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There & Back - Chapter 53. Morning Post by :Merry_V Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1646

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There & Back - Chapter 53. Morning


The next post brought a letter from Simon Armour, saying, after his own peculiar fashion, that it was time the thing were properly understood between the parties concerned; but, that done, they must attend to the baronet's wish, and disclose nothing yet: he believed sir Wilton had his reasons. They must therefore, as soon as possible, make it clear to him that there was no break in the chain of their proof of Richard's identity. He proposed, therefore, that his daughter should pay her father a visit, and bring Richard.

The suggestion seemed good to all concerned. Criminal as she knew herself, Jane Tuke did not shrink from again facing sir Wilton, with the nephew by her side whom one and twenty years before she had carried in her arms to meet his unfatherly gaze! To her surprise she found that she almost enjoyed the idea.

Richard cashed the post-office-order the old man sent them, and they set out for his cottage.

The same day Simon went to Mortgrange and saw the baronet, who agreed at once to go to the cottage to meet his sister-in-law. The moment he entered the little parlour where they waited to receive him, he made Mrs. Tuke a polite bow, and held out his hand.

"You are the sister of my late wife, I am told," he said.

Jane made him a dignified courtesy, her resentment, after the lapse of twenty years, rising fresh at sight of the man who had behaved so badly to her sister.

"It was you that carried off the child?" said the baronet.

"Yes, sir," answered Jane.

"I am glad I did not know where to look for him. You did me the greatest possible favour. What these twenty years would have been like, with him in the house, I dare not think."

"It was for the child's sake I did it!" said Jane.

"I am perfectly aware it was not for mine!" returned sir Wilton. "Ha! ha! you looked as if you had come to stab me that day you brought the little object to the library, and gave me such a scare! You presented his fingers and toes to me as if, by Jove, I was the devil, and had made them so on purpose!--I tell you, Richard, if that's your name, you rascal, you have as little idea what a preposterously ugly creature you were, as I had that you would ever grow to be--well, half-fit to look at! I was appalled at the sight of you! And a good thing it was! If I had taken to you, and brought you up at home, it would scarcely have been to your advantage. You would have been worth less than you are, however little that may be! But it doesn't follow you're the least fit to be owned to! You're a tradesman, every inch of you--no more like a gentleman than--well, not half so like a gentleman as your grandfather there! By heaven, the anvil must be some sort of education! Why wasn't _I bound apprentice to my old friend Simon there! But, Richard, you don't look a gentleman, though your aunt looks as if she would eat me for saying it.--Now listen to me--all of you. It's no use your saying I've acknowledged him. If I choose to say I know nothing about him, then, as I told the rascal himself the other day, you'll have to prove your case, and that will take money! and when you've proved it, you get nothing but the title, and much good that will do you! So you had better make up all your minds to do as I tell you--that is, not to say one word about the affair, but just hold your tongues.--Now none of that looking at one another, as if I meant to do you! I'm not going to have people say my son shows the tradesman in him! I'm not going to have the Lestranges knock under to the Armours! I'm going to have the rascal the gentleman I can make him!--You're to go to college directly, sir; and I don't want to hear of or from you till you've taken your degree! You shall have two hundred a year and pay your own fees--not a penny more if you go on your marrow-bones for it!--You understand? You're not to attempt communicating with me. If there's anything I ought to know, let your grandfather come to me. I will see him when he pleases--or go to him, if he prefers it, and I'm not too gouty! Only, mind, I make no promises! If I should leave all I have to the other lot, you will have no right to complain. With the education I will give you, and the independence your uncle has given you, and the good sense you have on your own hook, you're provided for. You can be a doctor or a parson, you know. There's more than one living in my gift. The Reverend sir Richard Lestrange!--it don't sound amiss. I'm sorry I shan't hear it. I shall be gone where they crop one of everything--even of his good works, the parsons say, but I shan't be much the barer for that! It's hard, confounded hard, though, when they're all a fellow has got!--Now don't say a word! I don't like being contradicted!--not at all! It sends one round on the other tack, I tell you--and there's my gout coming! Only mind this: if once you say who you are as long as you're at college, or before I give you leave, I have done with you. I won't have any little plan of mine forestalled for your vanity! Don't any of you say who he is. It will be better for him--much. If it be but hinted who he is, he'll be courted and flattered, and then he'll be stuck up, and take to spending money! But as sure as hell, if he goes beyond his allowance--well, I'll pay it, but it shall be his last day at Oxford. He shall go at once into the navy--or the excise, by George!"

This expression of the baronet's will, if not quite to the satisfaction of every one concerned, was altogether delightful to Richard.

"May I say one word, sir?" he asked.

"Yes, if it's not arguing."

"I've not read a page of Latin since I left school, and I never knew any Greek."

"Oh! ah! I forgot that predicament! You must have a tutor to prepare you!--but you shall go to Oxford with him. I will _not have you loafing about here! You may remain with your grandfather till I find one, but you're not to come near Mortgrange."

"I may go to London with my mother, may I not?" said Richard.

"I see nothing against that. It will be the better way."

"If you please, sir Wilton," said Mrs. Tuke, "I left evidence at Mortgrange of what I should have to say."

"What sort of evidence?"

"Things that belonged to the child and myself."


"Hid in the nursery."

"My lady had everything moved, and the room fresh-papered after you left. I remember that distinctly."

"Did she say nothing about finding anything?"

"Nothing.--Of course she wouldn't!"

"I left a box of my own, with--"

"You'll never see it again."

"The things the child always wore when he went out, were under the wardrobe."

"Oblige me by saying nothing about them. I am perfectly satisfied, and believe every word you say. I believe Richard there the child of your sister Robina and myself; and it shall not be my fault if he don't have his rights! At the same time I promise nothing, and will manage things as I see best."

"At your pleasure, sir!" answered Mrs. Tuke.

"Should you mind, sir, if I went to see Mr. Wingfold before I go?" asked Richard.

"Who's he?"

"The clergyman of the next parish, sir."

"I don't know him--don't want to know him!--What have you got to do with _him_?"

"He was kind to me when I was down here before."

"I don't care you should have much to do with the clergy."

"You said, sir, I might go into the church!"

"_That's another thing quite! You would have the thing in your own hands then!"

Richard was silent. There was no point to argue. The moment sir Wilton was gone, Simon turned to his grandson.

"It was a pity you asked him about Mr. Wingfold. The only thing is you mustn't let out his secret. As to seeing Mr. Wingfold, or Miss Wylder either, just do as you please."

"No, grandfather. If I had not asked him, perhaps I might; but to ask him, and then not do what he told me, would be a sneaking shame!"

"You're right, my boy! Hold on that way, and you'll never be ashamed--or make your people ashamed either."

For the meantime, then, Richard went to London with his mother; and so anxious was old Simon, stimulated in part by the faithfulness of his grandson, to do nothing that might thwart the pleasure of the tyrant, that when first Wingfold asked after Richard, he told him he was at home, and the next time that he was at work in the country.

Richard went on helping his uncle, and going often to see his brother and sister. When Arthur was able for the journey, both he and Alice went with him. At the station they were met by Simon, with an old post-chaise he had to mend up. Having seen Arthur comfortably settled, his brother and sister went back to London together--Alice to go into a single room, and betake herself once more to her work, but with new courage and hope; Richard to the book-binding till his father should have found a tutor for him.

The Tukes were slowly becoming used, if not reconciled, to his care of the Mansons. His mother, indignant for her deceased sister, stood out the stiffest; the bookbinder could not fail to see that the youth was but putting in practice the socialistic theories he had himself sought to teach him. True, the thing came straight from the heart of Richard, and went much farther than his uncle's theories; but his uncle counted it the result of his own training, and woke at last to the fact that his theories were better than he had himself known.

With the help of the head of the college to which sir Wilton had resolved to send his son, a tutor was at length found--happily for Richard, one of the right sort. They went together to Oxford, and set to work at once. It would be hard to say which of the two reaped the more pleasure from the relation, or which, in the duplex process of teaching and learning, gained the most. For the tutor had in Richard a pupil of practised brain yet fresh, a live soul ready, for its own need and nourishment, to use every truth it came near. His penetrative habit made not a few regard him as a bore: their feeble vitality was troubled by the energy of his; he could not let a thing go in which he descried a principle: he must see it close! To the more experienced he was one who had not yet learned, wisely fearful of the trampling hoof, to carry aside his oyster with its possible pearl before he opened it. In earnest about everything, he must work out his liberty before he could gambol. A slave will amuse himself in his dungeon; a free man must file through his chains and dig through his prison-walls before he can frolic. Sunlight and air came through his open windows enough to keep Richard alive and strong, but not enough yet to make him merry. He was too solemn, thus, for most of those he met, but, happily, not for his tutor. Finding Richard knew ten times as much of English literature as himself, he became in this department his pupil's pupil; and listening to his occasional utterance of a religious difficulty, had new regions of thought opened in him, to the deepening and verifying of his nature. The result for the tutor was that he sought ordination, in the hope of giving to others what had at length become real to himself.

Richard gained little distinction at his examinations. He did well enough, but was too eager after real knowledge to care about appearing to know.

He made friends, but not many familiar friends. He sorely missed ministration: it had grown a necessity of his nature. It was well that the habit should be broken for a time. For, laden with consciousness, and not full of God, the soul will delight in itself as a benefactor, a regnant giver, the centre of thanks and obligation: and will thus, with a rampart-mound of self-satisfaction, dam out the original creative life of its being, the recognition of which is life eternal. But it grew upon Richard that, if there be a God, it is the one business of a man to find him, and that, if he would find him, he must obey the voice of his conscience.

As to the outward show of the man, Richard's carriage was improving. Level intercourse with men of his own age but more at home in what is called society, influenced his manners both with and without his will, while, all the time, he was gathering the confidence of experience. His rowing, and the daily run to and from the boats, with other exercises prescribed by his tutor, strengthened the shoulders whose early stoop had threatened to return with much reading. He was fast growing more than presentable. With the men of his year, his character more than his faculty had influence.

Old Simon was doing his best for Arthur. He would not hear of his going back to London, or attempting anything in the way of work beyond a little in the garden. He was indeed nowise fit for more.

The blacksmith himself was making progress--the best parts of him were growing fast. Age was turning the strength into channels and mill-streams, which before, wild-foaming, had flooded the meadows.

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