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- Hard Cash - 2/145 -
"There, sir. Look them in the face; and us, if you can."
"Well, you know, I had no idea you had been and bought a cart-load of things for Oxford." His eye brightened; he whipped out a two-foot rule, and began to calculate the cubic contents. "I'll turn to and make the cases, Ju."
The ladies had their way; the cases were made and despatched; and one morning the Bus came for Edward, and stopped at the gate of Albion Villa. At this sight mother and daughter both turned their heads quickly away by one independent impulse, and set a bad example. Apparently neither of them had calculated on this paltry little detail; they were game for theoretical departures; to impalpable universities: and "an air-drawn Bus, a Bus of the mind," would not have dejected for a moment their lofty Spartan souls on glory bent; safe glory. But here was a Bus of wood, and Edward going bodily away inside it. The victim kissed them, threw up his portmanteau and bag, and departed serene as Italian skies; the victors watched the pitiless Bus quite out of sight; then went up to his bedroom, all disordered by packing, and, on the very face of it, vacant; and sat down on his little bed intertwining and weeping.
Edward was received at Exeter College, as young gentlemen are received at college; and nowhere else, I hope, for the credit of Christendom. They showed him a hole in the roof, and called it an "Attic;" grim pleasantry! being a puncture in the modern Athens. They inserted him; told him what hour at the top of the morning he must be in chapel; and left him to find out his other ills. His cases were welcomed like Christians, by the whole staircase. These undergraduates abused one another's crockery as their own: the joint stock of breakables had just dwindled very low, and Mrs. Dodd's bountiful contribution was a godsend.
The new comer soon found that his views of a learned university had been narrow. Out of place in it? why, he could not have taken his wares to a better market; the modern Athens, like the ancient, cultivates muscle as well as mind. The captain of the university eleven saw a cricket-ball thrown all across the ground; he instantly sent a professional bowler to find out who that was; through the same ambassador the thrower was invited to play on club days; and proving himself an infallible catch and long-stop, a mighty thrower, a swift runner, and a steady, though not very brilliant bat, he was, after one or two repulses, actually adopted into the university eleven. He communicated this ray of glory by letter to his mother and sister with genuine delight, coldly and clumsily expressed; they replied with feigned and fluent rapture. Advancing steadily in that line of academic study towards which his genius lay, he won a hurdle race, and sent home a little silver hurdle; and soon after brought a pewter pot, with a Latin inscription recording the victory at "Fives" of Edward Dodd: but not too arrogantly; for in the centre of the pot was this device, "The Lord Is My Illumination." The Curate of Sandford, who pulled number six in the Exeter boat, left Sandford for Witney: on this he felt he could no longer do his college justice by water, and his parish by land, nor escape the charge of pluralism, preaching at Witney and rowing at Oxford. He fluctuated, sighed, kept his Witney, and laid down his oar. Then Edward was solemnly weighed in his jersey and flannel trousers, and proving only eleven stone eight, whereas he had been ungenerously suspected of twelve stone,* was elected to the vacant oar by acclamation. He was a picture in a boat; and, "Oh!!! well pulled, six!!" was a hearty ejaculation constantly hurled at him from the bank by many men of other colleges, and even by the more genial among the cads, as the Exeter glided at ease down the river, or shot up it in a race.
*There was at this time a prejudice against weight, which has yielded to experience
He was now as much talked of in the university as any man of his college, except one. Singularly enough that one was his townsman; but no friend of his; he was much Edward's senior in standing, though not in age; and this is a barrier the junior must not step over--without direct encouragement--at Oxford. Moreover, the college was a large one, and some of "the sets" very exclusive: young Hardie was Doge of a studious clique; and careful to make it understood that he was a reading man who boated and cricketed, to avoid the fatigue of lounging; not a boatman or cricketer who strayed into Aristotle in the intervals of Perspiration.
His public running since he left Harrow was as follows: the prize poem in his fourth term; the sculls in his sixth; the Ireland scholarship in his eighth (he pulled second for it the year before); Stroke of the Exeter in his tenth; and reckoned sure of a first class to consummate his twofold career.
To this young Apollo, crowned with variegated laurel, Edward looked up from a distance. The brilliant creature never bestowed a word on him by land; and by water only such observations as the following: "Time, Six!" "Well pulled, Six!" "Very well pulled, Six!" Except, by-the-bye, one race; when he swore at him like a trooper for not being quicker at starting. The excitement of nearly being bumped by Brasenose in the first hundred yards was an excuse. However, Hardie apologised as they were dressing in the barge after the race; but the apology was so stiff, it did not pave the way to an acquaintance.
Young Hardie, rising twenty-one, thought nothing human worthy of reverence, but Intellect. Invited to dinner, on the same day, with the Emperor of Russia, and with Voltaire, and with meek St. John, he would certainly have told the coachman to put him down at Voltaire.
His quick eye detected Edward's character; but was not attracted by it: says he to one of his adherents, "What a good-natured spoon that Dodd is; Phoebus, what a name!" Edward, on the other hand, praised this brilliant in all his letters, and recorded his triumphs and such of his witty sayings as leaked through his own set, to reinvigorate mankind. This roused Julia's ire. It smouldered through three letters; but burst out when there was no letter; but Mrs. Dodd, meaning, Heaven knows, no harm, happened to say meekly, _a propos_ of Edward, "You know, love, we cannot all be young Hardies." "No, and thank Heaven," said Julia defiantly. "Yes, mamma," she continued, in answer to Mrs. Dodd's eyebrow, which had curved; "your mild glance reads my soul; I detest that boy." Mrs. Dodd smiled: "Are you sure you know what the word 'detest' means? And what has young Mr. Hardie done, that you should bestow so violent a sentiment on him?"
"Mamma, I am Edward's sister," was the tragic reply; then, kicking off the buskin pretty nimbly, "There! he beats our boy at everything, and ours sits quietly down and admires him for it: oh! how can a man let anybody or anything beat him! I wouldn't; without a desperate struggle." She clenched her white teeth and imagined the struggle. To be sure, she owned she had never seen this Mr. Hardie; but after all it was only Jane Hardie's brother, as Edward was hers; "And would I sit down and let Jane beat me at Things? Never! never! never! I couldn't."
"Your friend to the death, dear; was not that your expression?"
"Oh, that was a slip of the tongue, dear mamma; I was off my guard. I generally am, by the way. But now I am on it, and propose an amendment. Now I second it. Now I carry it."
"And now let me hear it."
"She is my friend till death--or Eclipse; and that means until she eclipses me, of course." But she added softly, and with sudden gravity: "Ah! Jane Hardie has a fault which will always prevent her from eclipsing your humble servant in this wicked world."
"What is that?"
"She is too good. Much."
"Oh, that is another matter."
"For shame, mamma! I am glad to hear it: for I scorn a life of frivolity; but then, again, I should not like to give up everything, you know." Mrs. Dodd looked a little staggered, too, at so vast a scheme of capitulation But "everything" was soon explained to mean balls, concerts, dinner-parties in general, tea-parties without exposition of Scripture, races, and operas, cards, charades, and whatever else amuses society without perceptibly sanctifying it. All these, by Julia's account, Miss Hardie had renounced, and was now denouncing (with the young the latter verb treads on the very heels of the former). "And, you know, she is a district visitor."
This climax delivered, Julia stopped short, and awaited the result.
Mrs. Dodd heard it all with quiet disapproval and cool incredulity. She had seen so many young ladies healed of many young enthusiasms by a wedding ring. But, while she was searching diligently in her mine of ladylike English--mine with plenty of water in it, begging her pardon--for expressions to convey inoffensively, and roundabout, her conviction that Miss Hardie was a little, furious simpleton, the post came and swept the subject away in a moment.
Two letters; one from Calcutta, one from Oxford.
They came quietly in upon one salver, and were opened and read with pleasurable interest, but without surprise, or misgiving; and without the slightest foretaste of their grave amid singular consequences.
Rivers deep and broad start from such little springs.
David's letter was of unusual length for him. The main topics were, first, the date and manner of his return home. His ship, a very old one, had been condemned in port: and he was to sail a fine new teak-built vessel, the _Agra,_ as far as the Cape; where her captain, just recovered from a severe illness, would come on board, and convey her and him to England. In future, Dodd was to command one of the Company's large steamers to Alexandria and back.
"It is rather a come-down for a sailor, to go straight ahead like a wheelbarrow in all weathers with a steam-pot and a crew of coalheavers But then I shall not be parted from my sweetheart such long dreary spells as I have been thus twenty years, my dear love: so is it for me to complain?"
The second topic was pecuniary; the transfer of their savings from India, where interest was higher than at home, but the capital not so secure.
And the third was ardent and tender expressions of affection for the wife and children he adored. These effusions of the heart had no separate place, except in my somewhat arbitrary analysis of the honest sailor's letter; they were the under current. Mrs. Dodd read part of it out to Julia; in fact all but the money matter: that concerned the heads of the family more immediately; and Cash was a topic her daughter did not understand, nor care about. And when Mrs. Dodd had read it with glistening eyes, she kissed it tenderly, and read it all over again to herself, and then put it into her bosom as naively as a milkmaid in love.
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