Richard Blackmore.

Cradock Nowell: A Tale of the New Forest. Volume 1 of 3





My boy, you know it hurts me a great deal more than you, says the hypocritical usher, who rather enjoys the caneswing. The boy knows it is hypocrisy, and is morally hurt more than physically. But wholly different is the result when the patient knows and feels the deep love of the agent, and cannot help believing that justice has flogged the judge. And hitherto their flesh had been intemerate and inviolable; the strictest orders had been issued that none should dare to slap them, and all were only too prone to coax and pet the beautiful angels. Little angels: treated so, they would soon have been little devils. As for the warning given last week, they thought it a bit of facetiousness: so now was the time, of all times, to strike temperately, but heavily.

That night they went to bed before dark, without having cared for tea or toast, and Biddy?s soft heart ached by the pillow, as they lay in each other?s arms, hugged one another, having now none else in the world to love, and sobbed their little troubles off into moaning slumber.

On the following morning, without any concert or debate, and scarcely asking why, the little things went hand in hand, united more than ever by the recent visitation, as far as the door of their father?s bedroom. There they slank behind a curtain; and when he came out, the rings above fluttered with fear and love and hope. Much as the father?s heart was craving, he made believe to walk onward, till Craddy ran out, neck or nothing, and sprang into his arms.

After this great event, their lives flowed on very happily into boyhood, youth, and manhood. They heartily loved and respected their father; they could never be enough with John Rosedew; and although they quarrelled and fought sometimes, they languished and drooped immediately when parted from one another. As for Biddy O?Gaghan, now a high woman in the household, her only difficulty was that she never could tell of her two boys which to quote as the more astounding.

If you plase, ma?am, she always concluded, there?ll not be so much as the lean of a priest for anybody iver to choose atwane the bootiful two on them. No more than there was on the day when my blissed self murder now! any more, I manes, nor the differ a peg can find twane a murphy and a purratie. And a Murphy I must be, to tark, so free as I does, of the things as is above me. Says Patrick O?Geoghegan to meself one day glory be to his sowl, and a gintleman every bit of him, lave out where he had the smallpux ?Biddy, he says, hould your pratietrap, or I?ll shove these here bellises down it. And for my good it would have been, as I am thankful to acknowledge that same, though I didn?t see it that day, thank the Lord. Ah musha, musha, a true gintleman he were, and lave me out his fellow, ma?am, if iver you comes acrass him.

But, in spite of Biddy?s assertion, there were many points of difference, outward and inward too, between Cradock and Clayton Nowell.

By this time the Violet was obsolete, except with Sir Cradock, who rather liked it, and with young Crad, who had corrupted it into the endearing Viley. John Rosedew had done his utmost to extinguish the misnomer, being sensitive on the subject, from his horror of false concord, as attributed to himself. Although the twins were so much alike in stature, form, and feature that it required care to discern them after the sun was down, no clearsighted person would miscall them when they both were present, and the light was good. Clayton Nowell?s eyes were brown, Cradock?s a dark grey; Cradock?s hair was one shade darker, and grew more away from his forehead, and the expression of his gaze came from a longer distance. Clayton always seemed up for bantering; Cradock anxious to inquire, and to joke about it afterwards, if occasion offered. Then Cradock?s head inclined, as he walked, a little towards the left shoulder; Clayton?s hung, almost imperceptibly, somewhat to the right; and Cradock?s hands were hard and dry, Clayton?s soft as good French kid.

And, as regards the inward man, they differed far more widely. Every year their modes of thought, fancies, tastes, and habits, were diverging more decidedly. Clayton sought command and power, and to be admired; Cradock?s chief ambition was to be loved by every one. And so with intellectual matters; Clayton showed more dash and brilliance, Cradock more true sympathy, and thence more grasp and insight. Clayton loved the thoughts which strike us, Cradock those which move us subtly. But, as they lived not long together, it is waste of time to finesse between them. Whatever they were, they loved one another, and could not bear to be parted.

Meanwhile, their Uncle John as they always called Mr. Rosedew their uncle only in the spirit was nursing and making much of a little daughter of his own. Long before Lady Nowell?s death, indeed for ten long years before he obtained the living of Nowelhurst, with the little adjunct of Rushford, he had been engaged to a ladylove much younger than himself, whose name was Amy Venn. Not positively engaged, I mean, for he was too shy to pop the question to any one but himself, for more than seven years of the ten. But all that time Amy Venn was loving him, and he was loving her, and each would have felt it a grievous blow, if the other had started sideways. Miss Venn was poor, and had none except her widowed mother to look to, and hence the parson was trebly shy of pressing a poor man?s suit. He, a very truthful mortal, had pure faith in his Amy, and she had the like in him. So for several years he shunned the commonroom, and laid by all he could from his fellowship, collegeappointments, and professorship. But when his old friend Sir Cradock Nowell presented him to the benefice not a very gorgeous one, but enough for a quiet parson?s family he took a clean white tie at once, vainly strove to knot it grandly, actually got his scout to brush him, and after three glasses of commonroom port, strode away to his Amy at Kidlington. There he found her training the apricot on the south wall of her mother?s cottage, one of the three great apricottrees that paid the rent so nicely. What a pity they were not peaches; they would have yielded so fit a simile. But peachbloom will not thrive at Kidlington, except upon ladies faces.

Three months afterwards, just when all was arranged, and Mrs. Venn was at last persuaded that Hampshire is not all pigs and rheumatism, forests, and swamps, and charcoal, when John, with his voice rather shaky, and a patch of red where his whiskers should have been, had proclaimed his own banns three times for he was a very odd fellow in some things, and scorned the royal road to wedlock just at that time, I say, poor Lady Nowell?s confinement upset all calculation, and her melancholy death flung a pall on weddingfavours. Not only through respect, but from real sympathy with the faithful friend, John Rosedew and Amy held counsel together, and deferred the longpending bridal. ??? ??????????, ???? ??????????, said John, who always thought in Greek, except when Latin hindered him; but few young ladies will admit and nowadays they all understand it that the apophthegm is applied well.

However, it did come off at last; John Rosedew, when his banns had been rolling in his mind, in the form of Greek senarii, for six months after the first time of outasking, set to and read them all over again in public; to revive their efficacy, and to surrebut all let and hindrance. He was accustomed now to so many stops, that he felt surprised when nobody rose to interpellate. And so the banns of John Rosedew, bachelor, and Amy Venn, spinster, &c., were read six times in Nowelhurst Church, and six times from the desk at Kidlington. And, sooth to say, it was not without significance.

Tant? molis erat to produce our beautiful Amy

On the nuptial morning, Sir Cradock, whom they scarcely expected, gathered up his broken courage, sank his own hap in another?s, and was present and tried to enjoy himself. How shy John Rosedew was, how sly to conceal his blushes, how spry when the bride glanced towards him, and nobody else looked that way all this very few could help observing; but they liked him too well to talk of it. Enough that the friend of his youth, thoroughly understanding John, was blessed with so keen a perception of those simple little devices, that at last he did enjoy himself, which he deserved to do for trying.

When the twins were nearly three years old, Mrs. Rosedew presented John with the very thing he wished for most, an elegant little girl. And here the word elegant is used with forethought, and by prolepsis; though Mrs. O?Gaghan, lent for a time to the Rectory, employed that epithet at the first glance, even while announcing the gender.

Muckstraw, then, and she?s illigant intirely; an it?s hopin I be as there?ll only be two on her, one for each of me darlin boys. And now cudn?t you manage it, doctor dear?

But alas! the supply was limited, and no duplicate ever issued. Lucina saw John Rosedew?s pride, and was afraid of changing his character. To all his Oxford friends he announced the fact of his paternity in letters commencing Now what do you think, my dear fellow, what do you think of this the most astounding thing has happened, &c. &c. He thought of it himself so much, that his intellect grew dreamy, and he forgot all about next Sunday?s sermon, until he was in the pulpit. And four weeks after that he made another great mistake, which horrified him desperately, though it gratified the parish.

It had been arranged between his Amy and himself, that if she felt quite strong enough, she should appear in church on the Sunday afternoon, to offer the due thanksgiving. In the grey old church at Nowelhurst, a certain pew had been set apart, by custom immemorial, for the use of goodwives who felt grateful for their safe deliverance. Here Mrs. Rosedew was to present herself at the proper period, with the aid of Biddy?s vigorous arm down the hill from the Rectory. As yet she was too delicate to bear the entire service. The August afternoon was sultry, and the church doors stood wide open, while the bees among the churchyard thyme drowsed a sleepy sermon. As luck would have it, a recruiting sergeant, toling for the sons of Ytene, finding the road so dusty, and the alehouse barred against him, came sauntering into the church during the second lesson, for a little mild change of air. Espying around him some likely rustics, he stationed himself in the vacant churching pew, because the door was open, and the position prominent. All right, thought the rector, who was very shortsighted, how good of my darling Amy to come! But I wonder she wears her scarlet cloak to come to church with, and in such weather! But perhaps Dr. Buller ordered it, for fear of her catching cold. So at the proper moment he drew his surplice round him, looked full at the sergeant standing there by the pillar, and commenced majestically, though with a trembling voice

Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of His goodness to give you safe deliverance, and hath preserved you in the great danger of childbirth, you shall therefore give hearty thanks unto God and say

The sergeant looked on very primly, with his padded arms tightly folded, and his head thrown back, calling war and victory into his gaze, for the credit of the British army. Then he wondered angrily what the those chawbacons could see in him to be grinning at.

I am well pleased, &c., continued John Rosedew, sonorously; for he had a magnificent voice, and still regarding the sergeant with a look of tender interest. Even Sir Cradock Nowell could scarcely keep his countenance; but the parson went through the whole of it handsomely and to the purpose, thinking only, throughout it, of God?s great mercies to him. So beloved he was already, and so much respected, that none of the congregation had the heart to tell him of his mistake, as he talked with them in the churchyard; though he thought even then that he must have his bands, as he often had, at the back of his neck.

But on his way home he overtook an old hobbler, who enjoyed a joke more than a scruple.

How are you, Simon Tapscott? How do you do today? Glad to see you at church, Simon, said the parson, holding his hand out, as he always did to his parishioners, unless they had disgraced themselves.

Purty vair, measter; purty vair I be, vor a woald galley baggar as ave bin in the Low Countries, and dwoant know sin from righteousness. This last was a gross perversion of a passage in the sermon which had ruffled ancient Simon. Can?t goo much, howiver, by rason of the rhymatics. Now cud e do it to I, measter? cud e do it to I, and I?ll thraw down bath my critches? Good vor one sojer, good vor anoother.

Do what for you, Simon? Fill your old canteen, or send you a pound of baccy? asked the parson, mildly chaffing.

Noo, noo; none o that. There baint noo innard parts grace of the Lord in that. Choorch I handsomely, zame as e dwoed that strapping soger now jist.

What, Simon! Why, Simon, do you know what you are saying But I cannot bear to tell of John Rosedew humiliated; he was humble enough by nature. So fearful was the parson of renewing that recollection within the sacred walls, that no thanks were offered there for the birth of sweet Amy Rosedew, save by, or on behalf of, that recruiting sergeant.

CHAPTER V

When Cradock and Clayton were ten years old, they witnessed a scene which puzzled them, and dwelt long in their boyish memories. Job Hogstaff was going to Ringwood, and they followed him down the passage towards the entrancehall, emphatically repeating the commissions with which they had charged him. Old Job loved them as if they were his grandsons, and would do his utmost to please them, but they could not trust his memory, or even his capacity.

Now, Job, cried little Cradock, pulling at his coatlappet, it?s no good pretending that you know all, when you won?t even stop to listen. I?m sure you?ll go and make some great mistake, as you did last Tuesday. Mind you tell Mr. Stride it?s for Master Cradock Nowell, and they must be sure to give you a good one, or I shall send it back. Now just tell me what I have told you. I ought to have written it down, but I wasn?t sure how to spell groove.

Why, Master Crad, I?m to say a long spill, very sharp at the end.

Sharp at the point, Job, not blunt at the end like a new blacklead pencil.

And whatever you do, Job, don?t forget the catgut for my crossbow, one size larger than last time.

Hold your jaw, Viley, till I?ve quite finished; or he?ll ask for a top made of catgut.

Both the boys laughed at this; you could hear them all down the long passage. Any small folly makes a boy laugh.

Well, Master Crad, you must think me a muff, as you call it. And the groove is to go quite up to the spill; there must be two rings below the crown of it.

Below the crown, indeed! On the fat part, I said three times. Now, Viley, you know you heard me.

Well, well, cried Job in despair, two rings on the fat part, and no knot at all in the wood, and at least six inches round, and, and, well I think that?s all of it, thank the Lord.

All of it, indeed! Well, you are a nice fellow! Didn?t I tell you so, Viley? Why, you?ve left out altogether the most important point of all, Job. The wood must be a clear bright yellow, or else a very rich gold colour, and I?m to pay for it next Tuesday, because I spent my week?s money yesterday, as soon as ever I got it, and oh, Viley! can?t you lend a fellow sixpence?

No, not to save my life, sir. Why, Craddy, you know I wouldn?t let you go tick if I could.

The boys rushed at one another, half in fun and half in affection, and, seizing each other by the belt of the lightplaid tunic, away they went dancing down the hall, while Hogstaff whistled a polka gently, with his old eyes glistening after them. A prettier pair, or better matched, never set young locks afloating. Each put his healthy, clear, bright face on the shoulder of the other, each flung out his shortsocked legs, and pointed his dainty feet. You could see their shapely calves jerked up as they went with double action, and the hollow of the back curved in, as they threw asunder recklessly, then clasped one another again, and you thought they must both reel over. Sir Cradock Nowell hated trousers, and would not have their hair cropped, because it was like their mother?s; otherwise they would not have looked one quarter so picturesque.

Before the match was fairly finished for they were used to this sort of thing, and the object always was to see which would give in first it was cut short most unexpectedly. While they were taking a sharp pirouette down at the end of the hall and as they whirled round I defy their father to have known the one from the other the door of the steward?s room opened suddenly, and a tall dark woman came out. The twins in full merriment dashed up against her, and must have fallen if she had not collared them with strong and bony arms. Like little gentlemen, as they were, every atom of them, they turned in a moment to apologise, and their cheeks were burning red. They saw a gaunt old woman, wideshouldered, stern, and forcible.

Oo, ah! a bonnie pair ye?ve gat, as I see in all my life lang. But ye?ll get no luck o them. Tak? the word o threescore year, ye?ll never get no luck o them, you that calls yoursel Craydock Nowell.

She was speaking to Sir Cradock, who had followed her from the steward?s room, and who seemed as much put out as a proud man of fifty ever cares to show himself. He made no answer, and the two poor children fell back against a sidebench.

I?ll no talk o matters noo. You?ve a gi?en me my refoosal, and I tak it once for all. But ye?ll be sorry for the day ye did it, Craydock Nowell.

To the great amazement of Hogstaff, who was more taken aback than any one else, Sir Cradock Nowell, without a word, walked to the wide front door with ceremony, as if he were leading a peeress out. He did not offer his arm to the woman, but neither did he shrink from her; she gathered her dark face up again from its softening glance at the children, and without another word or look, but sweeping her skirt around her, away she walked down the broad front road, as stiff and as stern as the oaktrees.

CHAPTER VI

The lapse of years made little difference with the Reverend John Rosedew, except to mellow and enfranchise the heart so free and rich by nature, and to pile fresh stores of knowledge in the mind so stored already. Of course the parson had his faults. In many a little matter his friends could come down upon him sharply, if minded so to do. But any one so minded would not have been fit to be called John Rosedew?s friend.

His greatest fault was one which sprang from his own high chivalry. If once he detected a person, whether taught or untaught, in the attempt to deceive or truckle, that person was to him thenceforth a thing to be pitied and prayed for. Large and liberal as his heart was, charitable and even lenient to all other frailties, the presence of a lie in the air was to it as ozone to a testpaper. And then he was always sorry afterwards when he had shown his high disdain. For who could disprove that John Rosedew himself might have been a thorough liar, if trained and taught to consider truth a policeman with his staff drawn?

Another fault John Rosedew had and I do not tell his foibles (as our friends do) to enjoy them he gave to his books and their bygone ages much of the time which he ought to have spent abroad in his own little parish. But this could not be attributed to any form of selfindulgence. Much as he liked his books, he liked his flock still better, but never could overcome the idea that they would rather not be bothered. If any one were ailing, if any one were needy, he would throw aside his Theophrastus, and be where he was wanted, with a mild sweet voice and gentle eyes that crannied not, like a crane?s bill, into the family crocks and dustbin. It was a part, and no unpleasant one, of his natural diffidence, that he required a poor man?s invitation quite as much as a rich one?s, ere ever he crossed the threshold; unless trouble overflowed the impluvium. In all the parish of Nowelhurst there was scarcely a man or a woman who did not rejoice to see the rector pacing his leisurely rounds, carrying his elbows a little out, as men with large deltoid muscles do, wearing his old hat far back on his head, so that it seemed to slope away from him, and smiling quietly to himself at the children who tugged his coattails for an orange or a halfpenny. He never could come out but what the urchins of the village were down upon him as promptly as if he were applepie; and many of them had the impudence to call him Uncle John before his hair was grey.

Instead of going to school, the boys were apprenticed to him in the classics; and still more pleasantly he taught them to swim, and fish, and row. Of riding he knew but little, except from the treatise of Xenophon, and a paper on the Pelethronian Lapiths; so they learned it as all other boys do, by dint of crown and hard bumpage. Moreover, Mark Stote, head gamekeeper, took them in hand very early as his pupils in woodcraft and gunnery. To tell the truth, Uncle John objected to this accomplishment; he thought that the wholesome excitement and exercise of shooting afforded scarcely a valid reason for the destruction of innocent life. However, he recollected that he had not always thought so his conversion having been wrought by the shrieks of a wounded hare neither did he expect to bind all the world with his own girdle. Sir Cradock insisted that the young idea should be taught to shoot, and both the young ideas took to it very kindly.





: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20