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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesRichard Carvel - Volume 4 - Chapter XXI. The Gardener's Cottage
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Richard Carvel - Volume 4 - Chapter XXI. The Gardener's Cottage Post by :Bogdan_Ionita Category :Long Stories Author :Winston Churchill Date :February 2011 Read :658

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Richard Carvel - Volume 4 - Chapter XXI. The Gardener's Cottage

So we walked out of the village, with many a head craned after us and
many an eye peeping from behind a shutter, and on into the open highway.
The day was heavenly bright, the wind humming around us and playing mad
pranks with the white cotton clouds, and I forgot awhile the pity within
me to wonder at the orderly look of the country, the hedges with never a
stone out of place, and the bars always up. The ground was parcelled off
in such bits as to make me smile when I remembered our own wide tracts in
the New World. Here waste was sin: with us part and parcel of a creed.
I marvelled, too, at the primness and solidity of the houses along the
road, and remarked how their lines belonged rather to the landscape than
to themselves. But I was conscious ever of a strange wish to expand, for
I felt as tho' I were in the land of the Liliputians, and the thought of
a gallop of forty miles or so over these honeycombed fields brought me to
a laugh. But I was yet to see some estates of the gentry.

I had it on my tongue's tip to ask the captain whither he was taking me,
yet dared not intrude on the sorrow that still gripped him. Time and
time we met people plodding along, some of them nodding uncertainly,
others abruptly taking the far side of the pike, and every encounter
drove the poison deeper into his soul. But after we had travelled some
way, up hill and down dale, he vouchsafed the intelligence that we were
making for Arbigland, Mr. Craik's seat near Dumfries, which lies on the
Nith twenty miles or so up the Solway from Kirkcudbright. On that estate
stood the cottage where John Paul was born, and where his mother and
sisters still dwelt.

"I'll juist be saying guidbye, Richard," he said; "and leave them a bit
siller I hae saved, an' syne we'll be aff to London thegither, for
Scotland's no but a cauld kintra."

"You are going to London with me?" I cried.

"Ay," answered he; "this is hame nae mair for John Paul."

I made bold to ask how the John's owners had treated him.

"I have naught to complain of, laddie," he answered; "both Mr. Beck and
Mr. Currie bore the matter of the admiralty court and the delay like the
gentlemen they are. They well know that I am hard driven when I resort
to the lash. They were both sore at losing me, and says Mr. Beck: I
We'll not soon get another to keep the brigantine like a man-o'-war, as
did you, John Paul.' I thanked him, and told him I had sworn never to
take another merchantman out of the Solway. And I will keep that oath."

He sighed, and added that he never hoped for better owners. In token of
which he drew a certificate of service from his pocket, signed by Messrs.
Currie and Beck, proclaiming him the best master and supercargo they had
ever had in their service. I perceived that talk lightened him, and led
him on. I inquired how he had got the 'John'.

"I took passage on her from Kingston, laddie. On the trip both Captain
Macadam and the chief mate died of the fever. And it was I, the
passenger, who sailed her into Kirkcudbright, tho' I had never been more
than a chief mate before. That is scarce three years gone, when I was
just turned one and twenty. And old Mr. Currie, who had known my father,
was so pleased that he gave me the ship. I had been chief mate of the
'Two Friends', a slaver out of Kingston."

"And so you were in that trade!" I exclaimed.

He seemed to hesitate.

"Yes," he replied, "and sorry I am to say it. But a man must live. It
was no place for a gentleman, and I left of my own accord. Before that,
I was on a slaver out of Whitehaven."

"You must know Whitehaven, then."

I said it only to keep the talk going, but I remembered the remark long
after.

"I do," said he. "'Tis a fair sample of an English coast town. And I
have often thought, in the event of war with France, how easy 'twould be
for Louis's cruisers to harry the place, and an hundred like it, and
raise such a terror as to keep the British navy at home."

I did not know at the time that this was the inspiration of an admiral
and of a genius. The subject waned. And as familiar scenes jogged his
memory, he launched into Scotch and reminiscence. Every barn he knew,
and cairn and croft and steeple recalled stories of his boyhood.

We had long been in sight of Criffel, towering ahead of us, whose summit
had beckoned for cycles to Helvellyn and Saddleback looming up to the
southward, marking the wonderland of the English lakes. And at length,
after some five hours of stiff walking, we saw the brown Nith below us
going down to meet the Solway, and so came to the entrance of Mr. Craik's
place. The old porter recognized Paul by a mere shake of the head and
the words, "Yere back, are ye?" and a lowering of his bushy white
eyebrows. We took a by-way to avoid the manor-house, which stood on the
rising ground twixt us and the mountain, I walking close to John Paul's
shoulder and feeling for him at every step. Presently, at a turn of the
path, we were brought face to face with an elderly gentleman in black,
and John Paul stopped.

"Mr. Craik!" he said, removing his hat.

But the gentleman only whistled to his dogs and went on.

"My God, even he!" exclaimed the captain, bitterly; "even he, who thought
so highly of my father!"

A hundred yards more and we came to the little cottage nigh hid among the
trees. John Paul paused a moment, his hand upon the latch of the gate,
his eyes drinking in the familiar picture. The light of day was dying
behind Criffel, and the tiny panes of the cottage windows pulsed with the
rosy flame on the hearth within, now flaring, and again deepening. He
sighed. He walked with unsteady step to the door and pushed it open.
I followed, scarce knowing what I did, halted at the threshold and drew
back, for I had been upon holy ground.

John Paul was kneeling upon the flags by the ingleside, his face buried
on the open Bible in his mother's lap. Her snowy-white head was bent
upon his, her tears running fast, and her lips moving in silent prayer to
Him who giveth and taketh away. Verily, here in this humble place dwelt
a love that defied the hard usage of a hard world!

After a space he came to the door and called, and took me by the hand,
and I went in with him. Though his eyes were wet, he bore himself like a
cavalier.

"Mother, this is Mr. Richard Carvell heir to Carvel Hall in Maryland,--a
young gentleman whom I have had the honour to rescue from a slaver."

I bowed low, such was my respect for Dame Paul, and she rose and
curtseyed. She wore a widow's cap and a black gown, and I saw in her
deep-lined face a resemblance to her son.

"Madam," I said, the title coming naturally, "I owe Captain Paul a debt I
can never repay."

"An' him but a laddie!" she cried. "I'm thankful, John, I'm thankful for
his mither that ye saved him."

"I have no mother, Madam Paul," said I, "and my father was killed in the
French war. But I have a grandfather who loves me dearly as I love him."

Some impulse brought her forward, and she took both my hands in her own.

"Ye'll forgive an auld woman, sir," she said, with a dignity that matched
her son's, "but ye're sae young, an' ye hae sic a leuk in yere bonny gray
e'e that I ken yell aye be a true friend o' John's. He's been a guid sin
to me, an' ye maunna reek what they say o' him."

When now I think of the triumph John Paul has achieved, of the scoffing
world he has brought to his feet, I cannot but recall that sorrowful
evening in the gardener's cottage, when a son was restored but to be torn
away. The sisters came in from their day's work,--both well-favoured
lasses, with John's eyes and hair,--and cooked the simple meal of broth
and porridge, and the fowl they had kept so long against the captain's
home-coming. He carved with many a light word that cost him dear. Did
Janet reca' the simmer nights they had supped here, wi' the bumclocks
bizzin' ower the candles? And was Nancy, the cow, still i' the byre?
And did the bees still give the same bonnie hiney, and were the red
apples still in the far orchard? Ay, Meg had thocht o' him that autumn,
and ran to fetch them with her apron to her face, to come back smiling
through her tears. So it went; and often a lump would rise in my throat
that I could not eat, famished as I was, and the mother and sisters
scarce touched a morsel of the feast.

The one never failing test of a son, my dears, lies in his treatment of
his mother, and from that hour forth I had not a doubt of John Paul. He
was a man who had seen the world and become, in more than one meaning of
the word, a gentleman. Whatever foibles he may have had, he brought no
conscious airs and graces to this lowly place, but was again the humble
gardener's boy.

But time pressed, as it ever does. The hour came for us to leave, John
Paul firmly refusing to remain the night in a house that belonged to Mr.
Craik. Of the tenderness, nay, of the pity and cruelty of that parting,
I have no power to write. We knelt with bowed heads while the mother
prayed for the son, expatriated, whom she never hoped to see again on
this earth. She gave us bannocks of her own baking, and her last words
were to implore me always to be a friend to John Paul.

Then we went out into the night and walked all the way to Dumfries in
silence.

We lay that night at the sign of the "Twa Naigs," where Bonnie Prince
Charlie had rested in the Mars year(1715). Before I went to bed I called
for pen and paper, and by the light of a tallow dip sat down to compose a
letter to my grandfather, telling him that I was alive and well, and
recounting as much of my adventures as I could. I said that I was going
to London, where I would see Mr. Dix, and would take passage thence for
America. I prayed that he had been able to bear up against the ordeal of
my disappearance. I dwelt upon the obligations I was under to John Paul,
relating the misfortunes of that worthy seaman (which he so little
deserved!). And said that it was my purpose to bring him to Maryland
with me, where I knew Mr. Carvel would reward him with one of his ships,
explaining that he would accept no money. But when it came to accusing
Grafton and the rector, I thought twice, and bit the end of the feather.
The chances were so great that my grandfather would be in bed and under
the guardianship of my uncle that I forbore, and resolved instead to
write it to Captain Daniel at my first opportunity.

I arose early to discover a morning gray and drear, with a mist falling
to chill the bones. News travels apace the world over, and that of John
Paul's home-coming and of his public renunciation of Scotland at the
"Hurcheon" had reached Dumfries in good time, substantiated by the
arrival of the teamster with the chests the night before. I descended
into the courtyard in time to catch the captain in his watchet-blue frock
haggling with the landlord for a chaise, the two of them surrounded by a
muttering crowd anxious for a glimpse of Mr. Craik's gardener's son, for
he had become a nine-day sensation to the country round about. But John
Paul minded them not so much as a swarm of flies, and the teamster's
account of the happenings at Kirkcudbright had given them so wholesome a
fear of his speech and presence as to cause them to misdoubt their own
wit, which is saying a deal of Scotchmen. But when the bargain had been
struck and John Paul gone with the 'ostler to see to his chests, mine
host thought it a pity not to have a fall out of me.

"So ye be the Buckskin laud," he said, with a wink at a leering group of
farmers; "ye hae braw gentles in America."

He was a man of sixty or thereabout, with a shrewd but not unkindly face
that had something familiar in it.

"You have discernment indeed to recognize a gentleman in Scotch clothes,"
I replied, turning the laugh on him.

"Dinna raise ae Buckskin, Mr. Rawlinson," said a man in corduroy.

"Rawlinson!" I exclaimed at random, "there is one of your name in the
colonies who knows his station better."

"Trowkt!" cried mine host, "ye ken Ivie o' Maryland, Ivie my brither?"

"He is my grandfather's miller at Carvel Hall," I said.

"Syne ye maun be nave ither than Mr. Richard Carvel. Yere servan', Mr.
Carvel," and he made me a low bow, to the great dropping of jaws round
about, and led me into the inn. With trembling hands he took a packet
from his cabinet and showed me the letters, twenty-three in all, which
Ivie had written home since he had gone out as the King's passenger in
'45. The sight of them brought tears to my eyes and carried me out of
the Scotch mist back to dear old Maryland. I had no trouble in
convincing mine host that I was the lad eulogized in the scrawls,
and he put hand on the very sheet which announced my birth, nineteen
years since,--the fourth generation of Carvels Ivie had known.

So it came that the captain and I got the best chaise and pair in place
of the worst, and sat down to a breakfast such as was prepared only for
my Lord Selkirk when he passed that way, while I told the landlord of his
brother; and as I talked I remembered the day I had caught the arm of the
mill and gone the round, to find that Ivie had written of that, too!

After that our landlord would not hear of a reckoning. I might stay a
month, a year, at the "Twa Naigs" if I wished. As for John Paul, who
seemed my friend, he would say nothing, only to advise me privately that
the man was queer company, shaking his head when I defended him. He came
to me with ten guineas, which he pressed me to take for Ivies sake, and
repay when occasion offered. I thanked him, but was of no mind to accept
money from one who thought ill of my benefactor.

The refusal of these recalled the chaise, and I took the trouble to
expostulate with the captain on that score, pointing out as delicately as
I might that, as he had brought me to Scotland, I held it within my right
to incur the expense of the trip to London, and that I intended to
reimburse him when I saw Mr. Dix. For I knew that his wallet was not
over full, since he had left the half of his savings with his mother.
Much to my secret delight, he agreed to this as within the compass of a
gentleman's acceptance. Had he not, I had the full intention of leaving
him to post it alone, and of offering myself to the master of the first
schooner.

Despite the rain, and the painful scenes gone through but yesterday, and
the sour-looking ring of men and women gathered to see the start, I was
in high spirits as we went spinning down the Carlisle road, with my heart
leaping to the crack of the postilion's whip.

I was going to London and to Dorothy!

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Mr. Lowrie and Auctherlonnie, the Dumfries bo'sun, both of whom wouldhave died for the captain, assured me of the truth of MacMuir's story,and shook their heads gravely as to the probable outcome. The peculiarwater-mark of greatness that is woven into some men is often enough toset their own community bitter against them. Sandie, the ploddingpeasant, finds it a hard matter to forgive Jamie, who is taken from theplough next to his, and ends in Parliament. The affair of Mungo Maxwell,altered to suit, had already made its way on more than one vessel toScotland. For according to Lowrie,
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