Copyright
E. W. (Ernest William) Hornung.

Young Blood online

. (page 1 of 20)
Online LibraryE. W. (Ernest William) HornungYoung Blood → online text (page 1 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


YOUNG BLOOD ***




Produced by Suzanne Shell and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)






_BY THE SAME AUTHOR._

A BRIDE FROM THE BUSH.
UNDER TWO SKIES.
TINY LUTTRELL.
THE BOSS OF TAROOMBA.
THE UNBIDDEN GUEST.
THE ROGUE'S MARCH.
IRRALIE'S BUSHRANGER.
MY LORD DUKE.




YOUNG BLOOD


BY

E. W. HORNUNG


"_When all the world is young, lad,
And all the trees are green;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen;
Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
And round the world away;
Young blood must have its course, lad,
And every dog his day._"

THE WATER BABIES.


CASSELL AND COMPANY, LIMITED
_LONDON, PARIS & MELBOURNE_
1898
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED




CONTENTS.

PAGE

CHAPTER I.

THE OLD HOME 1


CHAPTER II.

THE BREAKING OF THE NEWS 11


CHAPTER III.

THE SIN OF THE FATHER 20


CHAPTER IV.

THE NEW HOME 32


CHAPTER V.

A WET BLANKET 40


CHAPTER VI.

THE GAME OF BLUFF 57


CHAPTER VII.

ON RICHMOND HILL 71


CHAPTER VIII.

A MILLIONAIRE IN THE MAKING 85


CHAPTER IX.

THE CITY OF LONDON 95


CHAPTER X.

A FIRST OFFENCE 111


CHAPTER XI.

BEGGAR AND CHOOSER 122


CHAPTER XII.

THE CHAMPION OF THE GODS 135


CHAPTER XIII.

THE DAY OF BATTLE 150


CHAPTER XIV.

A CHANGE OF LUCK 165


CHAPTER XV.

IT NEVER RAINS BUT IT POURS 175


CHAPTER XVI.

A DAME'S SCHOOL 183


CHAPTER XVII.

AT FAULT 195


CHAPTER XVIII.

MR. SCRAFTON 203


CHAPTER XIX.

ASSAULT AND BATTERY 214


CHAPTER XX.

BIDING HIS TIME 226


CHAPTER XXI.

HAND TO HAND 234


CHAPTER XXII.

MAN TO MAN 247


CHAPTER XXIII.

THE END OF THE BEGINNING 259


CHAPTER XXIV.

YOUNG INK 276


CHAPTER XXV.

SCRAFTON'S STORY 287


CHAPTER XXVI.

A MASTERSTROKE 304


CHAPTER XXVII.

RESTITUTION 315


CHAPTER XXVIII.

A TALE APART 326




Transcriber's Note: Minor typographical errors have been corrected
without note. Irregularities and inconsistencies in the text have been
retained as printed. The cover of this ebook was created by the
transcriber and is hereby placed in the public domain.




Young Blood.




CHAPTER I.

THE OLD HOME.


Harry Ringrose came of age on the happiest morning of his life. He was
on dry land at last, and flying north at fifty miles an hour instead of
at some insignificant and yet precarious number of knots. He would be
at home to eat his birthday breakfast after all; and half the night he
sat awake in a long ecstasy of grateful retrospect and delicious
anticipation, as one by one the familiar stations were hailed and left
behind, each an older friend than the last, and each a deadlier enemy
to sleep. Worn out by excitement, however, he lay down for a minute
between Crewe and Warrington, and knew no more until the guard came to
him at the little junction across the Westmoreland border. Harry
started up, the early sun in his sleepy eyes, and for an instant the
first-class smoking-compartment was his state-room aboard the ship
_Sobraon_, and the guard one of his good friends the officers. Then
with a rush of exquisite joy the glorious truth came home to him, and
he was up and out that instant - the happiest and the luckiest young
rascal in the land.

It was the 19th of May, and a morning worthy the month and the
occasion. The sun had risen in a flawless sky, and the dear old English
birds were singing on all sides of the narrow platform, as Harry
Ringrose stretched his spindle-legs upon it and saw his baggage out of
the long lithe express and into the little clumsy local which was to
carry him home. The youth was thin and tall, yet not ungainly, with a
thatch of very black hair, but none upon his sun-burnt face. He was
shabbily dressed, his boots were down at heel and toe, there were
buttons missing from his old tweed coat, and he wore a celluloid collar
with his flannel shirt. On the other hand, he was travelling
first-class, and the literary supplies tucked under his arm had cost
the extravagant fellow several shillings at Euston book-stall. Yet he
had very little money in his pocket. He took it all out to count. It
amounted to five shillings and sixpence exactly, of which he gave
half-a-crown to the guard for waking him, and a shilling to a porter
here at the junction, before continuing his journey in the little
train. This left him a florin, and that florin was all the money he
possessed in the world.

He was, however, the only child of a father who would give him as much
as he wanted, and, what was rarer, of one with sufficient sense of
humour to appreciate the prodigal's return without a penny in his
pocket or a decent garment on his back. Whether his people would be
equally pleased at being taken completely by surprise was not quite so
certain. They might say he ought to have let them know what ship he was
coming by, or at least have sent a telegram on landing. Yet all along
he had undertaken to be home for his twenty-first birthday, and it
would only have made them anxious to know that he had trusted himself
to a sailing-vessel. Fifty days instead of twenty from the Cape! It had
nearly cost him his word; but, now that it was over, the narrow margin
made the joke all the greater; and Harry Ringrose loved a joke better
than most things in the world.

The last two years of his life had been a joke from beginning to end:
for in the name of health he had been really seeking adventure and
undergoing the most unnecessary hardships for the fun of talking about
them for the rest of his days. He pictured the first dinner-party after
his return, and the faces of some dozen old friends when they heard of
the leopards under the house, the lion in the moonlight, and (when the
ladies had withdrawn) of the notorious murderer with whom Harry had
often dined. They should perceive that the schoolboy they remembered
was no longer anything of the sort, but a man of the world who had seen
more of it than themselves. It is true that for a man of the world
Harry Ringrose was still somewhat youthfully taken up with himself and
his experiences; but his heart was rich with love of those to whom he
was returning, and his mind much too simple to be aware of its own
egotism. He only knew that he was getting nearer and nearer home, and
that the joy of it was almost unendurable.

His face was to the carriage window, his native air streamed down his
throat and blew a white lane through his long black hair. Miles of
green dales rushed past under a network of stone walls, to change soon
to mines and quarries, which in their turn developed into furnaces and
works, until all at once the sky was no longer blue and the land no
longer green. And when Harry Ringrose looked out of the opposite
window, it was across grimy dunes that stretched to a breakwater built
of slag, with a discoloured sea beyond.

The boy rolled up his rug and changed his cap for a villainous sombrero
preserved for the occasion. He then made a selection from his lavish
supply of periodical literature, and when he next looked out the train
was running in the very shadow of some furnaces in full blast. The
morning sun looked cool and pale behind their monstrous fires, and
Harry took off the sombrero to his father's ironworks, though with a
rather grim eye, which saw the illuminated squalor of the scene without
appreciating its prosperity. Sulphurous flames issued from all four
furnaces; at one of the four they were casting as the train passed, and
the molten incandescent stream ran white as the wire of an electric
light.

After the works came rank upon rank of workmen's streets running right
and left of the line; then the ancient and historic quarter of the
town, with its granite houses and its hilly streets, all much as it had
been a hundred years before the discovery of iron-stone enriched and
polluted a fair countryside. Then the level-crossing, without a
creature at the gates at such an hour; finally a blank drab platform
with the long loose figure of the head-porter standing out upon it as
the homeliest sight of all. Harry clapped him on the cap as the train
drew up; but either the man had forgotten him, or he was offended, for
he came forward without a smile.

"Well, David, how are you? Your hand, man, your hand! I'm back from the
wilds. Don't you know me?"

"I do now, sir."

"That's right! It does me good to see an old face like yours. Gently
with this green box, David, it's full of ostrich-eggs, that's why I had
it in the carriage. There's four more in the van; inspan the lot till
we send in for them, will you? I mean to walk up myself. Come, gently,
I say!"

The porter had dropped the green box clumsily, and now sought to cover
his confusion by saying that the sight of Master Harry, that altered,
had taken him all aback. Young Ringrose was justly annoyed; he had
taken such care of that green box for so many weeks. But he did not
withhold the florin, which was being pocketed for a penny when the man
saw what it was and handed it back.

"What, not enough for you?" cried Harry.

"No, sir, too much."

The boy stared and laughed.

"Don't be an ass, David; I don't come home from Africa every day! If
you'd been with me you'd think yourself lucky to get home at all! You
just inspan those boxes, and we'll send for them after breakfast."

The man mumbled that it was not worth two shillings. Harry said that
was his business. The porter hung his head.

"I - I may have broken them eggs."

"Oh, well, if you have, two bob won't mend 'em; cling on to it, man,
and don't drop them again."

The loose-limbed porter turned away with the coin, but without a word,
while Harry went off in high good-humour, though a little puzzled by
the man's manner. It was not a time to think twice of trifles, however,
and, at all events, he had achieved the sportsmanlike feat of emptying
his pockets of their last coin. He strode out of the station with a
merry, ringing tread. Half the town heard him as he went whistling
through the streets and on to the outlying roads.

The one he took was uphill and countrified. High hedgerows bloomed on
either hand, and yet you could hear the sea, and sometimes see it, and
on this side of the town it was blue and beautiful. Our wayfarer met
but one other, a youth of his own age, with whom he had played and
fought since infancy, though the families had never been intimate.
Harry halted and held out his hand, which was ignored, the other
passing with his nose in the air, and a tin can swinging at his side,
on his way to some of the works. Harry coloured up and said a hard word
softly. Then he remembered how slow his old friend the porter had been
to recognise him; and he began to think he must have grown up out of
knowledge. Besides accounting for what would otherwise have been an
inexplicable affront, the thought pleased and flattered him. He strode
on serenely as before, sniffing the Irish Sea at every step.

He passed little lodges and great gates with never a glance at the fine
houses within: for to Harry Ringrose this May morning there were but
one house and one garden in all England. To get to them he broke at
last into a run, and only stopped when the crest of the hill brought
him, breathless, within sight of both. There was the long front wall,
with the gates at one end, the stables at the other, and the fresh
leaves bulging over every intervening brick. And down the hill, behind
the trees, against the sea, were the windows, the gables, the chimneys,
that he had been dreaming of for two long years.

His eyes filled with a sudden rush of tears. "Thank God!" he muttered
brokenly, and stood panting in the road, with bowed bare head and
twitching lips. He could not have believed that the mere sight of home
would so move him. He advanced in an altered spirit, a sense of his own
unworthiness humbling him, a hymn of thanksgiving in his heart.

And now the very stones were eloquent, and every yard marked by some
landmark forgotten for two years, and yet familiar as ever at the first
glance. Here was the mark a drunken cabman had left on the gatepost in
Harry's school-days; there the disused summerhouse with the window
still broken by which Harry had escaped when locked in by the very
youth who had just cut him on the road. The drive struck him as a
little more overgrown. The trees were greener than he had ever known
them, the bank of rhododendrons a mass of pink without precedent in his
recollection; but then it was many years since Harry had seen the place
so late in May, for he had gone out to Africa straight from school.

As for the dear house, the creepers had spread upon the ruddy stone and
the tiles had mellowed, but otherwise there seemed to be no change. It
would look its old self when the blinds were up: meantime Harry fixed
his eyes upon those behind which his parents would still be fast
asleep, and he wondered, idly at first, why they had given up sleeping
with a window open. It had been their practice all the year round; and
the house had been an early-rising house; yet not a fire was
lighted - not a chimney smoking - not a window open - not a blind
drawn - though close upon seven o'clock by the silver watch that had
been with Harry through all his adventures.

His hand shook as he put the watch back in his pocket. The possibility
of his parents being away - of his surprise recoiling upon himself - had
never occurred to him until now. How could they be away? They never
dreamt of going away before the autumn. Besides, he had told them he
was coming home in time to keep his birthday. They were not away - they
were not - they were not!

Yet there he stood - in the sweep of the drive - but a few yards from the
steps - and yet afraid to ring and learn the truth! As though the truth
must be terrible; as though it would be a tragedy if they did happen to
be from home!

It would serve him right if they were.

So at last, with such a smile as a man may force on the walk to the
gallows, Harry Ringrose dragged himself slowly to the steps, and still
more slowly up them; for they were dirty; and something else about the
entrance was different, though he could not at first tell what. It was
not the bell, which he now pulled, and heard clanging in the kitchen
loud enough to rouse the house; he was still wondering what it was when
the last slow tinkling cut his speculations short.

Strange how so small a sound should carry all the way from the kitchen!

He rang again before peering through one of the narrow ruby panes that
lighted the porch on each side of the door. He could see no farther
than the wall opposite, for the inner door was to the right, and in the
rich crimson light the porch looked itself at first sight. Then
simultaneously Harry missed the mat, the hat stand, a stag's antlers;
and in another instant he knew what it was that had struck him as
different about the entrance. He ought not to have been able to peer
through that coloured light at all. The sill should have supported the
statuette of Night which matched a similar representation of Morning on
the other side of the door. Both were gone; and the distant bell, still
pealing lustily from his second tug, was breaking the silence of an
empty house.

Harry was like a man waking from a trance: the birds sang loud in his
ears, the sun beat hot on his back, while he himself stood staring at
his own black shadow on the locked door, and wondering what it was, for
it never moved. Then, in a sudden frenzy, he struck his hand through
the ruby glass, and plucked out the pieces the putty still held in
place, until he was able to squeeze through bodily. Blood dripped from
his fingers and smeared the handle of the unlocked inner door as he
seized and turned it and sprang within. The hall was empty. The stairs
were bare.

He ran into room after room; all were stripped from floor to ceiling.
The sun came in rods through the drawn blinds: on the walls were the
marks of the pictures: on the floors, a stray straw here and there.

He cried aloud and railed in his agony. He shouted through the house,
and his voice came back to him from the attics. Suddenly, in a grate,
he espied a printed booklet. It was an auctioneer's list. The sale had
taken place that very month.

The calmness of supreme misery now stole over Harry Ringrose, and he
saw that his fingers were bleeding over the auctioneer's list. He took
out his handkerchief and wiped them carefully - he had no tears to
staunch - and bound up the worst finger with studious deliberation.
Apathy succeeded frenzy, and, utterly dazed, he sat down on the stairs,
for there was nowhere else to sit, and for some minutes the only sound
in the empty house was the turning of the leaves of the auctioneer's
list.

Suddenly he leapt to his feet: another sound had broken the silence,
and it was one that he seemed to have heard only yesterday: a sound so
familiar in his home, so home-like in itself, that it seemed even now
to give the lie to his wild and staring eyes.

It was the sound of wheels in the gravel drive.




CHAPTER II.

THE BREAKING OF THE NEWS.


Harry was in three minds in as many seconds: he would hide, he would
rush out and learn the truth, he would first see who it was that had
followed him at such an hour. The last impulse prevailed, and the study
was the room from which to peep. Harry crept in on tiptoe, past the
bookshelves eloquently bare, to the bow-window with the drawn Venetian
blinds. Slightly raising one of the laths, he could see everything as
the cab drew up at the steps.

The cab-door was flung open and out sprang an utter stranger to Harry
Ringrose. This was a middle-aged man of the medium height, wearing a
somewhat shabby tall hat and a frock-coat which shone unduly in the
strong sunlight. He had a fresh complexion, a reddish moustache
streaked with grey, a sharp-pointed nose, and a very deep chin which
needed shaving; but what struck Harry first and last were the keen,
decisive eyes, twinkling behind glasses with gold rims, which went
straight to the broken window and surveyed it critically before their
owner had set foot on the steps. It seemed that the cabman saw it too
and made some remark; for the fare turned upon him, paid him and
slammed his door, and ordered him off in a very peremptory voice which
Harry heard distinctly. The cab turned in the sweep and disappeared
among the trees. Then the stranger came slowly up the steps, with his
eyes once more fixed upon the broken window. In another moment they had
run like lightning over the face of the house, and, before Harry had
time to move, had met his own.

The stranger raised his eyebrows, shook his head, and pointed to the
front door. Harry went to it, shot the bolts back, turned the key, and
flung the door wide open. He was trembling now with simple terror. His
tongue would not ask what had happened. It was like standing to be
shot, and having to give the signal to the firing party.

The other seemed to feel it almost equally: his fresh face was pale,
and his quick eyes still with sorrow and compunction. It was evident he
knew the worst. If only he would tell it unasked!

"My name is Lowndes," he began at last. "Gordon Lowndes - you must have
heard of me?"

"I - I don't remember it," stammered Harry at the second attempt.

"I stayed here several times while you were in Africa. I was here in
February."

"Yes, now I remember your name: it was in the last letter I had."

He could say this calmly; and yet his lips could not frame the question
whose answer would indeed be life or death.

"Two years ago I did not know your people," resumed the other. "But for
two years I have been their most intimate friend."

"Tell me," at length whispered Harry: "is - either of them - dead?" And
he awaited the worst with a sudden fortitude.

Mr. Lowndes shook his head.

"Not that I know of," said he.

"Thank God!" the boy burst out, with the first break in his voice.
"Nothing else matters - nothing - nothing! I made sure it was that! Can
you swear that my father is all right?"

The other winced. "To the best of my knowledge," said he almost
sharply.

"And my mother?"

"Yes, yes, I was with her three days ago."

"Where?"

"In London."

"London! And I passed through London last night! You saw her, you say,
three days ago, and she was all right then?"

"I never knew her look better."

"Then tell me the worst and let us have it over! I can see that we have
lost our money - but that doesn't matter. Nothing matters if they are
all right; won't you come in, sir, and tell me all?"

Harry did not know it, for in his deep emotion he had lost sight of
self; but there was something infinitely touching in the way the young
man stood aside and ushered his senior into the hall as though it were
still his home. Mr. Lowndes shook his head at the unconscious air, and
he entered slowly, with it bent. Harry shut the doors behind them, and
they turned into the first room. It was the room with the empty
bookshelves; and it still smelt of Harry's father's cheroots.

"You may wonder at my turning up like this," said Lowndes; "but for
those fools at the shipping-office I should have met you at the docks.
I undertook to do so, and to break the news to you there."

"But how could you know my ship?"

The other smiled.

"Cable," said he; "that was a very simple matter. But if your shipping
fellows hadn't sworn you'd be reported from the Lizard, in lots of time
for me to get up from Scotland to meet you, I should never have run
down there as I was induced to do on business the night before last. I
should have let the business slide. As it was the telegram reached me
last night in Glasgow, when I knew it was too late to keep you out of
this. Still, I timed myself to get here five minutes before you, and
should have done it if my train hadn't been forty minutes late. It - it
must have been the devil's own quarter-of-an-hour for you, Ringrose!
Have a drop of this before we go on; it'll do you good."

He took a flask from his pocket and half filled the cup with raw
whisky, which Harry seized gratefully and drained at a gulp. In truth,
the shock of the morning, after the night's excitement, had left him
miserably faint. The spirit revived him a little.

"You are very kind to me," he said, returning the cup. "You must be a
great friend of my parents for them to give you this job, and a good
friend to take it on! Now, if you please, tell me every mortal thing;
you will tell me nothing I cannot bear; but I am sure you are too kind
to keep anything back."

Lowndes was gazing with a shrewd approval upon the plucky young fellow,
in whom, indeed, disappointment and disaster had so far awakened only
what was best. At the last words, however, the quick eyes fell behind
the gold-rimmed glasses in a way that made Harry wonder whether he had
indeed been told the worst. And yet there was already more than enough
to account for the other's embarrassment; and he determined not to add
to it by unnecessary or by impatient questions.


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryE. W. (Ernest William) HornungYoung Blood → online text (page 1 of 20)