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“ Take nothing for granted, beloved, but believe such sentiments as men express by their actions. The tongue is a lying deceiver, the face a mask of hypocrisy, therefore believe what you see and see what you believe.”
“Mephistopheles in propria persona. Now, my dear De l'Orme, do like a good-natured cynic come out of your tub and help me to devise some means of getting out of this place. I wonder who those people are, and for what place they are bound.”
“We may probably ascertain. Landlord !”
The obsequious little man once more appeared upon the scene in answer to De l'Orme's raised voice, but it was to Lord Haig he made his salaam.
“Did you ask M. le Voiturier what was the end of the next stage of their journey before they set off ?” demanded his lordship.
“He informed me, Milor.”
“Upon my word he was a most obliging gentleman,” sneered De l’Orme, “ to volunteer so much information without being questioned.”
Lord Haig took no notice of his friend's interruption. “Tell me, where were they going to ?”
"Tell meerne, Milor.”
e of any description. In
“And are there no quadrupeds of any description in your stable? Is there no chance of procuring any between this and tomorrow?”
The golden gleam in the white palm of the young lord sharpened the landlord's wits more effectually than any amount of words could do. He saw it was more to his interest to further their departure than compel them to stay, and he answered—“There are the horses from monsieur's carriage. Milor's caleche is light; it will be like rest to the beasts to draw it after the heavy vehicle of monsieur."
“By jove! that's a happy idea,” cried De l'Orme, starting up. “ That's a loophole we may escape by, Haig."
Lord Haig replied with a smile.
“ We may get to Lucerne in time to learn whither they are bound if they leave to-morrow. What say you, amicus ?”
“I say that I would willingly give ten pounds for one more glimpse of that beautiful face, fair and classical enough for that of some Grecian goddess." · Lord Haig made no verbal response, but inwardly he recurred to the memory of two bright eyes that had shone out upon him like the blue, luminous gleam of moonbeams, and he hastened as much as possible the preparations that should conduce towards their speedy departure.
CHAPTER V.-SOCIUS ET AMICUS. There are degrees in friendship as there are in everything under the sun, and as the preacher assures us that there is nothing new under that luminary, we may presume that from the days of Jonathan and David downwards, it always has been so, and always will be. It is curious to note the very incongruous unions that often range themselves under that old familiar title ; how the most seemingly opposite natures attach themselves to each other in obedience to some constraining but invisible chains of attraction. There is no use in preaching equality in friendship, for it sometimes delights in reconciling the grossest inequalities. In fact friendship, like the wilder passion it sometimes typifies, cannot be reduced to theory and governed by laws.
So much preamble must be acknowledged by the reader to be anything but unnecessary when he has attained never so meagre an acquaintance with the two young men he was introduced to in the last chapter.
The friendship existing between them was like a union of the poles, in explanation of which I can only revert to the sentence I started with—There are degrees in friendship. Probably the definitions you and I, reader, would give of the word as we respectively understand it might differ from each other, and yet neither agree with that formed by a third person. But an object, a passion, an emotion, it may be urged, all remain the same, though different people conceive different ideas of the ono, while the other kindles different responses in different breasts. So we will call that friendship on both sides that linked the young men together, even though, to Ernest De l’Orme, Robert, Lord Haig, was nothing more than socius, while the young Lord regarded him to the full as his amicus, the one standing in the light of a beloved companion, the other being a mere associate. There was something very unequal in the union, but is it not so with the majority of the loves and friendships of this world? The richest gold, poured lavishly forth, meets with the most meagre return. If a return were all it looked for, oh, wretched heart! But love, generous, high-souled, pure, creates its own atmosphere, and happiness comes more from the sense of loving than from the return it meets with. Therefore, if you ask which was the happier for their friendship, I should point unhesitatingly to Lord Haig. His amicus, though by the world called a disappointed, unfortunate, unhappy man, was the most generous-souled, high-minded, noble-hearted individual that ever breathed, worthy of his esteem and confidence, because his own lofty fancy painted him as such. But to Ernest De l'Orme the young baron was merely what twenty men, each not possessing one tenth of the fine qualities that distinguished him, might have been to him. His lively disposition, his unfailing affability, his even temper, made him an agreeable associate, one in whose company the languid time flowed more energetically, so that his own comfort was the only tie that bound him to him. I must describe this as the lowest possible degree to which friendship can be debased, for this is indeed dragging her white plumes through the mire.
Ernest De l'Orme was five or six years the senior of his companion, but in some classes of knowledge and experience he might be twenty. Heir to and possessor of an estate in one of the eastern counties of England, he dwelt there through his boyhood with an early widowed mother. They were very poor, and lived in the deepest seclusion. The estate was deeply mortgaged, and barely afforded to them the meagre income that sufficed for their wants. Mrs. De l'Orme inherited all the pride of all the ancestors of her own house and her husband's combined, and was resolved that her son should be brought up as a De l’Orine of De l’Orme should be on the estate, and in the domain of his forefathers. Besides, she had expectations for her son. She had long ago determined that he should be the heir to the wealth of a bachelor brother of her own who had no recognised successor, and no claim upon him superior to those of herself and her son. So the boy was taught from his infancy, not the sin of indulging his imperious temper and selfish passions, but the danger of allowing either them or their effects to come under the notice of his grim, miserly uncle, Ernest Candlish, Esq., of Brydon Hall, in the county of Sussex. And the young Ernest was wise enough, with something of the wisdom of the serpent even in those early days, to take his cue skilfully from the mind of his mother. The visits of Mr. Ernest Candlish to De l'Orme, or, as the villagers corrupted it, Dellum Hall, were periods of the greatest torture to the lad, and he would avenge himself freely for the restraint put upon him when within the precincts of the hall, by numerous acts of petty tyranny when abroad. Mr. Candlish evinced his friendliness towards his sister and her son by these visits, but he never invited them to Brydon in return; he said his household was not fit for the entertainment of his lady sister ; and perhaps he was right, for bachelor institutions with such men as Ernest Candlish at their head, are certainly not very desirable places of residence for a lady.
Ernest De l'Orme did not possess the vices that would rather have increased than diminished the favour of his uncle. His faults did not proceed so much from want of principle as from the errors of his education, and from the callous heart with which nature had gifted him. He loved power, he loved sway, and he was not scru
pulous by what means he maintained both. Because his name had ceased to hold its pristine authority amongst the people of the neighbourhood, the more fiercely he longed for its aggrandisement. A De l'Orme of De l’Orme was now hardly recognised beyond the community of the little village; there the poor fishermen, and the peasant labourers who had lived for generations under the domination of the great family, still bared their heads and bent their brows before the imperious young descendant of their olden lords, but their homage failed to satisfy the insatiate greed of the boy for the sweets of power. He would sit on the cliffs overhanging the waves that lashed the sandstone below, for hours, pondering upon the hardness of his lot; his heart grew hard and bitter, and day by day his mind became more and more cramped until it got to resemble the confines of a small cage shutting in the single name De l’Orme, while the world stood without, antagonistic. Then he dreamed of the time to come when the wealth of Ernest Candlish should be allied to the influence of his name, and Dellum Hall should again be the centre of a potent authority that should spread more than its olden sway throughout the county. He looked upon his sometime heirship of his uncle's wealth as a certainty, he never questioned the faith his mother had implanted..
These musings were all unnatural enough for a boy of twelve years to indulge in, but at that period they were the primary occupation of his leisure. Others he had less desirable still. He was a cruel-hearted boy, a boy that all dumb animals avoided, that no bird, nor beast, nor live thing would fraternise with. He had a habit of torturing everything he came near, and the natural instinct within their breasts taught them to avoid him. Perhaps this was but another of the phases assumed by that craving for domination inborn in his nature and developed by his life's surroundings. He had been known to pluck the feathers from a live bird, and afterwards take a wild delight in watching its contortions of agony. It shows an evil heart when one takes pleasure in tormenting cruelly those who have will, strength, and voice to oppose to the tyranny, but he who wantonly inflicts pain upon a helpless, dumb creature is at heart a dastard.
There was very little about Ernest De l'Orme calculated to please his uncle Ernest Candlish.
Had he had never so little of the dare-devil spirit in him he might have been as las principled as he pleased without danger of forfeiting his pretensions to his uncle's wealth ; but the boy had nothing of the kind ; he could administer a sly kick to a harmless dog, or denude a cat of her whiskers, but he never got into the scrapes that hearty, healthy boyhood is subject to; he behaved, indeed, with such unexceptionable propriety in the presence of his
Fears to his leisure. Otinat all dumb a
uncle that Ernest Candlish imagined some reproach cast upon his own irregular life by the circumspection of the boy, and hated him accordingly. So he hinted to his sister that he was being spoilt at home in the dreary solitude of Dellum, and counselled her to send him to school that he might be made a man of. To school Ernest went accordingly.
There Ernest's priggishness, as the little world of schoolboys termed the qualities we have been endeavouring to describe, quickly got him into trouble. He began by trying to establish the same system of despotism amongst the boys as had answered very well amongst the peasant bipeds and tame quadrupeds at Dellum. There the one class submitted from a lawful acknowledgment of his hereditary power, the other from fear. Here he met with most decided opposition that at first took his breath away; its truth was soon roughly enough forced upon him.
Mrs. De l'Orme's means did not permit of her placing him at one of the public schools where other youths of his rank were sent; that was the reason he had been kept at home so long. It was at one of the many excellent middle-class schools with which England abounds that Ernest De l'Orme's experience of school-boy life was commenced. The boys were principally sons of merchants and professional gentlemen, and a strong liberal element breathed throughout the school. They were not likely to acknowledge Ernest De l'Orme of De l'Orme as being one whit better than themselves, unless he proved himself superior to them in some particular virtue or accomplishment; had he proved himself that, they would have exalted him, the mere accident of birth with them went for nothing. But he commenced by asserting his right to a kingship amongst them without so much as asking their suffrage. Instantly the combustible spirit of independence in the breasts of a hundred boys took fire, and he stood opposed to the whole tide of public opinion.
It was in the play-ground one summer's afternoon that the boy multitude representing the Vox populi of the world beyond, set themselves against the assumed tyranny of a self-elected king.
One boy, as tall and strong in every way as was Ernest De l'Orme, stood forth from the rest with defiance on his brow, and his broad shoulders well thrown back.
“ Who are you that dares to imagine you can lord it over us?"
A chorus of approval was heard from the ranks behind the champion.
Ernest De l’Orme regarded his opponent with a scowl, while his teeth set themselves in his nether lip and his hands were clenched.
“I am Ernest De l’Orme of De l'Orme, and heir to the Drydon Hall estates of my uncle, Ernest Candlish, Esq.”.