Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

SQUIRE SILCHESTER'S WHIM.

CHAPTER I.

THE SQUIRE AND HIS WIFE.

“Behold a character antique,

Who loved his wife, and liked his Greek.”

SQUIRE SILCHESTER. John Silchester

John Silchester of Silchester, in Devon, the best Greek scholar and master of hounds that the county had known for a century or more.

A tall broad man of five-and-thirty, when we first see him, with a clear keen eye and firm arched mouth, with wrists and legs and shoulders such as you seldom see out of Devon. Heritor of a princely estate, with a noble old Tudor mansion

VOL. I.

I

thereon, set in such fashion that across lawn, lake, and deer park, and woodland you saw a splash of silver sea.

Up and down his book-room walked John Silchester. He was fidgety. Why? Because Joan Silchester, his wife of a year, born Joan Audley of Audley, was about to give him a son or a daughter. Which?

To Squire Silchester this was a question of some moment, seeing that the Silchester estates (a little kingdom in themselves) were entailed on heirs male, and that the next heir was a tremendous scamp.

So, although like all poetic fathers he fancied he should like a daughter—a feminine reflex of himself, a baby image of his wife—his material desires were in favour of the coming of a man-child. If a man heartily loves his wife, he imagines that his daughter will reproduce that wife in her babyhood, and the wife who loves her husband thinks the same as to her son. The anticipation is often a great blunder ; but that does

not matter. We must take this world as it is

-as indeed we help to make it; for Humanity is a junior partner in the firm of Creation. If men are disappointed, it is usually their own fault. Either their expectations are impossible, or they do not go the right way to obtain their fulfilment.

Squire Silchester paced up and down, well aware that he would be much in the way if he approached too near the sacred chamber, and meditated on the possible future of the Silchester race.

He is a man of curious ideas. This indeed is a family inheritance, his ancestors having always had a quaint cantankerous temper. There is an intellectual and social Toryism, likely to exist if even political Toryism is washed away by the fast-rising flood of new opinions, all different and all absurd. There is a belief which, though possibly ill-founded, is altogether indestructible in the human race —that it is well to be not only a man, but also a gentleman. This creed of the minority held

Squire Silchester, and it smote him strongly now that he expected a young squire to educate For he saw, only too clearly, what harm was being done by the many young gentlemen of the age who were trying to correct the errors of all past ages.

The Squire did not want a boy who would begin in his teens to reform the world. The Silchesters had from time immemorial been lords of their own village, and lovers of their own folk. As usually occurs in a county family of long descent, there had been Tories among them and Whigs also; and in the picture gallery were portraits of twin brothers, of whom one had fought by the side of Falkland, and the other by that of Hampden. But whatsoever the political opinions of the Silchesters, they were all loyal to their home and their village--all glad to return from the arena of vain strife to their ancestral corner of Devon.

Our Squire's life had been singularly uneventful. He had stayed at home and, hunted the country for the last twelve years, since his father's death—following in this regard his father's example. The old gentleman was close on eighty when he died, and his only child was only twenty-three. This happened in curious fashion. John Silchester the elder had in his hot youth met with a Miss Barbara Restormel, a Cornish lady of birth and beauty, but twice his age-for he was about eighteen. He fell madly in love with her

“This is the way that boys begin ”

and she very wisely declined to have anything to say to him. He, in a furious rage, swore he would slay the man who dared to marry her : she rendered this threat ineffective by choosing, to the amazement of two counties, a learned pious short-sighted curate, as much older than herself as she was older than the Squire. The Rev. David Dallas was a first-class mathematician, and a theologian so erudite that his vicar often remonstrated with him on the difficult character of his explanations of Scrip

« НазадПродовжити »