curls too! Lord, look at her! If she's not a play-actress I've never
seen one. And what a bully of a rogue she has got with her, too. Hath
he not the very visnomy of a footpad? He's lately escaped from Newgate
Gaol, I'll take my oath on't."
There could be no doubt that this good lady was blest with a tongue of
the sharpest kind. Her husband was terribly put out by it. Poor
little Cynthia was, too. For all her high breeding and her modish
London insolence, which in circumstances favourable to it was wont to
sit so charmingly upon her, she could hardly restrain her tears. I
suppose it is that a woman can never bear to be ridiculed, or abused,
or put in a false position. The poor child trembled and clung to my
arm, while her face grew pink and white by turns.
"Oh, Jack," she whispered, "do say something that will put us right.
Tell them who we are. I cannot bear to be spoken to like this."
"You surely would not have me spoil the comedy just now?" says I. "I
am enjoying it vastly."
In sooth I was. I dare say it is that I am always keenly alive to
these odd passages in life, and that I am more prone to seize the
whimsicality of a matter than is a person of a better gravity. I vow
it was finer than a play to me to witness a highly rustical farmer and
his spouse violently quarrelling because Mr. Chawbacon had degraded his
rural abode by bringing a duke's daughter into it. And here was the
storm growing shriller, the farmer redder and angrier, and poor little
Cynthia ready to faint with the humiliation of it all.
The state of the case was not improved when the farmer turned his back
on his wife in the middle of her invective. And doubtless to define
his opinion of her behaviour and to show that he was determined to
stand by us, come what might, he very civilly asked us whether we would
care to have some hot water from the kettle and go upstairs and perform
our ablutions. You may guess with what alacrity we accepted this
invitation; indeed nothing could have better accorded with our needs
and our wishes. But no sooner had the farmer spoken to this tenor than
Mistress Headish broke out shriller than before:
"What can you be thinking of, Joseph Headish?" says she. "Do you think
I would trust two such rapscallion persons out of my sight in our clean
upper chambers, and so many things to tempt their honesty in them, too?
No; if they want to wash themselves, they must do it at the pump in the
yard, as their betters have had to do often enough. And why people
like that, leading the vagrant, masterless life they do, should require
to wash themselves at all, I don't know. And as you have promised them
a bite to eat, they shall have it, after they have washed themselves.
But not in my nice clean kitchen. I'll send 'em out half a loaf of
bread and a piece of cold bacon, and a mug of my good October ale, and
they can take it sitting on the pump, and think themselves lucky to get
"Peace, woman," says the farmer, in a voice of such dudgeon as did him
the highest credit. "Are you the master in this house, or am I?"
To emphasize the inquiry he brought his hand down with such a force
upon the breakfast-table as set the dishes rattling; whilst he
indicated the answer by peremptorily bidding us follow him upstairs.
This we were in something of a hurry to do, and we soon found ourselves
in a spacious bed-chamber, which smelt of cleanliness to such an extent
that, knowing how very ill our own persons must consort with it, we
began to feel that the farmer's wife was justified of her grievances.
That worthy shrew, having thoroughly aroused her honest husband, did
not think fit to interpose any active resistance to his commands, but
contented herself by staying below, and in delivering a shrill
monologue from the foot of the stairs.
CONTAINS A FEW TRITE UTTERANCES ON THE GENTLE PASSION
We had to wait a minute for the hot water and fresh towels which our
host had had the forethought to order for us. These were presently
brought by a strapping servant lass, whose ill-repressed grins proved
that she had been a spectator of these incidents. While we waited, the
good man's apologies for his wife were truly comic. He chivalrously
made it clear to us that her defects sprang from the very excess of
excellencies in her character.
"A notable good woman," says he, while her voice continued to shrill up
the stairs. "A fine, honest, energetic woman - a woman in a thousand.
Always strivin', savin', and cleanin' she is, the very model of what a
housewife should be. If she's got a fault, it is her over-anxiousness.
She will look on the dark side of things; and she's that dreadful
suspicious, all in the interest of her household, that if a stranger is
seen with his head over the fence, she can't sleep for a week after it,
being so certain in her mind that the hayricks are going to be fired,
the stock taken, the farmstead broken into, and our throats cut as we
lie in bed. But I know you'll overlook it; she don't mean nothing by
it, as you can see with half an eye. She's a rare good woman as ivver
I see; it's only her worritin' frettishness for the welfare o' the
farm; you do understand that, don't you?"
"Perfectly," we said together, an assurance that relieved the good man
"You know, what upsets her most," says he, "is that I can't put a name
to ye. For myself, although I came by you promiscuous like at the
onset, I likes you and I believes in you. I think you're the right
sort, only a bit down in the world. But of course she don't know that.
She's not seen you use your ten commandments, young man; and she don't
know what pretty little ways your nice little wife 'ave." Cynthia
blushed such a brilliant colour at this complimentary reference that
the farmer paused to chuckle. "Begs your pardon, I'm sure, my dear,"
says he, "if I've put my big foot in it. Not his wife. Well, well, I
thinks none the worse o' 'im for that, I don't; but if I was you I
would not let the mistress know it. Her virtue makes her that
disagreeable sometimes as you wouldn't believe. Now if you can give me
a name by which I can introjuice you by, fair and square, as though you
was friends o' mine, it'll make things easier, do you see, when we sits
down to breakfast."
"Well," says I, "since you ask it of us, this lady is the Lady Cynthia
Carew, daughter to the Duke of Salop, and you can call me the Earl of
Instead of betraying any surprise at finding us in the possession of
dignities which, to say the least, he could not have expected us to
enjoy, the farmer betrayed not a whit of it, but broke into a fit of
laughter and clapped me upon the shoulder.
"Oh, if it comes to that," says he, "you can call me the Cham of
Tartary and my old missis the Queen of Sheba."
Nor would he, in spite of the solemn assurances that I rather delighted
to give him, be convinced of our true condition.
"No, my lad," says he, still laughing at the humour of it, "you may be
pretty handy with your mauleys, and I would be the last to be denying
that, but you're no more the pattern of a nobleman than I am. You
should try this game on with a greener chap than me. You must not
think because I'm a plain farmer that I can't recognize the real
slap-up nobility when I meets them. Now if you allowed yourself to be
some sturdy vagabond that's too idle to work for his livelihood, or a
strolling actor that is a peddling along the country with his
puppet-show, or an incorrigible rogue that's lately out of the stocks
for robbing hen-roosts, and was lying last night in my cowhouse to take
more than his lodging, I wouldn't disbelieve you. But an earl! - no,
you've overshot the mark a bit, my lad. Say a bart now - be satisfied
with just a blessed bart - and we'll let it pass at that."
"No, rat me if I will," says I, pretending to be angry. "I'll have my
earldom, or I'll have nothing at all."
"But surely a bart's good enough for anybody," says the farmer, fully
entering, as he supposed, into the humour of the thing. "Why, I
wouldn't mind being a bart mysen. Come, let it go at a bart, my lad.
Yes, I'll pass you at a bart out of respect for your fisticuffs, but
between you and me I don't think my old mis'ess will."
"No," says I, "'od's blood! I will not be a bart as you call it. I
will be the Right Honourable Anthony Gervas John Plowden-Pleydell,
Fifth Earl of Tiverton, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter,
or I will be nothing at all."
"Very well, then," says the farmer perfunctorily, "since that is your
humour, we'll have it at that. But wait till I announce your title to
my old mis'ess, and hear what she's got to say about it. And this
little wench - pretty little wench, I'll allow - she's daughter to my
lord the Duke of who?"
"To my lord the Duke of Salop," says I, importantly, dwelling on each
syllable of her title for the jest's sake, "and you can call her my
Lady Cynthia Mary Jane Carew."
"Dom'd if I don't then," says he. "And here come the clean clouts and
the warm water. Here, Jenny, put them down there for his lordship and
her ladyship. And we'll leave his lordship and her ladyship to do
their dressing, and then they'll please condescend to honour our humble
meal. Now, then, my girl, off with you below; and how dare you have
the impertinence to stand grinning there like a Cheshire cat, before my
lord and my lady, too!"
With a great guffaw for the honour of his own wit, the farmer left us
to our much-needed toilets. The reflections with which we made them
would have served a philosopher of the kidney of my grandfather, for
instance, for a monstrous fine homily on the true value of rank and
title. What were they worth when enclosed in a suit of homespun? They
required all the appurtenances with which they are hedged about in the
public mind to be of any value whatever. It seemed that a lord derived
the consideration of the world from his silk stockings and the congees
of his servants - not from any intrinsic merits within himself; and it
was with this trite reflection that I looked in the hand-glass, and
smiled in something of a cynical manner at the unredeemed villainy of
the countenance that I found there. A lively scrubbing did a little
for it, it is true, but that could not obliterate the traces of my
recent bout with the farmer, nor the growth of beard upon my chin, nor
enhance the rude, ill-fitting clothes in which my friend the Jew had,
as it seemed, so effectually disguised me. Cynthia, however, who had
the true feminine ingenuity in these matters, having washed her face
and trimmed up her curls a little - Lord knows how! - contrived to make a
very much better appearance in the role of the duke's daughter than
ever I was like to do in that of the noble wearer of the Order of the
Garter. When we were sufficiently furbished to think of going down to
that delicious meal, in which the greater part of our thoughts were
centred, says I as we descended:
"Remember now, we are under no alias whatever. I am my lord, and you
are my lady."
"But surely," says Cynthia, who in so many ways had the true feminine
imperviousness to the whimsicality of things, "is this not the very
height of imprudency? If we leave evidences behind us at every place
at which we tarry we shall be certainly taken in three days."
"Rest content," says I, "they will never inquire in out-of-the-way
places of this sort. In dangerous places we can still be incognito.
But do you not see the cream of this affair is that our real names are
the best disguises we can wish to have? We are far less likely to be
recognized by them than any we might adopt."
It was with this conviction that we came in to breakfast, and
confronted the farmer and his wife. Determined to play up to my part,
I bowed to the farmer's wife with a most sweeping air, as though she
were a woman of the first fashion, and I made her as gracious a speech
as I could possibly make. There were a thousand apologies in it, and a
great many compliments to her, her husband, her kitchen, and more
sincerely, the hot meal we were dying to partake of. I did it with all
the breeding I could summon, and to see such ceremony issuing from so
common not to say low a person, dumbfounded the good wife so
completely, that even her powers of speech forsook her. She blinked,
and nodded her head, and fidgeted this way and that; and when little
Cynthia, taking her cue from me, curtsied to her with the best grace of
a lady-in-waiting to her most gracious Majesty, as indeed the naughty
miss was destined to be, the poor goodwife was so taken by confusion
that she trod on the cat, and the cat I doubt not would have knocked
over the dish of bacon on the hearth in its fright, had not I, in
anticipation of some such disaster, very gallantly interposed between
The farmer himself, although equally at a loss to reconcile our manners
with our appearance and presence in that place, was evidently too much
of a lover of his joke to let the occasion pass.
"Oh, I forgot to tell you, wife," says he, "that these are a lady and
gentleman of the first nobility. You would run on so when they first
came in that you gave me no chance of saying who they were. Just tell
the mis'ess, my lord, who your lordship and her ladyship may be, for I
domm'd if I don't forget."
This I did with a good deal of unction, for seeing what a comic effect
our manners had had on the good woman, our names in all probability
would have one still more singular. This proved to be the case, for no
sooner had I, with much apologetic modesty for the circumstances which
had impelled me to it, played the herald to my fair companion and
myself, than our hostess became the victim of an even more remarkable
nervousness, and grew as apologetic on her part as she had been
"La," says she, "I can never forgive my husband for not having told me.
To think you should honour us by sitting down in our humble
farm-kitchen to our humble fare, and you should be treated so unseemly!
But it is so like my husband not to have told me. La, will your
lordship have ale, or does your lordship prefer to take a little
claret-wine of a morning? We have it, although it is not on the table.
Jenny, go this minute and fetch the claret-wine for his lordship."
It seemed that our hostess having got over the first shock of our
identity, proposed to match our breeding with some of her own. She
began to use a high clipping tone that she evidently kept for company,
and became so assiduous in the attentions she paid us, and so heedful
of our wants, that we profited vastly by her credulity, if that is the
right name to apply to it. Her husband, however, was not so lightly to
be imposed upon, as he was at pains to show. At every polite effort
put forward by his wife, he counteracted it by a wink or a cough, or a
chuckle, or a snigger. And he put the handles to our names in such a
voice of banter as greatly distressed his wife, who continued to
overpower us with her civilities. At last, says she:
"Your lordship and your ladyship must really excuse my husband. He is
a very good honest man to be sure," here she sank her voice to a
mysterious whisper, "but he is a little vulgar and low-bred in these
things, although," with a still lower voice and more mystery, "I would
not have him hear me say it for the world. You see he is not come of
so good a family as I am. His folk were a little vulgar and low-bred
too, and people said at the time that for all his farm and his prize
heifers it was the last thing to be expected that a person like me
would ever marry him. Ah, well, I suppose it is always a mistake to
marry out of one's station, although to be sure no one could have a
kinder, better husband. But your lordship and your ladyship follow me,
do you not? He almost makes me blush for his manners, that he do."
"My dear madam," says I, "I am sure we both feel for you from the
bottom of our hearts, and understand the occasion perfectly."
And could there have been a prettier comedy? First we had had the
husband apologizing for the wife, and now we had the wife apologizing
for the husband. Lord knows whether she allowed us to be what we were
or not, but she certainly entertained us to a royal breakfast. Two
famished people never sat down to a finer meal in this world than the
one we partook of. And when we left our honest but wonderfully
ill-assorted host and hostess, about nine of the clock in the morning
to continue on our way, we were most handsomely fortified in mind and
As we passed from the farmyard and struck into the fields the sun was
showing handsomely, and the thrushes were singing their lusty notes.
It was as fine a spring morning as the heart could desire. The
virginal airs played on our faces; the birds called to one another from
hedge to tree; the little lambs frisked among the white daisies in the
meads, as hand-in-hand we took our way again. We still had no clear
idea as to whither we were going. But we were mightily content
wherever our way might lead. The sense we had of our liberty was a
something we had never tasted before. Had we not cast off the trammels
of the world? We could begin life again; and be whom we chose. We
were a pair of unknown persons, moving among unknown people in unknown
places. Every hour we passed in these solitudes of nature had
something of the glamour of romance invested in it. For we did not
know how our next meal would be come by, or what would be the next
shelter for our weary heads when nightfall overtook us. But we cared
not. We were in the crisp, free, open air, snuffing the sunshine, and
trampling across a carpet of flowers over hill and dale, while the
spring birds sang.
I think we were too desperately happy to talk much. Cynthia was
radiant, and as light of foot and heart as the birds that called to us
from the green hedges. The words of an appropriate ballad were on her
When Strephon wooed his Chloe dear,
All in the springtime of the year.
And I took the infection of her spirits also, I was sensible, ere we
had walked a mile, of a frank, jovial, devil-may-care lightheartedness,
not so fresh and buoyant as my little one's perhaps, since I had lived
a little longer, had therefore had the brightness of my youth more
overlaid with the rust of the world, and had a greater weight of
responsibility, more particularly for her, upon my shoulders. It was
little I felt it, however. For suddenly as we walked in these sweet
fields, an idea was born in my mind that banished everything except the
thrill of joy it brought.
"My prettiness," says I, "we could not wish for a perfecter wedding
"That we could not," says she, so promptly that it struck me she had
been expecting some such suggestion from me. Her blushes were
adorable, it is true, but I believe they were more a matter of instinct
than the offspring of any particular commotion in her bosom.
"Wilt marry me, pretty one," says I, "at the first church we come to,
that hath a snug parsonage sitting in honeysuckle beside it?"
"Ay, that I will," says she, cocking up her thin with an archness of
invitation that was not to be denied.
I suppose it was that the adventures we had already had together had
given us the most perfect understanding of one another. There was a
feeling of proprietorship between us; and had not each given up
everything in life for the other's sake?
"My dear," says I, feeling that a little sentiment would not come amiss
this rare spring morning, "I hope you have realized what I have to
offer you. I have but my blasted reputation, my destitute condition,
my debts, my crimes, my prostituted name. This is all the estate that
a very humble, constant heart is endowed with."
"They will serve," says Cynthia simply. "If you were the wickedest man
in England, and by your own account you are not far removed from that
state, it would be the same. It is not for what you be that I like
you; it is for what I think you to be."
"If it comes to that," says I, "I don't suppose it is me at all you
care for. It is not myself you are in love with, nor my virtues, nor
my vices, nor my hair, my eyes, my clothes, my understanding, nor
anything that is mine. You are at that romantical instant of your
womanhood when you have fallen in love with the name of love. If
instead of a man I were a tame white mouse, or a bob-tailed rabbit, or
a bull-calf you would invest me with all the pretty fancies that are
running in your head, so that the reflection in your mind would yet be
the one that you most wished to see. But a truce to philosophy, let us
Cynthia was so evidently of my mind in this last particular that she
laughed, and resumed the singing of her ballad, as we strode out the
brisker for our intercourse.
AN INSTRUCTIVE CHAPTER; IN WHICH IT IS SHOWN THAT IF A LITTLE LEARNING
IS DANGEROUS, MUCH MAY BE CALAMITOUS.
As we took our way through the grass of a most charming flower-coated
country, there was a kind of rivalry between us as to who should be the
first to spy a church. The honour of doing so had not fallen to either
of us, when Cynthia suddenly darted from the path to pick some white
violets out of a hedge.
"Why," says she, in the delight of finding them, "we will make
ourselves a posy apiece to carry with us to church, as it is our
wedding morning. Oh, look at the marsh-marigolds at the side of the
She gave me the violets to hold, with some injunction as to the correct
manner of holding them, for my handling of them was much too crude to
please her, and ran away again to fetch the pretty yellow flowers. All
sorts of things she gathered for our nosegays, lady-smocks all silver
white from the meadow, and daisies pied and violets blue, cowslips and
even a blue-bell. Nothing would content her but that we should make
them up into posies there and then; which we did, and bound them round
with grasses. But hardly had we finished this pastoral employment and
continued on our way, when we became the victims of a singular
diversion. We passed out of one meadow over a stile into another of a
similar kind. But in the second a few cows were browsing. To these we
paid no heed, but walked jauntily enough through the pasture,
apprehending no danger; but by the time we had come perhaps to the
middle of the field we were startled by a commotion behind us. Turning
round to discover whence it arose, we were horrified to find what the
source of it was. A young bull with its head grounded and its tail in
the air was charging down upon us. A single exclamation and a
frightened instant of hesitation in which to take our bearings, and
evolve a mode of escape, was all we had time for. The bull was coming
so furiously that it was almost upon us, yet we were stranded full in
the middle of the field, with no chance whatever of taking refuge in
flight. But happily my eye lit on a tree, a sturdy young sapling a
yard or two off. Thither I pushed the terrified Cynthia, and literally
lifted her into one of the lower branches, whilst she, with an
admirable conception of the case and how to act in it, scrambled with a
mighty rending of her garments into the boughs above. I clambered
after her madly, not a second too soon. The vigorous snorting young
bull crashed his horns against the tree with great force. He was so
near to my leg that I instinctively felt it to be gashed wide open;
whilst such a mighty shake did its impact give to our place of refuge
that it was indeed a mercy we were not both of us thrown on to the
ground to be gored and trampled on. But despite our fright we were
able to cling to the branches; and when at last I was able to get a
glimpse of my leg, I found to my relief that I had been the victim of
The bellowing beast made divers onslaughts against the bark of the
tree, whilst we very fearfully hurried up higher and higher, dreading
at each stroke of our enemy to feel ourselves flying through the air.
Providentially, however, by clinging with rare tenacity to our vantage
place we were able to maintain ourselves in the security of the highest
branches of all. And presently our adversary having wreaked a good
deal of his fury on the offending tree, desisted from an occupation
that brought him so little profit, and having walked off a yard or two,
proceeded to regard us morosely. He seemed prepared to stay in that
employment too for an indefinite period. But feeling our position,
snug as it was and safe for the time being, to be yet highly