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Part 1 Chapter 10

The Advantage of Being a Favourite Grandson.

THE exhausted Ferdinand found consolation in sleep. When he woke the dawn was just breaking. He dressed and went forth to look, for the last time, on his hereditary woods. The air was cold, but the sky was perfectly clear, and the beams of the rising sun soon spread over the blue heaven. How fresh, and glad, and sparkling was the surrounding scene! With what enjoyment did he inhale the soft and renovating breeze! The dew quivered on the grass, and the carol of the wakening birds, roused from their slumbers by the spreading warmth, resounded from the groves. From the green knoll on which he stood he beheld the clustering village of Armine, a little agricultural settlement formed of the peasants alone who lived on the estate. The smoke began to rise in blue curls from the cottage chimneys, and the church clock struck the hour of five. It seemed to Ferdinand that those labourers were far happier than he, since the setting sun would find them still at Armine: happy, happy Armine!

The sound of carriage wheels roused him from his reverie. The fatal moment had arrived. He hastened to the gate according to his promise, to bid farewell to Glastonbury. The good old man was up. He pressed his pupil to his bosom, and blessed him with a choking voice.

‘Dearest and kindest friend!’ murmured Ferdinand. Glastonbury placed round his neck a small golden crucifix that had belonged to Lady Barbara. ‘Wear it next your heart, my child,’ said he; ‘it will remind you of your God, and of us all.’ Ferdinand quitted the tower with a thousand blessings.

When he came in sight of the Place he saw his father standing by the carriage, which was already packed. Ferdinand ran into the house to get the card which had been left on the hall table for him by his mother. He ran over the list with the old and faithful domestic, and shook hands with him. Nothing now remained. All was ready. His father was seated. Ferdinand stood a moment in thought. ‘Let me run up to my mother, sir?’ ‘You had better not, my child,’ replied Sir Ratcliffe, ‘she does not expect you. Come, come along.’ So he slowly seated himself, with his eyes fixed on the window of his mother’s chamber; and as the carriage drove off the window opened, and a hand waved a white handkerchief. He saw no more; but as he saw it he clenched his hand in agony.

How different was this journey to London from his last! He scarcely spoke a word. Nothing interested him but his own feelings. The guard and the coachman, and the bustle of the inn, and the passing spectacles of the road, appeared a collection of impertinences. All of a sudden it seemed that his boyish feelings had deserted him. He was glad when they arrived in London, and glad that they were to stay in it only a single day. Sir Ratcliffe and his son called upon the Duke; but, as they had anticipated, the family had quitted town. Our travellers put up at Hatchett’s, and the following night started for Exeter in the Devonport mail. Ferdinand arrived at the western metropolis having interchanged with his father scarcely a hundred sentences. At Exeter, after a night of most welcome rest, they took a post-chaise and proceeded by a cross-road to Grandison.

When Lord Grandison, who as yet was perfectly unacquainted with the revolutions in the Armine family, had clearly comprehended that his grandson had obtained a commission without either troubling him for his interest, or putting him in the disagreeable predicament of refusing his money, there were no bounds to the extravagant testimonials of his affection, both towards his son-in-law and his grandson. He seemed quite proud of such relations; he patted Sir Ratcliffe on his back, asked a thousand questions about his darling Constance, and hugged and slobbered over Ferdinand as if he were a child of five years old. He informed all his guests daily (and the house was full) that Lady Armine was his favourite daughter, and Sir Ratcliffe his favourite son-in-law, and Ferdinand especially his favourite grandchild. He insisted upon Sir Ratcliffe always sitting at the head of his table, and always placed Ferdinand on his own right hand. He asked his butler aloud at dinner why he had not given a particular kind of Burgundy, because Sir Ratcliffe Armine was here.

‘Darbois,’ said the old nobleman, ‘have not I told you that Clos de Vougeot is always to be kept for Sir Ratcliffe Armine? It is his favourite wine. Clos de Vougeot directly to Sir Ratcliffe Armine. I do not think, my dear madam [turning to a fair neighbour], that I have yet had the pleasure of introducing you to my son-in-law, my favourite son-in-law, Sir Ratcliffe Armine. He married my daughter Constance, my favourite daughter, Constance. Only here for a few days, a very, very few days indeed. Quite a flying visit. I wish I could see the whole family oftener and longer. Passing through to Falmouth with his son, this young gentleman on my right, my grandson, my favourite grandson, Ferdinand. Just got his commission. Ordered for Malta immediately. He is in the Fusileers, the Royal Fusileers. Very difficult, my dear madam, in these days to obtain a commission, especially a commission in the Royal Fusileers. Very great interest required, very great interest, indeed. But the Armines are a most ancient family, very highly connected, very highly connected; and, between you and me, the Duke of———would do anything for them.

Come, come, Captain Armine, take a glass of wine with your old grandfather.’

‘How attached the old gentleman appears to be to his grandson!’ whispered the lady to her neighbour.

‘Delightful! yes!’ was the reply, ‘I believe he is the favourite grandson.’

In short, the old gentleman at last got so excited by the universal admiration lavished on his favourite grandson, that he finally insisted on seeing the young hero in his regimentals; and when Ferdinand took his leave, after a great many whimpering blessings, his domestic feelings were worked up to such a pitch of enthusiasm, that he absolutely presented his grandson with a hundred-pound note.

‘Thank you, my dear grandpapa,’ said the astonished Ferdinand, who really did not expect more than fifty, perhaps even a moiety of that more moderate sum; ‘thank you, my dear grandpapa; I am very much obliged to you, indeed.’

‘I wish I could do more for you; I do, indeed,’ said Lord Grandison; ‘but nobody ever thinks of paying his rent now. You are my grandson, my favourite grandson, my dear favourite daughter’s only child. And you are an officer in his Majesty’s service, an officer in the Royal Fusiliers, only think of that! It is the most unexpected thing that ever happened to me. To see you so well and so unexpectedly provided for, my dear child, has taken a very great load off my mind; it has indeed. You have no idea of a parent’s anxiety in these matters, especially of a grandfather. You will some day, I warrant you,’ continued the noble grandfather, with an expression between a giggle and a leer; ‘but do not be wild, my dear Ferdinand, do not be too wild at least. Young blood must have its way; but be cautious; now, do; be cautious, my dear child. Do not get into any scrapes; at least, do not get into any serious scrapes; and whatever happens to you,’ and here his lordship assumed even a solemn tone, ‘remember you have friends; remember, my dear boy, you have a grandfather, and that you, my dear Ferdinand, are his favourite grandson.’

This passing visit to Grandison rather rallied the spirits of our travellers. When they arrived at Falmouth, they found, however, that the packet, which waited for government despatches, was not yet to sail. Sir Ratcliffe scarcely knew whether he ought to grieve or to rejoice at the reprieve; but he determined to be gay. So Ferdinand and himself passed their mornings in visiting the mines, Pendennis Castle, and the other lions of the neighbourhood; and returned in the evening to their cheerful hotel, with good appetites for their agreeable banquet, the mutton of Dartmoor and the cream of Devon.

At length, however, the hour of separation approached; a message awaited them at the inn, on their return from one of their rambles, that Ferdinand must be on board at an early hour on the morrow. That evening the conversation between Sir Ratcliffe and his son was of a graver nature than they usually indulged in. He spoke to him in confidence of his affairs. Dark hints, indeed, had before reached Ferdinand; nor, although his parents had ever spared his feelings, could his intelligent mind have altogether refrained from guessing much that had never been formally communicated. Yet the truth was worse even than he had anticipated. Ferdinand, however, was young and sanguine. He encouraged his father with his hopes, and supported him by his sympathy. He expressed to Sir Ratcliffe his confidence that the generosity of his grandfather would prevent him at present from becoming a burden to his own parent, and he inwardly resolved that no possible circumstance should ever induce him to abuse the benevolence of Sir Ratcliffe.

The moment of separation arrived. Sir Ratcliffe pressed to his bosom his only, his loving, and his beloved child. He poured over Ferdinand the deepest, the most fervid blessing that a father ever granted to a son. But, with all this pious consolation, it was a moment of agony.


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