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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Disowned - Chapter 65
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The Disowned - Chapter 65 Post by :mrtwist Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :3344

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The Disowned - Chapter 65

CHAPTER LXV

Out of these convertites
There is much matter to be heard and learned.--SHAKSPEARE.


"If you are bent upon leaving us so soon," said the honest Cole, as Clarence, refusing all further solicitation to stay, seized the opportunity which the cessation of the rain afforded him, and rose to depart, "if you are bent upon leaving us so soon, I will accompany you back again into the main road, as in duty bound."

"What, immediately on your return!" said Clarence. "No, no; not a step. What would my fair hostess say to me if I suffered it?"

"Rather, what would she say to me if I neglected such a courtesy? Why, sir, when I meet one who knows Shakspeare's sonnets, to say nothing of the lights of the lesser stars, as well as you, only once in eight years, do you not think I would make the most of him? Besides, it is but a quarter of a mile to the road, and I love walking after a shower."

"I am afraid, Mrs. Cole," said Clarence, "that I must be selfish enough to accept the offer." And Mrs. Cole, blushing and smiling her assent and adieu, Clarence shook hands with the whole party, grandfather and child included, and took his departure.

As Cole was now a pedestrian, Linden threw the rein over his arm, and walked on foot by his host's side.

"So," said he, smiling, "I must not inquire into the reasons of your retirement?"

"On the contrary," replied Cole: "I have walked with you the more gladly from my desire of telling them to you; for we all love to seem consistent, even in our chimeras. About six years ago, I confess that I began to wax a little weary of my wandering life: my child, in growing up, required playmates; shall I own that I did not like him to find them among the children of my own comrades? The old scamps were good enough for me, but the young ones were a little too bad for my son. Between you and me only be it said, my juvenile hope was already a little corrupted. The dog Mim--you remember Mim, sir--secretly taught him to filch as well as if he had been a bantling of his own; and, faith, our smaller goods and chattels, especially of an edible nature, began to disappear, with a rapidity and secrecy that our itinerant palace could very ill sustain. Among us (i.e. gypsies) there is a law by which no member of the gang may steal from another: but my little heaven-instructed youth would by no means abide by that distinction; and so boldly designed and well executed were his rogueries that my paternal anxiety saw nothing before him but Botany Bay on the one hand and Newgate courtyard on the other."

"A sad prospect for the heir apparent!" quoth Clarence.

"It was so!" answered Cole; "and it made me deliberate. Then, as one gets older one's romance oozes out a little in rheums and catarrhs. I began to perceive that, though I had been bred I had not been educated as a gypsy; and, what was worse, Lucy, though she never complained, felt that the walls of our palace were not exempt from the damps of winter, nor our royal state from the Caliban curses of--


'Cramps and
Side stitches that do pen our breath up.'"


"She fell ill; and during her illness I had sundry bright visions of warm rooms and coal fires, a friend with whom I could converse upon Chaucer, and a tutor for my son who would teach him other arts than those of picking pockets and pilfering larders. Nevertheless, I was a little ashamed of my own thoughts; and I do not know whether they would have been yet put into practice, but for a trifling circumstance which converted doubt and longing into certainty."

"Our crank cuffins had for some time looked upon me with suspicion and coldness: my superior privileges and comforts they had at first forgiven, on account of my birth and my generosity to them; but by degrees they lost respect for the one and gratitude for the other; and as I had in a great measure ceased from participating in their adventures, or, during Lucy's illness, which lasted several months, joining in their festivities, they at length considered me as a drone in a hive, by no means compensating by my services as an ally for my admittance into their horde as a stranger. You will easily conceive, when this once became the state of their feelings towards me, with how ill a temper they brooked the lordship of my stately caravan and my assumption of superior command. Above all, the women, who were very much incensed at Lucy's constant seclusion from their orgies, fanned the increasing discontent; and, at last, I verily believe that no eyesore could have been more grievous to the Egyptians than my wooden habitation and the smoke of its single chimney."

"From ill-will the rascals proceeded to ill acts; and one dark night, when we were encamped on the very same ground as that which we occupied when we received you, three of them, Mim at their head, attacked me in mine own habitation. I verily believe, if they had mastered me, they would have robbed and murdered us all; except perhaps my son, whom they thought ill-used by depriving him of Mim's instructive society. Howbeit, I was still stirring when they invaded me, and, by the help of the poker and a tolerably strong arm, I repelled the assailants; but that very night I passed from the land of Egypt, and made with all possible expedition to the nearest town, which was, as you may remember, W----."

"Here, the very next day, I learned that the house I now inhabit was to be sold. It had (as I before said) belonged to my mother's family, and my father had sold it a little before his death. It was the home from which I had been stolen, and to which I had been returned: often in my star-lit wanderings had I flown to it in thought; and now it seemed as if Providence itself, in offering to my age the asylum I had above all others coveted for it, was interested in my retirement from the empire of an ungrateful people and my atonement in rest for my past sins in migration."

"Well, sir, in short, I became the purchaser of the place you have just seen, and I now think that, after all, there is more happiness in reality than romance: like the laverock, here will I build my nest,--


'Here give my weary spirit rest,
And raise my low-pitched thoughts above
Earth, or what poor mortals love.'"


"And your son," said Clarence, "has he reformed?"

"Oh, yes," answered Cole. "For my part, I believe the mind is less evil than people say it is; its great characteristic is imitation, and it will imitate the good as well as the bad, if we will set the example. I thank Heaven, sir, that my boy now might go from Dan to Beersheba and not filch a groat by the way."

"What do you intend him for?" said Clarence.

"Why, he loves adventure, and, faith, I can't break him of that, for I love it too; so I think I shall get him a commission in the army, in order to give him a fitting and legitimate sphere wherein to indulge his propensities."

"You could not do better," said Clarence. "But your fine sister, what says she to your amendment?"

"Oh! she wrote me a long letter of congratulation upon it and every other summer she is graciously pleased to pay me a visit of three months long; at which time, I observe, that poor Lucy is unusually smart and uncomfortable. We sit in the best room, and turn out the dogs; my father-in-law smokes his pipe in the arbour, instead of the drawing-room; and I receive sundry hints, all in vain, on the propriety of dressing for dinner. In return for these attentions on our part, my sister invariably brings my boy a present of a pair of white gloves, and my wife a French ribbon of the newest pattern; in the evening, instead of my reading Shakspeare, she tells us anecdotes of high life, and, when she goes away, she gives us, in return for our hospitality, a very general and very gingerly invitation to her house. Lucy sometimes talks to me about accepting it; but I turn a deaf ear to all such overtures, and so we continue much better friends than we should be if we saw more of each other."

"And how long has your father-in-law been with you?"

"Ever since we have been here. He gave up his farm, and cultivates mine for me; for I know nothing of those agricultural matters. I made his coming a little surprise, in order to please Lucy: you should have witnessed their meeting."

"I think I have now learned all particulars," said Clarence; "it only remains for me to congratulate you: but are you, in truth, never tired of the monotony and sameness of domestic life?"

"Yes! and then I do, as I have just done, saddle Little John, and go on an excursion of three or four days, or even weeks, just as the whim seizes me; for I never return till I am driven back by the yearning for home, and the feeling that after all one's wanderings there is no place like it. Whether in private life or public, sir, in parting with a little of one's liberty one gets a great deal of comfort in exchange."

"I thank you truly for your frankness," said Clarence; "it has solved many doubts with respect to you that have often occurred to me. And now we are in the main road, and I must bid you farewell: we part, but our paths lead to the same object; you return to happiness, and I seek it."

"May you find it, and I not lose it, sir," said the wanderer reclaimed; and, shaking hands, the pair parted.

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