Sir Tom Part 2
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"You don't say you're fond of him," said Jock, "but he's just as jolly as ever, if that is what you mean."
"That is what I mean, I suppose. You must tell me when I say anything wrong," said Lucy. She took his head between her hands and gave him a kiss upon his forehead. "I am so glad to see you here at last," she said.
And then there was a pause. Her first little overflow of questions had come to an end, and she did not exactly know what to say, while Jock sat silent, staring at her with an earnest gaze. It was all so strange, the scene and surroundings, and Lucy in the midst, who was a great lady, instead of being merely his sister--all these confused the boy's faculties. He wanted time to realise it all. But Lucy, for her part, felt the faintest little touch of disappointment. It seemed to her as if they ought to have had so much to say to each other, such a rush of questions and answers, and full-hearted confidence. Jock's heart would be at his lips, she thought, ready to rush forth--and her own also, with all the many things of which she had said to herself: "I must tell that to Jock." But as a matter of fact, many of these things had been told by letter, and the rest would have been quite out of place in the moment of reunion, in which indeed it seemed inappropriate to introduce any subject other than their pleasure in seeing each other again, and those personal inquiries which we all so long to make face to face when we are separated from those near to us, yet which are so little capable of filling all the needs of the situation when that moment comes. Jock was indeed showing his happiness much more by his expressive silence and shy eager gaze at her than if he had plunged into immediate talk; but Lucy felt a little disappointed, and as if the meeting had not come up to her hopes. She said, after a pause which was almost awkward, "You would like to see baby, Jock? How strange that you should not know baby! I wonder what you will think of him." She rose and rang the bell while she was speaking in a pleasant stir of fresh expectation. No doubt it would stir Jock to the depths of his heart, and bring out all his latent feeling, when he saw Lucy's boy. Little Tom was brought in state to see "his uncle," a t.i.tle of dignity which the nurse felt indignantly disappointed to have bestowed upon the lanky, colourless boy who got up with great embarra.s.sment and came forward reluctantly to see the creature quite unknown and unrealised, of whom Lucy spoke with so much exultation. Jock was not jealous, but he thought it rather odd that "a little thing like that" should excite so much attention. It seemed to him that it was a thing all legs and arms, sprawling in every direction, and when it seized Lucy by the hair, pulling it about her face with the most riotous freedom, Jock felt deeply disposed to box its ears. But Lucy was delighted. "Oh, naughty baby!" she said, with a voice of such admiration and ecstasy as the finest poetry, Jock reflected, would never have awoke in her; and when the thing "loved" her, at its nurse's bidding, clasping its fat arms round her neck, and applying a wide-open wet mouth to her cheek, the tears were in her eyes for very pleasure. "Baby, darling, that is your uncle; won't you go to your uncle? Take him, Jock. If he is a little shy at first he will soon get used to you," Lucy cried. To see Jock holding back on one side, and the baby on the other, which strenuously refused to go to its uncle, was as good as a play.
"I'm afraid I should let it fall," said Jock, "I don't know anything about babies."
"Then sit down, dear, and I will put him upon your lap," said the young mother. There never was a more complete picture of wretchedness than poor Jock, as he placed himself unwillingly on the sofa with his knees put firmly together and his feet slanting outwards to support them. "I sha'n't know what to do with it," he said. It is to be feared that he resented its existence altogether. It was to him a quite unnecessary addition. Was he never to see Lucy any more without that thing clinging to her? Little Tom, for his part, was equally decided in his sentiments. He put his little fists, which were by no means without force, against his uncle's face, and pushed him away, with squalls that would have exasperated Job; and then, instead of consoling Jock, Lucy took the little demon to her arms and soothed him. "Did they want it to make friends against its will," Lucy was so ridiculous as to say, like one of the women in _Punch_, petting and smoothing down that odious little creature. Both she and the nurse seemed to think that it was the baby who wanted consoling for the appearance of Jock, and not Jock who had been insulted; for one does not like even a baby to consider one as repulsive and disagreeable. The incident was scarcely at an end when Sir Tom came in, fresh, smiling, and damp from the farm, where he had been inspecting the cattle and enjoying himself. Mature age and settled life and a sense of property had converted Sir Tom to the pleasure of farming. He shook Jock heartily by the hand, and clapped him on the back, and bade him welcome with great kindness. Then he took "the little beggar" on his shoulder and carried him, shrieking with delight, about the room. It seemed a very strange thing to Jock to see how entirely these two full-grown people gave themselves up to the deification of this child. It was not bringing themselves to his level, it was looking up to him as their superior. If he had been a king his careless favours could not have been more keenly contended for. Jock, who was fond of poetry and philosophy and many other fine things, looked on at this new mystery with wondering and indignant contempt. After dinner there was the baby again. It was allowed to stay out of bed longer than usual in honour of its uncle, and dinner was hurried over, Jock thought, in order that it might be produced, decked out in a sash almost as broad as its person. When it appeared rational conversation was at an end, Sir Tom, whom Jock had always respected highly, stopped the inquiries he was making, with all the knowledge and pleasure, of an old schoolboy, into school life, comparing his own experiences with those of the present generation--to play bo-peep behind Lucy's shoulder with the baby.
Bo-peep! a Member of Parliament, a fellow who had been at the University, who had travelled, who had seen America and gone through the Desert! There was consternation in the astonishment with which Jock looked on at this unlooked-for, almost incredible, exhibition. It was ridiculous in Lucy, but in Sir Tom!
"I suppose we were all like that one time?" he said, trying to be philosophical, as little Tom at last, half smothered with kisses, was carried away.
"Like _that_--do you mean like baby? You were a little darling, dear, and I was always very, very fond of you," said Lucy, giving him the kindest look of her soft eyes. "But you were not a beauty, like my boy."
Sir Tom had laughed, with something of the same sentiment very evident in his mirth, when Lucy spoke. He put out his hand and patted his young brother-in-law on the shoulder. "It is absurd," he said, "to put that little beggar in the foreground when we have somebody here who is in Sixth form at sixteen, and is captain of his house, and has got a school prize already. If Lucy does not appreciate all that, I do, Jock, and the best I can wish for Tommy is that he should have done as much at your age."
"Oh, I was not thinking of that," said Jock with a violent blush.
"Of course he was not," said Lucy calmly, "for he always had the kindest heart though he was so clever. If you think I don't appreciate it as you say, Tom, it is only because I knew it all the time. Do you think I am surprised that Jock has beaten everybody? He was like that when he was six, before he had any education. And he will be just as proud of baby as we are when he knows him. He is a little strange at first," said Lucy, beaming upon her brother; "but as soon as he is used to you, he will go to you just as he does to me."
To this Jock could not reply by betraying the s.h.i.+ver that went over him at the thought, but it gave great occupation to his mind to make out how a little thing like that could attain, as it had done, such empire over the minds of two sensible people. He consulted MTutor on the subject by letter, who was his great referee on difficult subjects, and he could not help betraying his wonder to the household as he grew more familiar and the days went on. "He can't do anything for you," Jock said. "He can't talk; he doesn't know anything about--well, about books: I know that's more my line than yours, Lucy--but about anything. Oh! you needn't flare up. When he dabs his mouth at you all wet----"
"Oh! you little wretch, you infidel, you savage," Lucy cried; "his sweet mouth! and a dear big wet kiss that lets you know he means it."
Jock looked at her as he had done often in the old days, with mingled admiration and contempt. It was like Lucy, and yet how odd it was. "I suppose, then," he said, "I was rather worse than _that_ when you took me up and were good to me. What for, I wonder? and you were fond of me, too, although you are fonder of _it_----"
"If you talk of It again I will never speak to you more," Lucy said, "as if my beautiful boy was a thing and not a person. He is not It: he is Tom, he is Mr. Randolph: that is what Williams calls him." Williams was the butler who had been all over the world with Sir Tom, and who was respectful of the heir, but a little impatient and surprised, as Jock was, of the fuss that was made about Tommy for his own small sake.
By this time, however, Jock had recovered from his shyness--his difficulty in talking, all the little mist that absence had made--and roamed about after Lucy, hanging upon her, putting his arm through hers, though he was much the taller, wherever she went. He held her back a little now as they walked through the park in a sort of procession, Mrs.
Richens, the nurse, going first with the boy. "When I was a little s...o...b..ring beast, like----" he stopped himself in time, "like the t'other kind of baby, and n.o.body wanted me, you were the only one that took any trouble."
"How do you know?" said Lucy; "you don't remember and I don't remember."
"Ah! but I remember the time in the Terrace, when I lay on the rug, and heard papa making his will over my head. I was listening for you all the time. I was thinking of nothing but your step coming to take me out."
"Nonsense!" said Lucy, "you were deep in your books, and thinking of them only; of that--gentleman with the windmills--or Shakspeare, or some other nonsense. Oh, I don't mean Shakspeare is nonsense. I mean you were thinking of nothing but your books, and n.o.body would believe you understood all that at your age."
"I did not understand," said Jock with a blush. "I was a little prig.
Lucy, how strange it all is, like a picture one has seen somewhere, or a scene in a play or a dream! Sometimes I can remember little bits of it, just as he used to read it out to old Ford. Bits of it are all in and out of _As You Like It_, as if Touchstone had said them, or Jaques. Poor old papa! how particular he was about it all. Are you doing everything he told you, Lucy, in the will?"
He did not in the least mean it as an alarming question, as he stooped over, in his awkward way holding her arm, and looked into her face.
Lucy was much startled by her brother's demand. It struck, however, not her conscience so much as her recollection, bringing back that past which was still so near, yet which seemed a world away, in which she had made so many anxious efforts to carry out her father's will and considered it the main object of her life. A young wife who is happy, and upon whom life smiles, can scarcely help looking back upon the time when she was a girl with a sense of superiority, an amused and affectionate contempt for herself. "How could I be so silly?" she will say, and laugh, not without a pa.s.sing blush. This was not exactly Lucy's feeling; but in three years she had, even in her sheltered and happy position, attained a certain acquaintance with life, and she saw difficulties which in those former days had not been apparent to her.
When Jock began to recall these reminiscences it seemed to her as if she saw once more the white commonplace walls of her father's sitting-room rising about her, and heard him laying down the law which she had accepted with such calm. She had seen no difficulty then. She had not even been surprised by the burden laid upon her. It had appeared as natural to obey him in matters which concerned large external interests, and the well-being of strangers, as it was to fill him out a cup of tea.
But the interval of time, and the change of position, had made a great difference; and when Jock asked, "Are you doing all he told you?" the question brought a sudden surging of the blood to her head, which made a singing in her ears and a giddiness in her brain. It seemed to place her in front of something which must interrupt all her life and put a stop to the even flow of her existence. She caught her breath. "Doing all he told me!"
Jock, though he did not mean it, though he was no longer her self-appointed guardian and guide, became to Lucy a monitor, recalling her as to another world.
But the effect though startling was not permanent. They began to talk it all over, and by dint of familiarity the impression wore away. The impression, but not the talk. It gave the brother and sister just what they wanted to bring back all the habits of their old affectionate confidential intercourse, a subject upon which they could carry on endless discussions and consultations, which was all their own, like one of those innocent secrets which children delight in, and which, with arms entwined and heads close together, they can carry on endlessly for days together. They ceased the discussion when Sir Tom appeared, not with any fear of him as a disturbing influence, but with a tacit understanding that this subject was for themselves alone. It involved everything; the past with all those scenes of their strange childhood, the homely living, the fantastic possibilities always in the air, the old dear tender relations.h.i.+p between the two young creatures who alone belonged to each other. Lucy almost forgot her present self as she talked, and they moved about together, the tall boy clinging to her arm as the little urchin had done, altogether dependent, yet always with a curious leaders.h.i.+p, suggesting a thousand things that would not have occurred to her.
Lucy had no occasion now for the advice which Jock at eight years old had so freely given her. She had her husband to lead and advise her. But in this one matter Sir Tom was put tacitly out of court, and Jock had his old place. "It does not matter at all that you have not done anything lately," Jock said; "there is plenty of time--and now that I am to spend all my holidays here, it will be far easier. It was better not to do things so hastily as you began."
"But, Jock," said Lucy, "We must not deceive ourselves; it will be very hard. People who are very nice do not like to take the money; and those who are willing to take it----"
"Does the will say the people are to be nice?" asked Jock. "Then what does that matter? The will is all against reason, Lucy. It is wrong, you know. Fellows who know political economy would think we are all mad; for it just goes against it, straight."
"That is strange, Jock; for papa was very economical. He never could bear waste: he used to say----"
"Yes, yes; but political economy means something different. It is a science. It means that you should sell everything as dear as you can, and buy it as cheap as you can--and never give anything away----"
"That is dreadful, Jock," said Lucy. "It is all very well to be a science, but n.o.body like ourselves could be expected to act upon it--private people, you know."
"There is something in that," Jock allowed; "there are always exceptions. I only want to show you that the will being all against rule, it _must_ be hard to carry it out. Don't you do anything by yourself, Lucy. When you come across any case that is promising, just you wait till I come, and we'll talk it all over. I don't quite understand about nice people not taking it. Fellows I know are always pleased with presents--or a tip, n.o.body refuses a tip. And that is just the same sort of thing, you know."
"Not just the same," said Lucy, "for a tip--that means a sovereign, doesn't it?"
"It sometimes means--paper," said Jock, with some solemnity. "Last time you came to see me at school Sir Tom gave me a fiver----"
"Oh, a five-pound note," said Jock, with momentary impatience; "the other's shorter to say and less fuss. MTutor thought he had better not; but I didn't mind. I don't see why anybody should mind. There's a fellow I know--his father is a curate, and there are no end of them, and they've no money. Fellow himself is on the foundation, so he doesn't cost much. Why they shouldn't take a big tip from you, who have too much, I'm sure I can't tell; and I don't believe they would mind," Jock added, after a pause.
This, which would have inspired Lucy in the days of her dauntless maidenhood to calculate at once how much it would take to make this family happy, gave her a little shudder now.
"I don't feel as if I could do it," she said. "I wish papa had found an easier way. People don't like you afterwards when you do _that_ for them. They are angry--they think, why should I have all that to give away, a little thing like me?"
"The easiest way would be an exam.," said Jock. "Everybody now goes in for exams.; and if they pa.s.sed, they would think they had won the money all right."
"Perhaps there is something in that, Jock; but then it is not for young men. It is for ladies, perhaps, or old people, or----"
"You might let them choose their own subjects," said the boy. "A lady might do a good paper about--servants, or sewing, or that sort of thing; or housekeeping--that would be all right. MTutor might look over the papers----"
"Does he know about housekeeping?"
"He knows about most things," cried Jock, "I should like to see the thing he didn't know. He is the best scholar we have got; and he's what you call an all-round man besides," the boy said with pride.
"What is an all-round man?" Lucy asked, diffidently. "He is tall and slight, so it cannot mean his appearance."
"Oh, what a m.u.f.f you are, Lucy; you're awfully nice, but you are a m.u.f.f.
It means a man who knows a little of everything. MTutor is more than that, he knows a great deal of everything; indeed, as I was saying,"
Jock added defiantly, "I should just like to see the thing he didn't know."
Sir Tom Part 2
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Sir Tom Part 2 summary
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