gentleman I'll be."
HOW BARNABAS SET OUT FOR LONDON TOWN
It was upon a certain glorious morning, some three weeks later, that Barnabas fared forth into the world; a morning full of the thousand scents of herb and flower and ripening fruits; a morning glad with the song of birds. And because it was still very early, the dew yet lay heavy, it twinkled in the grass, it sparkled in the hedges, and gemmed every leaf and twig with a flaming pendant. And amidst it all, fresh like the morning and young like the sun, came Barnabas, who, closing the door of the "Coursing Hound" behind him, leapt lightly down the stone steps and, turning his back upon the ancient inn, set off towards that hill, beyond which lay London and the Future. Yet—being gone but a very little way—he halted suddenly and came striding back again. And standing thus before the inn he let his eyes wander over its massive crossbeams, its leaning gables, its rows of gleaming lattices, and so up to the great sign swinging above the door—an ancient sign whereon a weather-beaten hound, dim-legged and faded of tail, pursued a misty blur that, by common report, was held to be a hare. But it was to a certain casement that his gaze oftenest reverted, behind whose open lattice he knew his father lay asleep, and his eyes, all at once, grew suffused with a glittering brightness that was not of the morning, and he took a step forward, half minded to clasp his father's hand once more ere he set out to meet those marvels and wonders that lay waiting for him over the hills—London-wards. Now, as he stood hesitating, he heard a voice that called his name softly, and, glancing round and up, espied Natty Bell, bare of neck and touzled of head, who leaned far out from the casement of his bedchamber above.
"Ah, Barnabas, lad!" said he with a nod—"So you're going to leave us, then?"
"Yes!" said Barnabas.
"And all dressed in your new clothes as fine as ever was!—stand back a bit and let me have a look at you."
"How are they, Natty Bell?" inquired Barnabas with a note of anxiety in his voice—"the Tenderden tailor assured me they were of the very latest cut and fashion—what do you think, Natty Bell?"
"Hum!" said the ex-pugilist, staring down at Barnabas, chin in hand. "Ha! they're very good clothes, Barnabas, yes indeed; just the very thing—for the country."
"The country!—I had these made for London, Natty Bell."
"For London, Barnabas—hum!"
"What do you mean by 'hum,' Natty Bell?"
"Why—look ye now—'t is a good sensible coat, I'll not deny, Barnabas; likewise the breeches is serviceable—but being only a coat and breeches, why—they ain't per-lite enough. For in the world of London, the per-lite world, Barnabas, clothes ain't garments to keep a man warm—they're works of art; in the country a man puts 'em on, and forgets all about 'em—in the per-lite world he has 'em put on for him, and remembers 'em. In the country a man wears his clothes, in the per-lite world his clothes wears him, ah! and they're often the perlitest thing about him, too!"
"I suppose," sighed Barnabas, "a man's clothes are very important—in the fashionable world?"
"Important! They are the most importantest part o' the fashionable world, lad. Now there's Mr. Brummell—him as they call the 'Beau'—well, he ain't exactly a Lord Nelson nor yet a Champion of England, he ain't never done nothing, good, bad, or indifferent—but he does know how to wear his clothes—consequently he's a very famous gentleman indeed—in the per-lite world, Barnabas." Here there fell a silence while Barnabas stared up at the inn and Natty Bell stared down at him. "To be sure, the old 'Hound' ain't much of a place, lad—not the kind of inn as a gentleman of quality would go out of his way to seek and search for, p'r'aps—but there be worse places in London, Barnabas, I was born there and I know. There, there! dear lad, never hang your head—youth must have its dreams I've heard; so go your ways, Barnabas. You're a master wi' your fists, thanks to John an' me—and you might have been Champion of England if you hadn't set your heart on being only a gentleman. Well, well, lad! don't forget as there are two old cocks o' the Game down here in Kent as will think o' you and talk o' you, Barnabas, and what you might have been if you hadn't happened to—Ah well, let be. But wherever you go and whatever you come to be—you're our lad still, and so, Barnabas, take this, wear it in memory of old Natty Bell—steady—catch!" And, with the word, he tossed down his great silver watch.
"Why, Natty Bell!" exclaimed Barnabas, very hoarse of voice. "Dear old Natty—I can't take this!"
"Ah, but you can—it was presented to me twenty and one years ago, Barnabas, the time I beat the Ruffian on Bexley Heath."
"But I can't—I couldn't take it," said Barnabas again, looking down at the broad-faced, ponderous timepiece in his hand, which he knew had long been Natty Bell's most cherished possession.
"Ay, but you can, lad—you must—'t is all I have to offer, and it may serve to mind you of me, now and then, so take it! take it! And, Barnabas, when you're tired o' being a fine gentleman up there in London, why—come back to us here at the old 'Hound' and be content to be just—a man. Good-by, lad; good-by!" saying which, Natty Bell nodded, drew in his head and vanished, leaving Barnabas to stare up at the closed lattice, with the ponderous timepiece ticking in his hand.
So, in a while, Barnabas slipped it into his pocket and, turning his back upon the "Coursing Hound," began to climb that hill beyond which lay the London of his dreams. Therefore as he went he kept his eyes lifted up to the summit of the hill, and his step grew light, his eye brightened, for Adventure lay in wait for him; Life beckoned to him from the distance; there was magic in the air. Thus Barnabas strode on up the hill full of expectancy and the blind confidence in destiny which is the glory of youth.
Oh, Spirit of Youth, to whose fearless eyes all things are matters to wonder at; oh, brave, strong Spirit of Youth, to whom dangers are but trifles to smile at, and death itself but an adventure; to thee, since failure is unknown, all things are possible, and thou mayest, peradventure, make the world thy football, juggle with the stars, and even become a Fine Gentleman despite thy country homespun—and yet—
But as for young Barnabas, striding blithely upon his way, he might verily have been the Spirit of Youth itself—head high, eyes a-dance, his heart light as his step, his gaze ever upon the distance ahead, for he was upon the road at last, and every step carried him nearer the fulfilment of his dream.
"At Tonbridge he would take the coach," he thought, or perhaps hire a chaise and ride to London like a gentleman. A gentleman! and here he was whistling away like any ploughboy. Happily the road was deserted at this early hour, but Barnabas shook his head at himself reproachfully, and whistled no more—for a time.
But now, having reached the summit of the hill, he paused and turned to look back. Below him lay the old inn, blinking in its many casements in the level rays of the newly risen sun; and now, all at once, as he gazed down at it from this eminence, it seemed, somehow, to have shrunk, to have grown more weather-beaten and worn—truly never had it looked so small and mean as it did at this moment. Indeed, he had been wont to regard the "Coursing Hound" as the very embodiment of what an English inn should be—but now! Barnabas sighed—which was a new thing for him. "Was the change really in the old inn, or in himself?" he wondered. Hereupon he sighed again, and turning, went on down the hill. But now, as he went, his step lagged and his head drooped. "Was the change in the inn, or could it be that money can so quickly alter one?" he wondered. And straightway the coins in his pocket chinked and jingled "yes, yes!" wherefore Barnabas sighed for the third time, and his head drooped lower yet.
Well then, since he was rich, he would buy his father a better inn—the best in all England. A better inn! and the "Coursing Hound" had been his home as long as he could remember. A better inn! Here Barnabas sighed for the fourth time, and his step was heavier than ever as he went on down the hill.
HOW BARNABAS FELL IN WITH A PEDLER OF BOOKS, AND PURCHASED A "PRICELESS WOLLUM"
"Heads up, young master, never say die! and wi' the larks and the throstles a-singing away so inspiring too—Lord love me!"
Barnabas started guiltily, and turning with upflung head, perceived a very small man perched on an adjacent milestone, with a very large pack at his feet, a very large hunk of bread and cheese in his hand, and with a book open upon his knee.
"Listen to that theer lark," said the man, pointing upwards with the knife he held.
"Well?" said Barnabas, a trifle haughtily perhaps.
"There's music for ye; there's j'y. I never hear a lark but it takes me back to London—to Lime'us, to Giles's Rents, down by the River."
"Pray, why?" inquired Barnabas, still a trifle haughtily.
"Because it's so different; there ain't much j'y, no, nor yet music in Giles's Rents, down by the River."
"Rather an unpleasant place!" said Barnabas.
"Unpleasant, young sir. I should say so—the worst place in the world—but listen to that theer blessed lark; there's a woice for ye; there's music with a capital M.; an' I've read as they cooks and eats 'em."
"Nobs do—swells—gentlemen—ah, an' ladies, too!"
"More shame to them, then."
"Why, so says I, young master, but, ye see, beef an' mutton, ducks an' chicken, an' sich, ain't good enough for your Nobs nowadays, oh no! They must dewour larks wi' gusto, and French hortolons wi' avidity, and wi' a occasional leg of a frog throw'd in for a relish—though, to be sure, a frog's leg ain't over meaty at the best o' times. Oh, it's all true, young sir; it's all wrote down here in this priceless wollum." Here he tapped the book upon his knee. "Ye see, with the Quality it is quality as counts—not quantity. It's flavor as is their constant want, or, as you might say, desire; flavor in their meat, in their drink, and above all, in their books; an' see you, I sell books, an' I know."
"What kind of flavor?" demanded Barnabas, coming a step nearer, though in a somewhat stately fashion.
"Why, a gamey flavor, to be sure, young sir; a 'igh flavor—ah! the 'igher the better. Specially in books. Now here," continued the Chapman, holding up the volume he had been reading. "'Ere's a book as ain't to be ekalled nowheers nor nohow—not in Latin nor Greek, nor Persian, no, nor yet 'Indoo. A book as is fuller o' information than a egg is o' meat. A book as was wrote by a person o' quality, therefore a elewating book; wi' nice bold type into it—ah! an' wood-cuts—picters an' engravin's, works o' art as is not to be beat nowheers nor nohow; not in China, Asia, nor Africa, a book therefore as is above an' beyond all price."
"What book is it?" inquired Barnabas, forgetting his haughtiness, and coming up beside the Chapman.
"It's a book," said the Chapman; "no, it's THE book as any young gentleman a-going out into the world ought to have wi' him, asleep or awake."
"But what is it all about?" inquired Barnabas a trifle impatiently.
"Why, everything," answered the Chapman; "an' I know because I 've read it—a thing I rarely do."
"What's the title?"
"The title, young sir; well theer! read for yourself."
And with the words the Chapman held up the book open at the title-page, and Barnabas read:
HINTS ON ETIQUETTE,
THE COMPLEAT ART OF A GENTLEMANLY DEPORTMENT BY A PERSON OF QUALITY.
"You'll note that theer Person o' Quality, will ye?" said the Chapman.
"Strange!" said Barnabas.
"Not a bit of it!" retorted the Chapman. "Lord, love me! any one could be a gentleman by just reading and inwardly di-gesting o' this here priceless wollum; it's all down here in print, an' nice bold type, too—pat as you please. If it didn't 'appen as my horryscope demands as I should be a chapman, an' sell books an' sich along the roads, I might ha' been as fine a gentleman as any on 'em, just by follering the directions printed into this here blessed tome, an' in nice large type, too, an' woodcuts."
"This is certainly very remarkable!" said Barnabas.
"Ah!" nodded the Chapman, "it's the most remarkablest book as ever was!—Lookee—heer's picters for ye—lookee!" and he began turning over the pages, calling out the subject of the pictures as he did so.
"Gentleman going a walk in a jerry 'at. Gentleman eating soup! Gentleman kissing lady's 'and. Gentleman dancing with lady—note them theer legs, will ye—theer's elegance for ye! Gentleman riding a 'oss in one o' these 'ere noo buckled 'ats. Gentleman shaking 'ands with ditto—observe the cock o' that little finger, will ye! Gentleman eating ruffles—no, truffles, which is a vegetable, as all pigs is uncommon partial to. Gentleman proposing lady's 'ealth in a frilled shirt an' a pair o' skin-tights. Gentleman making a bow."
"And remarkably stiff in the legs about it, too!" nodded Barnabas.
"Stiff in the legs!" cried the Chapman reproachfully. "Lord love you, young sir! I've seen many a leg stiffer than that."
"And how much is the book?"
The Chapman cast a shrewd glance up at the tall youthful figure, at the earnest young face, at the deep and solemn eyes, and coughed behind his hand.
"Well, young sir," said he, gazing thoughtfully up at the blue sky—"since you are you, an' nobody else—an' ax me on so fair a morning, wi' the song o' birds filling the air—we'll charge you only—well—say ten shillings: say eight, say seven-an'-six—say five—theer, make it five shillings, an' dirt-cheap at the price, too."
Barnabas hesitated, and the Chapman was about to come down a shilling or two more when Barnabas spoke.
"Then you're not thinking of learning to become a gentleman yourself?"
"O Lord love you—no!"
"Then I'll buy it," said Barnabas, and forthwith handed over the five shillings. Slipping the book into his pocket, he turned to go, yet paused again and addressed the Chapman over his shoulder.
"Shouldn't you like to become a gentleman?" he inquired.
Again the Chapman regarded him from the corners of his eyes, and again he coughed behind his hand.
"Well," he admitted, "I should an' I shouldn't. O' course it must be a fine thing to bow to a duchess, or 'and a earl's daughter into a chariot wi' four 'orses an' a couple o' footmen, or even to sit wi' a markus an' eat a French hortolon (which never 'aving seen, I don't know the taste on, but it sounds promising); oh yes, that part would suit me to a T; but then theer's t'other part to it, y' see."
"What do you mean?"
"Why, a gentleman has a great deal to live up to—theer's his dignity, y' see."
"Yes, I suppose so," Barnabas admitted.
"For instance, a gentleman couldn't very well be expected to sit in a ditch and enj'y a crust o' bread an' cheese; 'is dignity wouldn't allow of it, now would it?"
"Certainly not," said Barnabas.
"Nor yet drink 'ome-brewed out of a tin pot in a inn kitchen."
"Well, he might, if he were very thirsty," Barnabas ventured to think. But the Chapman scouted the idea.
"For," said he, "a gentleman's dignity lifts him above inn kitchens and raises him superior to tin pots. Now tin pots is a perticler weakness o' mine, leastways when theer's good ale inside of 'em. And then again an' lastly," said the Chapman, balancing a piece of cheese on the flat of his knife-blade, "lastly theer's his clothes, an', as I've read somewhere, 'clothes make the man'—werry good—chuck in dignity an' theer's your gentleman!"
"Hum," said Barnabas, profoundly thoughtful.
"An' a gentleman's clothes is a world o' trouble and anxiety to him, and takes up most o' his time, what wi' his walking breeches an' riding breeches an' breeches for dancing; what wi' his coats cut 'igh an' his coats cut low; what wi' his flowered satin weskits; what wi' his boots an' his gloves, an' his cravats an' his 'ats, why, Lord love ye, he passes his days getting out o' one suit of clothes an' into another. And it's just this clothes part as I can't nowise put up wi', for I'm one as loves a easy life, I am."
"And is your life so easy?" inquired Barnabas, eyeing the very small Chapman's very large pack.
"Why, to be sure theer's easier," the Chapman admitted, scratching his ear and frowning; "but then," and here his brow cleared again, "I've only got this one single suit of clothes to bother my 'ead over, which, being wore out as you can see, don't bother me at all."
"Then are you satisfied to be as you are?"
"Well," answered the Chapman, clinking the five shillings in his pocket, "I aren't one to grumble at fate, nor yet growl at fortun'."
"Why, then," said Barnabas, "I wish you good morning."
"Good morning, young sir, and remember now, if you should ever feel like being a gentleman—it's quite easy—all as you've got to do is to read the instructions in that theer priceless wollum—mark 'em—learn 'em, and inwardly di-gest 'em, and you'll be a gentleman afore you know it."
Now hereupon Barnabas smiled, a very pleasant smile and radiant with youth, whereat the Chapman's pinched features softened for pure good fellowship, and for the moment he almost wished that he had charged less for the "priceless wollum," as, so smiling, Barnabas turned and strode away, London-wards.
IN WHICH THE HISTORIAN SEES FIT TO INTRODUCE A LADY OF QUALITY; AND FURTHER NARRATES HOW BARNABAS TORE A WONDERFUL BOTTLE-GREEN COAT
Now in a while Barnabas came to where was a stile with a path beyond—a narrow path that led up over a hill until it lost itself in a wood that crowned the ascent; a wood where were shady dells full of a quivering green twilight; where broad glades led away beneath leafy arches, and where a stream ran gurgling in the shade of osiers and willows; a wood that Barnabas had known from boyhood. Therefore, setting his hand upon the stile, he vaulted lightly over, minded to go through the wood and join the high road further on. This he did by purest chance, and all unthinking followed the winding path.
Now had Barnabas gone on by the road how different this history might have been, and how vastly different his career! But, as it happened, moved by Chance, or Fate, or Destiny, or what you will, Barnabas vaulted over the stile and strode on up the winding path, whistling as he went, and, whistling, plunged into the green twilight of the wood, and, whistling still, swung suddenly into a broad and grassy glade splashed green and gold with sunlight, and then stopped all at once and stood there silent, dumb, the very breath in check between his lips.
She lay upon her side—full length upon the sward, and her tumbled hair made a glory in the grass, a golden mane. Beneath this silken curtain he saw dark brows that frowned a little—a vivid mouth, and lashes thick and dark like her eyebrows, that curled upon the pallor of her cheek.
Motionless stood Barnabas, with eyes that wandered from the small polished riding-boot, with its delicately spurred heel, to follow the gracious line that swelled voluptuously from knee to rounded hip, that sank in sweetly to a slender waist, yet rose again to the rounded beauty of her bosom.
So Barnabas stood and looked and looked, and looking sighed, and stole a step near and stopped again, for behold the leafy screen was parted suddenly, and Barnabas beheld two boots—large boots they were but of exquisite shape—boots that strode strongly and planted themselves masterfully; Hessian boots, elegant, glossy and betasselled. Glancing higher, he observed a coat of a bottle-green, high-collared, close-fitting and silver-buttoned; a coat that served but to make more apparent the broad chest, powerful shoulders, and lithe waist of its wearer. Indeed a truly marvellous coat (at least, so thought Barnabas), and in that moment, he, for the first time, became aware how clumsy and ill-contrived were his own garments; he understood now what Natty Bell had meant when he had said they were not polite enough; and as for his boots—blunt of toe, thick-soled and ponderous—he positively blushed for them. Here, it occurred to him that the wearer of the coat possessed a face, and he looked at it accordingly. It was a handsome face he saw, dark of eye, square-chinned and full-lipped. Just now the eyes were lowered, for their possessor stood apparently lost in leisurely contemplation of her who lay outstretched between them; and as his gaze wandered to and fro over her defenceless beauty, a glow dawned in the eyes, and the full lips parted in a slow smile, whereat Barnabas frowned darkly, and his cheeks grew hot because of her too betraying habit.
"Sir!" said he between snapping teeth.
Then, very slowly and unwillingly, the gentleman raised his eyes and stared across at him.
"And pray," said he carelessly, "pray who might you be?"
At his tone Barnabas grew more angry and therefore more polite.
"Sir, that—permit me to say—does not concern you."
"Not in the least," the other retorted, "and I bid you good day; you can go, my man, I am acquainted with this lady; she is quite safe in my care."
"That, sir, I humbly beg leave to doubt," said Barnabas, his politeness growing.
"Why—you impudent scoundrel!"
"Come, take yourself off!" said the gentleman, frowning, "I'll take care of this lady."
"Pardon me! but I think not."
The gentleman stared at Barnabas through suddenly narrow lids, and laughed softly, and Barnabas thought his laugh worse than his frown.
"Ha! d' you mean to say you—won't go?"
"With all the humility in the world, I do, sir."
"Why, you cursed, interfering yokel! must I thrash you?"
Now "yokel" stung, for Barnabas remembered his blunt-toed boots, therefore he smiled with lips suddenly grim, and his politeness grew almost aggressive.
"Thrash me, sir!" he repeated, "indeed I almost venture to fear that you must." But the gentleman's gaze had wandered to the fallen girl once more, and the glow was back in his roving eyes.
"Pah!" said he, still intent, "if it is her purse you are after—here, take mine and leave us in peace." As he spoke, he flung his purse towards Barnabas, and took a long step nearer the girl. But in that same instant Barnabas strode forward also and, being nearer, reached her first, and, stepping over her, it thus befell that they came face to face within a foot of one another. For a moment they stood thus, staring into each other's eyes, then without a word swift and sudden they closed and grappled.
The gentleman was very quick, and more than ordinarily strong, so also was Barnabas, but the gentleman's handsome face was contorted with black rage, whereas Barnabas was smiling, and therein seemed the only difference between them as they strove together breast to breast, now in sunlight, now in shadow, but always grimly silent.
So, within the glory of the morning, they reeled and staggered to and fro, back and forth, trampling down the young grass, straining, panting, swaying—the one frowning and determined, the other smiling and grim.
Suddenly the bottle-green coat ripped and tore as its wearer broke free; there was the thud of a blow, and Barnabas staggered back with blood upon his face—staggered, I say, and in that moment, as his antagonist rushed, laughed fierce and short, and stepped lightly aside and smote him clean and true under the chin, a little to one side.
The gentleman's fists flew wide, he twisted upon his heels, pitched over upon his face, and lay still.
Smiling still, Barnabas looked down upon him, then grew grave.
"Indeed," said he, "indeed it was a great pity to spoil such a wonderful coat."
So he turned away, and coming to where she, who was the unwitting cause of all this, yet lay, stopped all at once, for it seemed to him that her posture was altered; her habit had become more decorous, and yet the lashes, so dark in contrast to her hair, those shadowy lashes yet curled upon her cheek. Therefore, very presently, Barnabas stooped, and raising her in his arms bore her away through the wood towards the dim recesses where, hidden in the green shadows, his friend the brook went singing upon its way.
And in a while the gentleman stirred and sat up, and, beholding his torn coat, swore viciously, and, chancing upon his purse, pocketed it, and so went upon his way, and by contrast with the glory of the morning his frown seemed the blacker.
OF THE BEWITCHMENT OF BLACK EYELASHES; AND OF A FATEFUL LACE HANDKERCHIEF
Let it be understood that Barnabas was not looking at her as she lay all warm and yielding in his embrace, on the contrary, he walked with his gaze fixed pertinaciously upon the leafy path he followed, nevertheless he was possessed, more than once, of a sudden feeling that her eyes had opened and were watching him, therefore, after a while be it noted, needs must he steal a downward glance at her beauty, only to behold the shadowy lashes curling upon her cheeks, as was but natural, of course. And now he began to discover that these were, indeed, no ordinary lashes (though to be sure his experience in such had been passing small), yet the longer he gazed upon them the more certain he became that these were, altogether and in all respects, the most demurely tantalizing lashes in the world. Then, again, there was her mouth—warmly red, full-lipped and sensitive like the delicate nostrils above; a mouth all sweet curves; a mouth, he thought, that might grow firm and proud, or wonderfully tender as the case might be, a mouth of scarlet bewitchment; a mouth that for some happy mortal might be—here our Barnabas came near blundering into a tree, and thenceforth he kept his gaze upon the path again. So, strong armed and sure of foot, he bore her through the magic twilight of the wood until he reached the brook. And coming to where the bending willows made a leafy bower he laid her there, then, turning, went down to the brook and drawing off his neckerchief began to moisten it in the clear, cool water.
And lo! in the same minute, the curling lashes were lifted suddenly, and beneath their shadow two eyes looked out—deep and soft and darkly blue, the eyes of a maid—now frank and ingenuous, now shyly troubled, but brimful of witchery ever and always. And pray what could there be in all the fair world more proper for a maid's eyes to rest upon than young Alcides, bare of throat, and with the sun in his curls, as he knelt to moisten the neckerchief in the brook?
Therefore, as she lay, she gazed upon him in her turn, even as he had first looked upon her, pleased to find his face so young and handsome, to note the breadth of his shoulders, the graceful carriage of his limbs, his air of virile strength and latent power, yet doubting too, because of her sex, because of the loneliness, and because he was a man; thus she lay blushing a little, sighing a little, fearing a little, waiting for him to turn. True, he had been almost reverent so far, but then the place was so very lonely. And yet—
Barnabas turned and came striding up the bank. And how was he to know anything of all this, as he stood above her with his dripping neckerchief in his hand, looking down at her lying so very still, and pitying her mightily because her lashes showed so dark against the pallor of her cheek? How was he to know how her heart leapt in her white bosom as he sank upon his knees beside her? Therefore he leaned above her closer and raised the dripping neckerchief. But in that moment she (not minded to be wet) sighed, her white lids fluttered, and, sitting up, she stared at him for all the world as though she had never beheld him until that very moment.
"What are you going to do?" she demanded, drawing away from the streaming neckerchief. "Who are you? Why am I here?—what has happened?"
Barnabas hesitated, first because he was overwhelmed by this sudden torrent of questions, and secondly because he rarely spoke without thinking; therefore, finding him silent, she questioned him again—
"Where am I?"
"In Annersley Wood, madam."
"Ah, yes, I remember, my horse ran away."
"So I brought you here to the brook."
"You were hurt; I found you bleeding and senseless."
"Bleeding!" And out came a dainty lace handkerchief on the instant.
"There," said Barnabas, "above your eyebrow," and he indicated a very small trickle of blood upon the snow of her temple.
"And you—found me, sir?"
"Beneath the riven oak in the Broad Glade—over yonder."
"That is a great way from here, sir!"
"You are not—heavy!" Barnabas explained, a little clumsily perhaps, for she fell silent at this, and stooped her head the better to dab tenderly at the cut above her eyebrow; also the color deepened in her cheeks.
"Madam," said Barnabas, "that is the wrong eyebrow."
"Then why don't you tell me where I'm hurt?" she sighed. For answer, after a moment's hesitation, Barnabas reached out and taking her hand, handkerchief and all, laid it very gently upon the cut, though to be sure it was a very poor thing, as cuts go, after all.
"There," said he again, "though indeed it is very trifling."
"Indeed, sir, it pains atrociously!" she retorted, and to bear out her words showed him her handkerchief, upon whose snow was a tiny vivid stain.
"Then perhaps," ventured Barnabas, "perhaps I'd better bathe it with this!" and he held up his dripping handkerchief.
"Nay, sir, I thank you," she answered, "keep it for your own wounds—there is a cut upon your cheek."
"A cut!" repeated Barnabas—bethinking him of the gentleman's signet ring.
"Yes, a cut, sir," she repeated, and stole a glance at him under her long lashes; "pray did your horse run away also?"
Barnabas was silent again, this time because he knew not how to answer—therefore he began rubbing at his injured cheek while she watched him—and after a while spoke.
"Sir," said she, "that is the wrong cheek."
"Then, indeed, this must be very trifling also," said Barnabas, smiling.
"Does it pain you, sir?"
"Yet it bleeds! You say it was not your horse, sir?" she inquired, wonderfully innocent of eye.
"No, it was not my horse."
"Why, then—pray, how did it happen?"
"Happen, madam?—why, I fancy I must have—scratched myself," returned Barnabas, beginning to wring out his neckerchief.
"Scratched yourself. Ah! of course!" said she, and was silent while Barnabas continued to wring the water from his neckerchief.
"Pray," she inquired suddenly, "do you often scratch yourself—until you bleed?—'t is surely a most distressing habit." Now glancing up suddenly, Barnabas saw her eyes were wonderfully bright for all her solemn mouth, and suspicion grew upon him.—"Did she know? Had she seen?" he wondered.
"Nevertheless, sir—my thanks are due to you—"
"For what?" he inquired quickly.
"For bringing you here?" he suggested, beginning to wring out his neckerchief again.
"Yes; believe me I am more than grateful for—for—"
"For what, madam?" he inquired again, looking at her now.
"Pray, how have I been kind?—you refused my neckerchief."
Surely he was rather an unpleasant person after all, she thought, with his persistently direct eyes, and his absurdly blunt mode of questioning—and she detested answering questions.
"Sir," said she, with her dimpled chin a little higher than usual, "it is a great pity you troubled yourself about me, or spoilt your neckerchief with water."
"I thought you were hurt, you see—"
"Oh, sir, I grieve to disappoint you," said she, and rose, and indeed she gained her feet with admirable grace and dignity notwithstanding her recent fall, and the hampering folds of her habit; and now Barnabas saw that she was taller than he had thought.
"Disappoint me!" repeated Barnabas, rising also; "the words are unjust."
For a moment she stood, her head thrown back, her eyes averted disdainfully, and it was now that Barnabas first noticed the dimple in her chin, and he was yet observing it very exactly when he became aware that her haughtiness was gone again and that her eyes were looking up at him, half laughing, half shy, and of course wholly bewitching.
"Yes, I know it was," she admitted, "but oh! won't you please believe that a woman can't fall off her horse without being hurt, though it won't bleed much." Now as she spoke a distant clock began to strike and she to count the strokes, soft and mellow with distance.
"Nine!" she exclaimed with an air of tragedy—"then I shall be late for breakfast, and I'm ravenous—and gracious heavens!"
"What now, madam?"
"My hair! It's all come down—look at it!"
"I've been doing so ever since I—met you," Barnabas confessed.
"Oh, have you! Then why didn't you tell me of it—and I've lost nearly all my hairpins—and—oh dear! what will they think?"
"That it is the most beautiful hair in all the world, of course," said Barnabas. She was already busy twisting it into a shining rope, but here she paused to look up at him from under this bright nimbus, and with two hair-pins in her mouth.
"Oh!" said she again very thoughtfully, and then "Do you think so?" she inquired, speaking over and round the hairpins as it were.
"Yes," said Barnabas, steady-eyed; and immediately down came the curling lashes again, while with dexterous white fingers she began to transform the rope into a coronet.
"I'm afraid it won't hold up," she said, giving her head a tentative shake, "though, fortunately, I haven't far to go."
"How far?" asked Barnabas.
"To Annersley House, sir."
"Yes," said Barnabas, "that is very near—the glade yonder leads into the park."
"Do you know Annersley, then, sir?"
Barnabas hesitated and, having gone over the question in his mind, shook his head.
"I know of it," he answered.
"Do you know Sir George Annersley?"
Again Barnabas hesitated. As a matter of fact he knew as much of Sir George as he knew of the "great house," as it was called thereabouts, that is to say he had seen him once or twice—in the distance. But it would never do to admit as much to her, who now looked up at him with eyes of witchery as she waited for him to speak. Therefore Barnabas shook his head, and answered airily enough:
"We are not exactly acquainted, madam."
Yesterday he would have scorned the subterfuge; but to-day there was money in his purse; London awaited him with expectant arms, the very air was fraught with a magic whereby the impossible might become concrete fact, wherein dreams might become realities; was not she herself, as she stood before him lithe and vigorous in all the perfection of her warm young womanhood—was she not the very embodiment of those dreams that had haunted him sleeping and waking? Verily. Therefore with this magic in the air might he not meet Sir George Annersley at the next cross-roads or by-lane, and strike up an enduring friendship on the spot—truly, for anything was possible to-day. Meanwhile my lady had gathered up the folds of her riding-habit, and yet in the act of turning into the leafy path, spoke:
"Are you going far, sir?"
"Have you many friends there?"
"None,—as yet, madam."
After this they walked on in silence, she with her eyes on the lookout for obstacles, he lost to all but the beauty of the young body before him—the proud carriage of the head, the sway of the hips, the firm poise of the small and slender foot—all this he saw and admired, yet (be it remarked) his face bore nothing of the look that had distorted the features of the gentleman in the bottle-green coat—though to be sure our Barnabas was but an amateur at best—even as Natty Bell had said. So at last she reached the fateful glade beyond which, though small with distance, was a noble house set upon a gentle hill that rose above the swaying green of trees. Here my lady paused; she looked up the glade and down the glade, and finally at him. And her eyes were the eyes of a maid, shy, mischievous, demure, challenging.
"Sir," said she, shyly, demurely—but with eyes still challenging— "sir, I have to thank you. I do thank you—more than these poor lips can tell. If there is anything I could—do—to—to prove my gratitude, you—have but to—name it."
"Do," stammered Barnabas. "Do—indeed—I—no."
The challenging eyes were hidden now, but the lips curved wonderfully tempting and full of allurement. Barnabas clenched his fists hard.
"I see, sir, your cheek has stopped bleeding, 't is almost well. I think—there are others—whose hurts will not heal—quite so soon—and, between you and me, sir, I'm glad—glad! Good-by! and may you find as many friends in London as you deserve." So saying, she turned and went on down the glade.
And in a little Barnabas sighed, and turning also, strode on London-wards.
Now when she had gone but a very short way, my lady must needs glance back over her shoulder, then, screened to be sure by a convenient bramble-bush, she stood to watch him as he swung along, strong, graceful, but with never a look behind.
"Who was he?" she wondered. "What was he? From his clothes he might be anything between a gamekeeper and a farmer."
Alas! poor Barnabas! To be sure his voice was low and modulated, and his words well chosen—who was he, what was he? And he was going to London where he had no friends. And he had never told his name, nor, what was a great deal worse, asked for hers! Here my lady frowned, for such indifference was wholly new in her experience. But on went long-legged Barnabas, all unconscious, striding through sunlight and shadow, with step blithe and free—and still (Oh! Barnabas) with never a look behind. Therefore, my lady's frown grew more portentous, and she stamped her foot at his unconscious back; then all at once the frown vanished in a sudden smile, and she instinctively shrank closer into cover, for Barnabas had stopped.
"Oh, indeed, sir!" she mocked, secure behind her leafy screen, nodding her head at his unconscious back; "so you've actually thought better of it, have you?"
Here Barnabas turned.
"Really, sir, you will even trouble to come all the way back, will you, just to learn her name—or, perhaps to—indeed, what condescension. But, dear sir, you're too late; oh, yes, indeed you are! 'for he who will not when he may, when he will he shall have nay.' I grieve to say you are too late—quite too late! Good morning, Master Shill-I-shall-I." And with the word she turned, then hastily drew a certain lace handkerchief from her bosom, and set it very cleverly among the thorns of a bramble, and so sped away among the leaves.
IN WHICH MAY BE FOUND DIVERS RULES AND MAXIMS FOR THE ART OF BOWING
"Now, by the Lord!" said Barnabas, stopping all at once, "forgetful fool that I am! I never bowed to her!" Therefore, being minded to repair so grave an omission, he turned sharp about, and came striding back again, and thus it befell that he presently espied the lace handkerchief fluttering from the bramble, and having extricated the delicate lace from the naturally reluctant thorns with a vast degree of care and trouble, he began to look about for the late owner. But search how he might, his efforts proved unavailing—Annersley Wood was empty save for himself. Having satisfied himself of the fact, Barnabas sighed again, thrust the handkerchief into his pocket, and once more set off upon his way.
But now, as he went, he must needs remember his awkward stiffness when she had thanked him; he grew hot all over at the mere recollection, and, moreover, he had forgotten even to bow! But there again, was he quite sure that he could bow as a gentleman should? There were doubtless certain rules and maxims for the bow as there were for mathematics—various motions to be observed in the making of it, of which Barnabas confessed to himself his utter ignorance. What then was a bow? Hereupon, bethinking him of the book in his pocket, he drew it out, and turning to a certain page, began to study the "stiff-legged-gentleman" with a new and enthralled interest. Now over against this gentleman, that is to say, on the opposite page, he read these words:—
"THE ART OF BOWING."
"To know how, and when, and to whom to bow, is in itself an art. The bow is, indeed, an all-important accomplishment,—it is the 'Open Sesame' of the 'Polite World.' To bow gracefully, therefore, may be regarded as the most important part of a gentlemanly deportment."
"Hum!" said Barnabas, beginning to frown at this; and yet, according to the title-page, these were the words of a "Person of Quality."
"To bow gracefully,"—the Person of Quality chattered on,—"the feet should be primarily disposed as in the first position of dancing."
Barnabas sighed, frowning still.
"The left hand should be lifted airily and laid upon the bosom, the fingers kept elegantly spread. The head is now stooped forward, the body following easily from the hips, the right hand, at the same moment, being waved gracefully in the air. It is, moreover, very necessary that the expression of the features should assume as engaging an air as possible. The depth of the bow is to be regulated to the rank of the person saluted."
And so forth and so on for two pages more.
Barnabas sighed and shook his head hopelessly.
"Ah!" said he, "under these circumstances it is perhaps just as well that I forgot to try. It would seem I should have bungled it quite shamefully. Who would have thought a thing so simple could become a thing so very complicated!" Saying which, he shut the book, and thrust it back into his pocket, and thus became aware of a certain very small handful of dainty lace and cambric, and took it out, and, looking at it, beheld again the diminutive stain, while there stole to his nostrils a perfume, faint and very sweet.
"I wonder," said he to himself. "I wonder who she was—I might have asked her name but, fool that I am, I even forgot that!"
Here Barnabas sighed, and, sighing, hid the handkerchief in his pocket.
"And yet," he pursued, "had she told me her name, I should have been compelled to announce mine, and—Barnabas Barty—hum! somehow there is no suggestion about it of broad acres, or knightly ancestors; no, Barty will never do." Here Barnabas became very thoughtful. "Mortimer sounds better," said he, after a while, "or Mandeville. Then there's Neville, and Desborough, and Ravenswood—all very good names, and yet none of them seems quite suitable. Still I must have a name that is beyond all question!" And Barnabas walked on more thoughtful than ever. All at once he stopped, and clapped hand to thigh.
"My mother's name, of course—Beverley; yes, it is an excellent name, and, since it was hers, I have more right to it than to any other. So Beverley it shall be—Barnabas Beverley—good!" Here Barnabas stopped and very gravely lifted his hat to his shadow.
"Mr. Beverley," said he, "I salute you, your very humble obedient servant, Mr. Beverley, sir, God keep you!" Hereupon he put on his hat again, and fell into his swinging stride.
"So," said he, "that point being settled it remains to master the intricacies of the bow." Saying which, he once more had recourse to the "priceless wollum," and walked on through the glory of the morning, with his eyes upon the valuable instructions of the "Person of Quality."
Now, as he went, chancing to look up suddenly, he beheld a gate-post. A very ancient gate-post it was—a decrepit gate-post, worn and heavy with years, for it leaned far out from the perpendicular. And with his gaze upon this, Barnabas halted suddenly, clapped the book to his bosom, and raising his hat with an elegant flourish, bowed to that gnarled and withered piece of timber as though it had been an Archduke at the very least, or the loveliest lady in the land.
"Ha! by Thor and Odin, what's all this?" cried a voice behind him. "I say what the devil's all this?"
Turning sharp about, Barnabas beheld a shortish, broad-shouldered individual in a befrogged surtout and cords, something the worse for wear, who stood with his booted legs wide apart and stared at him from a handsome bronzed face, with a pair of round blue eyes; he held a broad-brimmed hat in his hand—the other, Barnabas noticed, was gone from the elbow.
"Egad!" said he, staring at Barnabas with his blue eyes. "What's in the wind? I say, what the devil, sir—eh, sir?"
Forthwith Barnabas beamed upon him, and swept him another bow almost as low as that he had bestowed upon the gate-post.
"Sir," said he, hat gracefully flourished in the air, "your very humble obedient servant to command."
"A humble obedient fiddlestick, sir!" retorted the new comer. "Pooh, sir!—I say dammit!—are ye mad, sir, to go bowing and scraping to a gate-post, as though it were an Admiral of the Fleet or Nelson himself—are ye mad or only drunk, sir? I say, what d' ye mean?"
Here Barnabas put on his hat and opened the book.
"Plainly, sir," he answered, "being overcome with a sudden desire to bow to something or other, I bowed to that gate-post in want of a worthier object; but now, seeing you arrive so very opportunely, I' 11 take the liberty of trying another. Oblige me by observing if my expression is sufficiently engaging," and with the words Barnabas bowed as elaborately as before.
"Sink me!" exclaimed the one-armed individual, rounder of eye than ever, "the fellow's mad—stark, staring mad."
"No, indeed, sir," smiled Barnabas, reassuringly, "but the book here—which I am given to understand is wholly infallible—says that to bow is the most important item of a gentlemanly equipment, and in the World of Fashion—"
"In the World of Fashion, sir, there are no gentlemen left," his hearer broke in.
"I say no, sir, no one. I say, damme, sir—"
"I say there are no gentlemen in the fashionable world—they are all blackguardly Bucks, cursed Corinthians, and mincing Macaronies nowadays, sir. Fashionable world—bah, sir!"
"But, sir, is not the Prince himself—"
"The Prince, sir!" Here the one-armed gentleman clapped on his hat and snorted, "The Prince is a—prince, sir; he's also an authority on sauce and shoe-buckles. Let us talk of something more interesting—yourself, for instance."
"Sir," said he, "my name is Barnabas—Barnabas Beverley."
"Hum!" said the other, thoughtfully, "I remember a Beverley—a lieutenant under Hardy in the 'Agamemnon'—though, to be sure, he spelt his name with an 'l-e-y.'"
"So do I, sir," said Barnabas.
"Secondly, I am on my way to London."
"London! Egad! here's another of 'em! London, of course—well?"
"Where I hope to cut some figure in the—er—World of Fashion."
"Fashion—Gog and Magog!—why not try drowning. 'T would be simpler and better for you in the long run. London! Fashion! in that hat, that coat, those—"
"Sir," said Barnabas, flushing, "I have already—"
"Fashion, eh? Why, then, you must cramp that chest into an abortion, all collar, tail, and buttons, and much too tight to breathe in; you must struggle into breeches tight enough to burst, and cram your feet into bepolished torments—"
"But, sir," Barnabas ventured again, "surely the Prince himself is accountable for the prevailing fashion, and as you must know, he is said to be the First Gentleman in Europe and—"
"Fiddle-de-dee and the devil, sir!—who says he is? A set of crawling sycophants, sir—a gang of young reprobates and bullies. First Gentleman in—I say pish, sir! I say bah! Don't I tell you that gentlemen went out o' fashion when Bucks came in? I say there isn't a gentleman left in England except perhaps one or two. This is the age of your swaggering, prize-fighting Corinthians. London swarms with 'em, Brighton's rank with 'em, yet they pervade even these solitudes, damme! I saw one of 'em only half an hour ago, limping out of a wood yonder. Ah! a polished, smiling rascal—a dangerous rogue! One of your sleepy libertines—one of your lucky gamblers—one of your conscienceless young reprobates equally ready to win your money, ruin your sister, or shoot you dead as the case may be, and all in the approved way of gallantry, sir; and, being all this, and consequently high in royal favor, he is become a very lion in the World of Fashion. Would you succeed, young sir, you must model yourself upon him as nearly as may be."
"And he was limping, you say?" inquired Barnabas, thoughtfully.
"And serve him right, sir—egad! I say damme! he should limp in irons to Botany Bay and stay there if I had my way."
"Did you happen to notice the color of his coat?" inquired Barnabas again.
"Ay, 't was green, sir; but what of it—have you seen him?"
"I think I have, sir," said Barnabas, "if 't was a green coat he wore. Pray, sir, what might his name be?"
"His name, sir, is Carnaby—Sir Mortimer Carnaby."
"Sir Mortimer Carnaby!" said Barnabas, nodding his head.
"And, sir," pursued his informant, regarding Barnabas from beneath his frowning brows, "since it is your ambition to cut a figure in the World of Fashion, your best course is to cultivate him, frequent his society as much as possible, act upon his counsel, and in six months, or less, I don't doubt you'll be as polished a young blackguard as any of 'em. Good morning, sir."
Here the one-armed gentleman nodded and turned to enter the field.
"Sir," said Barnabas, "one moment! Since you have been so obliging as to describe a Buck, will you tell me who and what in your estimation is a gentleman?"
"A gentleman? Egad, sir! must I tell you that? No, I say I won't—the Bo'sun shall." Hereupon the speaker faced suddenly about and raised his voice: "Aft there!" he bellowed. "Pass the word for the Bo'sun—I say where's Bo'sun Jerry?"