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I've done and contas well shaped,
got so I thought in Shtly read in the
My Time, and what I've done with it.
151 he said he had recently read in the hand that I could see was well shaped, papers.
even in the ill-fitting black glove. So, I thought, he doubted me, and “That," I said, “ was our usher, Mr. got the newspaper himself.
Venn.” Uncle Van had himself seen, he said, “ No," she answered, rudely, “that and talked with the chief officer, and won't do." relief had been afforded to all the “That is his name." sufferers, with the exception of one Before I could utter another word, she person, a woman of notoriously bad had pounced upon my wrist, and was character, who had left the Refuge pulling me towards the door. where she had been hospitably lodged, “In there I mean," she said, stopping and had not been seen since. As for exactly opposite. the cargo, nothing had been recovered. At this moment the door opened, and nor was it likely now that they would Venn himself appeared. hear any more of it.
Seeing us, he recoiled one step. Mr. Venn, looking at his watch, said The woman released me. he must be going in to lessons, but gave “Mr. Venn?” she inquired, in a me permission to accompany my uncle tone of mock politeness. to the end of the road, where I could He recovered himself quickly. point out to him the shortest way to the “Yes. Go in,” he said, turning to town.
me; “I was coming in search of you. After parting from Uncle Van, I Go in, and wait for me in the schoolturned back leisurely, and seeing that yard." I could not be observed from the school Then the door was closed behind me, windows, I ventured to stop and look and locked on the outside. about for the person whom I had sup- I listened, and heard their footsteps posed to be the old woman with her as they walked slowly away, along the forbidden tray.
road, in the direction of the town, toAs I approached the breach in the gether. wall, she stepped out. It was not the one I had expected, and I was rather
CHAPTER IX. -startled by her strange excited manner, -a middle-aged woman, of slatternly
I RECEIVE AN INVITATION. appearance, a face that had been handsome, and eyes that were still fine, PRESENTLY the key turned in the lock, though wild and roving.
and Mr. Venn entered. Quite blithely "Come here,” she said, addressing for him. “A poor mad woman," he me harshly.
explained cautiously; " take no notice of I stopped where I was, fearful of her if you ever see her again. You'd -advancing towards her.
better not say anything about her to “I shan't hurt you," she said, with a the boys, or the small ones might be half-drunken laugh.
frightened. Besides, Dr. Carter would I did not feel at all sure on this point, punish you for speaking to her. Howand was ready to take to my heels. I ever, I shall not mention it to him.” was not the Napoleon's Old Guard. I So we went into work. He was would not yield, but I would run. rather cheerful that afternoon, I re
Seeing me undecided, she came close member. up to me.
At bedtime I told Austin Comber"Who was that man you were talk- wood all about it, and he asked me if ing to?"
she was anything like Meg Merrilies in “Which ?” I asked, summoning all “Guy Mannering." my courage.
This started our usual evening's “The one who went in at that door," entertainment, and I was soon deeply she replied, indicating the spot with a interested in Walter Scott.
We looked out for the mad woman apples inside, sentiments of the utmost next day, but saw nothing of her. friendship towards me were expressed
Austin Comberwood used to tell me by every boy in the school. how he spent his holidays, and it was When Nurse called I was very shy, quite a treat to hear him talk of his and found some difficulty in asking after sister Alice, his brother Dick, and his the health of the Verneys, politely sinmother. I told him that I had no gling out Julie for special mention. mother, which seemed so odd to him, “Good-bye, dear, and God bless you," that he was silent for some time, and said Nurse Davis at parting; “ if you're then he questioned me about my holi- not too proud to see me when you come days, and I was able to tell him about home for the holidays—-". the theatres and the London amuse I protested against her thinking that ments I had been to, that was all. But I should be proud. But somehow I he, too, knew of these, so that his en- felt that there was truth in it. joyment of the country far outbalanced "—- And," she continued, "if you anything within my experience.
ain't yet ashamed of seeing your old Thus it chanced that I was lonely in Nurse--" the holidays, when I had only servants Again I protested, and again I felt for associates ; but happy at school, for that she was right. I got on well with the boys, and Austin “Well, dear, I hope you never will Comberwood was my very dear friend; be either too proud or ashamed to speak but I really could have saved up my to those as loves you, and as has brought pocket-money with pleasure, and paid you up and known you from a child; and an uncle to visit me regularly, just to if your Aunt Clym only takes as much show my companions that I had some care of you as I've done, and as I'd ha' friends in the world worth knowing. done still, if I'd been let alone, I shall
There was one excellent creature who be glad to hear of it.” never forgot me, and that was Nurse She always disliked Mrs. Van Clym, Davis. She called at Old Carter's, but and so, I said, did I, and positively the grandeur of the house, the corpulency scorned the idea of their being any comof the butler, the haughty condescension parison between her and my nurse. of Dr. Carter, and the snappishness of For this I was rewarded with an emhis wife frightened her off the premises. brace, after which the hamper was shown She did not come a second time. I was to me in the hall; then repeating her not sorry for this result. I confess it blessing, and with tears in her eyes, as against myself, and a fault of the she gave me a last kiss, and, without snobbishness of boyhood, that I had disturbing His Corpulency, The Butler, grown out of Nurse Davis, as I had out I let her out of Old Carter's front door. of pinafores.
I sat down in the hall and cried when When I returned to the schoolroom, she had gone. At night too I awoke sudand was asked who had been to see me, denly, and thought of her; and as it I coloured, and refused to answer. Then, crossed my mind that I had been hard somehow, it got about, through the boy and unkind in my reception of her that who cleaned the boots, who had heard day, I burst out crying again, silently, it from the butler, I think, that it was though, on account of my companion, my nurse, and I was so teased and bul. and dropped so many heavy tears on lied on the subject, that nothing short one side of my pillow, that I was obliged of a fight with the two Biffords both at to try the other, as dry, cool, and reonce, which ended in their pitching freshing, and finally, as a stroke of into one another, and a declaration of genius, to turn it altogether, and begin active war against the whole school, my slumbers afresh. could settle the question. When they One night, just before Austin Comberfound she had brought me a hamper, wood, who was really quite a Scheheraand that there were cake and wine and Zade in his story-telling, had commenced the recital of “Guy Mannering," which deeply and at once. I say “at once," had reached its third night's entertain- as the Colvin failing is impulsiveness. ment, he said, from under his coverlet, - It may be directed for good or for evil, “ Cecil.”
and so be a blessing or a curse ; a “Well, Austin."
strong point in a character, or its “Would you like to come home with weakest. I remember, as well as I reme next holidays ?”.
member anything, our conversation on “Very much.” My first invitation. this night, and my great desire to see
“Mamma wrote to tell me to ask you Alice Comberwood. if your papa would let you."
“We're going to have some thea“Oh, of course he will," I replied tricals,” said Austin. warmly.
- “What, with a stage and lights, and "And you're to stay a long time.” dressed up as characters ?" I inquired, “What fun !"
thinking of my early successes with “Dick will be there, and Alice. Der Freischutz and Co. You'll like my sister Alice so much.” “We dress up," he answered ; "and
I was sure I should. I should like Dick, who can carpenter and paint, ho everybody and everything down at- makes a scene. We often act, Alice what was the name of the place where and I and Dick, and sometimes our he lived ?
cousins. Nelly plays the piano for us.” "Ringhurst Whiteboys."
“ Who's Nelly ?" Whiteboys ! how we laughed at the “My eldest sister. She's married name. In itself it was full of promise now, and her husband's a clergyman.” of amusement. Who were the White- “I may act, mayn't I ?" I asked, boys ? Were they ghosts? This was a with some diffidence. dangerous subject in the dark, and “Oh yes. Alice såys in her letter that Austin set me right at once.
if you come you shall be Blue Beard." "No," he told me, “they were monks I was delighted ! " And who was to. who had lived there a long time ago (I be Fatima ?” will tell you next Scott's 'Monastery and “Oh, Alice, of course.” “The Abbot'), and who used to dress in Alice Comberwood Blue Beard's white. They were called the White wife—mine in fact ! In imagination-I Friars, and Friars in French meant bro- was then thirteen-I had already, as thers, and so the people came to call Blue Beard, allied myself to the Comthem the Whiteboys."
berwood family. Austin Comberwood, who was better So we fell to talking over our dresses informed than any boy of his own age and our scenes, and I ventured to conwhom I have ever met before or since, fide to him such theatrical knowledge: had answered my question with the as I possessed, and said how I could degravity befitting the subject. He was pend upon Nurse Davis and Mr. Verney older, too, than most boys in his ways, to help me with a dress; and then I and was looked upon by most of us told him as much about them as I could,, as a bookworm. His memory was consistently with my own dignity and excellent, as I have shown; and not importance as the future Blue Beard,, being so robust as his companions, possessor of his sister Alice; but I kept he was allowed to bring one of his silence as to the details of Frampton's. favourite books out of doors to read, Court, and the Verneys' mode of life, while others played. There was some and absolutely did not once mention thing so gentle, so feminine about him, little Julie. that I entertained, it seemed to me, to- Then we dropped off to sleep, without wards him much the same kind of affec- “Guy Mannering,” and only thought. tion as I should have had for a sister of the play-acting, which no doubt. I felt, too, when he mentioned his entered largely into our dreams that. sister, that I was prepared to love her night.
Uncle Van adjusted his spectacles, CHRISTMAS INVITATION- ACCEPTED_HIDE
-stared, chuckled, and asked what was
the matter. Whereupon my father, AND SEEK-A MYSTERIOUS MEETINGSILENCE IS GOLDEN.
looking less anxious than I had seen
him since my return, took him by the A MEMORABLE Christmas. Not the arm and walked him into his brougham, day itself, though that was always a which was waiting to transport him to pleasant time for me. I rejoiced in new the city. shillings and sixpences fresh from the On their departure I proposed KenMint, coined, I supposed, purposely for sington Gardens. Thither we went, Christmas presents. My father seemed adjured and admonished, but unaccom to be worried and annoyed about some- panied. thing, and he and Mr. Cavander were Robbers and brigands among the now seldom apart.
trees were our favourite games. There Just before Christmas Day came a were no rules except those of a fair start formal invitation from Austin Comber- to be given to whoever was to assume wood addressed to me, to be referred of the lawless character, generally myself. course to my father. This proposal he These games were inspired by that love bade me accept at once. I was to of frightening one another common to leave on the Saturday; he had already all children. To hide anywhere, even arranged to depart on some urgent though it be in the same place day after business the day before. Had I not day, and then to rush out suddenly, or been thus comfortably disposed of, I even to be caught when the surrender should have been sent to Aunt Clym's itself would be of a startling nature, during my father's absence, for he ex- seem to be among the first notions of pected to be away a week or a fort juvenile amusement. night.
Exulting in my superior knowledge At my father's request, Uncle Van no of the domain which I had well-nigh doubt would see me into the train for come to look upon as my preserves, 1 Ringhurst. Uncle Herbert was away. was not only able to hide without much
Our house was not so far from Ken- chance of detection, but could follow sington Gardens but that I could be them, after they had passed my place of trusted to roam about there alone, and concealment, and harass them in the report myself safely to the housemaid rear. and cook at dinner-time. Kensington On this day I chose a large tree not Gardens, therefore, had, during the holi- far from the boundary railings, and well days, become my playground, and I was in view of one of the summer-houses on intimate terms with the park-keepers, in the walk beyond ; that is, in Hyde the refreshment-stall people, and the Park. waterfowl. When my Člym cousins I was deliberating whether I should came to spend a day with me, I took occupy my time in purchasing refreshthem, by way of treat, to my gardens, ments at the gate, or should await my and introduced them to the acquaint- cousins' arrival, when a gentleman and ances above mentioned.
lady walked within a few yards of me Now it so chanced, that while my towards the entrance to the Park. They father was turning over in his mind in were not following the beaten track, but whose custody I should be sent to the crossing the grass. Neither figure was railway station on Saturday, labelled for strange to me, except so far as it was Ringhurst, Uncle Van appeared with strange to see either there. One I could two of my Clym cousins, whom he had not mistake, and when he turned round, brought to see me, and for whom their as if looking out for some one to meet mamma was to call in the afternoon. him, I said to myself distinctly, “ Why,
My father told Mr. Clym he was just it's Venn !” the man he wanted to see, whereat Mr. Venn decidedly. And with him
I recognized the odd woman who had But this was quite a formal phrase with stopped me opposite our school-door. him. Mr. Cavander was already in the
He was too much associated with carriage, and he did not hear the reschool for me to be inclined to welcome mark. I was glad of this, as, disliking him in the holidays; and for his com- him intensely, the prospect seemed to panion, once of her had been more than be a bad compliment to Mr. Cavander, enough for me. So I held my tongue, and calculated to make him more my remained in ambush, and waited for enemy than ever. them to quit the Gardens, as they were The theatre intervened, and I had evidently on the point of doing. enough to talk about to my father next
I watched them out by the gate. morning, though he did not prove much They had been conversing earnestly ; of an audience, being apparently nervous now they stood still without saying a and fidgety. His portmanteau was word, but each turning from the other packed, and he was leaving. to explore the distance.
He gave me five pounds, and hoped Evidently whoever they had been that that would be sufficient for me at expecting was disappointing them. Ringhurst. I stared, and, perversely
They walked towards the Park slowly enough, was not profuse in thanks. The
A carriage pulled up at the rails, close amount had paralysed my gratitude. by the bridge over the Serpentine. I did not understand then that I was
The door opened, and out stepped about to represent him at Mr. ComberMr. Cavander.
wood's, and the ambassador's uniform He met Mr. Venn and his companion ; ought to be something more than ordithen with them he returned to the car- nary. I had in view various investments riage, which the three entered, Mr. Venn for my five sovereigns, and a wish to and the woman first, Mr. Cavander de- show them to Austin Comberwood all laying a second to give the coachman at once. Also it seemed to me that I some directions.
should appear before his sister Alice These being ended, he too got in, as a gentleman of more weight with closed the door himself, and in another my five pounds than with one. minute or so the carriage was lost to my “After next half-year," observed my view.
father, “you will go to Holyshade, and This meeting seemed to me, then, to then when you come back for the holihave something to do with me at school days you will be quite a man." Flogging perhaps. I did not know what Always the same burden to his song. to make of it. My cousins came up and 'Then he said good-bye to me, observed caught me for the first time in their that he should certainly ask Mr. Comlives in my hiding-place.
berwood to dinner (as a reward, I supThey did not know anything about pose, for having invited me for a week) Mr. Venn or Mr. Cavander, and only on his return to town, and so left me ; cared for my playing with them. So at and all that for the time remained to me it we went again till dinner-time. In of my father, so to speak, were my five the evening I thought of mentioning it golden sovereigns jingling in my trouser to my father, but he returned home with pocket. Mr. Cavander, who was dressed for dinner, and after making his toilette
CHAPTER XI. they left together.
UNCLE VAN'S DIFFICULTY-PIPKISON TO I said good night to my father in the hall, and in answer to a request, where
THE RESCUE—THE BAA-LAMBS-DISunto I was prompted from the kitchen,
TINGUISHED CHARACTERS-ON THE he told me that if I liked to go to a
PLATFORM—I MEET AN OLD FRIEND theatre in company with one of the
IN A NEW DRESS. servants I could do so. “ You will soon UNCLE VAN had looked in at the last be able to go about with me,” he added. moment to undertake the charge of me