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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesRichard Carvel - Volume 6 - Chapter XXXVIII. In which I am roundly brought to task
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Richard Carvel - Volume 6 - Chapter XXXVIII. In which I am roundly brought to task Post by :katcook Category :Long Stories Author :Winston Churchill Date :February 2011 Read :3047

Click below to download : Richard Carvel - Volume 6 - Chapter XXXVIII. In which I am roundly brought to task (Format : PDF)

Richard Carvel - Volume 6 - Chapter XXXVIII. In which I am roundly brought to task

I would have gone to Arlington Street direct, but my friends had no
notion of letting me escape. They carried me off to Brooks's Club, where
a bowl of punch was brewed directly, and my health was drunk to three
times three. Mr. Storer commanded a turtle dinner in my honour. We were
not many, fortunately,--only Mr. Fox's little coterie. And it was none
other than Mr. Fox who made the speech of the evening. "May I be strung
as high as Haman," said he, amid a tempest of laughter, "if ever I saw
half so edifying a sight as his Grace pitching into the Serpentine,
unless it were his Grace dragged out again. Mr. Carvel's advent has
been a Godsend to us narrow ignoramuses of this island, gentlemen.
To the Englishmen of our colonies, sirs, and that we may never underrate
or misunderstand them more!"

"Nay, Charles," cried my Lord Comyn. "Where is our gallantry? I give
you first the Englishwomen of our colonies, and in particular the pride
of Maryland, who has brought back to the old country all the graces of
the new,--Miss Manners."

His voice was drowned by a deafening shout, and we charged our glasses to
drain them brimming. And then we all went to Drury Lane to see Mrs.
Clive romp through 'The Wonder' in the spirit of the "immortal Peg." She
spoke an epilogue that Mr. Walpole had writ especial for her, and made
some witty and sarcastic remarks directed at the gentlemen in our
stagebox. We topped off a very full day by a supper at the Bedford Arms,
where I must draw the certain.

The next morning I was abed at an hour which the sobriety of old age
makes me blush abed think of. Banks had just concluded a discreet
discourse upon my accomplishment of the day before, and had left for my
newspapers, when he came running back with the information that Miss
Manners would see my honour that day. There was no note. Between us
we made my toilet in a jiffy, and presently I was walking in at the
Manners's door in an amazing hurry, and scarcely waited for a direction.
But as I ran up the stairs, I heard the tinkle of the spinet, and the
notes of an old, familiar tune fell upon my ears. The words rose in my
head with the cadence.

"Love me little, love me long,
Is the burthen of my song,
Love that is too hot and strong
Runneth soon to waste."

That simple air, already mellowed by an hundred years, had always been
her favourite. She used to sing it softly to herself as we roamed the
woods and fields of the Eastern Shore. Instinctively I paused at the
dressing-room door. Nay, my dears, you need not cry out, such was the
custom of the times. A dainty bower it was, filled with the perfume of
flowers, and rosy cupids disporting on the ceiling; and china and silver
and gold filigree strewn about, with my tea-cups on the table. The
sunlight fell like a halo round Dorothy's head, her hands strayed over
the keys, and her eyes were far away. She had not heard me. I remember
her dress,--a silk with blue cornflowers on a light ground, and the
flimsiest of lace caps resting on her hair. I thought her face paler;
but beyond that she did not show her illness.

She looked up, and perceived me, I thought, with a start. "So it is
you!" she said demurely enough; "you are come at last to give an account
of yourself."

"Are you better, Dorothy?" I asked earnestly.

"Why should you think that I have been ill?" she replied, her fingers
going back to the spinet. "It is a mistake, sir. Dr. James has given me
near a gross of his infamous powders, and is now exploiting another cure.
I have been resting from the fatigues of London, while you have been
wearing yourself out."

"Dr. James himself told me your condition was serious," I said.

"Of course," said she; "the worse the disease, the more remarkable the
cure, the more sought after the physician. When will you get over your
provincial simplicity?"

I saw there was nothing to be got out of her while in this baffling
humour. I wondered what devil impelled a woman to write one way and talk
another. In her note to me she had confessed her illness. The words I
had formed to say to her were tied on my tongue. But on the whole I
congratulated myself. She knew how to step better than I, and there were
many awkward things between us of late best not spoken of. But she kept
me standing an unconscionable time without a word, which on the whole was
cruelty, while she played over some of Dibdin's ballads.

"Are you in a hurry, sir," she asked at length, turning on me with a
smile, "are you in a hurry to join my Lord March or his Grace of Grafton?
And have you writ Captain Clapsaddle and your Whig friends at home of
your new intimacies, of Mr. Fox and my Lord Sandwich?"

I was dumb.

"Yes, you must be wishing to get away," she continued cruelly, picking up
the newspaper. "I had forgotten this notice. When I saw it this morning
I thought of you, and despaired of a glimpse of you to-day." (Reading.)
"At the Three Hats, Islington, this day, the 10th of May, will be played
a grand match at that ancient and much renowned manly diversion called
Double Stick by a sect of chosen young men at that exercise from
different parts of the West Country, for two guineas given free; those
who break the most heads to bear away the prize. Before the above-
mentioned diversion begins, Mr. Sampson and his young German will display
alternately on one, two, and three horses, various surprising and curious
feats of famous horsemanship in like manner as at the Grand Jubilee at
Stratford-upon-Avon. Admittance one shilling each person.' Before you
leave, Mr. Richard," she continued, with her eyes still on the sheet,
"I should like to talk over one or two little matters."

"Dolly--!"

"Will you sit, sir?"

I sat down uneasily, expecting the worst. She disappointed me, as usual.

"What an unspeakable place must you keep in Dover Street! I cannot send
even a footman there but what he comes back reeling."

I had to laugh at this. But there was no smile out of my lady.

"It took me near an hour and a half to answer your note," I replied.

"And 'twas a masterpiece!" exclaimed Dolly, with withering sarcasm;
"oh, a most amazing masterpiece, I'll be bound! His worship the French
Ambassador is a kitten at diplomacy beside you, sir. An hour and a half,
did you say, sir? Gemini, the Secretary of State and his whole corps
could not have composed the like in a day."

"Faith!" I cried, with feeling enough; "and if that is diplomacy, I would
rather make leather breeches than be given an embassy."

She fixed her eyes upon me so disconcertingly that mine fell.

"There was a time," she said, with a change of tone, "there was a time
when a request of mine, and it were not granted outright, would have
received some attention. This is my first experience at being ignored."

"I had made a wager," said I, "and could not retract with honour."

"So you had made a wager! Now we are to have some news at last. How
stupid of you, Richard, not to tell me before. I confess I wonder what
these wits find in your company. Here am I who have seen naught but dull
women for a fortnight, and you have failed to say anything amusing in a
quarter of an hour. Let us hear about the wager."

"Where is little to tell," I answered shortly, considerably piqued.
"I bet your friend, the Duke of Chartersea, some hundreds of pounds I
could ride Lord Baltimore's Pollux for twenty minutes, after which his
Grace was to get on and ride twenty more."

"Where did you see the duke?" Dolly interrupted, without much show of
interest.

I explained how we had met him at Brooks's, and had gone to his house.

"You went to his house?" she repeated, raising her eyebrows a trifle;
"and Comyn and Mr. Fox? And pray, how did this pretty subject come up?"

I related, very badly, I fear, Fox's story of young Wrottlesey and the
tea-merchant's daughter. And what does my lady do but get up and turn
her back, arranging some pinks in the window. I could have sworn she was
laughing, had I not known better.

"Well?"

"Well, that was a reference to a little pleasantry Mr. Fox had put up on
him some time before. His Grace flared, but tried not to show it. He
said he had heard I could do something with a horse (I believe he made it
up), and Comyn gave oath that I could; and then he offered to bet Comyn
that I could not ride this Pollux, who had killed his groom. That made
me angry, and I told the duke I was no jockey to be put up to decide
wagers, and that he must make his offers to me."

"La!" said Dolly, "you fell in head over heels."

"What do you mean by that?" I demanded.

"Nothing," said she, biting her lip. "Come, you are as ponderous as Dr.
Johnson."

"Then Mr. Fox proposed that his Grace should ride after me."

Here Dolly laughed in her handkerchief.

"I'll be bound," said she.

"Then the duke went to York," I continued hurriedly; and when he came
back we met him at the Star and Garter. He insisted that the match
should come off in Hyde Park. I should have preferred the open roads
north of Bedford House."

"Where there is no Serpentine," she interrupted, with the faintest
suspicion of a twinkle about her eyes. "On, sir, on! You are as
reluctant as our pump at Wilmot House in the dry season. I see you were
not killed, as you richly deserved. Let us have the rest of your tale."

"There is very little more to it, save that I contrived to master the
beast, and his Grace--"

"--Was disgraced. A vastly fine achievement, surely. But where are you
to stop? You will be shaming the King next by outwalking him. Pray, how
did the duke appear as he was going into the Serpentine?"

"You have heard?" I exclaimed, the trick she had played me dawning upon
me.

"Upon my word, Richard, you are more of a simpleton than I thought you.
Have you not seen your newspaper this morning?"

I explained how it was that I had not. She took up the Chronicle.

"'This Mr. Carvel has made no inconsiderable noise since his arrival in
town, and yesterday crowned his performances by defeating publicly a
noble duke at a riding match in Hyde Park, before half the quality of the
kingdom. His Lordship of March and Ruglen acted as umpire.' There, sir,
was I not right to beg Sir John Fielding to put you in safe keeping until
your grandfather can send for you?"

I made to seize the paper, but she held it from me.

"'If Mr. Carvel remains long enough in England, he bids fair to share the
talk of Mayfair with a certain honourable young gentleman of Brooks's and
the Admiralty, whose debts and doings now furnish most of the gossip for
the clubs and the card tables. Their names are both connected with this
contest. 'Tis whispered that the wager upon which the match was ridden
arose--' here Dolly stopped shortly, her colour mounting, and cried out
with a stamp of her foot. "You are not content to bring publicity upon
yourself, who deserve it, but must needs drag innocent names into the
newspapers."

"What have they said?" I demanded, ready to roll every printer in London
in the kennel.

"Nay, you may read for yourself," said she. And, flinging the paper in
my lap, left the room.

They had not said much more, Heaven be praised. But I was angry and
mortified as I had never been before, realizing for the first time what a
botch I had made of my stay in London. In great dejection, I was picking
up my hat to leave the house, when Mrs. Manners came in upon me, and
insisted that I should stay for dinner. She was very white, and seemed
troubled and preoccupied, and said that Mr. Manners had come back from
York with a cold on his chest, but would insist upon joining the party to
Vauxhall on Monday. I asked her when she was going to the baths, and
suggested that the change would do her good. Indeed, she looked badly.

"We are not going, Richard," she replied; "Dorothy will not hear of it.
In spite of the doctor she says she is not ill, and must attend at
Vauxhall, too. You are asked?"

I said that Mr. Storer had included me. I am sure, from the way she
looked at me, that she did not heed my answer. She appeared to hesitate
on the verge of a speech, and glanced once or twice at the doors.

"Richard, I suppose you are old enough to take care of yourself, tho' you
seem still a child to me. I pray you will be careful, my boy," she said,
with something of the affection she had always borne me, "for your
grandfather's sake, I pray you will run into no more danger. I--we are
your old friends, and the only ones here to advise you."

She stopped, seemingly, to weigh the wisdom of what was to come next,
while I leaned forward with an eagerness I could not hide. Was she to
speak of the Duke of Chartersea? Alas, I was not to know. For at that
moment Dorothy came back to inquire why I was not gone to the cudgelling
at the Three Hats. I said I had been invited to stay to dinner.

"Why, I have writ a note asking Comyn," said she. "Do you think the
house will hold you both?"

His Lordship came in as we were sitting down, bursting with some news,
and he could hardly wait to congratulate Dolly on her recovery before he
delivered it.

"Why, Richard," says the dog, "what do you think some wag has done now?
They believe at Brooks's 'twas that jackanapes of a parson, Dr. Warner,
who was there yesterday with March." He drew a clipping from his pocket.
"Listen, Miss Dolly:

"On Wednesday did a carter see
His Grace, the Duke of Ch-rt--s-a,
As plump and helpless as a bag,
A-straddle of a big-boned nag.
"Lord, Sam!" the carter loudly yelled,
On by this wondrous sight impelled,
"We'll run and watch this noble gander
Master a steed, like Alexander."
But, when the carter reached the Row,
His Grace had left it, long ago.
Bucephalus had leaped the green,
The duke was in the Serpentine.
The fervent wish of all good men
That he may ne'er come out again!'"


Comyn's impudence took my breath, tho' the experiment interested me not
a little. My lady was pleased to laugh at the doggerel, and even Mrs.
Manners. Its effect upon Mr. Marmaduke was not so spontaneous. His
smile was half-hearted. Indeed, the little gentleman seemed to have
lost his spirits, and said so little (for him), that I was encouraged to
corner him that very evening and force him to a confession. But I might
have known he was not to be caught. It appeared almost as if he guessed
my purpose, for as soon as ever the claret was come on, he excused
himself, saying he was promised to Lady Harrington, who wanted one.

Comyn and I departed early on account of Dorothy. She had denied a dozen
who had left cards upon her.

"Egad, Richard," said my Lord, when we had got to my lodgings, "I made
him change colour, did I not? Do you know how the little fool looks to
me? 'Od's life, he looks hunted, and cursed near brought to earth. We
must fetch this thing to a point, Richard. And I am wondering what
Chartersea's next move will be," he added thoughtfully.

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