« AnteriorContinuar »
and why does Uncle Robert make an exception of him?"
"Ah, that's a sad story. Mr. Trenchard is a neighbour of yours who has the misfortune to be stone blind, and
your uncle would die rather than say a cross word to him, because it was he who deprived the poor man of his sight many years ago by an unlucky shot. From that day to this Robert Scarth has never burnt another cartridge. He has been a hunting man ever since, which was one of the many pretexts that he discovered for falling foul of his brother, who was a shooting man. They pretended to be at variance upon religious questions, Tom being an Evangelical and Robert a High Churchman ; but neither of them could forget a dispute they once had about a drowned fox-cub. They were crossing the stream down yonder by the larch covert together one day, when Robert pulled up on the bridge and, pointing to the water, ‘ Just look at that, now!' says he, in a mighty rage ; so much for your smooth-tongued scoundrel of a keeper! Tom peered down at the stream, which was muddy and running strong, after rain. 'I am not aware,' says he, that my keeper is in the habit of drowning mongrel puppies here, but if he does, he infringes no order of mine.' 'Puppies be hanged !' roars Robert. 'It's a fox-cub, and you know it is!' Well, they argued the point, getting hotter and hotter, as their way was, and at last Tom brought down his fist upon the rail with a bang. 'If that's a fox-cub,' says he, 'I swear I'll eat him raw, body and bones !' The words were hardly out of his mouth before Robert was wading waist-deep through the water, and presently a fine cub, with a stone round its neck, was flung into Tom's face. Now sit down on the bank and eat that,' he was told 'or else confess yourself a liar and a perjurer !""
“Did he eat it ?" Nigel inquired, much interested.
"He did not. If the thing had been possible, I do believe it would have been done ; but, as it was, Tom had to eat his words instead. And that, my dear sir, is why you are sitting in this room at this moment, with problems before you which nobody can call simple.”
“Sometimes,” sighed Nigel, “they look to me insoluble."
“ I wouldn't say they were that; matters are very much simplified for you by the large amount of cash that stands to your credit. Still, it's an equivocal position, and it can scarcely become less so as years go on."
“The question is whether I ought ever to have accepted it."
"Oh no," returned the priest, laughing ; " that's not the question any longer. For good or for ill, you have made your choice. But since you are the nephew of your uncles, let an old fellow warn you to be on your guard against behaving as you Scarths are very apt to do. You offer to eat fox-cubs, which can't be eaten, and so are driven to make a fantastic will, in order to avenge yourself upon the person who has humiliated you ; or you fire at a bird which isn't your bird, and so become converted into a blind man's dog for the rest of your days. These things are object lessons in prudence and selfcontrol, my son.”
THE joys of this world, like its sorrows, its successes
and its disappointments, are transient. Happy the man who has finally renounced them all, and whose ordered, unalterable life can be affected no more by good or by evil fortune! Happy, nevertheless, and despite a renounced renunciation, must that young man needs be who, stepping forth into the sunshine on a morning of late spring or early summer, surveys wide stretches of land which own him as their master, and recognises, whether he will or no, that the lines have fallen to him in pleasant places. In vain did Nigel Scarth tell himself that he regretted the safe and peaceful cloister, that he dreaded temptations which he had not always been strong enough to resist and that he had only accepted a troublesome inheritance in the hope of serving the Church which he loved so much more than he did the world. All that might be quite true; but it was also true that interviews with the stud-groom and the head keeper had left him with a sense of exhilaration irrepressible at his age. It is no sin, after all, to be fond of sport, while many people who should be good judges consider it a merit. Monsignor Nolan was one of them. By his way of thinking—and he had in a very frank, good-humoured, friendly fashion stated what his way of thinking was-Nigel had nothing to
do but to live as other squires lived, while setting an unobtrusive example and keeping within his income. He did not advise parsimony, nor did he recommend any ostentatious religious zeal.
“You're only a tenant for life here," he remarked, “and your first duty is to see that the estate doesn't suffer during your tenancy. There's no reason why it should, for, between you and me, old Tom was a bit of
He must have saved several thousands every year, and you should be able to do the same easily enough. You'll be bound to do it, indeed, as soon as you marry."
That the young man would marry his adviser assumed as a matter of course, almost implying even or so it seemed to Nigel—that he had his eye upon the destined bride. Certainly propinquity, community of faith and suitability of age seemed to point to Monica Ferrand, and Monsignor Nolan, although he had not seen the young lady since her childhood, sang her praises with significant insistence. He likewise described her as being one of the acknowledged beauties of England, which was rather bold of him ; but he had watched her sisters growing up, and no doubt he forgot that there are ugly ducklings in almost every brood. So, to sum up, Nigel's curiosity was stimulated, and the future seemed to smile at him, and he was reminded at every turn of the undeniable fact that he was young.
What used once upon a time to be known as morning calls" are not generally paid in the morning ; but perhaps a very old friend of the family deemed himself entitled to dispense with ceremony, and it was soon after mid-day that Nigel was summoned from the stables by a message to the effect that Mr. Trenchard was in the library and would like to see him, if he could
In a literal sense, poor Mr. Trenchard
could see nobody. Nigel remembered that and, remembering also what he had been told as to the cause of his visitor's misfortune, was touched, when he returned to the house, by a spectacle which is always pathetic. That serenity of facial expression so unaccountably common amongst the blind was very noticeable in the case of this slim, refined-looking man with the closelytrimmed white beard. Noticeable also were the scrupulous neatness of his attire and his upright, almost youthful carriage. Nigel was struck, as most people were on first beholding Humphry Trenchard, by the irony of fate, which had deprived so well-preserved a man of the one faculty which is best worth preserving, and perhaps his compassion caused him to forget how the loss of one sense is apt to sharpen the others until they well nigh supply its place. It was, at any rate, rather startling, after taking Mr. Trenchard's extended hand, to hear him say, with a pleasant laugh:
“Yes; but you must not pity me too much. I have educated myself; I can read and write and ride and drive, with my man by my side ; I am by no means as helpless as I look. Added to which, I have an iron constitution. So I can't claim to be a great deal worse off than my neighbours, although I do sometimes put forward the claims of a privileged person. The proof that I do is my presuming to drop in upon you at this unconventional hour."
“You are very kind to come at all,” the young man declared ; "it was I who was guilty of presumption by -by showing that I was sorry for you. But I don't know how
Mr. Trenchard laughed again. “Oh, I heard you draw in your breath; I hear all manner of things that I am not meant to hear. I tell you this, so as to take no unfair advantage of you at starting ; for, as I live almost