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Chapter XIII.

BATH, I knew, was the first place for which I must make in my journey homewards. I had just received some rather vague instructions for finding the Bath road, when I saw in the distance the hateful form of Pig—no doubt, despatched to capture me. Fortunately I was in the neighbourhood of the Cumberland Basin, where a Swansea steamer lay, discharging her throng of pale-faced passengers. I dived into the cadaverous crowd, and managed to escape the porcine eye. Afraid, however, to go back into the city, whilst my foe was prowling there, I rambled along the river-side, determining to return and get more definite directions as to the route that I must follow, than I had yet obtained, when dusk should have driven Aper back into his den. He was fond of a little dismal dissipation on the sly. I, therefore, felt pretty sure that he would remain in Bristol during the day, mooning about from public-house to public-house; but that the dread of meeting colliers after dark would send the cruel coward home—maugre his crapulence—at the first approach of twilight—to give, of course, on his arrival, a doleful account of the weary miles he had walked, along highways and through bye-ways, after me.

Tawny as the Tiber, the Avon rolled its turbid flood; St. Vincent's Rocks blushed blood-red in the brightening sunlight; the woods on the other side of the river rained down their wealth of pallid gold; like a gigantic gossamer swayed and glistened the connecting cord between the piers of what, perhaps, by this time, is a suspension-bridge. The car—bucket—basket—or whatever else the machine used as an aerial ferry-boat might be called—was being hauled across as I stood beneath the rope; midway one of the passengers fired a gun, and multitudinous echoes converted the single report into a volley.

“The way of the world,” muttered a voice near me. “Say a thing boldly, and what a lot of folks will say it after you!” I turned, and saw an ancient gentleman, buttoned up in a black great-coat, stiff from the collar of which, and white as snow, stuck out a tiny pig-tail. This, and his intensely-starched cravat, and the golden head of the cane on which he leaned, were the only light-colored things he had about him. His very face was bluish-black—the effect of mercurial medieines, most probably. He wore gaiters, carried his head on one side, glanced sharply out of the corners of his eyes, and looked altogether very like my recent acquaintance, the raven, considerably magnified. The greeting with which he favored me was not much more courteous than the welcome I had received from that atrocious bird.

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“What the devil are you staring at boy?—God bless me! How dare you be so ugly?”

“Please, sir, I can't help it,” I stammered; and yet, somehow, the aspect in which he had placed my ugliness staggered me. I began to feel morally responsible for it—at all events, for sunning it. It seemed a sin to walk about a universal eyesore. I was trying to quiet my sense of guilt with the reflection that my censor shared largely in my iniquity, when he turned sharp upon me with a

“Ah! What's that you say? I'm no great beauty, an't I?”

“Indeed, sir, I didn't say so,” I replied; laying, unconsciously, a most tremendous stress upon the “say.”

“Child, your eye said it. Don't deny that you thought it. I hate lies worse than ugliness. I saw the speech peering out of your eye—by the bye, those blue eyes of yours a'n't so bad—I saw it peeping out, I say, like a saucy young scamp taking a sight at me from a window. I can't lug the young blackguard down and give him a drubbing; but, you see, I can catch your thoughts—so be careful what you think. It's nonsense standing here in the cold. Come and have a walk.”

He started off at a trot, dragging me along by his side. Not another word did he say, until we reached the Clifton Pump Room. Into this he took me, inviting me, as abruptly as before, to “come and have a drink.” A large tumblerful of the nauseous waters he compelled me to swallow, assuring me that it would warm me and do me good; grinning horribly meanwhile at the grimaces I made under the infliction. When I had gulped down the last, loathsome drop—he insisted on my leaving “no heeltaps”—I was asked what I thought of the “tipple.”

I forget what I said, but my answer tickled him, and put him into a better humor. When we came out of the Pump Room, he bought me a tart to take the chalybeate taste out of my mouth—first abusing the pieman for charging three-pence for, as the testy old fellow asserted, a twopenny one, and finally giving the man's child a shilling—and as we walked up and down the broad space before the Hot Wells, he informed me why he had drenched me with the detestable beverage.

“To take the sauce out of you, young man. I was as good-looking a fellow once as ever lived. Liver went wrong on the Hooghly, love went wrong at home. I'm a broken, lonely old man now—forced to drink that horrid stuff; and I can't walk out without being badgered about my looks by a misshapen imp like you! Come and see my grandchild.”

We went to a handsome house in one of the Clifton crescents. “Back already, grandpapa! O, I am glad,” cried a little girl, as we stept into a

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breakfast parlour where she sat at work. The work was instantly thrown aside, and springing up into the old man's opened arms as lightly as a fawn, she covered his indigo face with kisses. Very strange was the contrast between it and her sweet cheeks, of a shell-like pink-white; and between his rectilineal, hoary pigtail and her flood of golden hair.

“Bella do nt think me ugly,” said the original into whose company I had been so queerly pressed, at length setting her down, and stroking her bright locks with a fond yet dainty touch, as though he feared to dim their lustre with his sombre paw—looking, between its tropical tan and its superinduced dark blue, very much like a lump of ore. “What do you think, Bella? That young monkey—is n't he like a monkey?—had the audacity to call grandpapa ugly!”

She flashed just a glimpse of an indignant glance at me, but when she saw how embarrassed I appeared in my anxiety to vindicate myself from the charge which yet I could not quite deny, she waived the question of my guilt, and took my part against my taunting accuser.

“It would have served you right if he had. You called him a monkey, you naughty man!”

“Well, and what else is he? But he looks as if he wanted something to eat. I do. The greedy monkey drank up all my morning's draught—never left me a drop. So, thank heaven, I've got an appetite. Come, let's have tiffin. Ring the bell, Bella.”

The servant, when he made his appearance, was soundly rated for not having prepared luncheon an hour before the usual time. An impromptu repast having been laid out in great haste and trepidation by the startled domestics, who evidently regarded their master as a sort of two-legged Bengal tiger very partially tamed, we repaired to the dining-room.

His valetudinarian state compelled the old Indian to be very abstemious as far as edibles were concerned, but he drank freely of his Madeira, which in a short time visibly mellowed him. He ceased to swear at the footman, and became quite polite to me, loading my plate with luscious foreign preserves; which he seemed to enjoy by proxy on my palate—delighted at my appreciation of them, and yet only half-contented with such a vicarious gratification of his tastes. On Bella he waited as attentively as any lover, and when I saw how angel-like in temper, as well as face and form, she was, I did not marvel that she should have been able to subjugate even his irascible nature.

I will not attempt to describe her——

 The grave-damp is staining her beautiful brow.

Though, what right have I to mourn her? The benighted wanderer

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might as well claim property in his solitary star, and wear a weeper for its setting. Suffice it to say, that, at this time she was the worthy bud of the peerless blossom into which she opened—to tempt the ruthless fingers of a sudden Fate.

“Youngster, my name is Maurice—Evan Maurice,” my entertainer presently exclaimed. “What's yours? It's ridiculous to be talking to a boy without a name—just like drinking tea without a handle to your cup. Why don't you speak, you anonymous absurdity? You've got a name, haven't you?”

“Arthur Owen?” he echoed, when I had satisfied him on this point. “Why, you must be a countryman of mine—I'm a Welshman—as you may tell by my Cambrian cayenne. Calcutta don't improve that sort of thing. Curried Welsh Rabbit is a nice cool tit-bit, a'n't it? Bella there is going to start for school at a Mrs. Owen's to-morrow. Poor, dear little Bella—no, poor, lone old gaffer! What the devil shall I do without her? and what the devil are you staring at, sir?”

My eyes were fixed upon a portrait hanging opposite to me. Where had I seen those features? They were Mrs. Fitzherbert's. And now I could trace a resemblance between them and Mr. Maurice's, notwithstanding the chromatic disfigurement of the latter. They were repeated, too, but etherialized in Bella's seraphic face.

“Who uncovered that picture?” said Mr. Maurice, in a deep, stern voice, quite unlike his usual petulant tone; his blue face blanching until it looked awfully livid. He got upon a chair, and refastened to the frame the corner of the moth-eaten curtain, which, most probably, had given way and dropped when he banged the door in wrath on his entrance into the dining-room. (An intruding cat, which very nearly had its tail guillotined by the swiftly-swinging mahogany, had caused this explosion of temper.)

“It is poor, dead Aunt's,” whispered little Bella.

For a long time after this Mr. Maurice sat gloomily musing; Bella meanwhile showing me books and prints, and talking to me in a sweet, shy, pitying way. I have already said that I loathe the pity which, in some, my ugliness excites—I would far rather mark unmitigated disgust and scorn—injustice steels its victim. But pity beaming from her soft, deep eyes, and trembling in the tones of her low, silvery voice, was a balm to me at first. Suddenly a pang shot through my heart, and I hated her, too, for her compassion. Our chairs were close together; her long curls fell upon my shoulder, her breath played warm on my cheek; when, all at once, a great gulf seemed to open between us. A vague prophecy

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of the Future swept across my soul, and the black, cold shadow that it cast remained. What had I to do with her? Her very dog was not so far off from her as I. It, in its own kind, had beauty, and graceful, fondling ways to win her love. As she pulled out its long, silken ears, and lifted its velvet head between her lily hands up to her rosy lips, calling it her “pretty, pretty Fido,” I became jealous of the poor, dumb beast, and felt as though I could have killed both spaniel and mistress. I grew sullen, and refused to talk. I pushed away my chair from hers, and presently retreated to a window-seat. She watched me for a little time in wonder, and, then, no doubt, setting me down as “a strange, unaccountable boy,” took a stool at her grandfather's feet, and left me to my own devices.

Some little movement of hers made her grandfather start from his reverie.

“Why, where's the boy?” he said.

“He won't talk to me, grandpapa.”

“Not talk to you—the arrant little fool! Here, you young Owen, unworthy of the name of Welshman—disgrace to the name of amorous Arthur, most polite of princes—what have you to say to this, you illmannered whelp? Not talk to my Bella! What d'ye mean by it, sir?”

“I want to go,” I blurted out—ready to cry, but struggling to repress that sign of weakness in the presence of Bella, who once more looked at me with wide, wondering eyes.

“You want to go do you?” he answered, mimicking my tone. “And who, in the name of God, ever asked you to come? Oh, I did. Why did I? Who are you, Arthur Owen? Who gave you that name? Where do you come from? What —— stop, sir!”

But stop I wouldn't. I rushed from the room, snatched my cap from the hall-table, and darted out by the front door, which the servant had just opened. Some one on the steps I almost upset; but whom, I waited not to see. Mr. Maurice's “stop, stop, you young maniac, stop!” rang round the crescent, and a pair of feet—probably the footman's—pattered along the pavement after me; but turning sharp round a corner, and dodging through some mews, I baffled my pursuer—pursy, no doubt, and careful of his spotless calves. A sulky stroll over Durdham Downs filled up the time until the early evening twilight; when, having first broken into my half-crown for the purchase of a light supper of two plum buns and a bottle of ginger-pop at a Clifton confectioner's, I re-entered Bristol, and inquired, and soon found the road to Bath.