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the soft hues of the summer garden. Mr. Beaumont (such was his name) was a man of good fortune, he lived in a house near to Mr. Cleffain's, called the Grove; he was a county magistrate, aimed at county society, was respected by the gentry, feared by the poor, hated by the small tradesmen, cheated by his stewards, and beloved by He had one son, Raymond, whom we have already seen with Eustace.
The third member of the party was a quiet-looking man, with a face formed rather on a pensive mould. There was a singular refinement about his manner, and a remarkably melodious intonation in his voice. He seemed more concerned with the strawberries than with the wine, and was looking on the table and passing his finger round and round the green vine leaves which formed the pattern of the dessert set, rather than gazing at black birds and evening shadows. Mr. Noel was a man who had retired from the West Indies with tolerable means, and had taken a house in the neighbourhood. He had four sons and one daughter. They were young, ranging from twelve to nineteen, and had been hitherto brought up at home.
Such was the party.
One incident I have to mention, uninteresting enough in itself, and especially so to any reader who considers that all such sublunary matters as money are very unimportant. But as the whole of my tale, title and all, hinges on it, I must mention it.
Mr. Cleffain had a large fortune to leave behind him, a hundred thousand pounds at least, and no children. It must all go to two youths, his nearest relations; the one Raymond Beaumont, whose father was now sitting by Mr. Cleffain's side, the other Eustace. Both were equally related to Mr. Cleffain, and however unfair it may seem,
(the old gentleman might do as he would with his own) Mr. Cleffain had lately determined to leave it all to one of his young relations, and so to make him an heir.
"Well, Noel, do you still persist in bringing up your boys at home?" said Mr. Beaumont, turning to that gentleman.
"I have seen no reason yet to alter my course, it has thoroughly answered hitherto, and-"
"Well, I hope it may answer in the end. I doubt it, upon my word, Noel; I quite believe yours are excellent, high-principled lads, but you may rely on it, that there is a vacuum filled up by school life, which no other education in the world can supply; a boy can never be a man without it. The public school gives him the world in epitome, all its rules, laws, codes of honour, and temptations; he can never have these at home."
"I feel to a great degree with you," said Mr. Noel, "in the case of some characters, but I cannot think it is safe to use the public school indiscriminately. One of my boys I do think of sending to Eton. I believe his future vocation will justify it, and his character bear it.”
"Then he'll be the best of the set, rely on it he will; he will be the only one worth anything in after life. Only look at that fellow Eustace, what an odd fish he is; he always seems meditating on some principle of action, philosophising about himself instead of doing things naturally as a boy should. Why, since I've been watching the boys through the window I have noticed his solemn way with Raymond. I declare I'm half afraid of my boy associating with him; only that he has such an exuberant flow of natural spirits and happiness that I think they would bear down anything."
"Yes, but Eustace has other circumstances, besides not having been at school, to place him at a disadvantage.
Poverty and straitened means alone will account for it to a great degree in his case. He has had small chances, poor fellow."
“Well, well, there is something in that; but still I have an idea that if he had gone to school, he would not have remained the victim of those circumstances."
"Time will show," said Mr. Noel, rising; "I must go, as some of these home avocations call me. You see home education is no holiday for parents; it compels a tolerably regular daily life. Good evening to you. Time, I suppose, will answer all our inquiries.”
The door closed upon him, and Mr. Noel's figure for a moment seemed to blend through the window with the forms and shadows of evening, and he was gone. Mr. Beaumont and Mr. Cleffain were left alone. The latter had been sitting, as was his wont, through the foregoing conversation, silently gazing through the window, now at the form of the garden in one attitude, and now in another. The boughs of a huge ancestral elm bent forward across the lawn. Beyond it the other elm-trees rose in their stately and single majesty, as if followers of an aged chieftain, around whom they gathered. Here in early spring the rooks built their twiggy camp, and cawed among the leafless boughs. Mr. Cleffain had a singular eye for the beautiful in nature and form, and evidently had for some time past been dwelling in enjoyment on the contemplation of the scene outside, which had made him apparently an indifferent companion to those who had been keeping up the conversation. As Mr. Noel passed the window, he turned in his chair.
"Lovely evening, upon my word, I never saw such greys. A little colour there, Beaumont, a little colour against that dark Portugal laurel would light it all up and set it off admirably." So saying, the old gentleman
cleared his throat, and pulling a very brown and worn hat over his ears, leaning on his stick, went to the window and stood some minutes gazing at the "bit of shadow" against which he wanted to bring out the colour.
Meantime, Mr. Beaumont was pursuing his own selfsatisfied reflections, sipping port, crossing his legs, sitting sideways, and looking at nothing. It seemed as if twilight and blackbirds, sloped curving lawns and noiseless elm-boughs were made on purpose to give the finishing stroke to the day of the English country gentleman. Of Mr. Cleffain's movements before the window, hat on head, and stick in hand, as he walked up and down taking different points of view, like a lion in his den trying to find an exit from the bars, he took no notice, for he, as well as all others who knew Mr. Cleffain, were used to the good old gentleman's ways.
"Beautiful light just now, so quiet and toned down! upon my word, Beaumont, you lose a great deal by not caring for these things. But, by the way," continued he, returning to his chair, "I have a word to say relative to your conversation with our good friend Noel there; and, now we are alone, I may as well have a word or two with you. You were speaking of your boy, Raymond. You know I've always said-That light's equal to an effect in Waterloo. What a background of glow behind the shrubs!"
Mr. Beaumont had been startled from his reverie of gentlemanly indifference by Mr. Cleffain's remark. It struck a chord to which he was peculiarly respon sive; and when that was touched however lightly by Mr. Cleffain, the very music of inward delight thrilled through his soul. There can be no doubt that Mr. Beaumont's regard and friendship for Mr. Cleffain was as disinterested and pure as such a thing could be. He rode
over to see the old gentleman twice every week; dined at his hospitable board once a fortnight, admired his Gainsboroughs to his heart's content, and could say honestly, "On my word, Cleffain, your place can be filled by none but yourself; when the turn of the wheel calls you away, the world will learn to value what it has lost."
But new matters would occasionally cross his mind, fleeting recollections of what his excellent wife (who was herself a Dashwood) had often impressed upon him, that Mr. Cleffain's wealth was boundless, and the fact that their Raymond was the sole natural inheritor. Whether any such visions floated before the good magistrate's eye, as he rode leisurely down the lane to Mr. Cleffain's house on any given occasion, is beyond the power of surmise: that they did so at all consciously or pointedly is impossible; for nothing is so inconsistent with a gentleman as consciousness about anything, except the walk to church on Sundays in the van of the servants, and the purchase of a riding-horse. But this is beyond our mark; whatever self-control Mr. Beaumont had over his own inward feelings, it was in considerable jeopardy by the very pointed way in which Mr. Cleffain had touched on the all-important subject. The gliding off to Gainsborough, though a little tantalizing, was so in keeping that Mr. Beaumont was undisturbed by it. That Raymond was the sure and sole heir of this large fortune he never for a moment doubted. The only questions which admitted doubt were, whether the estates were worth £80,000 or £100,000, and how far they might be reduced by a legacy or two, such for instance as £100 to the old housekeeper; £50 to a scapegrace cousin who was living somewhere about Sydney, and whose very existence Mr. Beaumont considered as doubtful; £50 more to Eustace, poor boy,