‘You ought to have the Cross for this,’ said the colonel, a quiet self-contained man, rising for the moment into enthusiasm. ‘You deserve the Victoria Cross, and a commission, too. I’ll do my best to help you to both.’
He was as good as his word. Before the Duke’s Own left the Coast the Gazette contained both announcements, and Herbert Larkins was now ‘an officer and a gentleman’ at last.
CHAPTER III. MAKING THE AMENDE.
There was terrible grief at Farrington Hall when the news came home of the death of the son and heir. Poor silly Lady Farrington was quite broken-hearted. Had she had her way Ernest would never have gone to the wars. Moreover the circumstances under which he left made matters infinitely worse. He was at home, as we know, when the regiment got the route, and the orders he received from the Horse Guards were peremptory that he should rejoin without a moment’s delay. The young soldier was not over keen about obeying. Life, in spite of family jars, had just then a peculiar sweetness for him. He had established Mimie in a pretty little villa at Wimbledon, where he spent most of his time. His visits to the Hall, and his stay when he came, were much curtailed, greatly to his mother’s sorrow. Her ladyship knew of his ‘entanglement,’ but quite as a secret, and she was discreetly silent on the subject. She only upbraided her boy for his constant absences.
‘I’th too bad, Ernetht. We thee tho little of you now. You mutht come and thettle down at home. Marry a nithe wife—’
Which was meant as a gentle womanly hint that she knew what occupied his thoughts and his time.
Sir Rupert’s line towards Ernest was more plainly marked, and possibly less judicious. He very soon gave his son to understand that he knew all about the Gibraltar escapade.
‘I thought it was only a passing act of folly. Young men cannot always be trusted to behave with judgment and decorum. It is very deplorable, of course, but no more, after all, than others have done. What I complain of, Ernest, is that there appears to be no end to your infatuation. I hear—no matter how—’
‘From Mr. Oozenam, I presume,’ said Ernest, bitterly. ‘I knew he was dogging my footsteps, but did not think he had been set on by my father. It’s a disgraceful shame!’
‘I hear,’ went on Sir Rupert, speaking still calmly, but the black look on his face showed that he was fast growing furious, ‘that you are continually at a house at Wimbledon, where, I suppose, this—this person—resides.’
‘Look here, father, you are going too far,’ put in Ernest, hotly. ‘I am quite old enough to——.’
‘To make a fool of yourself? No doubt. You always were that. You’ve been a fool all your life. But you shall not make a fool of me.’
‘I won’t stay another minute in the house.’
‘If you leave it, you shall not return to it until you have begged my pardon.’ Sir Rupert was very angry, still he strove to be calm. ‘Be careful, Ernest, how you aggravate me. I am willing to make allowances for your youth, but you shall not disgrace your name. Promise me to give up this affair at once and for ever, or, or—’
‘I will do nothing of the kind. I will not be treated as a child,’ cried Ernest, in a loud voice.
‘Then take the consequences, sir,’ shouted Sir Rupert, still louder. ‘Leave my presence, sir; leave the room, sir; leave the house, sir; and do not dare to show yourself again, sir, till I ask you, which will be never, never, sir, so help me——’
Ernest, with a white and rather scared face, got up and quietly walked away.
His father and he never met again in the flesh.
There were many efforts at reconciliation, but all had fallen through. Ernest, before leaving the Hall, had gone to his mother to say good-bye, and there had been a very painful scene. The poor woman was torn by conflicting emotions. She was passionately fond of her boy, and desperately afraid of her fierce spouse. But her maternal instincts carried the day, and she braved her husband’s anger, seeking to win forgiveness for her son. She failed utterly. The parties to the quarrel were equally determined, but in different ways. Ernest was weakly and foolishly obstinate; Sir Rupert, harsh, implacable, unrelenting. Father insisted upon submission unconditional and complete; son refused even to admit that he was wrong. Farrington Hall was a sad house while the dispute was in progress, and Lady Farrington was a very unhappy woman. Then, while matters were still unaccommodated, came the orders for active service, and she was in a paroxysm of despair. She made piteous appeals to Sir Rupert; she wrote imploring letters to her son, she besought the Horse Guards to delay embarkation, and pleaded all sorts of excuses to keep him at home. But fate and the authorities were inexorable, and Ernest, very much against his own will too, was compelled to start for the Coast.
He had never revisited the Hall. His father would not ask him, and he would not offer himself. His mother begged to be allowed to go to Southampton to bid him a last farewell, but Sir Rupert positively forbade it; and Ernest left the country with no one—except broken-hearted Mimie—to bid him adieu.
This was why the news of his death fell so heavily upon them all at home. Lady Farrington broke down utterly. She was like Rachel, and refused to be comforted. Sir Rupert, although he was still outwardly calm and impassive, felt it more than he could say. But he showed his grief very differently. It was a sort of relief to him to burst forth into the loudest invectives—not against himself, although his parental cruelty might well have caused him the keenest remorse, but against all who might, by the smallest implication, be deemed to be responsible for Ernest’s untimely end. Where was Diggle? Why had he allowed the young fellow out of his sight? And Sir Garnet, what excuse would the general make for leaving a young officer to be thus out-matched and massacred by the rascally foe? He even included Mimie Larkins in his reproaches, although she manifestly was but little to blame. He could not at first bring himself to think well of Herbert, whose brave act in trying to save his officer’s life was hailed with enthusiasm in this country as soon as it became known. What had this sergeant done? Only his duty. It was the duty of every sergeant or corporal in the service to lay down his life for a Farrington, of course. And the young fellow had been amply rewarded—over rewarded, if anything—for his pains.
But deeper down in Sir Rupert’s heart there was anguish and sharp regret. As a father he was deeply grieved at the loss of an only son; but as the proud owner of an old 佛山桑拿体验报告 title and wide estates, it cut him to the heart to think that he must be the last of his line. Was it for this that he had schemed and man?uvred? For this that he had caused Lady Farrington to be placed under restraint—had abandoned her protégé to starve? Then followed a wave of better feeling towards the gallant young fellow who had heaped coals of fire on his head. What a fine action it was! How splendidly the young man had behaved! He half wished that Herbert was really the heir to the family honours, now that there was no one else to inherit them.
Upon this point he would have met with some sharp opposition within his family, had he expressed his opinion. Much as poor Ernest was regretted by all, there were some who, after the first decorous mourning, found themselves quite able to reconcile themselves to his loss. 佛山夜生活约炮 To Mrs. Cavendish-Diggle, Ernest’s death meant a certain tangible gain. She could never succeed to the baronetcy, certainly, but there were the broad acres of Farrington which, faute de mieux, would now undoubtedly come to her. Possibly, if Diggle did but take his proper place in life, and could be persuaded to enter Parliament, a grateful Government might be brought to continue the baronetcy through the female branch. Mrs. Cavendish would have been only too pleased that her infant son should some day resume the name and arms of the Farrington family, and that the Diggle-Farringtons should become celebrated as the proprietors of Farrington Hall. The son was forthcoming, indeed more than one; but poor Cavendish-Diggle was not himself quite equal to the task which the ambitious Letitia would have imposed upon him. The Gold 佛山桑拿交流群 Coast campaign, in fact, had nearly cost him his life, and had left him almost a wreck. Weeks of low fever upon a miserable sickbed in the malarious bush, had nearly finished him; and long before the end of the war he had returned to England more dead than alive. His life in the long run was spared, but the once smart dandy reappeared a broken, half-crippled man, one much more fitted to spend the remainder of his days in European health resorts, drinking the waters and taking the baths, than in any active struggle for parliamentary or contested family honours. Before the return of the Duke’s Own to England he had retired upon half-pay, and took no further part in regimental affairs.
Herbert’s glorification, however, when he reached England duly came off, and this without any protest on the part of Mrs. Cavendish-Diggle. 佛山夜生活论坛邀请码 She did not know really that he was, or had ever been, a competitor for the family estates. Besides which, when he arrived she and her husband were at Aix; and however calmly she may have accepted the sad news of Ernest’s death,
she could not openly be otherwise than pleased at the honour done to the man who had endeavoured to save her brother’s life. Herbert, whether or no, was invited at once to the Hall, whither he went, not from any love for Sir Rupert, but simply to see how the land lay, and whether he could help the poor old dowager, who still languished in her asylum prison.
Yet it was with a certain strange excitement that he entered the house which might be, and which somehow he felt ought to be his. The baronet received him most courteously; poor Lady Farrington fell upon his neck and wept torrents of tears; 佛山夜生活luntan he was shown into a gorgeous guest chamber, a room all blue satin and silver, such as he had never before seen in all his life; and he was treated with the most profound respect on every side.
Lady Farrington was not
equal to appearing at table, and he dined with Sir Rupert tête-à-tête. His host questioned him closely upon the events of the campaign. Acutely painful as was one of its episodes to the baronet, he yet seemed to ignore this, and was only anxious to give his guest an opportunity of describing what he had seen. Possibly he was anxious also to keep off dangerous ground, and to avoid inconvenient questions upon points on which Herbert was, if anything, far more closely concerned.
Here, however, he counted without his host. The young soldier was by nature, and still more by his recent rough and ready training, little disposed to beat about the bush. He had resolved upon coming to Farrington Hall to ascertain what could be done to release the old Lady Farrington from durance. He had had already one or two communications from ‘the Boy’ Hanlon, none of which, however, gave him much hope of effecting this without the assistance of the baronet himself. The ‘Boy’ had not seen much of the old lady. She was, of course, upon the female side of the asylum. But Hanlon was not to be baulked by any restrictions of sex, and as the rules of the establishment forbade him from attending upon a female patient, he made it his business to secure the co-operation of a female attendant. The person who had especial charge of Lady Farrington was a middle-aged damsel, to whom the blandishments of ‘the Boy’ were by no means distasteful. Through this impressionable daughter of Eve, Hanlon had communicated frequently with the old lady. He had told her of Herbert’s progress; of the young man’s advancement in the lower walks of the military career; finally of the Ashanti war, and Herbert’s undoubted success. Had the doctor been within easy reach, he might have ordered Lady Farrington the usual cooling regimen, so excited did she become. But she escaped observation, and under the advice of her attendant, and indeed through her own native intelligence she managed to preserve a calm exterior, feeling sure that her Herbert would soon appear to open wide her prison doors.
That he was most eager to do so was evident from his conversation with Sir Rupert that first night.
‘I shall be only too glad to meet your wishes in any way,’ the baronet had said. ‘At the Horse Guards, perhaps, or with Mr. Cardwell—’
‘I will not ask so much,’ Herbert replied. ‘I have been already treated most liberally by the authorities. All I want is—to pay a visit to Greystoke.’
‘To Greystoke?’ Sir Rupert turned rather pale.
‘Yes, and with you. You see I know everything. Why hesitate, Sir Rupert? There need be no concealment between us. The last time we met I was a victim—one of your victims—but now I am above all that, but poor Lady Farrington still suffers.’
‘It would not be safe, I assure you, to set her at large. I have that on the best authority. She is still quite insane.’
‘I have it on better that she is now perfectly recovered.’
‘May I ask who is your informant?’ Sir Rupert blandly enquired.
‘One of the attendants at the asylum.’
‘A skilled practitioner? A medical man?’
‘Well, no; not exactly. He was, in fact, formerly in the Duke’s Own.’
‘As a surgeon?’