Richard Blackmore.

Cradock Nowell: A Tale of the New Forest. Volume 3 of 3





For once in her life Mrs. Corklemore was deprived of all presence of mind, ghostly horror being added to bodily fear of Eoa. She fain would have fled, but her limbs gave way, and she fell back into a soft French chair, and covered her face with both hands. Then Eoa, looking tall and delicate in her simple mourning dress, walked up to her very quietly, leading Cradock as if she were proud of him.

I have taken the liberty, Mrs. Corklemore, of bringing my cousin Cradock to see you, because it may save trouble.

I trust you will forgive, said Cradock, our very sudden invasion. We are come upon a matter of business, to save unpleasant exposures and disgrace to our distant relatives.

Oh, gasped poor Mrs. Corklemore, you are alive, then, after all? It was proved that you had lost your life upon the coast of Africa.

Yes, but it has proved otherwise, Cradock answered, bowing neatly.

And it would have been so much better, under the sad, sad circumstances, for all people of good feeling, and all interested in the family.

For the latter, perhaps it would, madam; but not so clearly for the former. I am here to protect my father from all machinations.

Leave her to me, cried Eoa, slipping prettily in front of him, I understand her best, because because of my former vocation. And I think she knows what I am.

That I do, answered Georgie, cleverly interposing first a small enamelled table; not only an insolent, but an utterly reckless creature.

You may think so, Eoa replied, with calm superiority; but that only shows your piteous ignorance of the effects of discipline. I am now so sedate and tranquil a woman, that I do not hate, but scorn you.

Cradock could not help smiling at this, knowing what Eoa was.

We want no strong expressions, my dear, on one side or the other, for he saw that a word would have overthrown Eoa?s newborn discipline; Mrs. Corklemore is far too clever not to perceive her mistake. She knows quite well that any inquiry as to my dear father?s state of mind can now be of no use to her. And if she thinks of any further proceedings against myself, perhaps she had better first look at just this just this document.

He laid before her a certificate, granted by three magistrates, that indisputable evidence had been brought before them as to the cause and manner of Clayton Nowell?s death, and that Cradock Nowell had no share in it, wittingly or unwittingly. That was the upshot of it; but of course it extended to about fiftyfold the length.

Mrs. Corklemore bent over her, in her most bewitching manner, and perused it very leisurely, as if she were examining Flore?s attempts at pothooks. Meanwhile, with a sideglint of her eyes, she was watching both of them; and it did not escape her notice that Eoa was very pale.

To be sure, she said at last, looking full at the Eastern maid, I see exactly how it was. I have thought so all along.

A female Thug must be charmed, of course, by the only son of a murderer. My dear, I do so congratulate you.

Thank you, answered Eoa, and the deep gaze of her lustrous eyes made the clever woman feel a world unopened to her; I thank you, Georgie Corklemore, because you know no better. My only wish for you is, that you may never know unhappiness, because you could not bear it.

Saying so, she turned away, and, with her light, quick step, was gone, before her enemy could see a symptom of the welling tears which then burst all control. But Cradock, who had dwelt in sorrow, compared to which hers was a joke, stayed to say a few soft words, and made a friend for evermore of the woman who had plotted so against his life and all his love.

Madame la Comtesse since that time has seen much tribulation, and is all the better for it. Mr. Corklemore died of the gout, and the angel Flore of the measles; and she herself, having nursed them both, and lost some selfishness in their graves, is now (as her destiny seemed to be) the wife of Mr. Chope. Of course she is compelled to merge her strong will in a stronger one, and, according to nature?s Salique law, is the happier for doing so. Whether this union will produce a subject for biography to some unborn Lord Campbell, time alone can show.

From the above it will be clear that poor Eoa Nowell was now acquainted with the secret of the Garnet family. Bob himself had told her all, about a month after his father?s death, renouncing at the same time all his claims upon her. Of that Eoa would not hear; only at his urgency she promised to consult her friends, and take a week to think of it. And this was the way she kept her promise.

First she ran up to Cradock Nowell, with the bright tears still upon her cheeks, and asked him whether he had truly and purely forgiven his injurer. He took her hand, and answered her with his eyes, in which the deepened springs of long affliction glistened, fixed steadily upon hers.

As truly and purely as I hope to be forgiven at the judgmentday.

Then that settles that matter. Now order the dogcart, Crady dear, and drive me to Dr. Hutton?s.

Of course he obeyed her immediately, and in an hour they entered the gate of Geopharmacy Lodge. Rosa was amazed at her beauty, and thought very little, after that, of Mrs. Corklemore?s appearance.

For my part, said Rufus Hutton, when Eoa had laid the case before him in a privy council, although it is very good of you, and very flattering to me, that you look upon me still as your guardian, I think you are bound first of all to consult Sir Cradock Nowell.

How very odd! Now that is exactly what I do not mean to do. He never can understand, poor dear, and I hope he never will, the truth about poor Clayton?s death. His present conviction is, like that of all the neighbourhood, that Black Will the poacher did it, the man who has since been killed in a fight with Sir Julius Wallop?s gamekeepers. And it would shock poor uncle so; I am sure he would never get over it if the truth were forced upon him. And if it were, I am sure he would never allow me to have my way, which, of course, I should do in spite of him. And I am not his heiress now, since Cradock came to life again. But I have plenty of money of my own; and I have quite settled what to give him the day that I am married, and you too, my dear guardy, if you behave well about this. Look here!

She drew forth a purse quite full of gold, and tossed it in her old Indian style, so that Rufus could not help laughing.

Well, my dear, he answered kindly, who could resist such bribery? Besides, I see that your mind is made up, and we all know what the result of that is. And after all, the chief question is, what effect will your knowledge of this have on your love for your husband?

It will only make me love him more, ever so much more, because of his misfortune.

And will you never allude to it, never let him see that you think of it, so as to spoil his happiness?

Is it likely I should think of it? Why, my father must have killed fifty men. He was desperate in a battle. And Bob has never brought that up against me.

Well, if you take it in that light decidedly not an English light

And perhaps you never heard that Bob?s father, by his quickness and boldness, saved the lives of fifteen men in a colliery explosion before he ever came to Nowelhurst, and therefore he had a perfect right to to

Take the lives of fifteen others. Fourteen to his credit still. Well, Eoa, you can argue, if any female in the world can. Only in one thing, my dear child, be advised by me. If you must marry Robert Garnet, leave this country for a while, and take his sister Pearl with you.

Of course I must marry Bob, said Eoa; and of course I should go away with him. But as to taking Pearl with us, why, that?s a thing to be thought about.

However, they got over that, as well as all other difficulties; Sir Cradock Nowell was at the wedding, Mr. Rosedew performed the ceremony, and Rufus Hutton gave away as lovely a bride as ever was seen. Bob Garnet spied a purple emperor, who had lost his way, knocking his head in true imperial fashion against the chancelwindow, and he glanced at Eoa about it, between the two I wills, and she lifted her beautiful eyebrows, and he saw that she meant to catch him. So, after signing the register, they contrived to haul him down, without letting John Rosedew know it; then at the chancelporch they let him go free of the Forest, with his glorious wings unsoiled. Not even an insect should have cause to repent their weddingday.

And now they live in as fair a place as any the world can show, not far from Pezo da Ragoa, in the Alto Douro district. There Eoa?s children toddle by the brilliant river?s brink, and form their limbs to strength and beauty up the vineclad mountain?s side. Bob has invested his share of proceeds in a vineyard of young Bastardo, and Muscat de Jesu; moreover, he holds a good appointment under the Royal Oporto Company, agricultural of the vine. Many a time Eoa sits watching with her deep bright eyes the purple flow of the luscious juice from the white marble lagar, wherein the hardy peasants, with their drawers tied at the knee, tramp to the time of the violin to and fro, without turning round, among the pulpy flood. Then Bob, who has discovered a perfect cure for oidium, and knows how to deal with every grub that bores into or nips the vine, to his wife and bairns he comes in haste, having been too long away, bringing a bunch of the ladies? fingers, or the Barrete de Clerigo, or it may be some magnificent insect new to his entomology; or, still more interesting prize, a letter from Pearl or Amy, wherein Mrs. Pell, or Nowell, gossips of the increasing cares which increase her happiness. Yet even among those lovely scenes, and under that delicious sky, frequent and fond are the glances cast by hope, as well as memory, at the bowered calm of the Forest brooks, and the brown glamour of the beechwood.

And when they return to dwell in the Forest, and to end their days there, even Bob will scarcely know the favourite haunts of his boyhood to such an extent has Cradock Nowell planted and improved, clothing barren slopes with verdure, adding to the wealth of woods many a new tint and tone, by the aid of foreign trees unknown to his father. In doing so, his real object is not so much to improve the estate, or gratify his own good taste, or even that of Amy; but to find labour for the hands, and food for the mouths, of industrious people. Sir Cradock grumbles just a little every now and then, because, like all of us Englishmen, he must have his grievance. But, on the whole, he is very proud of what his son is doing, and thoroughly enjoys his power of urging or repressing it.

And if on theoretic matters any question chances to arise between them, when one says no to the other?s yes as all true Britons are bound to do upon politics, port wine, and parsons, then a gentle spirit comes and turns it all to laughter, with the soft and pleasant wit of a wellbred woman?s ignorance. For Amy still must have her say, and still asserts her privilege to flavour every dull discussion with lively words, and livelier glances, and a smile for both the disputants. Then Cradock looks at his dear young wife with notes of admiration, and bids her keep such piquant wisdom for the councils of the nursery. Upon which pleasant reminder, the old man chuckles, as if some very good thing had been said; then craftily walks with a spotted toy, capable of barking and exactly representing Caldo or Wena, whichever you please, to the foot of certain black oakstairs, where he fully expects to hear the prattle of small Clayton.

To wit, it has been long resolved, and managed with prospective wisdom down the path of years, that the county annals shall not be baulked of a grand Sir Clayton Nowell. And a very grand fellow indeed he is, this twoyearold Clayton Nowell grand in the stolid sageness of his broad and steadfast gaze, grand in the manner of his legs and his Holbein attitude, grander still in stamping when his meat and ale are late, but grandest of all, immeasurably grand, in the eyes of his grandfather.

Hogstaff, whose memory is quite gone, and his hearing too of every sound except the voice of this boy, identifies him beyond all cavil with the Clayton of our story. Many a time the bowed retainer chides his little master for not remembering the things he taught him only yesterday. Then Cradock smiles at his son?s oblivion of the arts his uncle learned, but never reminds old Hoggy that the yesterday was rather more than fiveandtwenty years ago.

Is it true or is it false, according to the rules of art, that the windingup of a long, long story, handled with more care than skill, should have some resemblance to the will of a kindlynatured man? In whose final dispositions, no dependent, however humble, none who have helped him in the many pages of his life, far less any intimate friend, seeks in vain a grateful mention or a token of regard.

Be that as it may, any writer who loves his work (although a fool for doing so) feels the end and finish of it like the signature of his will. And doubly saddened must he be, if the scenes which charmed him most, and cast upon him such a spell that he could not call spectators in, if these, for want of skill, have wearied eyes and hearts he might have pleased.

For surely none would turn away, whose nature is uncancelled, if once he could be gently led into that world of beauty. To rest in the majesty of shade, forgetting weary headache; to let the little carking cares, avarice and jealousy, selfconceit and thirst of fame, fly away on the wild wood, like the piping of a bird; to hear the rustle of young leaves, when their edges come together, and dreamily to wonder at the size of things above us.

Shall ever any man enclasp the good that grows above him, or even offer to receive the spread of Heaven?s greatness? Yet every man may lift himself above the highest treetops, even to the throne of God, by loving and forgiving.

And verily, some friends of ours, who could not once forego a grudge, are being taught, by tare and trett, how much they owe their Maker, and how little to themselves. First of these is Rufus Hutton, quite a jolly mortal, getting fat, and riding Polly for the sake of his liver and renes. And all he has to say is this: first, that he will match trees and babies with those of any nurseryman; next, that as I have a knack of puffing good people and good things, he begs for reciprocity on the part of superior readers. And if this should chance to meet the eye of any one who knows where to find a really firstrate Manilla, conducted on freetrade principles, such knowing person, by addressing, confidentially under seal, R. H., Postoffice, Ringwood, may hear of something very greatly to his own advantage.

Now do we, without appeal to the blue smoke of enthusiasm, know of anything to the advantage of anybody whatever? Yes, I think we do. We may highly commend the recent career of the Ducksacre firm, and Mr. Clinkers, and Issachar Jupp the bargee. Robert Clinkers and Polly his wife are driving a firstrate business in coal and coke and riddlings, not highly aristocratic perhaps, but free from all bad debts. You may see the name on a great brassplate near the Broadway, Hammersmith, on the left hand, where the busses stop. But Mr. Jupp flies at higher game. He has turned his length of wind, that once secured the palm of victory in physical encounters, to a higher and nobler use. In a word, Mr. Jupp is a Primitive Christian upon and beside the waters of Avon. There you may hear him preaching and singing through his nose alternately ah, me, that is not what I mean for either proceeding is nasal every Sunday and Wednesday evening, when the leaks in the punt allow him. He gets fiveandthirty shillings aweek, as Sir Cradock?s waterbailiff, and he has not stolen twig or catkin of all the trees he convoys down Avon. In seven or eight more summers, little Loo Jupp will probably be the prettiest girl in the Forest. May we be there to see her!

The best and kindest man of all who have said their say in my story, and not thrust their merits forward, John Rosedew, still leads his quiet life, nearer and nearer to wisdom?s threshold, nearer and nearer to the door of God. His temper is as soft and sweet, his memory as bright and ready, and his humour as playful, as when he was only thirty years old, and walked every day to Kidlington. As for his shyness, that we must never ask him to discard; because he likes to know us first, and then he likes to love us.

But of all the people in the world, next to his own child Amy, most he loves and most he honours his soninlaw, Cradock Nowell

Cradock Nowell, so enlarged and purified by affliction, so able now to understand and feel for every poor man. He, when placed in large possessions and broad English influence, never will forget the time of darkness, grief, and penury, never will look upon his brethren, as under another God than his.

It is true that we must have hill and valley, towering oak and ragged robin, zenith cloud overlooking the sun, and mist crouching down in the hollows. And true as well that we cannot see all the causes and needs of the difference. But is it not still more true and sure, that the whole is of one universal kingdom (bound together by one great love), the high and low, the rich and poor, the powerful and the helpless? And in the spreading of that realm, beyond the shores of time and space, when at last it is understood what the true aim of this life has been, not greatness, honour, wealth, or science, no, nor even wisdom as we unwisely take it but happiness here and hereafter, a flowing tide whose fountain is our love of one another, then shall we truly learn by feeling (whereby alone we can learn) that all the cleaving of our sorrow, and cuts into the heart of us, were nothing worse than preparation for the grafts of God.

THE END

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