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Soon the narcissus flowers and dies, but slow
Therefore I wait. Within my earnest thought
But, not to be more tedious, I confess
W. W. S.
CHRONICLES OF CARLINGFORD: THE PERPETUAL CURATE.
PART XIII.-CHAPTER XL.
"Now, Mr Wodehouse," said Jack Wentworth, "it appears that you and I have a word to say to each other." They had all risen when the other gentlemen followed Mr Morgan out of the room, and those who remained stood in a group surrounding the unhappy culprit, and renewing his impression of personal danger. When he heard himself thus addressed, he backed against the wall, and instinctively took one of the chairs and placed it before him. His furtive eye sought the door and the window, investigating the chances of escape. When he saw that there was none, he withdrew still a step farther back, and stood at bay.
"By Jove! I ain't going to stand all this," said Wodehouse; as if every fellow had a right to bully me -it's more than flesh and blood can put up with. I don't care for that old fogie that's gone up-stairs; but, by Jove! I won't stand any more from men that eat my dinners, and win my money, and
Jack Wentworth made half a step forward with a superb smile "My good fellow, you should never reproach a man with his good actions," he said; "but at the same time, having eaten your dinner, as you describe, I have a certain claim on your gratitude. We have had - a- business connection— for some years. I don't say you have reason to be actually grateful for that; but, at least, it brought you now and then into the society of gentlemen. A man who robs a set of women, and leaves the poor creature he has ruined destitute, is a sort of cur we have nothing to say to," said the heir of the Wentworths, contemptuously. "We do not pretend to be saints, but we are not blackguards; that is to say," said Jack, with a perfectly calm and harmonious smile, not in
theory, nor in our own opinion. The fact accordingly is, my friend, that you must choose between us and those respectable meannesses of yours. By Jove! the fellow ought to have been a shopkeeper, and as honest as-Diogenes," said Jack. He stood looking at his wretched associate with the overwhelming impertinence of a perfectly well-bred man, no way concealing the contemptuous inspection with which his cool eyes travelled over the disconcerted figure from top to toe, seeing and exaggerating all its tremors and clumsy guiltiness. The chances are, had Jack Wentworth been in Wodehouse's place, he would have been master of the position as much as
He was not shocked nor in
dignant like his brothers. He was simply contemptuous, disdainful, not so much of the wickedness as of the clumsy and shabby fashion in which it had been accomplished. As for the offender, who had been defiant in his sulky fashion up to this moment, his courage oozed out at his finger-ends under Jack Wentworth's eye.
"I am my own master," he stammered, nowadays. I ain't to be dictated to—and I shan't be, by Jove! As for Jack Wentworth, he's well known to be neither more nor less
and have his money won from him, and made game of-not to say tossed about as I've been among 'em, and made a drudge of and set to do the dirty work," said the unfortunate subordinate, with a touch of pathos in his hoarse voice;-"I don't mean to say I've been what I ought; but, by Jove! to be put upon as I've been, and knocked about; and at the last they haven't the pluck to stand by a fellow, by Jove!" muttered Mr Wodehouse's unlucky heir. What further exasperation his smiling superior was about to heap upon him, nobody could tell; for just as Jack Wentworth was about to speak, and just as Wodehouse had again faced towards him, half-cowed, half-resisting, Gerald, who had been looking on in silence, came forward out of the shadow. He had seen all and heard all, from that moral deathbed of his, where no personal cares could again disturb him; and though he had resigned his office, he could not belie his nature. He came in by instinct to cherish the dawn of compunction which appeared, as he thought, in the
The best thing that can happen to you," said Gerald, at the sound of whose voice everybody started, "is to find out that the wages of sin are bitter. Don't expect any sympathy or consolation from those who have helped you to do wrong. My brother tries to induce you to do a right act from an unworthy motive. He says your former associates will not acknowledge you. My advice to you is to forsake your former associates. My brother," said Gerald, turning aside to look at him, "would do himself honour if he forsook them also-but for you, here is your opportunity. You have no temptation of poverty now. Take the first step, and forsake them. I have no motive in advis ing you-except, indeed, that I am Jack Wentworth's brother. He and you are different," said Gerald, involuntarily glancing from one to the other. "And at present you
have the means of escape. Go now and leave them," said the man who was a priest by nature. The light returned to his eye while he spoke ; he was no longer passive, contemplating his own moral death; his natural office had come back to him unawares. He stretched his
arm towards the door, thinking of nothing but the escape of the sinner. Go," said Gerald. "Refuse their approbation; shun their society. For Christ's sake, and not for theirs, make amends to those you have wronged. Jack, I command you to let him go."
Jack, who had been startled at first, had recovered himself long before his brother ceased to speak. "Let him go, by all means," he said, and stood superbly indifferent by Gerald's side, whistling under his breath a tripping lively air. "No occasion for solemnity. The sooner he goes the better,' " said Jack. "In short, I see no reason why any of us should stay, now the business is accomplished. I wonder would his reverence ever forgive me if I lighted my cigar?" He took out his case as he spoke, and began to look over its contents. There was one in the room, however, who was better acquainted with the indications of Jack Wentworth's face than either of his brothers. This unfortunate, who was hanging in an agony of uncertainty over the chair he had placed before him, watched every movement of his leader's face with the anxious gaze of a lover, hoping to see a little corresponding anxiety in it, but watched in vain. Wodehouse had been going through a fever of doubt and divided impulses. The shabby fellow was open to good impressions, though he was not much in the way of practising them, and Gerald's address, which, in the first place, filled him with awe, moved him afterwards with passing thrills of compunction, mingled with a kind of delight at the idea of getting free. When his admonitor said
felt the exhilaration of enfranchisement. But the next moment his eye sought Jack Wentworth's face, which was so superbly careless, so indifferent to him and his intentions, and the vagabond's soul succumbed with a canine fidelity to his master. Had Jack shown any interest, any excitement in the matter, his sway might have been doubtful; but in proportion to the sense of his own insignificance and unimportance Wodehouse's allegiance confirmed itself. He looked wistfully towards the hero of his imagination, as that skilful personage selected his cigar. He would rather have been kicked again than left alone, and left to himself. After all, it was very true what Jack Wentworth said. They might be a bad lot, but they were gentlemen (according to Wodehouse's understanding of the word) with whom he had been associated; and beatific visions of peers and baronets and honourables, among whom his own shabby person had figured, without feeling much below the common level, crossed his mind with all the sweetness which belongs to a past state of affairs. Yet it was still in his power to recall these vanishing glories. Now that he was rich, and could "cut a figure" among the objects of his admiration, was that brilliant world to be closed upon him for ever by his own obstinacy? As these thoughts rushed through his mind, little Rosa's beauty and natural grace came suddenly to his recollection. Nobody need know how he had got his pretty wife, and a pretty wife she would be-a creature whom nobody could help admiring. Wodehouse looked wistfully at Jack Wentworth, who took no notice of him as he chose his cigar. Jack was not only the ideal of the clumsier rogue, but he was the doorkeeper of that paradise of disreputable nobles and ruined gentlemen which was Wodehouse's idea of good society; and from all this was he about to be banished? Jack Wentworth selected his cigar with as much care as if his happiness de
VOL. XCVI.-NO. DLXXXV.
pended on it, and took no notice of the stealthy glances thrown at him. "I'll get a light in the hall," said Jack; "good evening to you," and he was actually going away.
Look here," said Wodehouse, hastily, in his beard; "I ain't a man to forsake old friends. If Jack Wentworth does not mean anything unreasonable or against a fellow's honourHold your tongue, Waters; by Jove! I know my friends. I know you would never have been one of them but for Jack Wentworth. He's not the common sort, I can tell you. He's the greatest swell going, by Jove!" cried Jack's admiring follower, "and through thick and thin he's stood by me. I ain't going to forsake him now-that is, if he don't want anything that goes against a fellow's honour," said the repentant prodigal, again sinking the voice which he had raised for a moment. As he spoke he looked more wistfully than ever towards his leader, who said Pshaw!" with an impatient gesture, and put back his cigar.
"This room is too hot for anything," said Jack; "but don't open the window, I entreat of you. I hate to assist at the suicide of a set of insane insects. For heaven's sake, Frank, mind what you're doing. As for Mr Wodehouse's remark," said Jack, lightly, "I trust I never could suggest anything which would wound his keen sense of honour. I advise you to marry and settle, as I am in the habit of advising young men; and if I were to add that it would be seemly to make some provision for your sisters
Stop there!" said the Curate, who had taken no part in the scene up to this moment. He had stood behind rather contemptuously, determined to have nothing to do with his ungrateful and ungenerous protégé. But now an unreasonable impulse forced him into the discussion. "The less that is said on that part of the subject the better," he said, with some natural heat. "I object to the mixing up of
names which-which no one here has any right to bandy about
"That is very true," said Mr Proctor; "but still they have their rights," the late Rector added after a pause. "We have no right to stand in the way of their their interest, you know." It occurred to Mr Proctor, indeed, that the suggestion was on the whole a sensible one. "Even if they were to-to marry, you know, they might still be left unprovided for," said the late Rector. "I think it is quite just that some provision should be made for that."
And then there was a pause. Frank Wentworth was sufficiently aware after his first start of indignation that he had no right to interfere, as Mr Proctor said, between the Miss Wodehouses and their interest. He had no means of providing for them, of setting them above the chances of fortune. He reflected bitterly that it was not in his power to offer a home to Lucy, and through her to her sister. What he had to do was to stand by silently, to suffer other people to discuss what was to be done for the woman whom he loved, and whose name was sacred to him. This was a stretch of patience of which he was not capable. "I can only say again," said the Curate, "that I think this discussion has gone far enough. Whatever matters of business there may be that require arrangement had better be settled between Mr Brown and Mr Waters. So far as private feeling goes
Never fear, I'll manage it," said Jack Wentworth, 66 as well as a dozen lawyers. Private feeling has nothing to do with it. Have a cigar, Wodehouse? We'll talk it over as we walk home," said the condescending potentate. These words dispersed the assembly which no longer had any object. As Jack Wentworth sauntered out, his faithful follower pressed through the others to join him. Wodehouse was himself again. He gave a sulky nod to the Curate, and said, “Good
night, parson, I don't owe much to you," and hastened out close upon the heels of his patron and leader. All the authorities of Carlingford, the virtuous people who conferred station and respectability by a look, sank into utter insignificance in presence of Jack. His admiring follower went after him with a swell of pride. He was a poor enough rogue himself, hustled and abused by everybody, an unsuccessful and shabby vagabond, notwithstanding his new fortune; but Jack was the glorified impersonation of cleverness and wickedness and triumph to Wodehouse. He grew insolent when he was permitted to put his arm through that of his hero, and went off with him trying to copy, in swagger and insolence, his careless step and well-bred ease. Perhaps Jack Wentworth felt a little ashamed of himself as he emerged from the gate of the Rectory with his shabby and disreputable companion. He shrugged his shoulders slightly as he looked back and saw Gerald and Frank coming slowly out together. "Coraggio!" said Jack to himself, “it is I who am the true philanthropist. Let us do evil that good may come.' Notwithstanding, he was very thankful not to be seen by his father, who had wished to consult him as a man of the world, and had shown certain yearnings towards him, which, to Jack's infinite surprise, awakened responsive feelings in his own unaccustomed bosom. He was half ashamed of this secret movement of natural affection, which, certainly, nobody else suspected; but it was with a sensation of relief that he closed the Rectory gate behind him, without having encountered the keen, inquiring, suspicious glances of the Squire. The others dispersed according to their plea
-Mr Waters joining the party up-stairs, while Mr Proctor followed Jack Wentworth and Wodehouse to the door with naïve natural curiosity. When the excellent man recollected that he was listening to private conversation, and met Wode