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aside from the unfenced road, and take the turf. “Coachman,” he cried, "just drive along the railway; you won't have the chance much longer.”
There was no sod turned yet, and no rod set up; but the driver seemed to know what was meant, and took us over the springy turf where once had run the river. And the salt breath of the sea came over the pebbleridge, full of appetite and briskness, after so much London.
“It is one of the saddest things I ever heard of,” Major Hockin began to say to me. “Poor Shovelin ! poor Shovelin! A man of large capital --the very thing we want-it might have been the making of this place. I have very little doubt that I must have brought him to see our great natural advantages—the beauty of the situation, the salubrity of the air, the absence of all clay, or marsh, or noxious deposit, the bright crisp turf, and the noble underlie of chalk, which (if you perceive my meaning) cannot retain any damp, but transmits it into sweet natural wells—why, driver, where the devil are you driving us ? ”
“No fear, your honour. I know every trick of it. It won't come over the wheels, I do believe; and it does all the good in the world to his sand-cracks. Whoa-ho, my boy, then ! And the young lady's feet might go up upon the cushion, if her boots is thin, Sir; and Mr. Rasper will excuse of it."
“What the "—something hot—"do you mean, Sir ?” the Major roared over the water, which seemed to be deepening as we went on. “Pull out this instant, pull out, I tell you, or you shall have three months' hard labour. May I be d- d now—my dear, I beg your pardon for speaking with such sincerity--I simply mean may I go straightway to the devil, if I don't put this fellow on the treadmill. Oh, you can pull out now, then, can you ?”
“If your honour pleases, I never did pull in,” the poor driver answered, being frightened at the excitement of the lord of the manor. “My orders was, Miss, to drive along the line coming on now just to Bruntsea, and keep in the middle of that same I did, and this here little wet is a haxident—a haxident of the full moon, I do assure you, and the wind coming over the sea, as you might say. These pebbles is too round, Miss, to stick to one another, you couldn't expect it of them; and sometimes the water here and there comes a'leaking like, through the bottom. I have seed it so, ever since I can remember.”
“ I don't believe a word of it," the Major said, as we waited a little for the vehicle to drain, and I made a nosegay of the bright sea-flowers. “ Tell me no lies, sir; you belong to the West Bruntseyans, and you have driven us into a vile bog, to scare me. They have bribed you. I see the whole of it. Tell me the truth, and you shall have five shillings."
The driver looked over the marshes, as if he had never received such an offer before. Five shillings, for a falsehood, would have seemed the proper thing, and have called for a balance of considerations, and made a demand upon his energies. But to earn five shillings, by the truth, had never fallen to his luck before; and he turned to me because I smiled and he said, “ Will you taste the water, Miss ?”
“ Bless me!” cried the Major, now, I never thought of that. Common people have such ways about things they are used to! I might have stood here for a month and never have thought of that way to settle it. Ridiculously simple-give me a taste, Erema. Ah, that is the real beauty of our coast, my dear! The strongest proportion of the saline element—I should know the taste of it anywhere. No sea-weed, no fishy particles, no sludge, no beards of oysters. The pure, uncontaminated, perfect brine, that sets every male and female on his legs, varicose, orthopædic-I forget their scientifics—but I know the smack of it."
Certainly,” I said, “it is beautifully salt. It will give you an appetite for dinner, Major Hockin. I could drink a pint of it, after all that smoke. But don't you think it is a serious thing for the sea itself to come pouring through the bottom of this pebble-bank in this way?”
“ Not at all. No, I rather like it. It opens up many strictly practical ideas. It adds very much to the value of the land. For instance, a salt-lick,' as your sweet Yankees call it-and set up an infirmary for foot and mouth disease. And better still, the baths, the baths, my dear! No expense for piping, or pumping, or anything. Only place your marble at the proper level, and twice a day you have the grand salubrious sparkling influx of ocean's self, self-filtered, and by its own operation permeated with a fine silicious element. What foreign mud could compete with such a bath ?”
“ But supposing there should come too much of it," I said ; “and wash both the baths and the bathers away ?"
“ Such an idea is ridiculous. It can be adjusted to a nicety. I am very glad I happened to observe this thing, this—this noble phenomenon.
I I shall speak to Montague about it at once, before I am half-an hour older. My dear, you have made a conquest; I quite forgot to tell you; but never mind that for the present. Driver, here is half-a-crown for
you. Your master will put down the fly to my account. He owes me a heriot. I shall claim his best beast, the moment he gets one without a broken wind.”
As the Major spoke, he got out at his own door with all his wonted alacrity ; but instead of offering me his hand, as he always had done in London, he skippel up his nine steps, on purpose (as I saw) that somebody else might come down for me. And this was Sir Montague Hockin; as I feared was only too likely, from what had been said. If I had even suspected that this gentleman was at Bruntlands, I would have done my utmost to stay where I was, in spite of all absence of money. Betsy would gladly have allowed me to remain, without paying even a farthing, until it should become convenient. Pride had forbidden me to speak of this; but I would have got over that pride, much rather than meet this Sir Montague Hockin thus. Some instinct told me to avoid him altogether; and having so little now of any other guidance, I attached, perhaps, foolish importance to that.
However, it was not the part of a lady to be rude to anyone through instinct; and I knew already that, in England, young women are not quite such masters of their own behaviour as in the Far West they are allowed to be. And so I did my best that, even in my eyes, he should not see how vexed I was at meeting him. And soon it appeared that this behaviour, however painful to me, was no less wise than good; because, both with my host and hostess, this new visitor was already at the summit of all good graces. He had conquered the Major by admiration of all his schemes and upshots, and even offering glimmers of the needful money in the distance; and Mrs. Hockin lay quite at his feet, ever since he had opened a bamper, and produced a pair of frizzled fowls, creatures of an extraordinary aspect, toothed all over like a dandelion plant, with every feather sticking inside out. When I saw them, I tried for my life not to laugh, and, biting my lips very hard, quite succeeded; until the cock opened up a pair of sleepy eyes, covered with comb and very sad inversions, and, glancing with complacency at his wife (who stood beneath him, even more turned inside out), capered with his twiggy legs, and gave a long sad crow. Mrs. Hockin looked at him, with intense delight.
Erema, is it possible that you laugh? I thought that you never laughed, Erema. At any rate, if you ever do indulge, you might choose a fitter opportunity, I think, You bave spoiled his demonstration altogether-see, he does not understand such unkindness—and it is the very first he has uttered since he came! Oh, poor Fluffsky!” “ I am very, very sorry.
But how was I to help it? I would not, on any account, have stopped him, if I had known he was so sensitive. Fluffsky, do please to begin again.”
“ These beggars are nothing at all, I can assure you,” said Sir Montague, coming to my aid, when Fluffsky spurned all our prayers for one
“Mrs. Hockin, if you really would like to have a fowl that even Lady Clara Crowcombe has not got, you shall have it in a week, or a fortnight, or at any rate a month; if I can manage it. They are not to be had, except through certain channels; and the fellows who write the poultry books have never even heard of them.”
“Oh, how delighted I shall be! Lady Clara despises all her neighbours so. But do they lay eggs? Half the use of keeping poultry, when you never kill them, is to get an egg for breakfast; and Major Hockin looks round and says, ' Now, is this our own?' And I cannot say that it is; and I am vexed with the books, and he begins to laugh at me. People said it was for want of chalk; but they walk upon nothing but chalk, as you can see.”
“ And their food, Mrs. Hockin. They are walking upon that. Starve them for a week, and 40 eggs at least will reward you for stern discipline."
But all this little talk I only tell, to show how good and soft Mrs. Hockin was; and her husband, in spite of all his self-opinion, and reso
lute talk about money, and manorial dues, in bis way, perhaps, was even less to be trusted to get his cash out of any poor and honest man. On the very day after
my return from London, I received a letter from “ Colonel Gundry" (as we always called the Sawyer now, through his kinship to the Major), and, as it cannot easily be put into less compass, I may as well give his very words :
“ Dear Miss Rema,
“ Your last favour to hand, with thanks. Everything is going on all right with us. The mill is built up, and goes better than ever ; more orders on hand than we can get through. We have not cracked the big nugget yet. Expect the Government to take him at a trifle below value, for Washington Museum. Must have your consent; but, for my part, would rather let him go there, than break him. Am ready to lose a few dollars upon him, particularly as he might crack up all quartzy in the middle. They offer to take him by weight, at three dollars and a half per pound below standard. Please say if agreeable.
“I fear, my dear, that there are bad times coming for all of us here in this part. Not about money, but a long sight worse; bad will, and contention, and rebellion, perhaps. What we hear concerning it is not much here ; but, even here, thoughts are very much divided. Ephraim takes a different view from mine ; which is not a right thing for a grandson to do; and neighbour Sylvester goes with him. The Lord send agreement and concord among us; but, if He doeth so, He must change His mind first; for every man is borrowing his neighbour's gun.
“ If there is anything that you can do, to turn Ephraim back to his duty, my dear, I am sure that, for love of us, you will do it. If Firm was to run away from me now, and go fighting on behalf of slavery, I never should care more for nought upon this side of Jordan; and the new mill might go to Jericho ; though it does look uncommon handsome
I can assure you, and tears through its work like a tiger. “ Noting symptoms in your last of the price of things in England, and having carried over some to your account, enclosed, please to find a bill for five hundred dollars, though not likely to be wanted yet. Have a care of your money, my dear; but pay your way handsome, as a Castlewood should do. Jowler goes his rounds twice a day, looking for you; and somebody else never hangs his hat up, without casting one eye at the corner you know. Sylvester's girl was over here last week, dashing abou as usual. If Firm goes South, he may have her, for aught I care, and never see saw-mill again. But I hope that the Lord will spare my old days such disgrace and tribulation.
“ About you know what, my dear, be not over anxious. I have been young, and now am old, as the boly Psalmist says; and the more I see of the ways of men, the less I verily think of them. Their good-esteem, their cap-in-hand, their fair fame, as they call it, goes by accident, and fortune, the wbim of the moment, and the way the clever ones have of
tickling them. A great man laughs at the flimsy of it; and a good one goes to his conscience. Your father saw these things at their value. I bave often grieved that you cannot see them so; but perhaps I have liked you none the worse, my dear.
“ Don't forget about going South. A word from you may stop him. It is almost the only hope I have; and even that may be too late. Suan Isco, and Martin, send messages. The flowers are on your father's
grave. I have got a large order for pine-cradles in great haste, but have time to be, “ Truly yours,
SAMPSON GUNDRY." That letter, while it relieved me in one way, from the want of money, cost me more than ten times five hundred dollars' worth of anxiety. The Sawyer had written to me twice ere this-kind, simple letters, but of no importance, except for their goodness and affection. But now it was
. clear that, when he wrote this letter, he must have been saddly put out, and upset. His advice to me was beyond all valuo; but he seemed to
. have kept none at home for himself. He was carried quite out of his large, staid ways, when he wrote those bitter words about poor Firmthe very apple of his eye, as the holy Psalmist says. And, knowing the obstinacy of them both, I dreaded clash between them.
Having got money enough to last long with one brought up to sim. plicity, and resolved to have nothing to do for awhile with charity or furnished lodgings (what though kept by one's own nurse), I cast about now for good reason to be off from all the busy works at Brunt
So soon after such a tremendous blow, it was impossible for me to push my own little troubles and concerns upon good Mr. Shovelin's family, much as I longed know what was to become of my father's will, if anything. But my desire to be doing something, or, at least, to get away for a time from Bruntsea, was largely increased by Sir Montague Hockin's strange behaviour towards me.
That young man, if still he could be called young-which, at my age, scarcely seemed to be his right, for he must have been ten years older than poor Firm— began more and more every day to come after me, just when I wanted to be quite alone. There was nothing more soothing to my thoughts and mind (the latter getting quiet from the former, I suppose) than for the whole of me to rest awhile in such a little scollop of the shingle as a new moon tide, in little crescents, leaves just below high-water mark. And now it was new-moon tide again, a fortnight after the flooding of our fly by the activity of the full moon; and, feeling how I longed to understand these things—which seem to be denied to all who are of the same sex as the moon herself—I sat in a very nice nick, where no wind could make me look worse than nature