B. L. (Benjamin Leopold) Farjeon.

The Duchess of Rosemary Lane online

. (page 17 of 24)
Online LibraryB. L. (Benjamin Leopold) FarjeonThe Duchess of Rosemary Lane → online text (page 17 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

strong, for your mother's sake and mine, and come home to take your
proper position in society - a position which I have made for you,
and which you will worthily sustain. You have yet to choose your
career - it will be politics, I hope; it opens out the widest field to
a young man of wealth and talent. Before I die, I may see my boy in

Arthur shook his head. He had his dreams of the path in which he would
choose to walk; the pen should be the weapon by means of which he
would carve his way to fame. He expressed his hope, with a boy's
timidity and bashfulness, to his father, who was too wise to fan the
fire by a show of opposition.'

"All that is in the future," he said; "your first care is to get

This conference between father and son was one of solemnity to the
lad; he was going on a long voyage, and he and his father might never
meet again; there was a thought in his mind to which he was impelled
to give utterance.

"Be sure of one thing, sir," he said, gazing steadily with his
truthful eyes into his father's face, "whatever occurs, in whatever
groove my life may run, I shall never do anything to disgrace the name
of Temple."

"My dear lad!" murmured his father.

"Whatever career I adopt," said the lad, with a heightened colour, "I
solemnly promise always and for ever to set right and justice before
me, and to be guided by their light."

His right hand was slightly raised as he spoke, and he looked upwards,
as though he were registering a vow. The words were the outcome of his
truthful nature, and were a fit utterance at such a time and under
such circumstances.

"If I believed," continued the lad, "that it were possible I should
ever commit an act which would reflect shame upon the name we bear, I
should pray to die to-night. I should not be happy if I went away
without giving you this assurance. Believe me, sir, I will be worthy
of the trust you repose in me."

Mr. Temple received this assurance with averted head. He was
accustomed to boyish outbursts from his son, but this last bore with
it, in its more earnest tones, a deeper signification than usual.

"You afford me great pleasure, Arthur," he said slowly; "I am sure I
shall not be disappointed in you. Yet you must not forget that, in the
practical issues of life, sentiment must occasionally be set aside."

The lad pondered for a few moments, saying then:

"I do not quite understand you, sir."

Mr. Temple briefly explained his meaning.

"Merely, my son, that the circumstances of life frequently call for
the exercise of wisdom, and that we must look carefully to the results
of our actions."

Arthur Temple was always ready for an argument.

"I do not know how I should act if wisdom and sentiment clashed. I
have heard you say I am given to sentiment."

"Yes, Arthur; but you are young."

"I hope never to alter, sir. What I intended fully to say was this:
that if a matter were before me in which wisdom and sentiment clashed,
I do not know how I should act. But I do know how I should act in a
matter where wisdom and justice pulled different ways. I may not
always be wise; I should despise myself if I suspected that I should
not always be just. Had I to choose between a wise and a just man, I
know whose hand I should take. Why, sir, it enters into my love for
you" - his arm here stole around his father's shoulder - "that I know
you to be a just man, incapable of a base or mean action! I will
follow in your footsteps; the example you have set me shall not be
thrown away."

The conversation was then continued in another strain, and shortly
afterwards Arthur Temple bade his parents farewell, and started for
the New World. From the moment the lad placed his foot upon the vessel
which conveyed him from his native land, it seemed as though he were
animated by a new life. The lassitude and languor which had weighed
upon him were blown away by the fresh breezes that swept across the
seas; his pulses beat more briskly, his blood flowed through his veins
with fuller force. The pale, sickly lad whose feeble health had but
yesterday caused his parents so much anxiety, became drunk with animal
spirits, and was the life and soul of the ship. He had his quiet
hours, when he would sit in happy silent communion with the spirit of
beauty which touched every natural effect in air and sea with heavenly
colour, which whispered to him in the silence of the night, when the
stars shone peacefully on the waters, and in the storm, when fierce
winds lashed the seas to fury. There was exhibited in him that
combination of forces which is the special attribute of some
highly-strung sensitive natures: a wild riot of animal spirits which
compelled him to become the noisiest and foremost in every noisy crew,
and a calm, spiritual repose which demanded perfect peacefulness of
body and soul. In the New World, he passed a happy time. His name and
his father's position and reputation in the home-land were sufficient
to ensure him a welcome in every circle, and the rare qualities he
displayed endeared him to all with whom he came into association.
Wherever he travelled he heard his father spoken of with honour and
respect, as a just man and a just judge; and this oft-repeated
experience caused him intense pleasure. He grew prouder than ever of
his father's good name, and stronger than ever in his resolve to
emulate him. It was during this temporary absence from home that he
met and engaged Ned Chester for his valet.

Ned's career in the Australias had been one of adventure, and it had
made him a jack of all trades and master of none. He had been by turns
a stone-breaker, an auctioneer, a splitter of wood, a storekeeper, a
shepherd, many times a gold-digger, a newspaper runner, and Heaven
knows what besides. Had he been ordinarily industrious, he would most
certainly have verified his mother's prediction that he would one day
achieve sudden fortune - saying nothing of honour; but his love of
indolence was incurable. His slips 'twixt cup and lip were numerous.
Having in a tipsy fit purchased a piece of land for a song at a
government land sale, he found himself, by reason of his
disinclination for work, compelled to dispose of it, and he sold it - a
day too soon. Twenty-four hours after it passed from his hands, rich
deposits of gold were discovered in its vicinity, and the allotment
was worth thousands of pounds. He sunk a shaft on a gold-lead, and
having obtained fifty ounces of gold, "went on the spree" till every
shilling was spent. When he returned to his shaft he found it in
possession of a party of miners, each of whom was making ten ounces a
day out of it. He had by the mining laws forfeited all claim to it by
his desertion. This run of misfortune, as he termed it, followed him
all through his career, and he failed to see that he was in any way
accountable for it. Truth compels the further admission that he made
the acquaintance of the interior of some colonial prisons, and that in
the entire record of his experiences there was little that redounded
to his credit. Strange, however, to state that in the midst of the
lawlessness that prevails in all new communities, tempting to excess
those whose passions are difficult to control, Ned Chester's besetting
sin of intemperance which threatened to cut short his life in the Old
Country lessened instead of gained in strength. And almost as strange
is the fact that, with some indefinite idea that he would one day be
called upon to play a gentleman's part in life, he endeavoured to fit
himself, by reading and in manners, for this shadowy framework; with
so much success as to cause him occasionally to be sneered at by his
equals as a "stuck-up swell," a species of abuse which afforded him
infinite satisfaction. Undoubtedly, the tenderness with which he held
in remembrance the beautiful child-Duchess of Rosemary Lane was the
leading incentive to this partial reformation. Her face and pretty
figure were constantly before him, and constituted the tenderest
episode in his past life - the only tender one indeed, for any love he
may have felt for his devoted mother was so alloyed with rank
selfishness as to be utterly valueless. As the years rolled on,
thoughts travelled apace, and with them he saw the child-Duchess
growing to womanhood - to beautiful womanhood. Then began to creep upon
him a thirst to see her, and to be with her - a thirst which increased
in intensity the more he dwelt upon his wish. The circumstance that
kept them apart was to his sense monstrous. She was his - by what
right, or if by any, mattered not; she was his, and he was hers; they
belonged to each other. But by this time fortune seemed to have
entirely deserted him, and he had settled into a from-hand-to-mouth
vagabond condition of life which was destructive of every chance of
crossing the seas with a shilling in his pocket. At this point of his
career chance brought him into communication with Arthur Temple. He
had taken service, under an assumed name, as a shepherd, an occupation
which gave full scope to his indolent habits, and he was lying on the
hills on a summer day, while through an adjacent forest of iron and
silver bark trees, Arthur Temple was cantering, in high spirits. The
subtle invisible links which draw lives into fatal connection with one
another are too strange and mysterious for human comprehension.
Between these two men, unconscious of each other's existence,
stretched the link which was to bind them in one mesh thousands of
miles across the seas, wherefrom other links were stretching to draw
them homewards. Ned Chester, lying on the hill, in gloomy abstraction
hitched from his pocket a common tin whistle, and began to play his
sorrows through the keys. This one accomplishment had never deserted
him; the cheap and common instrument became in his hands a divine
medium for sweetest melody. The music reached the ears of Arthur
Temple as he rode through the silent woods, and he reined in his
horse, and listened. He was alone, making his way to the home station
of the rich squatter who employed Ned Chester, and the music stirred
his poetic mind. He wove from it romantic fancies; it peopled the
woods with beautiful images; it made the stillness eloquent. He rode
on to meet it, prepared for any surprise, in the shape of delicate
nymph or sprite, and came upon a shabbily-dressed man, with a
fortnight's beard on him, playing with dirty coarse fingers upon the
keys of a common tin whistle. Ned Chester ceased, and gazed at the
newcomer. He saw that he was a gentleman, and he ground his teeth with
envy; but he gave no expression to the sentiment. Arthur Temple opened
the ball.

"It _is_ you who were playing?"


"On that?" eyeing the tin whistle with intense interest.

"Yes; on this."

"Will you play again for me?"

"I don't mind."

Ned placed the whistle to his lips, and played a simple Scotch air,
improvising on the theme with rare skill; his organ of love of
approbation was very large.

"Beautiful!" said Arthur Temple. "You have been taught in a good

In the slight laugh with which Ned Chester met this assertion was
conveyed a suddenly-born reproach against society for having
overlooked such superlative talent as he possessed.

"I was taught in no school." Adding proudly, "What I know, I picked up

Arthur Temple corrected himself, "In the school of nature."

"May be."

"What are you?"

"A shepherd - at present."

"You have not been always a shepherd."

"Oh, no;" with an assumption of having seen considerably better times
and of moving in a much better position.

"What makes you a shepherd, then?"

"A man must live."

"I beg your pardon," said Arthur, with a sensitive flush. "Are you in
Mr. Fitzherbert's employment?"

Mr. Fitzherbert was the name of the squatter for whose home station he
was bound, with letters of introduction.

"Yes," replied Ned Chester.

"I have come on a visit to him. Can you direct me to his place?"

"Over the hill yonder you will see a wagon track. It will take you
straight to the house."

"Thank you." Arthur, about to depart, suddenly bethought himself. The
musician was poor - was a shepherd from necessity. He took his purse
from his pocket; a bank-note fluttered in his fingers. He held it
towards Ned. Under ordinary circumstances Ned would have had no
hesitation in accepting the gratuity, but as his eyes met the earnest
eyes of Arthur Temple, a happy inspiration inspired him to refuse it;
it was unaccountable, but it happened so. Ned turned his head from the

"I beg your pardon," said Arthur Temple, his face flushing again; "I
had no intention of hurting your feelings. Good day."

"Good day."

Arthur Temple rode slowly off, with many a backward glance at the
recumbent form of the musical shepherd - glances of which Ned Chester
was perfectly cognisant, but of which he took no apparent notice.
Before he was out of earshot, Arthur heard the tin whistle at work
once more.

"A genius," thought he, "and a gentleman by instinct. I am sorry I
offered him money."

The impression made upon him by the incident was powerful and durable,
and he inwardly resolved to see the man again. This resolve being
carried out, Ned Chester was not slow in turning to his own advantage
the interest exhibited in him by Arthur Temple. His superior cunning
enabled him very soon to obtain the particulars of the personal
history of the young gentleman who he determined should become his
patron. His patron Arthur Temple certainly did become; he engaged the
vagabond man of the world as his valet at a liberal salary, and
congratulated himself upon securing as his companion a person whose
discovery and undoubted genius formed one of the most romantic
episodes of his travels. It was fortunate for Ned that during his
association with Arthur Temple in the colonies he met with no friend
or acquaintance who might have exposed him to his young master.
Nothing in his conduct betrayed him; he behaved in the most exemplary
manner, and grew day by day in the goodwill of Arthur. He took pride
in his personal appearance, and seizing with avidity the advantages
such a connection opened out to him, dressed carefully and well, drank
little, and was, to all outward appearance, a most respectable
character. He became saving in his habits, also, and at the end of the
nine months, which brought the visit of Arthur Temple to the colonies
to an end, he was in possession of a sum of money larger than his
salary; Ned had not fought with the world for nothing, and his
experience was a key which fitted many locks. Arthur Temple was
recalled home somewhat earlier than he anticipated.

"If you are well," his father wrote, "and if your health is
sufficiently established to come home, do so at once, my dear lad.
Your mother and myself long for your society. I never cease to think
of you, and I want the world to see and appreciate you as I do, though
it can never love you as you are loved by your father,

"Frederick Temple."

Arthur made immediate preparations for his departure; his nature was
grateful and loving, and his duty also was here concerned. The news of
the home journey troubled Ned Chester; according to the terms of his
engagement, connection between him and Arthur ceased when the latter
quitted Australia. Ned had saved sufficient money to pay for his
passage home, but he would arrive there comparatively penniless, and
in no position to obtain a livelihood. His efforts, therefore, were
now directed to obtaining a permanent appointment with Arthur; and to
his surprise, after much man[oe]uvring, he found that he could have
succeeded much more easily by a straight than by a crooked method.

"Certainly," said Arthur; "I shall be glad not to part with you; but I
thought you would have no wish to leave Australia."

"It has been my endeavour," said Ned, "for years past, but I have not
had the means; and it has been my misfortune until now never to have
met with a friend."

"My father," said Arthur, "will scarcely be prepared for my bringing
home a valet, but he will not object to anything I do. Have you any
family in England?"

"No, sir."

He endeavoured to impart a plaintive tone to this negative, to show
how utterly hapless a being he was; but he failed; the joy of
returning to England and of meeting the Duchess lighted up his

"But there is some one at home," said Arthur, with a smile, "whom you
will be pleased to see."

Then Ned, with guarded enthusiasm, poured out his soul into the
sympathetic ears of Arthur Temple, and spoke, but not by name, of the
Duchess of Rosemary Lane, as one whom he had loved for years, and to
see whom would complete the happiness of his life. He extolled her
beauty, too, with sufficient fervour to carry conviction with it. He
knew that these utterances made his position more secure, and imparted
to his service a sentiment which was far from disagreeable to Arthur

This retrospect brings us to the ship, the _Blue Jacket_, sailing for
England, with Arthur and Ned aboard. Arthur enjoys every hour of the
voyage. All is fair before him. With youth, with good health, with a
pure mind stirred by noble desires, with a father awaiting him holding
a high and honourable position in the land, the book of the lad's
life, the first pages only of which are opened, is filled with glowing
pictures, and he looks forward with calm delight to his arrival home.
Ned is less calm. The ship never goes fast enough, the days are longer
than they ought to be; he burns with impatience to present himself to
the idol of his dreams. Hour by hour the links that bind these men, so
strangely brought into association, to other lives in the old land are
drawn closer and closer. At length the good ship arrives in port.
Arthur is pressed to his father's breast.

"Thank God!" says the father, "that you are home and in good health."

And he holds Arthur's hand with such warmth as he might have felt in
his young days for the woman he loved.

Ned Chester looks around, draws a free full breath, and murmurs:

"At last!"


Mr. Temple celebrated the return of his son by a great dinner, at
which a number of distinguished persons were present; later in the
evening his mother held a reception. The evening before the party
Arthur was sitting with his parents looking over the list of guests,
and he could not help being struck with their quality. Nearly every
man invited was a man of mark in the land - politicians, lawyers, a few
whose chief merit was their wealth, and some few also of the foremost
workers in the ranks of art and literature. Arthur was pleased at the
opportunity of becoming personally acquainted with these shining

"You will regard this as your first introduction into society," said
Mr. Temple to his son. "I shall be glad to see you form friendships,
which will bring you both pleasure and profit."

It was unfortunate that, despite his affection for his son, Mr. Temple
could never avoid introducing into their conversations chance words
and phrases which grated upon the sensitive mind of the younger man.
The word "profit" was one of these. Arthur, however, made no comment
upon this, and the rebellious expression which overcast his features
for an instant was not observed by his father.

"You have much to speak of," continued Mr. Temple, "that will be new
and interesting to many of our friends, and I need not say that as my
son you will be heartily welcomed."

"That, of course, sir," said Arthur; "it will not be, I am afraid, for
my own deservings."

"That cannot come, Arthur, until you are personally known, and then I
trust it will be for your sake as well as for mine that friends will
attach themselves to you. But indeed I have no doubt that such will be
the case."

"You are more confident than I am, sir," said Arthur seriously. "I
have my fears as to whether I shall feel at home in this new and
polished atmosphere, after my experiences of the last two years."

"You have no need to fear, Arthur; I am satisfied with you. I think I
shall not make you vain when I tell you that your manners are fitted
for any circle."

Arthur's mother gazed fondly upon him as he replied, "It is an
inheritance, sir, as are honour and truth, which I owe equally to

"I must confess that it was not with entire confidence I saw you
depart for your travels, but you have returned improved, if anything.
Contact with the world has already improved you, and has opened your
mind to the value of the requirements of society."

"Whether it be so," said Arthur, with seriousness, "has yet to be
proved. In the New World, with its rougher manners, I have seen much
to admire - more, indeed, than in these more civilised surroundings. It
is not whether they are fitted for me - it is whether I am fitted for

"There is plenty of romance to be found in these more sober scenes; it
will come to you, Arthur, as it has come to others."

"In what shape, sir? And have you met with yours?"

Mr. Temple coloured slightly, and devoted himself more closely to his
paper, which he was perusing in the intervals of the conversation.
Mrs. Temple sighed and looked away. Arthur had inadvertently touched a
chord which vibrated keenly in the breasts of his parents. He did not
know, and had never heard, that his father had married for money and
position, had married without love, but it was no less a fact. A fact
of which his mother was not aware until after marriage. It was not a
sudden discovery on her part; it was a gradual awakening, made more
bitter by the womanly suspicion of another face, fairer perhaps than
hers, and better loved in the past. In this she invested Mr. Temple
with qualities which he did not possess, and fashioned a hero - not
hers, but another woman's - out of very common clay. There had never
been any bickerings between her and her husband; she had not
distressed him with any outburst of jealously; and he gave her no
cause for complaint that the world would have recognised and
sympathised with. He was an exemplary husband, faithful and attentive,
and was held up as a model by other wives. Mrs. Temple, before her
marriage, had had her romance in her love for her husband; a romance
carefully fed by him at that time, for he played the lover skillfully.
But shortly after they became man and wife her dreams faded slowly and
surely away. She saw that he had no heart for her, and it was most
natural in her to be positive that, with his attractive person and the
soft blandishments of speech of which she had had experience when he
wooed her, he had bestowed his heart elsewhere. She kept her secret
well, and he was ignorant of it. Had she led him to suspect that she
believed herself to be betrayed, it would have caused him much
amazement. In the early years of her married life she was not
regardless of his movements, but she made no discovery to confirm her
jealousy. She was in the habit of watching his expressions when he
opened his letters, and of listening with agonised attention to the
murmurings in his sleep; but she learnt nothing. Had there been
anything to discover she would not have discovered it; she was no
match for him in subtlety. Slowly she accepted her fate, with no
outward repining, and they lived that calm passionless life which to
some souls is worse than death, and which with some highly nervous
organisations occasionally leads to violent terminations and tragic

"You were saying, Arthur," said Mr. Temple, with a direct evasion of
Arthur's light question, "that you saw much to admire in the rough
manners of the men among whom you travelled."

"Very much, sir. The proper assertion of a proper independence, for
instance. The kingliness of manhood has no such exemplification in
this city of unrest as it has in the free air of the New World, where
men and women are not unhealthfully crowded together in small spaces.
I see here, among the lower classes of society, no such free step, no
such blithe spirits, as I have been accustomed to see among men in the
same position at the other end of the world."

"There are grades even there, Arthur."

"Surely, sir; and human beings, wherever they cluster, must be
dependent upon each other; but there, all grades express in their tone
and bearing their obligation to each other, as equally from those
above to those below, as from those below to those above. It is
mutual, and there is no shame in it. Now, such dependence as I see
here is ingrained in either real or assumed humiliation. Where it is
real, it is pitiable and unnatural; where it is assumed, it is

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryB. L. (Benjamin Leopold) FarjeonThe Duchess of Rosemary Lane → online text (page 17 of 24)