A MOTTO CHANGED;
OR, A LITTLE LESS THAN KIN, AND MORE THAN KIND.
IT really was not
such a very uncommon sight after all, that so many faces should have
peered out, up-stairs and down-stairs, to watch it.
The scene was a terrace at a sea-side watering-place. It does not
concern us precisely which it was of seven or eight on the south
coast of England.
A cab stood about half-way down this terrace with several boxes on
it, and a pretty mother, and a pretty boy with her, who might have
been eight or nine years old, knocked at one door after another. It
was rather early in the season.
“No,” this mother said to one landlady after another. “I only want
one bedroom and a dressing-room, but I must have two sitting-rooms.”
“It would spoil our let,” said each landlady. “The droring-room
lets with three bedrooms, and the dining-room with the other tew.”
As they went on the cab with the boxes on it crept after them.
They knocked at No. 8, and the lady had not taken her hand from the
knocker when the door ﬂew open, and she started back, but less on
that account than because the man who opened to her was a brown man,
an Asiatic obviously. He bowed with lithe and obsequious civility.
“What had he to let?”
“Anything the mem-sahib pleases.”
“I want two sitting-rooms, one bedroom, and a little dressing-room.”
“My ole woman, she shall to the mem-sahib talk. My ole woman is an
“My ole woman” with this appeared, coming up the kitchen stairs. She
was an exceedingly small and very young matron, with the tiniest and
skinniest of brown babies in her arms. No need to proclaim it as the
child of the young man who had opened the door.
“That would not,” she replied, “be a convenient let, mum.”
The man said two or three words to his wife, then added, in English,
“Turn him round, turn him round; what for no?”
“My sakes,” said the little wife, “I never thought o’ that.”
“Take down bed, make of parlour,” said the man.
“Yes, mum; if it’s for a fortnight certain you want ’em, we can
oblige you, can’t we, Sam? He’s a handy man, mum. He’ll have the bed
down in no time.”
So, the lady came in and went up-stairs. There was a tolerably good
bedroom, and a slip of a place, little better than a closet, beside
it. Then there was the dining-room, and a tolerable bedroom behind
“Is the drawing-room let?” asked the lady.
“No, mum, not at the present time.”
“No piano in it?”
“I’m sorry, mum, but we’ve only just set up in business, and we’ve
got no piano yet.”
The lady smiled. “You need not be sorry on my account,” she
remarked. “Is there one next door?”
“All the better.”
In less than two minutes those rooms were taken, the boxes were in
process of being hauled up-stairs, the lady had sent her little boy
to the station to fetch his father, and the little wife had run
down-stairs and come up again, leaving the baby behind her.
In a few minutes more, while she bustled about, the man had already
begun to take down the bed, and she had told the lady almost all
about him that she cared to know.
“Waits beautiful, he does, on the company, and goes all the errands
as fast as fast —”
“He is not from India?” asked the lady, doubtfully, and glancing at
his ginger-coloured face.
“No, mum; my husband is a Malay, but a colonel in India had him
there when he was very small, and gev him to the miss’onries to
“Oh! he’s a Christian?”
“He’s —” the wife began, and then turned her sentence a little
differently. “He don’t pretend to be a better man than other
people,” she remarked; “but he’s every bit as good. Yes, mum, he’s a
Christian, and so is the baby.”
The baby at that moment was heard squalling down-stairs; some one
who sat on a rocking-chair was singing to him.
“That’s mother,” said the small wife, who was handing down some of
the laths of the bed from her husband. “It’s a mighty convenience
having of her, ’count of her experience, having let lodgings
herself, and all,” she said.
The new lodger could not but smile. The wife, who looked almost like
a child, so manifestly intended this remark for the Malay’s ear,
and, as far as could be judged, he appeared to receive it with
“Poor little thing!” was her entirely erroneous notion; “she must
have been hard up for a husband before she would have taken that
‘native.’” So, out of mere kindness of heart, she said, “It is,
indeed, often a great advantage to have an elderly person in a
house, Mrs. —”
She hesitated for the name.
“Prince,” said the landlady.
Not quite an hour after this a comfortable meal was ready; the said
meal being spread on the dining-room table of the new “Let.” It was
a dinner-tea in the view of those who were to eat it. There was a
dish of ﬁne shrimps, a pot of gooseberry jam, a loaf of bread, some
butter, a large teapot, ﬁve cups and saucers in the tea-tray, and,
as is customary in sea-side lodging-houses, a large case of castors.
Round the table sat the pretty mother, the pretty boy, and a
gentleman who looked about ﬁfty years old. He had a large forehead
and a keenly intelligent face.
“Five cups and saucers!” he exclaimed. “Why ﬁve? The girls know
nothing of where we are yet.” He spoke in a sharp, rasping voice,
and the wife replied:
“When I sent out for the various things we wanted, I asked where
Oxford Terrace was. The Malay said it was close to the shops where
he had to go, so I scribbled a note to the girls and sent it.”
The gentleman nodded assent, at the same time making a gesture as if
he put the whole subject from him, having quite disposed of it.
Then, while his wife made tea, cut a liberal allowance of
bread-and-butter, spread some bread-and-jam, and portioned out
plates of shrimps, he folded his arms and appeared to retire to the
inmost recesses of his own mind, taking on an air of such deep
abstraction as nothing less than the welfare of this nation, or, in
short, its very existence, could have been thought of by a stranger
to justify. But that was just the cause of his intense
preoccupation. He was composing a “leader,” as it is called, for a
well-known newspaper. It was his regular profession to write for the
papers — among others for a “Morning Daily” and a “Literary Weekly,”
as his family would have expressed it; and when he was deep in this
task neither wife nor child was ever known to utter so much as one
A silence so portentous prevailed on this occasion that the Malay,
who had to come in three times, was somehow aware that he was not to
inquire whether the milk was enough for the mem-sahib, or whether
the eggs were to be hard-boiled. He perceived at once that the milk
must do its best to be sufficient, and that the eggs must take their
Mr. Adam Larkin was the name of Mrs. Prince’s new lodger. His wife
handed a large cup of tea to him; he stared at it in deep
abstraction, and then taking up the spoon began to stir it round and
round, continuing this exercise for at least six minutes. His wife
took no notice, his child was industriously eating a large piece of
bread-and-jam. Suddenly Mr. Larkin nodded several times, started up,
marched to the window, and came out of his abstraction. The “leader”
“Well now, well now,” he said, still in a harsh, rasping tone, and
taking out his watch, “what is there to eat, Theresa?”
The attentive wife had already picked for him a large plate of
shrimps; she gave them to him, with abundance of break-and-butter,
and he began to eat with vigour.
“Where’s my study ?” he asked.
“Behind this room,” she answered, “and quite ready, dear. All your
“Ha! Well, I must have this written out, and then go back to town
with it by the 9.30.”
“Must you,” she said, as if in mild protest, “and so hoarse as you
“Yes; and you’ll expect me back to a late breakfast.”
Mr. Adam Larkin having now composed his “leader,” was in no fear of
forgetting it. The whole thing existed in his mind exactly as it was
to be printed, and he began to behave like other people. It was
under-stood that he was willing to talk. He asked a few questions
about “the girls,” and then his son, who had been turning another
piece of bread-and-jam round and round with interest, and biting the
most eligible bits out of it, laid down the crust on his plate and
said, “Father, I wanted to ask you something.”
“Ha!” said the father. “Well, out with it.”
The air of cogitation and intelligence put on by the little boy was
the facsimile of those same expressions in the father’s face, the
only difference between the two faces being that the child’s face
was handsome and the father’s plain.
The boy put on an earnest look of gravity, but before he had time to
speak voices were heard in the little passage; two voices, and
decidedly sweet ones.
“Here they are!” exclaimed Mrs. Larkin. “Open the door, my boy!”
And with kisses all round, that same boy getting a good deal more
than his share, two girls came in who expressed great delight at
seeing the party, and were sure dear father’s cough would soon be
better in that ﬁne soft air. The girls came to the table, took off
their gloves, and joined the meal.
“Father has done his ‘leader,’” said the child; “so you talk, Dis
“May we, mister?” exclaimed the one called Dis, with evident
fondness, pushing back the little step-brother’s hair. “I can hardly
believe it is only a week, mother, since we parted. What have you
been about, Rowland — have you seen anything yet?”
“No, nothing yet,” answered the child; “and I was only just going to
ask father about something that I’ve been thinking over when you
“Well, now your sisters have been helped to their tea, you can ask
it, if you like,” said the mother; whereupon he replied.
“I wanted to know, father, whether you consider that we owe any
duties towards vermin.”
The sisters looked towards one another.
“Vermin!” exclaimed the father, but he did not laugh, he was merely
“That mankind does, I mean,” said the little boy, taking another
bite out of his bread-and-jam.
The father elevated his forehead into several wrinkles. “I think we
have a right to exterminate all vermin, as far as we can,” he
The boy took another piece of bread-and-jam. “I was not thinking of
my two rats,” he said, after a pause. “I meant in the abstract.
Have we any duties, do you think, father — towards vermin.”
“We owe it even to creatures whom we may exterminate, that We do it
as mercifully as we can,” said his father.
“Oh, well; the arsenical soap I killed Snap’s ﬂeas with did not hurt
them any more than any other sort of death would have done. But the
question, you see, father, besides that, is — what you may call
Here both the step-sisters tittered a little, but the father merely
put on an indulgent smile.
The boy sighed, bit another mouthful out of his bread-and-jam, and
said, in a tone of deep reﬂection, “For I suppose nothing feels as
if it was vermin — I mean, that nothing is is vermin to itself?”
Here the mother and both the step-sisters laughed openly.
“Well, well,” said the father, rising. “I must think this subject
over. I have not time to go into it now. We must talk of it
Thereupon he retired to his study to write, and Dis drew the little
brother onto her knee and presented him with a box of chocolate; and
Dorey, sitting on his other side, said, “And how should you know
anything about vermin, mister?”
“Why, I looked in the dictionary, and it said, ‘Vermin: any kind of
noxious animal — a term including quadrupeds, reptiles, worms, and
“And what made you want to know anything about it? Your rats? They
are certainly vermin — you agree to that, of course.”
“Mother said they were not to be brought here,” was all the boy
“Yes, I drew the line there,” said Mrs. Larkin.
“And so,” continued the boy, “when Mrs. Smiles was not looking I
took their cage close to the sink and opened it, and they
immediately ran down it.”
“Showed their sense, did that manoeuvre.”
“And then Mrs. Smiles said they were vermin.”
“I am glad those rats are gone, mister!”
“They gave me for a long time lots of pleasure, and it would have
been cruel to put their cage into a bucket of water and drown them,”
said the boy. “It nearly made me cry to think of it.”
“Well, but you got the better of Mrs. Smiles.”
“Yes; and then she saw an earwig running along, and she put out her
foot and trod on it. I heard it crack, and I thought —”
“I thought if it had been as big as the teapot when it went off;
that would have seemed more cruel still.”
“But it was vermin, mister; and so, as father said, it might be
exterminated. And, besides, it was not as large as the teapot.”
“But it was as large as life,” said the little boy, “and it had to
die, and there are a great many other’ things that are quite as
large. And so, when I was thinking about that all the way as we came
down, I was quite miserable — excepting when we were in that tunnel,
and we nearly stopped. I thought something would happen.”
“That was a queer time to get more cheerful.”
“Oh, well! I hoped there would not be an accident, but still it was
interesting. I thought men might, perhaps, throw open the doors, and
say the passengers were to jump out and run for their lives. Instead
of that, in a little while the train began to go on again.”
“Well I hope you were glad then.”
“No, I wasn’t; for there are the animalcules, you know.”
“No, I don’t know.”
“Why, we can’t even see them without a microscope, and we kill
thousands of them when we eat, and even when we breathe. I began to
think about them.”
“I would not think about them,” said Dis. “I should call it
impertinent to do so. It is no business of ours.”
“Yes; the Lord did not tell us about them. He only allowed us in the
course of ages to ﬁnd them out.”
“I know that.”
“So, if you call those vermin, too, I am sure we have no duties
The boy listened with deep attention, was evidently interested with
this view of matters, and accepted it.
“Well, then, Dis,” he said, in a minute or two, “then I shall let
myself be happy.”
“And, mother,” said Dorey, “if you would let me take him out, now
that tea is over, I could show him the post-ofﬁce, and the house
where our dear old lady is.”
She nodded at Mrs. Larkin, and the other sister instantly broke in
with, “Yes, do ; but come back soon, for in a quarter of an hour we
ought to be home again.”
“Dis,” exclaimed Mrs. Larkin when the door was shut, “what does this
“I should like just to speak to you, dear,” said Dis; and she
laughed and blushed.
“He can hardly have followed you already,” continued the
“Well, he has!”
Mrs. Larkin turned more towards her step-daughter and looked at her
for at least minute with something that seemed like careful
“Yes, I know,” said Dis, returning her look as if she had taken
pleasure in the scrutiny. “I know I am not in the very least
handsome. I know it perfectly well. Very often I look quite plain.”
Mrs. Larkin said nothing.
“And I have not a penny in the world except what I earn by being
companion to that blessed old darling — and she cannot live very
long, for she was eighty-two yesterday.”
Still the step-mother did not speak.
“And,” continued Dis, “she has never once said to me that she should
leave me anything in her will.”
“What do you want me to do?” said Mrs. Larkin.
“I only want you to know.”
“And that I should tell your father?”
“No; I wish him not to know. I want a little more time to think.”
“Does the dear old thing know?” asked Mrs. Larkin.
“Of course. She trotted up to the window to look at a smack coming
in, and there he was strolling past it with a cigar. She appeared
not to recognize him. He saw her, though, and took off his hat.”
“You are sure she saw him?”
“Oh, mother, yes; I saw her laugh a few minutes after, and when
Dorey came in she chirruped out, ‘Oh ho, miss, I came down here on
purpose that your sister might get out of the way of her young
man, and I invited you to be here, too, that she might never
have to go out alone — and there he is” She repeated, pointing at
the window — for, mother, he passed again.”
“What is to be done?” said Mrs. Larkin, in a tone very like dismay.
“Oh, mother dear, we need not be so tragical about it, need we?”
said Dis, with a delightfully musical laugh.
“Your father expressly assured him that he could not allow of any
acquaintance, and, in fact, would not give him an introduction to
his daughter, and now this is the second time he has found you out
and has followed you.”
“You appeared to say that in a threatening spirit,” said Dis,
“Is it true or is it not true?”
“Well, mother,” said the daughter, as if in assent, “you know I
could not possibly help it, and you were with me when we saw him as
we thought for the ﬁrst time.”
“Yes, leaning against a lamp-post, or was it a pump?”
“It was one or the other.”
“And giving Church of England temperance tracts to some little
scaramouches in the road.”
“And then to follow us all that way — tiresome fellow — till father
met us!” said Dis, laughing.
“My dear, consider the matter. He used to come, and your fat1ler
gave him lessons, and he saw you two or three times over the blinds
coming up to the door. Well, his father has been most kind, most
liberal, to your father; has lent him money, forwarding his views so
far as he possibly could; he is rich, and has, of course, other
views for his son. This must be the merest fancy that he cares for
you, for he never spoke to you once after he left school till he saw
your face over the blind.”
“And I had actually forgotten him,” said Dis; “and thought when I
saw him leaning against the pump that he was a stranger.”
“It is all fancy,” repeated the step-mother.
“And I do assure you it is a fancy that I do not at all share,” said
“Your father will be very much vexed.”
“You think, then, that father ought to be told?”
“Yes, I do.”
“But I did let you know that he met Dorey, and she did remember him.
He declared that he remembered me perfectly well, and how we used
all to play together when we were children. So we did, and with a
good many other children when we were at Hyeres. He asked her if I
did not remember how his father used to pat me on the head; but what
is there romantic in that, even if I did remember it? What I do
remember best about him is how he wanted to be a missionary while
still he was almost a little boy, and what pains his father and
mother took about it because nothing else would satisfy him , and
now all that trouble is wasted. Oh, how extraordinary it is that
some people should have such a world of pains and thought and care
spent on them for nothing, while others are neglected and nobody
cares what they do at all!”
“How do you know that it is wasted? Perhaps he will be a missionary
after all — a Saint-Something like the ﬁrst missionaries. He is
rather a ridiculous young fellow now; but I remember how his
excellent mother said once, when his father laughed at his zeal,
that worldly wisdom and astuteness were not the most important
qualities for a missionary to have, nor those for which the apostles
“Oh, well, mother, if he is to be a missionary for his own sake, and
that he may obey the command to preach the gospel, well and good;
but if for the sake of the heathen, I do not think his efforts will
come to much.”
“I hope this will not spoil your pleasure. I may tell your father
that he has never written to you?”
“Oh yes, you may. Mother, here they are,” whispered Dis; and when
Dorey and the little brother Rowland came in Mrs. Larkin said she
should walk home with the girls and see their dear old lady.
So there was an abundant escort for Dis, and perhaps that was the
reason why no one tracked her home.
“Yes, mum,” said Mrs. Samuel Prince the next morning when she came
to the dining-room for orders, “the present name is that I told you
off. So it stands to reason tl1at mine is the same, but we was
married in his furrin name.”
Mrs. Larkin looked at her, and accepted her account absolutely.
“And there! I feel as if I had been ill-used by those miss’naries,”
she went on. “For, said they, as he told me, there is no harm in the
meaning of his name, and in such cases we think it best to keep to
it. So we baptized him by it; but, mum, it was such a fluffy name
that it always tickled my tongue to try to say it, though it would
slip out of his mouth as soft as oil. And the people in the court
where we lived then scorned at it. So when we moved here I said to
him, ‘Look here, my blessed husband, it’s a shame that miss’naries
didn’t give you a handsome name, but now as you’re forced to speak
English it stands to reason you can’t be kept out of an English name
if you want one. Says he that very minute, ‘Then I’ll have the best,
Almira. I’ll be Mr. Prince.’ ‘Well, Why not?’ said I; ‘and if folks
say you have no right to such a tip-top name, let them learn to
pernounce your other, that’s all.’ And his ﬁrst name we chose to
be Samuel,” she continued, “for I always liked the name of Sam, and
I think it suits him.”
Thereupon she courtesied herself out of the room. “It’s rather
amusing,” said little Rowland, “to have such an odd man for the
master of the house; and isn’t it curious, mother, that because
their dear old lady could not have the house that had been hired
for her till they had been here three days — for they came before
they were expected — they actually came ﬁrst and took this very
house? But, of course, they told you about it, and how there was
such a shabby mustard-pot that their old lady sent Dis out to buy a
better one, and made Mrs. Prince a present of it.”
“No, Dis did not chance to mention that,” said his mother.
“Well, that was strange! I often think, mother, what uninteresting
things people tell about, and forget what one really wants to know.
Their old lady is quite intimate with Mr. and Mrs. Prince and the
“I dare say; she takes the greatest interest in everybody.”
It was not many minutes after this that Rowland’s father coming in,
he was sent off to play on the shore, and his mother made known the
unwelcome intelligence as to how Mr. George Rhodes Mainwaring had
come down some days since and was now staying at the Clarence Hotel.
Mr. Larkin was very angry, and immediately wrote a note to his
daughter to summon her. Mrs. Larkin took it, and no sooner entered
the dining-room of her employer, Mrs. Prentiss, than she was aware
of the presence of her yellow host. Mr. Samuel Prince had brought
his son and heir to see the old lady. The infant was lying ﬂat on
his back in a large open market basket with a handle, and was mildly
kicking. Mr. Samuel Prince carried the basket on his arm; the baby
was tucked up under a small red cotton quilt and looked hideous.
“This is my lad, Albert Edward,” said the
proud parent; “I come to you to ask if he be grown.”
There were present, besides the old lady, two little great-grandsons
of hers (to whom Dorey was acting as governess) and Mrs. Larkin.
Mr. Prince handed the basket round. “Him seven week old, no tooth
have cut. Nice lad, but him squall. Him a Christian, so am I,” he
continued, mainly addressing Mrs. Larkin; he entertained no doubt
that every one else present knew all about his son.
“I come tell the mem-sahib,” he went on, addressing the aged
hostess, “my wife Almira send message to the mem-sahib
― my wife Almira sorry.”
“Sorry for what ?” chirped the old lady.
“Sorry,” he repeated, with an air of genuine respect and concern,
“the ole cat, her mother, very unwell: spasm in the night. Will you
to the ole cat some drops and a smeller send.”
“Oh, he means your salts, Mrs. Prentiss,” exclaimed Dis, who had
come running in.
“To the truth doth Missy Sahib testify.”
“Let him have them, to be sure,” quoth Mrs. Prentiss, “and a little
bottle of that cordial that did her good before.” Dis went out again
to fetch these commodities. In the mean time Mrs. Larkin said some
ﬂattering things of the infant, who, though lean, looked strong; and
Mrs. Prentiss hoped he would live to love and fear God, and be a
comfort to his parents.
Thereupon Mr. Samuel Prince tucked him into the basket, with the
bottle of cordial and the smelling-salts beside him, together with
half a pound of sugar and some watercress which had been bought on
the way, on the top of him; and slipping his arm through the handle
of the basket, walked off with it on his arm in a state of fatuous
vanity and delight.
“Poor fellow,” said the aged Mrs. Prentiss, “he is, strange to say,
extremely fond of his mother-in-law. The old woman and the young one
ﬂatter him, and so rule him. I have no doubt he has heard some rude
people in the court where they used to live speak of her as the old
cat, and he has caught up the expression, as if it was polite and
It was now explained that Mr. Larkin would be very glad if he could
speak to his daughter for a few minutes, whereupon, with a smile,
Dis was despatched to dress while Mrs. Larkin sat idly listening to
the discourse of the two little great-grandchildren, who were
sitting on the ﬂoor at Dorey’s feet.
“Does that man like his baby to be yellow?” asked the youngest.
“Well,” replied the elder, in a didactic tone, “there are only three
colours for babies; most babies is red.”
“Are red, we say,” remarked Dorey, in her clear, sweet voice.
“Or else they is black; black men’s babies always is.”
“Always are,” interrupted the sweet voice again.
“Yes, Dorey dear, they always are, or else they must be yellow, for
you never saw a blue one, now did you?”
“You know there are only three colours for babies; then why are you
“You are not to scold Dotty,” said the temporary governess, and
Dotty insisted, “I didn’t say nothing about blue.”
“You didn’t say anything, you mean, love.”
“Yes, Dorey, I only said, ‘Does he like him to be yellow?’”
“Well, I don’t know,” said the elder.
“I think he does,” observed Dorey; “people are always pleased when
their children are like themselves.”
“See what a comfort your girls are to me,” said Mrs. Prentiss. “I
had invited this one to come and stay two or three weeks with her
sister, and no sooner do we come here than I am asked if I will have
these little dears for a while.”
“Why not?” said Dorey; “I shall attend to them, and walk out with
them, too, with the greatest pleasure.”
They were interrupted at this moment by little Rowland, who came in
out of breath, and was received by the aged hostess with a kiss. She
was dividing a basket of strawberries; had given two plates to the
children on the ﬂoor, and now handed a third to Rowland, who put his
hands behind him.
“I must give the message to mother ﬁrst,” he said. “Father’s love,
mother, and he does not want Dis at all; she is not to come, and he
is sorry he gave her old lady the trouble of sending to ask
“I am sure those are not the words your father said,” observed his
“Never mind,” said Mrs. Prentiss, in her chirping voice; “you think
I belong to Dis, don’t you, my dear?”
“Yes,” said Rowland, not very clear as to what his offence had been.
“And so you naturally call me her old lady — well, I do belong to
Dis, in a certain way, and she takes great care of me.”
Dis, having now returned, was told she need not go.
“But, mother, the strawberries!” exclaimed Rowland, as his mother
rose to depart and beckoned to him.
“To be sure; now we come to something of real importance,” chirped
the aged hostess. “I love to see how the young ones enjoy their
food. Dis, give them all some sugar; and Mrs. Larkin, my dear, I’ll
boy after you when he has ﬁnished.”
“I FEEL called
upon to tell you — sir” (this word put in as an afterthought), “that
I came down here — er — hoping I might have the pleasure to see
something — er — of Miss Larkin.”
“You did, Mr. Mainwaring? — then I, in my turn, feel called upon to
tell you that I am much displeased with you.”
The ﬁrst speaker was a ﬁne boyish young man, very fair, and with
very light hair. He was well dressed, tall, and broad-shouldered,
but not distinguished-looking, and when the second speaker met him
with such uncompromising hostility, he screwed up his mouth, which
was a habit of his when he was non-plussed, and slowly and quietly
rose from his chair and stood behind it, leaning his hand on its
He had called on Mr. Larkin at his seaside lodgings, and after a bow
(for the late tutor had not held out his hand) he had seated himself
with modest assurance and some cheerfulness. He intended to set
forth certain things which he supposed would be met as man meets
man, instead of which Mr. Larkin, in a harsh and rasping voice, was
meeting him as man occasionally meets boy.
It seemed hard, and with a ﬂash of intelligence he felt that he was
big, young, well-off, eligible. Mr. Larkin was not as big, as young,
as well-off, but he must speak him fair, if he would be spoken with
He loved Dis.
So when Mr. Larkin looked up at him over his newspaper, after making
this speech, he met his eyes respectfully, and with his hand still
on the back of the chair, said, with a certain modesty, “I wish to
remind you that I am now of age.”
“You objected to my — my suit before, because that was not then the
As there was still no answer, he added, “You thought me too young to
know my own mind.”
“Much too young.”
“Have you, sir, any other reason for objecting to me?”
Mr. Larkin looked at him as he stood. He could hardly be said to be
out of countenance. He had a candid air, and appeared perfectly to
have made up his mind.
Mr. Larkin said, with a sigh that seemed almost like weariness of
the discussion, “You had better sit down, Rhodes Mainwaring.”
Mr. Mainwaring did sit down. There was not an actual smile on his
face, but he looked aggravatingly easy and cheerful. His thought
seemed to be that he had only to persevere, and he asked his
question again. “Have you any other reason?”
“I have three reasons,” was the answer, “any one of which would be
quite enough, even if the ﬁrst was not so much more than enough that
there will be no need to mention either of the others.”
“And the ﬁrst, sir?”
“Your father is my friend.”
The countenance of the youth changed on hearing this. He looked
almost shocked — then he took a minute to cogitate — and then he
said, almost hotly, “You really appear to think, sir, that in this
matter I am going against my father.”
“That is what I do think. You want to marry forthwith, without
ascertaining whether he has other views for you, and without even
taking him into your conﬁdence! Do you consider that dutiful?”
The young man moved his hand as if he would put this matter aside,
but he coloured and did not recover himself till Mr. Larkin had
added, “And you cannot do this thing without my direct sanction and
assistance, which you actually expect me to give you, though, as I
said before, I am his friend.”
“I must see my father and get his formal consent, I suppose,” said
the young man, rather more seriously, “and that taken for granted —”
“Why taken for granted?”
“Well, sir,” said the young man with a touch of bitterness in his
tone, “because most fathers have mm: desire for the happiness, some
anxiety for the welfare, of their sons.”
“You are too young to take your own happiness for life into your own
hands at present. He will probably think so.”
Still, with the same modest assurance the young man appeared to push
that matter aside with his hands, and continued —
“But the other two reasons, sir.”
“Ha!” said Mr. Larkin, “the other two reasons I put forth partly on
my own side of the matter.”
Mr. Mainwaring, on hearing this, looked crestfallen and even
“You will tell me what they are?” he said.
“Yes; you have no profession, and you have not a shilling in the
“It is not at all customary,” said the youth, still with a
crestfallen air, “to speak of the only son of a very rich father as
without a shilling in the world.”
His tone and strong remonstrance met with no response at ﬁrst, but,
after a minute for thought, Mr. Larkin said, “Perhaps your father
has settled something on you?”
“He never told me that he had.”
“Then you are absolutely dependent on him?”
“I suppose so.”
“And what I said was literally true, for he not only has no entailed
estate but no land at all: you have not a shilling in the world of
your own, nothing but what he gives or may leave you.”
“I think better of my father than to —”
“Your father’s excellences are not before us, or I could enlarge on
them,” interrupted Mr. Larkin; “let us keep to the point. You have
no profession. You changed your mind about that at least three
times. Your father met your wishes. Finally you wished to get into
the Indian Civil Service. For three years great pains were taken.
For some time you had extra lessons of me. You best know whether I
did not assure you that you would not get in unless you gave your
whole mind to those lessons, and also worked in the way prescribed.”
“I am sorry I was not more diligent.”
“Your father showed, considering his ﬁne fortune, a remarkable
solicitude about your having a good profession. I have known him
more than once go so far as to say that he should never forgive
himself if he did not somehow manage that you should have one. You
were cognizant of that wish?”
“Yes,” said the youth, with some reluctance.
“You did not share it, I think? Indeed, I have heard you admit as
“I thought it unnecessary.”
“Your father certainly spared no expense to bring it about.”
“Nor trouble either.”
After this Mainwaring sat silent for two or three minutes, and his
countenance showed quite as much surprise as disappointment; at last
he said, “A profession is no doubt a good thing, if a man Wants to
live by it.”
Then he appeared to cogitate for a while, and presently added, “It
is possible that you may know my father is not as well off as I have
always thought him.”
“I know nothing whatever about your father’s private affairs.”
“I have sometimes thought I might like to travel in the interests of
science,” said Mr. Mainwaring; “that would be a sufficiently noble
“Ha,” said Mr. Larkin, “you can but lay that notion before your
father. Should he consent it would not be a bad occupation — for a
This last speech had been proved by this rejoinder to be such an
unlucky one that the poor fellow was really afraid to say more. He
screwed up his mouth.
“My father is on his way home to Europe,” he said at last.
“Yes, I saw that in the Times.”
“Then you really decline to give me any hope till I have seen and
consulted him. You might at least say that — if he approves you
should like it.”
“I decline to say anything of the sort. I consider it most
After this last rebuff the youth withdrew.
“Where is Rowland?” said Mr. Larkin, at least three hours after this,
when the cloth had been laid for a three-o’clock dinner.
“Somewhere on the shore at play, no doubt,” observed the mother.
“Ah, here he comes.”
“Oh, mother!” exclaimed Rowland, “Mr. Mainwaring met me — Mr.
Mainwaring who used to come and have lessons of father when we lived
in Mecklenburg Square.”
“Yes,” said the mother, with an attempt at indifference, which
seemed more like annoyance. “What a terrible mess you are in! You
must go and change your clothes at once; be as quick as you can.”
The boy put down two little painted buckets, full of sea-weed,
shells, and sea-anemones, and walked off.
The father showed a good deal of irritation.
“Well, it was not Rowland’s fault that Mainwaring met him,” said the
mother, gently. “We must see if we cannot put a stop to this.”
Enter Mr. Prince with a roast fowl, and Mrs. Prince following with
sauce and a vegetable.
“So you have a workman in the house,” said Mr. Larkin; “I heard his
hammer. I hope the job is not going to be a long one.”
“Sahib, it is ﬁnished. It was the pump.”
“Indeed, sir, it would not go,” said the wife, as if apologizing for
the pump. “It was in such a bad state.”
“But I am quite a reform character. Yes, sahib,” said Mr. Prince.
“He means that he goes in for all manner of reforms,” observed the
Mr. Larkin nodded.
“Yes, sahib,” continued Mr. Prince, “I go in for reforms. The pump
won’t go. I say to vestry-man, my gracious, what for this? Is we not
pay water-rate? And now my ole woman no water has all this morning.
Then I cheek him. What, my gracious, is not this free country?”
Then he set some lemonade on the table, and they left the room.
“He picked up ‘my gracious’ from the feminine English he hears
down-stairs; but when he told me he feared the fowl was quite ole
Woman, or at least a fowl of a certain age, he probably got that out
of his own head,” said Mrs. Larkin.
“Oh, mother,” exclaimed Rowland, when he had returned in clean
clothes, “I have had such a tru — ly glo — rious day — oh!”
“Indeed,” said the mother.
“Mr. Mainwaring took me to the shop, and we chose four buckets and a
hammer, and then I went with him onto the rocks, and he showed me
where those curious crabs are that live in other people’s shells,
and then the anemones! Oh!”
“Very kind of him.”
“Mother, do you think I am like Dis?”
“Your eyes are the same colour.”
The father said not a word.
“He said he never saw any eyes like mine and hers; you could see all
down them. He meant, I suppose, as far as to the inside of our
“I notice no such great difference between yours and other eyes.”
“Oh! and I told him about the vermin.”
“I suppose, father, that if there was no mankind here — in this
world that belongs to us, I mean — nothing would be vermin.”
“No; the word vermin would have no meaning.”
“It’s only on our account, in fact, that they are vermin?”
“Well, he said that showed how lentient —”
“Lenient, you mean.”
“Yes, mother, how lenient we ought to be to those poor dears. Now, I
have a scheme, father — only sometimes grown-up people don’t think
of those things.” Here two large tears stood in his eyes. “Don’t you
think the great monarchs of the world might consent to give one
large island, as large as Madagascar or Nova Zembla —”
“—And collect all the vermin — rats, mice, toads, wire-worms, etc. —
and turn them out there, and let that be their own? Only, to be
sure, they would not have sense to know that we had tried to be
“You don’t think that a letter might be written to the #Times about
giving an island?”
“No, my boy, I don’t.”
“Well, Mr. Mainwaring said he was sure I ought not to do it without
consulting you. He said he was in very good spirits, for just before
he met me he got a telegram from the hotel in London, where his
father always goes, to say that if they knew where he was they were
to let him know that his father had landed.”
“Oh, then we shall get rid of this tiresome youth,” thought Mrs.
Larkin; “he will go up to meet his father.”
“And he’s going to London this very afternoon,” Rowland continued.
“A little while ago that information would have been a terrible blow
to me,” observed Mr. Larkin, when dinner was over, and Rowland had
been sent out of the room to set to work on his “holiday task.”
“Now, thanks to our long economy — and, I may say, my industry — my
“You may, indeed,” she replied; “and to your sending the girls out
to earn their own living,” she added, in thought.
“Four hundred and twenty of the ﬁve hundred pounds Mainwaring lent
me is safe in the bank here, ready to be paid the very ﬁrst day I
know his address.”
“Mainwaring is emphatically a man who ‘thinketh no evil,’” said Mrs.
Larkin, answering a thought which she knew was in her husband’s
mind; “he will never accuse you of wanting to get his rich son for
“I hope you are right.”
“And, besides, my dear, Dis does not care for him a single straw.”
“He has been so kind, so generous, so useful to me.”
BUT the fact was
that Mainwaring senior, having got Mainwaring junior’s address, sent
him a telegram to the Clarence Hotel, which was delivered to him as
he came in from the rocks. His father would come on to that little
seaside place; Rhodes was to wait for him there.
Was that entirely affection, and ardent desire either to meet
junior, or to scold him for having failed? Mr. Mainwaring senior was
pleased to consider himself rather out at elbows; he would wait at
this said Clarence Hotel till certain tailors’ parcels arrived,
without which he certainly was not in proper trim to walk about in
London, and he would speak his mind to junior at the same time —
However, he did not arrive till nearly dinner-time the next day, and
Mainwaring junior fretted himself almost into a fever waiting for
him; he could not so much as go out-of-doors, and he caught not a
glimpse all day of any of the Larkins. But at last, when his father
did come in, Rhodes Mainwaring felt himself repaid; his father
seemed to have forgotten that he was so much disappointed in him.
There was a great deal of cordial hand-shaking, and then senior
openly expressed his pleasure at the growth and improvement in
junior, and walked round him, and looked at him with evident pride
and approbation. He had manifestly forgotten his displeasure for the
moment, and they shortly sat down and dined together. Senior felt a
constantly growing surprise at what he considered the manly
appearance and stately height of junior. Junior, on the other hand,
said several times to himself, “Surely, father looks younger than he
used to do.”
“Now or never,” thought the son, after dinner, when his father
stretched himself in an easy-chair and began to smoke; “but, oh, how
am I to begin?”
There was no lamp in the room, and the moon was just rising. In the
hot summer dusk the window was open. Rhodes Mainwaring also took a
cigar, and for two or three minutes both appeared to cogitate. At
last he heaved up a deep, irrepressible sigh. Something must be
said; let it be now, when his father could hardly see his face. He
would, he must, begin with his failure; that would bring in some
talk of Mr. Larkin. Then he would speak of Dis, and not before.
“I got your last letter from Bombay, father,” he said, in somewhat
despondent tone. “I was very sorry to ﬁnd you took my not being high
enough up in the list to get in so much to heart.”
“Was very sorry,” was the reply. “I rather think you will have cause
to be sorry for that failure all your days. I understood on all
hands that if you would have worked hard with your crammer, and with
Mr. Larkin, whom I got to give you supplementary lessons, there was
no reasonable doubt of your success.”
He spoke gently and dispassionately, then added, “What do you think,
yourself, as to that?”
“I suppose — I suppose I could have worked harder,” said Rhodes;
“but somehow it did not seem so very necessary that I should have a
profession at all.”
“But I wrote to you, my boy,” said Mainwaring senior. “I told you
that it was my bounden duty to give you one.”
“Yes,” said Rhodes, very reluctantly; “but — but —”
“Well, but what?”
“Somehow I thought you were very rich — and you kept me at work
partly to occupy my time.”
“But I wrote to Mr. Larkin, as well as to you. I told you I thought
you must be making a mistake as to what you were ever likely to
inherit from me. What did Mr. Larkin say?”
“He said — I was a foolish fellow (so I was, and I’m sorry) — you
were spending a great deal on my education, and were so anxious
about it that — he was sure you meant me to earn a living by it — ”
The youth either could not or would not answer.
“Anything more ?” repeated Mainwaring senior.
“He said, at your age it was highly probable that you would marry
again, and if I did not obey your wishes I should regret it.”
Having dragged these words out of himself, Mainwaring junior screwed
up his mouth and looked a good deal out of countenance. He sat
silent and his heart beat high, but no response was made to this
hint. He did not hear the dreaded words, “I am going to marry
again;” but then, on the other hand, he did not hear any welcome
disclaimer. Mr. Mainwaring sat calmly smoking. A shaded lamp was
brought in; then Rhodes Mainwaring looked at him furtively, and
caught his eye. There was a sort of half-amused, half-indulgent pity
in his face.
“Well,” he presently said, “I’m sure I don’t know what’s to be done
next. This has been your third failure, or rather change, for the
two former times you did not go so far as to fail, for you did not
try. First, you wanted to go into the navy.”
“Mother thought that was very natural.”
“To be sure she did! We had taken you to sea two or three times. But
when I had already gone through some trouble about it, that was all
off — and you wanted to be a missionary —”
“But what boy was ever taken to a missionary station before? — such
a station, too! Perhaps the only fascinating station there is.”
“You mean that your mother and I should not have taken you; well,
perhaps not — but then, Mrs. Smith was her cousin, and they longed
to meet, and what with the amazing ‘natives,’ and the wonderful
pumpkins, and the strange round huts, you took a missionary fever;
you were captivated for the nonce.”
“And all my life I was always hearing about missionaries,” pleaded
“I’m sorry mother was so terribly disappointed; but when I got tired
of the thoughts of it, you let me change.”
“Of course. I knew it was the crocodiles, and, perhaps, the
unlimited bananas. Your mother felt as if you had put your hand to
the plough; but you were not a man, such as the Gospel tells of; you
were a mere boy, and a very ﬁtful, childish boy.”
“And she did forgive me?”
“Of course she did. I think she soon felt that becoming a missionary
was not a thing to be urged on you; but there was nothing to excuse
your running away from those people I put you with — those returned
“Ah, yes! the Cravens, whom the Smiths recommended, because they
knew the lingo talked in that part, the jargon of those savage
slaves and thieves — fellow-creatures, of course — yes, I don’t deny
“But the Cravens sang so horribly out of tune!” exclaimed the young
man, in a deeply injured tone.
“What? Oh, you did say something of that sort; then, by the
postmark, I found you at Broadstairs, subsisting on buns and
gingerbread, and sheltering yourself under a bathing-machine. But
you cannot be in earnest. Run away because they sang out of tune?”
“But they used to have such very long hymns, every day, at family
prayers, and it did make me shudder so.”
“That really was the reason, then?”
“I would not have believed this against you out of any mouth but
your own. You young — ”
He stopped, and the youth felt, with impatience, that this was not
the right moment for bringing Dis in.
“But even that did not surprise me so much at the time (for I
thought there must be some real reason) as it does now, to hear you,
as I suppose, justifying yourself for an act so much more than
“However!” — and here he actually laughed. “What’s the good of
talking? The question is, the next move. I really don’t know what to
do with you — for you, I mean.”
“You did not seem so very much displeased at the time,” said Rhodes
Mainwaring, just a little sulkily.
“No,I dare say not. It did not seem worth while to be displeased, or
distressed either, at anything. There was the one thing to be faced
— ﬁve years ago, is it? — yes, ﬁve as near as may be — gone, and her
dear babes with her! Better for her. She never looked up after our
last: our little Clarissa died.”
“If, please God, my mother might have lived, I should have been a
very different fellow — I know I should,” said the youth, with real
But he stopped short — much as he had truly loved her — for he
recollected that the greatest of all his escapades, the running
away, had been during her lifetime. To do him justice, he sat silent
for some minutes thinking of her, how she had taught him, prayed
with him, shielded him, and got him pardoned when his father, owing
to some outrageous piece of mischief or of idleness, was angry; how
she had mourned over the little baby sisters, no less than four of
them. The second was born at Hyeres, when he was little more than
three years old, and the last when he was about ”twelve. Not one had
lived more than three years. When he was a little child he had known
what anguish the ﬁrst symptoms of illness in one after another had
caused her. No one, not even their father, knew so well as he did
how she had wept for them; for when she heard his footsteps coming
to her boudoir, or her cabin, as the case might be, she would
sometimes rouse herself and manage to be more cheerful or composed
for his sake.
It seemed only natural, when he was thinking thus, that when Mr.
Mainwaring spoke again it should still be about her.
“I have an income,” he observed, “derived from my wife’s
Rhodes looked up; there seemed something just a little formal, both
in the words and in the tone.
“Did you know anything about this?”
“No, father,” he answered, “I don’t think I did.”
“What! you were not aware that she had an independent fortune?”
“Oh yes,” said Rhodes, after a moment’s thought, “I suppose I did
know that; I remember that her charities and that sort of thing used
to come out of it — not that I was ever told so, but I used to be
present when you were talking, of course.”
“It brought in — the settlement did — six hundred a year. I told you
I was desirous — I mean, I was determined — that nothing should be
spared on your education, or to give you a good profession; and I
said you were mistaken if you expected much of an inheritance from
“Yes, father,” was all Rhodes could say.
“Do you know why?”
Rhodes was silent.
“I expect an answer, my dear boy,” said Mainwaring, gravely, and
with all deliberation.
“Yes, father,” said Rhodes ; “I do.”
“YES!l” exclaimed Mainwaring senior, evidently startled, and half
springing up from his chair. “What is it, then?”
“You are going to marry again.”
Mainwaring senior drew a long breath, sat down again, and made an
evident effort to calm himself.
“Ah, yes!” he presently said; “yes, my boy — in about ﬁve months,
when the dear young creature who has engaged herself to me is of
age, I shall, I hope, marry again.”
“Why, she’s nearly as young as Dis,” thought Rhodes, “and he’s
“What a shock the boy gave me,” thought Mainwaring senior. “Well,
the secret of the marriage is out though, and I did not mean to
mention it for three months at least. That fortune that settlement I
“Yes, father,” said Rhodes, rather disconsolately.
“I derive the income from it for my life.”
“Yes,” said the son, “of course.”
“Why, of course?”
“I suppose that’s what a marriage settlement means.”
“Oh, that’s all. I always intended, whatever part of the world I
might be in, that I should come over to you when you were of age.
Besides the wish to see you (and I mean to say no more about failure
just now), I wanted to tell you of something that your mother and I
agreed to do at this time. When you are fairly settled in some
honest, desirable occupation or career, but not till that is the
case, you will have the beneﬁt of — of your dearest mother’s
kindness. I agreed with her that her fortune should be yours. The
six hundred a year, with the income from your profession,
appointment, ofﬁce, or whatever it is, will be quite enough to live
on. Are you listening?”
“Yes!” exclaimed the son, absolutely stammering in his delight and
gratitude. “Oh, father, how good you are to me!” Dis! why he could
marry Dis almost at once.
“It was your mother’s wish,” said the father.
“But you will give up the six hundred a year?”
“Oh yes,” said Mainwaring senior, “of course.”
NOW six hundred a
year was a very small, poor sum compared with the ﬁne but perfectly
undeﬁned fortune which had ﬂoated before the mind’s eye of Rhodes
Mainwaring as in all probability to be one day his; but then it was
a deﬁnite, speciﬁed, safe, and immediate possession — immediate,
that is, supposing that he would work.
“Why,” he exclaimed, still hardly able to speak plainly for joy and
pride, “it’s enough (with my profession, which I should have
directly) — it’s enough to marry on!”
“Marry!” said the father, with a hearty laugh; and then repeated,
“Marry, indeed!” But there followed such a long dead silence that at
last he looked up, waved away the fumes of his cigar, and regarded
his son with ﬁxed attention. “You don’t mean to say that at your
early age, and with nothing to look to but what I might be pleased
to give you, you can have thought of marriage?”
“Yes, father,” Rhodes exclaimed, “I have formed an attachment (I
shall never change) to the most lovely and interesting of her sex!
It is a ﬁne thing, surely, to marry early — and — and — I’ve been
wanting all the evening to tell you—and —”
“You are actually engaged?”
“Oh no. Her father — ”
“Her father was very unkind.”
“Does he know your age?”
“And did he know that I was ignorant of the matter?”
“Yes, father. Well, I’m very sorry, but it seemed no use to get
consent from you till I had his—and he treated me like a
“It’s off then ?”
“No” — here a deep sigh — “it’s not exactly off because it never was
“Why did the father so much object? Have you been ﬂying at very high
“No; but he said it was undutiful of me for one thing.”
“Oh, and what else?”
“He said you were rich, and probably had other views for me.”
“An uncommon father! decidedly an uncommon father! Well, what else?”
Rhodes paused. What was the use of his holding off any longer? He
answered in a low voice, “And he said that you were his friend.”
In every quarter of the world this father had friends, but there was
only one in England who was in the least likely to have said that,
or to have refused the rich man’s son and given such a reason for
“Well, and the ‘most lovely and interesting of her sex,’” he
presently added, “What does she think of her father’s
Rhodes Mainwaring’s countenance changed to an expression of deep
“Well?” repeated his father.
“I hardly ever see her; when I did last, two days ago, at the
circulating library, and asked her if she could not love me a
little, she said — she said she loved her father a great deal, and
he thought such a thing as I proposed would be dishonourable — and
would make him feel ashamed; and then she went up to the woman
behind the counter, and took a great interest in changing the
“And you had to hang about the door, I suppose? Well?”
“And so when she came out I walked beside her, among the
fruit-women, for it was market-day.”
Here a stubborn pause.
“Well,” said the father, “and you poured out your heart, I suppose —
“I did as well as I could, for her father had made me promise not to
write, but there were so many interruptions — and she said — ”
Here he paused, his voice slightly broken by emotion.
It was ridiculous, but it appeared that the father began to
sympathize. “Awkward for you, my boy! Well, what did she say?”
“She said she could not see that my heart and hers either were of
half so much consequence as her father’s peace of mind, and at that
moment a fruit-barrow was pushed past and she dropped one of the
books — and I had to wipe and clean it from the dust and dirt.”
“And so then when you returned it,” said the father, quite
composedly, “you took hold of her hand?”
“Yes,” said Rhodes, “and she tried to get it away, and then she
dropped the other two books.”
“And you had to wipe and clean those? Is that all?”
“When I returned them I tried to slip a ring on her ﬁnger, and she
said, ‘How dare you?’”
“That is the whole of the legend, then, is it?” said Mainwaring
senior, after a long pause, and with an almost indulgent smile.
“No,” said Mainwaring junior, actually blushing, “I managed to kiss
“What, in the street?”
“I did not think any of the market-women could possibly see me——but
one did: a ﬁshwife, and she laughed.”
“And the young lady: she was angry, I suppose?”
“No, not exactly.”
“Out of countenance?”
“Yes, she walked on so fast that, what with that and the noise they
all made crying their shrimps and ﬂowers and fruit, and what with
her getting home so soon, I could not say another word. She ran up
the steps, and said, ‘Good-afternoon, Mr. Mainwaring’ — and she got
in — and she was gone.”
“Oh, her people are here, then? That is why you came?”
Mainwaring senior sighed and paused. He hoped Mainwaring junior
would say something more. That was not the ease, and he presently
went on with perfect gentleness and deliberation, “Yes, I agree with
that man — whoever he is — that he acted like a friend. Considering
all things, I had not deserved this of you — it was undutiful.”
“Father!” exclaimed the young man, as if deeply moved and hurt, too.
It was only one word, but the father started slightly, as if he felt
and yielded to the appeal; and he thought inwardly as he did so,
“There, I knew this sort of thing would come sooner or later, and I
am quite powerless, quite.” Rhodes lost nothing by his not saying
this aloud; he would not have had a notion what it meant.
“I have never denied you anything which I believed to be for your
good,” he went on, aloud.
Rhodes wanted to talk of anything rather than Dis now, for he saw
that his father thought he had made himself ridiculous.
“If I could have foreseen this,” he said, in a faltering voice, “I
should not have been extravagant — I mean about that telescope and
microscope — ”
“Ah, to be sure. Yes, when I wrote that you might have them, if they
were to be such a great pleasure, such a great advantage, I had no
notion they were to be so costly. You should have named the price;
but let that pass.”
The disconsolate junior folded his arms and screwed up his mouth.
“The truth of the matter appears to be, then,” continued the father,
“that you love a young lady whose father refuses her to you.”
“Yes, I am afraid so.”
“And from whom you have had no promise of any kind?”
“But that might be,” said Rhodes, humbly, “because I could not get
“On the other hand, if you could get at her, you might possibly
learn that she does not return your affection.”
The sigh with which Rhodes Mainwaring met this remark was almost a
sob, at least it choked itself off into a sob, and then there fell
upon his cheeks two large and unmistakable tears, which he quietly
wiped away; while the father again spoke within himself, “Poor
fellow — not so very English that — but — no, no! on the whole he
makes a good Englishman enough; I am not ashamed of him.”
Rhodes would certainly have thought that an odd speech if he had
heard it. But then — he did not.
It was now about eleven o’clock. Mainwaring senior sat lost in
thought. Then he said suddenly, and stopped, permitting himself to
yawn, “I am tired; the weather at sea was so rough before we
landed—” (“No, that won’t do,” he thought), and went on, “And the
fact is, I have a great deal to think of, my boy — a great deal that
you never knew anything about.”
“I know a storm at sea always affects your chest,” said Rhodes, who
had quite recovered his equanimity.
“Ah, yes, so it does,” said the father, who had now risen. “Well, I
He named the hour when he would breakfast with his son, and went to
He was no sooner gone than Rhodes turned up the lamp and took out a
badly printed local newspaper, in which he found the list of
visitors’ names. He conned them over half aloud and with a sort of
impassioned fervour, till he came to “25, Oxford Terrace; Mrs.
Prentiss, with Miss Larkin and Miss Isabel Larkin.”
After looking at this announcement for an unreasonable length of
time, he folded up the paper neatly and returned it to his pocket.
He, too, meant to go to bed. His hand was already stretched forth to
turn down the lamp when it seemed impossible to live without reading
the announcement again. He took out the paper, sat down by the
table, and repeated this exercise.
“I always thought Isabel was a charming name. If I had not asked
that little brother of hers I should actually never have known why
they call her Dis. And to think,” he continued, “that just because
he called her so when he was almost a baby, her sweet name should be
changed into that in all their mouths. How beautiful her eyes are!”
He folded up the paper again, after one more fond look, and this
time he actually did retire, go to bed, and sleep soundly.
When he came down, which was in a great hurry, he had a beautiful
nosegay of fresh ﬂowers in his hand. It was a little before the
time, but his father was already in the room.
“Where were you going to take those?” said he, with gravity.
“To Oxford Terrace,” faltered Rhodes.
“Then,” thought the father, “that settles it, and I am all aﬂoat.
The father is not Larkin, whoever he may be.”
“I should not be ﬁve minutes gone,” said Rhodes.
“After breakfast will do,” said Mainwaring senior.
The breakfast, in fact, at that moment appearing, for Mr. Mainwaring
had already rung for it, Rhodes could but sit down, putting his ﬂowers
aside. He naturally thought he should now have to explain matters;
but the father, who had taken it into his head that Adam Larkin was
the father of the young lady, supposed himself to have discovered
that he was mistaken. He had a number of letters and circulars
before him which had been sent on to him from his London address.
And he turned them over, while the meal went on in a silence which
was almost oppressive. He had put one into his pocket, and when his
son said “Oxford Terrace,” he cogitated over it with knitted brow
for some time. It contained a check for four hundred and twenty
pounds, and was full of acknowledgments and gratitude declaring what
a boon the loan had been, and assuring Mr. Mainwaring that the other
eighty pounds would be paid over in less than a month. The letter
was signed, “Adam Larkin,” and the address was given at that very
little sea-side place where the father and son now were — Sea View
“So that settles it,” he thought, pushing the letter a little deeper
down in his pocket with his thumb. “I’ll go at once and consult
Larkin as to what I had better do with the boy. As to this trumpery
love affair, that will most likely come to nothing when those people
know how little Rhodes is to have. I had no notion when I saw the
boy how difﬁcult it would be to tell him, but told he must be now,
and that without delay. Oh, hang it! here is the love affair coming
to the front again.”
“I only meant to leave this at the door at Oxford Terrace,” said
Rhodes, taking up the ﬂowers. “I am not allowed to go in.”
“Then you are a very foolish fellow to leave it at all,” said
Mainwaring senior; and Rhodes naturally did not consider this as a
direct prohibition, ungracious though the words might be.
“I don’t know what to be at,” he murmured when Rhodes had shut the
“Every year makes it more difﬁcult. What if it should be my duty to
end by never telling him at all?”
He sat deep in thought.
“And then I have had such losses. Oh, Fanny, Fanny, how weak that
was of you!”
At No. 8 Sea View Crescent little Rowland Larkin sat meanwhile, with
his elbows squared on the table, his feet on the spells of the
chair, and his ﬁngers much the worse for ink. He was laboriously
copying some writing from a large slate into a copy-book, and as he
did so regarding every word with his head on one side.
“It’s very important,” said Rowland, “and I can’t talk much till
I’ve done the bit of it that belongs to to-day.”
“What is it, then, mister?” exclaimed Dis, who had come in and was
sitting opposite to him, with a little twisted note in her hand.
“Well, my holiday task, to be sure. I s’pose you didn’t have holiday
tasks — boys always do.”
“I wonder what it’s about?”
“Why, the doctor wrote it down; the older boys have to do it, and
four boys in our class are doing it. It’s called, ‘A Sketch of
Universal History.’ ”
“What! done in a copy-book?”
“No, on a slate ﬁrst, but” — ﬂuttering the leaves — “I did
not think it would have to be so long. Look here, Dis, what little
letters; they are almost quite like running-hand. I’ve done all
that; ﬁve pages already, and it isn’t nearly ﬁnished.”
“Where does it begin?”
“Why, at the creation of the world, of course.”
“But why do you write it out twice?”
“Because of the spelling; none of our fellows are to be told
anything about the spelling or anything else. But we may look in the
dictionary. So I look out the hard words, such as ‘sarcophagus,’ and
‘barbacan,’ and some more. ‘Parliament’ I know quite well, and
‘Charlemagne’ — Carolus Magnus he is called when he is translated.”
“Dear me, what learning! I hope you’ll get the prize, mister.”
“I did the Norman Conquest yesterday.”
“Oh! Is it the history of the whole world, then?”
“Yes, it is. And there’s the French Revolution, and all that — but I
can’t possibly put everything in.”
“Of course not.”
“But you can’t think what lots of things there are that must go in.
There was the discovery of America — I did not mind that; Columbus
is such an easy Word to spell and to write; it looks nice when
you’ve done it; so does Ferdinand.”
“And what are you doing now, mister?”
“Why, I’ve just done the building of Covent Garden Market.”
“Oh! But do you think that’s important enough to be in the universal
“I should think it is, indeed! Why, don’t you remember when we had
lodgings at Kew, how we used to hear the carts going by before it
was light, heaped up with vegetables to the very top?”
“Yes, I remember.”
“I read just now that there are hundreds and hundreds of people that
get their living by the things that go to Covent Garden Market.”
“That’s interesting. Does father see the ‘Sketch?’”
“No; the doctor said if any boy consulted his family, that boy was
not to have the prize, however Well his thing was done.”
“Then it’s no use my even giving an opinion?”
“Of course not. Besides ―”
“Besides what, you monkey? Why did you laugh?”
“Well, you’re so old, you know; you’re nearly twenty, Dis. You’ve
not done any history for, I should think, four years. Perhaps you’ve
“Perhaps I have, mister. Do you think you shall got the prize?”
“I don’t know. Clems and Blodsett are frightfully clever, and they
are both trying for it.”
“Is the sahib at home?” said Mr. Sam Prince, putting in his head.
“No; but he will be directly,” answered Rowland, “for he said he was
only going to the telegraph ofﬁce.”
“If you will allow me, then,” said a very pleasant-looking man who
was standing in the little passage, “I will wait for him here.”
He bowed to Dis. “Mr. Mainwaring,” he said, introducing himself; and
he came in and sat down.