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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesRichard Carvel - Volume 2 - Chapter XII. News from a Far Country
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Richard Carvel - Volume 2 - Chapter XII. News from a Far Country Post by :cyberagora Category :Long Stories Author :Winston Churchill Date :February 2011 Read :3076

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Richard Carvel - Volume 2 - Chapter XII. News from a Far Country

If perchance, my dears, there creeps into this chronicle too much of an
old man's heart, I know he will be forgiven. What life ever worth living
has been without its tender attachment? Because, forsooth, my hair is
white now, does Bess flatter herself I do not know her secret? Or does
Comyn believe that these old eyes can see no farther than the spectacles
before them? Were it not for the lovers, my son, satins and broadcloths
had never been invented. And were it not for the lovers, what joys and
sorrows would we lack in our lives!

That was a long summer indeed. And tho' Wilmot House was closed, I often
rode over of a morning when the dew was on the grass. It cheered me to
smoke a pipe with old McAndrews, Mr. Manners's factor, who loved to talk
of Miss Dorothy near as much as I. He had served her grandfather, and
people said that had it not been for McAndrews, the Manners fortune had
long since been scattered, since Mr. Marmaduke knew nothing of anything
that he should. I could not hear from my lady until near the first of
October, and so I was fain to be content with memories--memories and hard
work. For I had complete charge of the plantation now.

My Uncle Grafton came twice or thrice, but without his family, Aunt
Caroline and Philip having declared their independence. My uncle's
manner to me was now of studied kindness, and he was at greater pains
than before to give me no excuse for offence. I had little to say to
him. He spent his visits reading to Mr. Carvel, who sat in his chair all
the day long. Mr. Allen came likewise, to perform the same office.

My contempt for the rector was grown more than ever. On my grandfather's
account, however, I refrained from quarrelling with him. And, when we
were alone, my plain speaking did not seem to anger him, or affect him in
any way. Others came, too. Such was the affection Mr. Carvel's friends
bore him that they did not desert him when he was no longer the companion
he had been in former years. We had more company than the summer before.

In the autumn a strange thing happened. When we had taken my grandfather
to the Hall in June, his dotage seemed to settle upon him. He became a
trembling old man, at times so peevish that we were obliged to summon
with an effort what he had been. He was suspicious and fault-finding
with Scipio and the other servants, though they were never so busy for
his wants. Mrs. Willis's dainties were often untouched, and he would
frequently sit for hours between slumber and waking, or mumble to himself
as I read the prints. But about the time of the equinoctial a great gale
came out of the south so strongly that the water rose in the river over
the boat landing; and the roof was torn from one of the curing-sheds.
The next morning dawned clear, and brittle, and blue. To my great
surprise, Mr. Carvel sent for me to walk with him about the place, that
he might see the damage with his own eyes. A huge walnut had fallen
across the drive, and when he came upon it he stopped abruptly.

"Old friend!" he cried, "have you succumbed? After all these years have
you dropped from the weight of a blow? "He passed his hand caressingly
along the trunk, and scarce ever had I seen him so affected. In truth,
for the instant I thought him deranged. He raised his cane above his
shoulder and struck the bark so heavily that the silver head sunk deep
into the wood. "Look you, Richard," he said, the water coming into his
eyes, "look you, the heart of it is gone, lad; and when the heart is
rotten 'tis time for us to go. That walnut was a life friend, my son.
We have grown together," he continued, turning from me to the giant and
brushing his cheeks, "but by God's good will we shall not die so, for my
heart is still as young as the days when you were sprouting."

And he walked back to the house more briskly than he had come, refusing,
for the first time, my arm. And from that day, I say, he began to mend.
The lacing of red came again to his cheeks, and before we went back to
town he had walked with me to Master Dingley's tavern on the highroad,
and back.

We moved into Marlboro' Street the first part of November. I had seen my
lady off for England, wearing my faded flowers, the panniers of the fine
gentleman in a neglected pile at her cabin door. But not once had she
deigned to write me. It was McAndrews who told me of her safe arrival.
In Annapolis rumours were a-flying of conquests she had already made. I
found Betty Tayloe had had a letter, filled with the fashion in caps and
gowns, and the mention of more than one noble name. All of this being,
for unknown reasons, sacred, I was read only part of the postscript, in
which I figured: "The London Season was done almost before we arrived,"
so it ran. "We had but the Opportunity to pay our Humble Respects to
their Majesties; and appear at a few Drum-Majors and Garden Fetes. Now
we are off to Brighthelmstone, and thence, so Papa says, to Spa and the
Continent until the end of January. I am pining for news of Maryland,
dearest Betty. Address me in care of Mr. Ripley, Barrister, of Lincoln's
Inn, and bid Richard Carvel write me."

"Which does not look as if she were coming back within the year," said
Betty, as she poured me a dish of tea.

Alas, no! But I did not write. I tried and failed. And then I tried to
forget. I was constant at all the gayeties, gave every miss in town a
share of my attention, rode to hounds once a week at Whitehall or the
South River Club with a dozen young beauties. But cantering through the
winter mists 'twas Dolly, in her red riding-cloak and white beaver, I saw
beside me. None of them had her seat in the saddle, and none of them her
light hand on the reins. And tho' they lacked not fire and skill, they
had not my lady's dash and daring to follow over field and fallow, stream
and searing, and be in at the death with heightened colour, but never a
look away.

Then came the first assembly of the year. I got back from Bentley Manor,
where I had been a-visiting the Fotheringays, just in time to call for
Patty in Gloucester Street.

"Have you heard the news from abroad, Richard?" she asked, as I handed
her into my chariot.

"Never a line," I replied.

"Pho!" exclaimed Patty; "you tell me that! Where have you been hiding?
Then you shall not have it from me."

I had little trouble, however, in persuading her. For news was a rare
luxury in those days, and Patty was plainly uncomfortable until she
should have it out.

"I would not give you the vapours to-night for all the world, Richard,"
she exclaimed. "But if you must,--Dr. Courtenay has had a letter from
Mr. Manners, who says that Dolly is to marry his Grace of Chartersea.
There now!"

"And I am not greatly disturbed," I answered, with a fine, careless air.

The lanthorn on the chariot was burning bright. And I saw Patty look at
me, and laugh.

"Indeed!" says she; "what a sex is that to which you belong. How ready
are men to deny us at the first whisper! And I thought you the most
constant of all. For my part, I credit not a word of it. 'Tis one of
Mr. Marmaduke's lies and vanities."

"And for my part, I think it true as gospel," I cried. "Dolly always
held a coronet above her colony, and all her life has dreamed of a duke."

"Nay," answered Patty, more soberly; "nay, you do her wrong. You will
discover one day that she is loyal to the core, tho' she has a fop of a
father who would serve his Grace's chocolate. We are all apt to talk,
my dear, and to say what we do not mean, as you are doing."

"Were I to die to-morrow, I would repeat it," I exclaimed. But I liked
Patty the better for what she had said.

"And there is more news, of less import," she continued, as I was silent.
"The Thunderer dropped anchor in the roads to-day, and her officers will
be at the assembly. And Betty tells me there is a young lord among
them,--la! I have clean forgot the string of adjectives she used,--but
she would have had me know he was as handsome as Apollo, and so dashing
and diverting as to put Courtenay and all our wits to shame. She dined
with him at the Governor's."

I barely heard her, tho' I had seen the man-o'-war in the harbour as I
sailed in that afternoon.

The assembly hall was filled when we arrived, aglow with candles and a-
tremble with music, the powder already flying, and the tables in the
recesses at either end surrounded by those at the cards. A lively scene,
those dances at the old Stadt House, but one I love best to recall with a
presence that endeared it to me. The ladies in flowered aprons and caps
and brocades and trains, and the gentlemen in brilliant coats, trimmed
with lace and stiffened with buckram. That night, as Patty had
predicted, there was a smart sprinkling of uniforms from the Thunderer.
One of those officers held my eye. He was as well-formed a lad, or man
(for he was both), as it had ever been my lot to see. He was neither
tall nor short, but of a good breadth. His fair skin was tanned by the
weather, and he wore his own wavy hair powdered, as was just become the
fashion, and tied with a ribbon behind.

"Mercy, Richard, that must be his Lordship. Why, his good looks are all
Betty claimed for them!" exclaimed Patty. Mr. Lloyd, who was standing
by, overheard her, and was vastly amused at her downright way.

"I will fetch him directly, Miss Swain," said he, "as I have done for a
dozen ladies before you." And fetch him he did.

"Miss Swain, this is my Lord Comyn," said he. "Your Lordship, one of the
boasts of our province."

Patty grew red as the scarlet with which his Lordship's coat was lined.
She curtseyed, while he made a profound bow.

"What! Another boast, Mr. Lloyd!" he cried. "Miss Swain is the tenth
I have met. But I vow they excel as they proceed."

"Then you must meet no more, my Lord," said Patty, laughing at Mr.
Lloyd's predicament.

"Egad, then, I will not," declared Comyn. "I protest I am satisfied."

Then I was presented. He had won me on the instant with his open smile
and frank, boyish manner.

"And this is young Mr. Carvel, whom I hear wins every hunt in the
colony?" said he.

"I fear you have been misinformed, my Lord," I replied, flashing with
pleasure nevertheless.

"Nay, my Lord," Mr. Lloyd struck in; "Richard could ride down the devil
himself, and he were a fox. You will see for yourself to-morrow."

"I pray we may not start the devil," said his Lordship; "or I shall be
content to let Mr. Carvel run him down."

This Comyn was a man after my own fancy, as, indeed, he took the fancy
of every one at the ball. Though a viscount in his own right, he gave
himself not half the airs over us provincials as did many of his
messmates. Even Mr. Jacques, who was sour as last year's cider over the
doings of Parliament, lost his heart, and asked why we were not favoured
in America with more of his sort.

By a great mischance Lord Comyn had fallen into the tender clutches of my
Aunt Caroline. It seemed she had known his uncle, the Honourable Arthur
Comyn, in New York; and now she undertook to be responsible for his
Lordship's pleasure at Annapolis, that he might meet only those of the
first fashion. Seeing him talking to Patty, my aunt rose abruptly from
her loo and made toward us, all paint and powder and patches, her chin in
the air, which barely enabled her to look over Miss Swain's head.

"My Lord," she cries, "I will show you our colonial reel, which is about
to begin, and I warrant you is gayer than any dance you have at home."

"Your very devoted, Mrs. Carvel," says his Lordship, with a bow, "but
Miss Swain has done me the honour."

"O Lud!" cries my aunt, sweeping the room, "I vow I cannot keep pace with
the misses nowadays. Is she here?"

"She was but a moment since, ma'am," replied Comyn, instantly, with a
mischievous look at me, while poor Patty stood blushing not a yard

There were many who overheard, and who used their fans and their napkins
to hide their laughter at the very just snub Mrs. Grafton had received.
And I wondered at the readiness with which he had read her character,
liking him all the better. But my aunt was not to be disabled by this,--
not she. After the dance she got hold of him, keeping him until certain
designing ladies with daughters took him away; their names charity
forbids me to mention. But in spite of them all he contrived to get
Patty for supper, when I took Betty Tayloe, and we were very merry at
table together. His Lordship proved more than able to take care of
himself, and contrived to send Philip about his business when he pulled
up a chair beside us. He drank a health to Miss Swain, and another to
Miss Tayloe, and was on the point of filling a third glass to the ladies
of Maryland, when he caught himself and brought his hand down on the

"Gad's life!" cried he, "but I think she's from Maryland, too!"

"Who?" demanded the young ladies, in a breath.

But I knew.

"Who!" exclaimed Comyn. "Who but Miss Dorothy Manners! Isn't she from
Maryland? "And marking our astonished nods, he continued: "Why, she
descended upon Mayfair when they were so weary for something to worship,
and they went mad over her in a s'ennight. I give you Miss Manners!"

"And you know her!" exclaimed Patty, her voice quivering with excitement.

"Faith!" said his Lordship, laughing. "For a whole month I was her most
devoted, as were we all at Almack's. I stayed until the last minute for
a word with her,--which I never got, by the way,--and paid near a guinea
a mile for a chaise to Portsmouth as a consequence. Already she has had
her choice from a thousand a year up, and I tell you our English ladies
are green with envy."

I was stunned, you may be sure. And yet, I might have expected it.

"If your Lordship has left your heart in England," said Betty, with a
smile," I give you warning you must not tell our ladies here of it."

"I care not who knows it, Miss Tayloe," he cried. That fustian,
insincerity, was certainly not one of his faults. "I care not who knows
it. To pass her chariot is to have your heart stolen, and you must needs
run after and beg mercy. But, ladies," he added, his eye twinkling;
"having seen the women of your colony, I marvel no longer at Miss
Manners's beauty."

He set us all a-laughing.

"I fear you were not born a diplomat, sir," says Patty. "You agree that
we are beautiful, yet to hear that one of us is more so is small

"We men turn as naturally to Miss Manners as plants to the sun, ma'am,"
he replied impulsively. "Yet none of us dare hope for alliance with so
brilliant and distant an object. I make small doubt those are Mr.
Carvel's sentiments, and still he seems popular enough with the ladies.
How now, sir? How now, Mr. Carvel? You have yet to speak on so tender
a subject."

My eyes met Patty's.

"I will be no more politic than you, my Lord," I said boldly, "nor will
I make a secret of it that I adore Miss Manners full as much."

"Bravo, Richard!" cries Patty; and "Good!" cries his Lordship, while
Betty claps her hands. And then Comyn swung suddenly round in his chair.

"Richard Carvel!" says he. "By the seven chimes I have heard her mention
your name. The devil fetch my memory!"

"My name!" I exclaimed, in surprise, and prodigiously upset.

"Yes," he answered, with his hand to his head; "some such thought was in
my mind this afternoon when I heard of your riding. Stay! I have it! I
was at Ampthill, Ossory's place, just before I left. Some insupportable
coxcomb was boasting a marvellous run with the hounds nigh across
Hertfordshire, and Miss Manners brought him up with a round turn and a
half hitch by relating one of your exploits, Richard Carvel. And take my
word on't she got no small applause. She told how you had followed a
fox over one of your rough provincial counties, which means three of
Hertfordshire, with your arm broken, by Heaven! and how they lifted you
off at the death. And, Mr. Carvel," said my Lord, generously, looking at
my flushed face, "you must give me your hand for that."

So Dorothy in England had thought of me at least. But what booted it if
she were to marry a duke! My thoughts began to whirl over all Comyn had
said of her so that I scarce heard a question Miss Tayloe had put.

"Marry Chartersea! That profligate pig!" Comyn was saying. "She would
as soon marry a chairman or a chimneysweep, I'm thinking. Why, Miss
Tayloe, Sir Charles Grandison himself would scarce suit her!"

"Good lack!" said Betty, "I think Sir Charles would be the very last for

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