Cradock Nowell: A Tale of the New Forest. Volume 2 of 3
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So it came to pass that the grand new carriage was ordered to the door, and Sir Cradock would himself have gone – only Rufus Hutton had left him, and the eloquence was oozing. The old man, therefore, turned back on the threshold, saying to himself that it would be hardly decent to appear in public yet; and Mrs. O?Gaghan was sent instead, sitting inside, and half afraid to breathe for fear of the crystal. As for her clothes, they were good enough, she knew, for the Lord Mayor?s coach. “Five–and–sixpence a yard, ma?am, lave alone trimming and binding.” But, knowing what she did of herbs, she could not answer for the peppermint.
Of course, they did not intend to fetch poor Eoa home yet; but Biddy had orders to stay there until the young lady was moveable. Biddy took to her at once, in her heavy, long–drawn sleep, with the soft black lashes now and then lifting from the rich brown cheek.
“An’ if she isn?t illigant, then,” said Biddy to Mrs. Brown, “ate me wi?out a purratie. Arl coom ov’ the blude, missus. Sazins, then, if me and Pat had oonly got a child this day! Belikes, ma?am, for the matter o’ that, a drap o’ whisky disagrays with you.”
Biddy, feeling strongly moved, and burning to drink her new child?s health, showed a bottle of brown potheen.
“To tell you the truth, mem,” said Mrs. Brown, “I know nothing about them subjects. Spirituous liquors is a thing as has always been beyond me.”
“Thin I?ll clap it away again,” said Biddy, “and the divvil only the wiser. I never takes it alone, marm.”
“It would ill become me, mem,” replied Mrs. Brown, “to be churlish in my own house, mem. I have heard of you very often, mem. Yes, I assure you I have, from the people as comes to bathe here, as a lady of great experience in diseases of the chest. If you recommend any cordial, mem, on the strength of your experience, for a female of weak witality, I should take it as a dooty, mem, strictly as a dooty to my husband and two darters.”
“Arrah, then, I?m your femmale. Me witality goes crossways, like, till I has a drap o’ the crather.” And so they made a night of it, and Mr. Brown had some.
Leave we now, with story pending, Biddy and Eoa, Pearl, and even Amy; thee, too, rare Bull, and thee, O Rufus, overcast with anger. It is time to track the steps of him whom Fortune, blithe at her cruel trade, shall track as far as Gades, Cantaber, and wild Syrtes, where the Moorish billow is for ever heaving. Will he exclaim with the poet, who certainly was a jolly mortal, – “I praise her while she is my guest. If she flap her nimble wings, I renounce her charities; and wrap me in my manhood robe, and woo the upright poverty, the bride without a dower.” “A very fine sentiment, Master Horace; but were you not a little too fond even of Sabine and Lesbian – when the Massic juice was beyond your credit – to do anything more than feel it?”
As Cradock Nowell trudged that night towards the Brockenhurst Station, before he got very far from Amy, and while her tears were still on his cheek, he felt a little timid lick, a weak offering of sympathy.
Hereby black Wena made known to him that she was melted by his misfortunes, and saw that the right and most feeling course, and the one most pleasing to her dead master, was the transfer of her allegiance, and the swearing of fealty to the brother.To which conclusion the tender mode in which she was being carried conduced, perhaps, considerably; for she was wrapped in Clayton?s woolly jacket, enthroned on Cradock?s broad right arm, and with only her black nose exposed to the moon. So she jogged along very comfortably, until she had made up her mind, and given Cradock the kiss of seisin.
“Dear little thing,” he cried, for he looked on her now as Amy?s keepsake, “you shall go with me wherever I go. You are faithful enough to starve with me; but you shall not starve until after me.”
Then he put her down, for he thought that a little run would do her good, and, in spite of all her misery, Amy had kept her pretty plump, plumper than she herself was; and it became no joke to carry her, with a travelling–bag, &c., after the first half mile.
Then Wena capered about, and barked, and came and licked his shoe, and offered to carry the coat for him. As he would not let her do this, she occupied her mind with the rabbits, which were out upon the feed largely, and were the last she would see for a long while, except the fat Ostenders.
When he got to London, and took small lodgings at a Mrs. Ducksacre?s, “greengrocer and general fruiterer, Mortimer–street, Cavendish–square,” – I quote from the lady?s bags: confound it, there! I am always saying improper things; honi soit– I mean, of course, her paper bags – it was not long before he made two important discoveries, valuable rather than gratifying.
The first of these discoveries was, that our university portals are a mere side–postern, and not the great janua mundi. He found his classical scholarship, his early fame at Oxford, his love of elegant literature, rather a disadvantage than a recommendation for business.
“Prigs, sir, prigs,” said a member of an eminent City firm; “of course, I don?t mean to be personal; but I have always found you Oxford men prigs, quite unfit for desk–work. You fancy you know so much; you are always discovering mare?s–nests, and you won?t bear to be spoken to, even if you stick to your work; which, I assure you, is quite the exception. Then you hold yourself aloof, with your stupid etiquette, from the other young men, who are quite as good as you are. I assure you, the place was too hot to hold us with the last Oxford man we took in the counting–house; he gave himself such airs, the donkey! I vowed never to do it again: and I never will, sir. Good morning, sir; Gregson, show this gentleman the way out.”
Gregson did so with a grin, for Cradock?s face proved that the principal had not been altogether wrong.
Is this prejudice, or, rather, perhaps, I should say, this aversion, disappearing now–a–days, or is it upon the increase? At any rate, one cause of it is being removed most rapidly; for the buckram etiquette of Oxford will soon become a tradition. We will only hope she may not run too far into the free and easy.
Cradock?s other discovery was that 50l. is no large capital to commence in life with, especially when the owner does not find his start prepared for him; fails to prepare it for himself; and has never been used to economy. He would not apply to any of his father?s friends, or of the people whom he had known in London, to help him in this emergency. He would rather starve than do that; for he had dropped all name and claim of Nowell, and cut his life in twain at manhood; and the parts should never join again. Only one feeling should be common to the two existences, to the happy and the wretched life; that one feeling was the love of Amy, and, what now seemed part of it, his gratitude to her father.
John Rosedew had given him a letter to a clergyman in London, a man of high standing and extensive influence, whom John had known at college. But the youth had not undertaken to deliver that credential, and he never did so. It would have kept him to his identity, which (so far as the world was concerned) he wished to change entirely, immediately, and irrevocably. So he called himself “Nowell” no longer – although the name is common enough in one form or another: the Nowells of Nowelhurst, however, are proud of the double l, and think a good deal of the w– and Cradock Nowell became “Charles Newman,” without license of Her Majesty.
Even before his vain attempts to enter the stronghold of commerce, and before he had learned that Oxford men are not thought “prima virorum,” he had lifted the latch of literature, but the door would not swing back for him. The mare magnum– to mix metaphors, although bars are added to the Lucrine – the mare magnum of letters was more like his native element; and, if he once could have gotten – bare–footed as we must be – over the jagged rocks which hedge that sea, I believe he might have swum there.
In one respect he was fortunate. The publishers upon whom he called were gentlemen, and told him the truth.
“Oh, poetry!” exclaimed one and all, as their eyes fell upon his manuscript, “we cannot take it on our own account; and, if we published it at your expense, we should only be robbing you.”
“Indeed!” replied Cradock, in the first surprise; “is there no chance, then, of a sale for it?”
“None whatever. Poetry, unless it be some one?s whose name is well known, is a perfect drug in the market. In the course of ten or a dozen years, by advertising continually, by influence among the reviewers, by hitting some popular vein, or being taken up by some authority, you might attain an audience. Are you ready to encounter all this? Even if you are, we must decline, we are sorry to say, to have anything to do with it.”
“Verse, eh? Better have cut your throat,” more tersely replied an elderly gentleman, well known for his rudeness to authors. However, even that last was a friend, when compared with some whom it might have been his evil luck to consult. They advertise their patent methods of putting a work before the public, without any risk to the author, &c. &c. Disinterested gentlemen! They are to have no profit whatever, except from the sale of the work, and they know they won?t sell five copies.
However, there are not many of this sort in an honourable and most important profession; and Cradock Nowell was lucky enough not to fall in with any of them. So he accepted the verdict so unanimously returned, and stored away with a heavy heart his laborious little manuscript. It was only a translation in verse of the Halieutics, and a few short original pieces – the former at any rate valuable, as having been revised by John Rosedew.
There are courts and alleys in the neighbourhood of Mortimer–street which, for misery and poverty, dirt and desperation, may vie with almost any of the more famous shames of London.
Cradock?s own great trouble, the sympathy he had met with, and the comfort he received from it, had begun by this time to soften his heart, and render it more sensitive to the distress of others. At first, it had been far otherwise. The feeling of bitter injustice, resentment at, and defiance of, a blow which seemed to him so unmerited, and, worse than all, his own father?s base and low mistrust of him – who could have been surprised if these things, acting upon a sad lone heart, and a bold mind beginning to think for itself, had made the owner an infidel? And very likely they would have done so, when he was removed from John Rosedew?s influence, but for that scene with Amy. He loved that girl so warmly, so devotedly, so purely, that, when he found his love returned in equal quantity and quality, it renewed his faith in justice. He saw that there is a measure and law, even where all appears to be anarchy and anomaly; that the hand of God is not stretched forth upon His children wantonly; that we cannot gauge His circling survey by the three–inch space between human eyes, neither does He rest His balance on His earthly footstool. So Cradock escaped the deadly harm, which almost seems designed to poise that noblest gift of Heaven – a free and glorious intellect – he escaped it through the mercy which gave him true affection.
And now once more he looked with love upon his fellow–men, such love as the frigid atheist school shall never form nor educate – which truth alone to a great heart might be conclusive against that school – the love which few religions except our own inculcate, and no other takes for its essence.
As yet he was too young to know the blind and inhuman selfishness, the formality and truckling, and the other paltry dishonesties, which still exist and try to cheat us under the name of “Society.” The cant is going by already. Every man who dares to think knows that its laws are obsolete, because they have not for their basis either of these three – truth, simplicity, charity.
Even that young man was astonished at the manner in which society ignores its broader and only true meaning – fellowship among men – and renounces all other duties, save that of shaking from its shoes its fellow–dust. He could not look upon the scenes so nigh to him, and to each other, parted often by nothing more than nine inches of brick or two inches of deal; the wealth and the want, the feast and the famine, the satiety and the ravening, the euphemy and the blasphemy – though sometimes that last got inside the door, blew its nose, and was infidelity; the prudery and the indecency, the whispered lie and the yelled one, the sale of maidens by their mothers, or of women by themselves – though here again the difference was never very perceptible; all this impious contrast, spread as if for God?s approval, for the Universal Father?s blessing, in the land most chiefly blessed by Him: which of His sons, not cast out for ever, could look on it without weeping?
Cradock did something more than weep. He went with his little stock of money, though he knew it could not do much; and he tried to help in little ways, though as yet he had no experience. He bought meat, and clothes, and took things out of pawn, and tried to make peace where fights were.
At first he was grossly insulted, as a meddlesome swell; but, when he had done two or three good things, and done them as a brother should, he began to be owned among them. In one thing he was right, although he had no experience; he confined his exertions to a very narrow compass. Of course he got imposed upon – of course he helped the unworthy; but after a while he began to know them, and even the unworthy – some two hundred per cent. – began to have faint ideas of trying to deserve good luck.
One man who attempted to pick Crad?s pocket was knocked down by the biggest thief there. “I wish I had a heap of money,” said Cradock, every day; “I must keep some for myself, I suppose. Perhaps, after all, I was wrong, in throwing up so hastily my chance of doing good.”
Then he remembered that, but for his trouble, he might never have thought of the good to be done. And the good done to him was threefold as much as he could do to others. Every day he grew less selfish, less imperious, less exacting; every day he saw more clearly the good which is in the worst of us.
There is a flint of peculiar character – I know not the local name of it – which is found sometimes on the great Chissel Bank, and away towards Lyme Regis. It is as hard, and sullen, and dull a flint (with even the outside polish lost from the chafing of the waves) – a stone as grey and foggy–looking; – as ever Deucalion took the trouble to cast away over the left into an empty world. Yet it has, through the heart of it, traversing it from pole to pole (for its shape is always conical) a thread, a spindle, a siphuncle, of the richest golden hue. None but those who are used to it can see the head of the golden column, can even guess its existence. The stone is not hollow; it is quite distinct from all pudding–stones and conglomerates.
Many such flints poor Crad came across, and sought in vain for the beauty of them. He never tried to split them with a hammer, as too many do of our Boanerg?; but he was too young to see or feel the chord of the golden siphuncle. One, especially, one great fellow, was harder and rougher than any flint, like the matrix of the concentric jasper.
“Confound that fellow,” said Cradock to himself; “I never shall get at the heart of him. If my pluck were up a little more. I?d fight him; though I know he would lick me. He?d be sorry for me afterwards.”
Issachar Jupp could lick any two men in the court. He was a bargee, of good intentions – at least, when he took to the cuddy; but his horses had pulled crosswise ever since; and the devil knew, better than the angels, what his nature now was.
“None of your d – d Scripture–reading for me!” he cried, when Cradock came near him; though the young man had never attempted anything of the sort.
He knew that the Word of God is not bread to a blackguard?s empty belly. And another thing he knew – that he was not of the age and aspect for John Bunyan?s business. Moreover, Jupp was wonderfully jealous of his wife, a gentle but grimy woman, forty–five years old, whom he larruped every day; although he might be an infidel, he would ensure his wife?s fidelity. Nevertheless, he had his pure vein, and Cradock at last got at it.
Mrs. and Miss Ducksacre were very good–hearted women, but, like many other women of that fibre, whose education has been neglected, of a hot and hasty order. Not that we need suppose the pepper to be neutralized by the refinement, only to be absorbed more equably, and transfused more generally.
A little thing came feeling the way into the narrow, dingy shop, one dark November evening, groping along by the sacks of potatoes (all of them “seconds,” for the firm did not deal much in “Ware Regents”), feeling its way along the sacks which towered above its head, like bulky snow–giants embrowned with thaw; and then by the legs of the “tatie–bin,” with the great scales hanging above it, and then by the heap of lighting–wood, piled in halfpenny bundles, with the ends against the wall; and so the little thing emerged between two mighty hills of coleworts, and under the frugal gas–burner, and congratulated itself, with a hug of the heart, upon safety.
“Take care, my dear,” cried Mrs. Ducksacre, looking large behind the counter, “or you?ll tumble down the coal–trap, where the black bogeys lives. Bless my heart, if it ain?t little Loo! Why, Loo, I hardly knew you. You ain?t looking like yourself a bit, child. And who sent you out at this time of night? What a shame, to be sure!”
Loo, the pride of Issachar Jupp, was rather a pretty little body, about three and a half years old, “going on for four,” as she loved to say, if anybody asked her; and her pale but clean face would have been very pretty, if her mother would have let her hair alone. But it was all combed back, and tied tightly behind, like the tail of a horse at a fair, or as affording a spout to pour the little girl out by. She looked up at Mrs. Ducksacre, while her fingers played with the coleworts, for her hands were hot, and this cooled them; and then, with the instinct of nature, she stuck up for her father and mother.
“Pease, ma?am, Loo not fray much,” – though her trembling frock belied her, all over the throat and the heart of it – “and father don from home, ma?am, on the Wasintote” [Basingstoke canal], “and mother dot nobody, on?y Loo, to do thins. And she send this, ‘cause Loo?s poor troat be bad, ma?am.”
The little child, whose throat was tied up with worn flannel from the char–bucket, with the grey edge still upon it, wriggled in and out of her shape and self, in the way only children can do; and at length drew, from some innermost shrine, a halfpenny and a farthing.
“And what am I to give you for it, Loo? Oh, you poor little thing, how very hoarse you are!”
Loo, with a confidence in human nature purely non–Londinian, had placed her cash upon the altar, upon the inside of which so many worship, while on the outside so many are sacrificed; without circumlocution, the counter. Her eyes were below the rim of it, till she stood upon tiptoe with one foot, while the other was up in the colewort roots, and then she could see the money, and she poked out her little lips at it, as if she would fain suck it back again.
“Pease, ma?am, Loo?s troat so bad, mother are goin to make a ‘tew, tree ha?porth of tipe and a ha?porth of ‘egents, and a fardy of inons!”
“What a splendid stew, Loo!” said Mrs. Ducksacre, seeming to smell it; “and so you want a ha?porth of taties, and a farthing?s worth of onions. And you shall have them, my dear, and as good a three farthings’ worth as ever was put up in London. Where are you going to put them all?”
Loo opened her sore throat, and pointed down it. She had not yet lost her appetite; and that child did love tripe so.
“No, no, I don?t mean that, Loo. I know you have a nice room inside; though some will be for mother, won?t it, now? I mean, how are you going to carry it home?”
“In Loo?s pinney,” replied the child, delighted with her success; for ever so many people had told her, that the Ducksacres now were getting so high, they would soon leave off making farthings–worths; and any tradesman who does that is above the sphere of the street–child.
“My dear, your pinney won?t hold them, potatoes are so cheap now” – she had just sworn they were awfully dear to a person she disliked – “I am sure you can?t carry a ha?porth. Oh, Mr. Newman, you are so good–natured” – Cradock was just coming in, rather glum from another failure – “I really don?t believe you would think you were bemeaning yourself by going home with this poor little atom.”
“I should rather hope I would not,” replied Cradock, looking grand.
“Oh, I did not know. I beg your pardon, I?m sure. I would go myself, only Sally is out, and the boy gone home ever so long ago. I beg your pardon, I?m sure, Mr. Newman; I thought you were so good–natured.”
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