The Wonderful Garden/Chapter 15
The great discovery was Charlotte's. When they got home and found that the Uncle had gone to Tonbridge for the day, everyone felt that something must be done, and Rupert began to write out the telegram to his godfather. It was quite a nice telegram, very long, and explaining everything perfectly, but Mrs. Wilmington unexpectedly refused to lend more than ninepence, so it could not be sent. Caroline sat rocking herself to and fro, with her fingers in her ears to shut out Charles's comments and advice, and tried in vain to think of some way of using a spell to help the Mineral woman.
'Its no use, you know,' Charles said, 'looking up the spells in the books until we know how we're going to use it.' And Caroline had to agree that this was so. So she rocked herself and racked her brains and felt herself growing slowly more and more stupid, as you do when you are trying very hard to think of something that has made up its mind that it is not going to be thought about.
'You see,' Charlotte went on, 'we mustn't give the wicked cousin anything to eat to make him good, and most likely we couldn't get at him to make him eat it, even if we were allowed. What a pity we can't get at the Lord with a foreign education, weak from a child. I daresay we could make him take things. When you're weak from a child they give you just anything.'
'That's true,' said Rupert. 'I knew a chap with a flat chest that had cod-liver oil given him—with oranges. But he said even the oranges weren't worth it.'
'But we aren't allowed to give people things to eat,' Charlotte reminded him.
'Besides,' Rupert reminded her, 'we don't know the weak Lord's address.'
'I do,' said Caroline, taking her fingers out of her ears, though really she could hear almost as well with them in.
'Then,' said Charlotte, 'let's go and see him. Let's appeal to Cæsar.'
'But he's got two addresses,' said Caroline, 'and we don't know which he's at. I mean, the Mineral woman didn't.'
'Try both,' suggested Rupert.
'But one's in London,' said Caroline. 'The Mineral woman said: "He's all right: he's got the castle and he's got his mansion in Belgrave Square; I can't expect him to bother about me and my little house."'
Charlotte sprang up. 'Let's go to the Castle, and if he's not there we'll get another take-your-lunch-with-you-cheese-and-cake-will-do day and go to London and see him there.'
The brilliant daring of this idea made the others gasp.
'Do you mean go now?' said Caroline.
'Why not? There's lots of the day left. It's not half-past three yet.'
'You don't know where the Castle is,' Rupert objected.
'Yes, I do' said Caroline; 'so there! William said the day of the Rupert hunt—he said, "I hoped the boy'd got into the Castle grounds. The Lord's men 'ud have sent Poad about his business pretty sharp if he'd gone trespassing there." So it can't be far off.'
'I'll tell you what,' said Charlotte. 'You know uncle said, the day after we'd been Rosicurians, would we like the carriage to go and see Mr. Penfold, only we didn't because we knew he'd gone to Canterbury. Now if we could only persuade William that going to see Lord Andore is the same thing as going to see Mr. Penfold, and that to-day is the same as the other day, well, then—— People think so much more of you if you go in a carriage—servants, I mean, and people who don't know about sterling worth, and it's being better to be good than pretty, and all not being gold that glitters.'
'And what will you do when you get there?' Rupert asked, doubtfully.
'Why, give him a bunch of magic flowers and tell him about the Mineral woman.'
'You'll look very silly,' Rupert told her, 'driving up to a lord's house with your twopenny-halfpenny flowers, when he's got acres of [[tooltip|glass|glasshouse, greenhouse}} most likely.'
'I don't care if he's got miles of glass and vineries and pineries and every modern inconvenience. He hasn't got flowers that grow as true and straight as the ones in the wonderful garden. Thomas told me nobody had in all the countryside. And they're magic flowers, ours are. Oh, Rupert, I wish you wouldn't be so grown-up.'
'I'm not,' said Rupert; 'it's you that's silly.'
'You're always being different from what we'd made up our minds you were,' said Charlotte, hotly; 'there, now it's out. We were sorry for you at first. And then we liked you; you were so adventurous and splendid. And then you catch a cold and go all flat. Why do you do it?'
'Non semper vivens arcus,' said Rupert, and Charles hung on his words. 'You can't be always the same. It would be dull. Besides, I got such a beastly cold. And I'd had the adventure. You don't want to go on having one dinner after another all day. You want a change. I'm being sensible, that's all. I dare say I shall be silly again someday,' he added, consolingly. 'A chap has to be silly or not moresuis, that means "off his own bat," Charles.'
'Yes,' said Charles, 'I'll remember.'
'Well, look here. I'll go and try it on with William if you like,' said Charlotte; 'but he likes Caroline best, because of what she did on the Rupert hunt day.'
'You do rub it in, don't you?' said Rupert. 'I wish sometimes you hadn't helped me that day.'
There was a silence. Then Charlotte said, 'You go, Caro. And, Charles, whatever happens, you must wash your hands. Go on, like a sensible, and do it now, so as not to waste time.'
'Cui bono?' said Rupert. 'It'll be all the same in a hundred years, or even in five minutes, if it's Charles's hands.'
But Charles went, when Charlotte assured him that if he didn't they would go without him. The moment the door closed behind the others she turned to Rupert.
'Now, look here,' she said; 'I know what's the matter with you. You've got the black dog on your back. I don't know what dog it is or why. But you have. You haven't been a bit nice to-day; you didn't play up when you were Rupert of the Rhine—not a bit, you didn't—and you think we're silly kids.. And you think you're letting yourself down by playing with us. You didn't think that the first day when we saved you. Something's got into you. Oh, I do believe you're bewitched. Rupert, do you think you're bewitched? Because if you are we know how to unbewitch you.'
'You're a very silly little girl,' was all Rupert found to say.
'Not a bit of it,' said Charlotte, brightly. 'You only say that because you haven't got any sisters of your own, so, of course you don't know. We've been as nice to you as ever we could be, and you're getting nastier and nastier. If you like to be nice, be nice. If you don't, I shall know it's not your fault, but because you're bewitched, and I shall pity, but not despise you. So now you know.'
Rupert was twisting and untwisting the fringed tassel of a sofa-cushion and looking at the floor.
'So you hate me now, I suppose?' he said.
'No, I don't. But I hate the black dog. I thought you were splendid at first. And even now I think you're splendid inside, really. Only something's happened. It is like bewitchment, I do think. Couldn't you do anything to stop it? I'd help you—really I would. I say; I'm sorry if I've scratched too hard.'
'You don't understand,' said Rupert, with what was plainly an effort. 'Sometimes I'm like this. I feel as if I was someone else I can't explain. Now you can laugh if you like. I only thought I'd tell you. I won't tell the others. It's perfectly beastly. I suppose I could help it if I knew the way. Only I don't.'
'Suppose you had a bath?' suggested Charlotte. 'Aunt Emmeline says when children feel naughty you should always wash their faces; and if it's true of children it must be true of bigger people,' she added, hastily, answering Rupert's frown, 'because your face is made of the same sort of stuff, however old you are.'
'That was part of it,' said Rupert, 'when I saw the river to-day. Can you swim? I can. And I promised my father I'd never go into the water to swim unless there was some man there, and—— My father's in India, you know,' he said, unnecessarily. 'It was he taught me to swim.' He walked to the window and looked out. 'I thought I was going back to India with him. And then the doctors said some rotten rigmarole, and my father went without me, and I was all right again three months after, and I might as well have gone with him; only it was too late; and then things began to happen that I never thought could. And nothing will ever be right again.'
'Look here,' said Charlotte, 'I'm frightfully sorry I scratched you, and about your father and your not going. Look here,don't come with us this afternoon. You go down to Mr. Penfold's. He's the clergyman. He said the other day he'd teach Charles to swim, so I know he can. If you go directly he'll take you down to the river, and you can drown dull care in the Medway.'
'Do you think he'd mind?'
'Mind? He'd love it,' said Charlotte. 'Just go and say the three C.'s said I could swim, and I can too!'
'I can't like that,' said Rupert; 'but if you sent me with something, a book or anything, then I could bring in swimming in a natural sort of way and see what he said.'
'Say we said was there any more of the translated Latin book we could have. Will that do? You know Latin, so that will be all right. I say, I hope they haven't gone without us. They're a most awful time. Look here, cut off to Mr. Penfold's before they come back, if you like. I shall just say you're gone. You just go.'
'You're not a bad sort,' said Rupert, thumping her on the back as he went out, but keeping his face carefully turned away; 'I think I will.'
Charlotte and Charles met in the doorway, and the meeting was rather violent, for both were in a hurry—Charlotte to find out what William had said and Charles to tell her. I am sorry to say that he had not been washing his hands, as indeed their colour plainly confessed, but helping William in the toilet of the horse, for Caroline had succeeded in persuading William that to-day was, for all practical purposes, the same as the other day, the more readily, perhaps because Mrs. Wilmington had come out and said that she didn't think it was at all. And Caro had said she thought perhaps they'd better all wash and not just Charles. William said that he would drive them to Lord Andore's lodge gates, because he had to go down to the station to meet the Master anyhow, and it was on the way, or next door to, but they'd have to walk back. 'And we've forgotten to decide what flowers to get, and Caro says bring up the books so that she can look at them while you're washing your hands. Because William says he must start in a quarter of an hour.'
Thus Charles ended breathlessly, adding, 'Where's Rupert?'
'He's not coming with us. Get down Pope IV. and I'll get The Language of; and carrying the books, she went up the wide shallow stairs, three at once.
There was but little time to make a careful selection of the flowers most likely to influence a youthful peer. Charlotte was all for repeating, flower for flower, the bouquet designed for suitors, which had been so successfully used in the case of Rupert and the Uncle. But Caroline argued that what suited uncles might very well be the worst possible thing for lords who were no relations, and that it would be much better to start afresh with an entirely new floral selection.
'Look in the Language Of, then, while I wash,' she said. ' Look for duty and justice and being kind to the poor.' Charlotte fluttered the pages obediently.
'Jealousy. Jest, Joy, Justice. Gladiolus and sweet-scented tussilage. What's tussilage?'
'I don't know,' say Caroline, soaping fervently; 'try the medicine book.' The medicine book admitted that tussilage was another name for Tussilago Fanfaro, or coltsfoot.
'But coltsfoot comes in February,' said Caroline, 'and we don't know it when it's grown up.
'There's rudbeckia: justice,' said Charlotte hopefully. But the medicine book, when consulted, pretended not to know anything at all about rudbeckia, and as the children knew nothing about it either, it was ruled out.
'There's justice shall be done, Cornflower,' said Charlotte; and the medicine book, after saying 'See Bluebottle,' informed them that cornflowers 'being naturally cold and dry are under the dominion of Saturn'; also that 'taken with water of plantain or the greater comfrey is a remedy againſt the poiſon of the ſcorpion.
That's all right,' said Charlotte gaily; 'it must be sharper than a scorpion's teeth to have a wicked landlord. Now——'
'I'll look now, said Caroline; 'you wash quick!'
Caroline chose red columbine because it meant 'anxious and trembling'; 'and I'm sure we shall be that soon enough,' she said. The medicine book confirmed her choice by assuring her that columbine was an herb of Venus, commonly used, with good success, for 'ſore mouths and throats.'
'Ours will be, before we've done,' she said. 'We shall have to explain to him a lot.'
The liverwort polyanthus, though signifying confidence, was rejected as being too difficult to find most likely but the daily rose ('Thy smile I aspire to') seemed the very thing, and it was agreed that lemon verbena ('Unexpected meeting') would be both scented and appropriate.
'And I've got a little straw too,' said Caroline—'I got it while William was harnessing—it did so well with uncle; and wistaria means 'Welcome, fair stranger,' so we'll have that. There was no time to look these up in the medicine book, except liverwort, and of this they had only to read that 'It is true that Mizaldus and others, yea, almoſt all aſtrological phyſicians hold this to be an herb of Jupiter, but the truth is it is an herb of Mercury, and a ſingular good herb for all ſadneſs of ſpirit,' when Charles came to say 'Hurry up! or William will be off without us.'
'To gather the flowers will be but the work of a moment,' said Caroline. 'You two go in the carriage and I'll tell William to drive out by the deserted lodge and pick me up at the garden gate.'
Unfortunately the flowers were not easy to find. The gardener had to be consulted, and thus the gathering of Lord Andore's presentation bouquet was the work of about a quarter of an hour, so that William was waiting and very cross indeed when Caroline came running out of the garden with the flowers—a mere bundle, and no bouquet, as Charles told her—in her held-up skirt.
'No time now to drop people at lodge gates,' he said. 'I'll set you down at the turning, and even that I didn't ought to do by rights, being late as it is, and I shall have to fan the horse along something cruel to get to the station in time as it is.'
So the splendour of driving up to the Castle in the carriage was denied them; they could not even drive to the lodge. And all they got, after all Caroline's careful diplomatic treatment of William, was, as she said, 'just a bit of a lift.'
'It saves time, though,' said she, 'and time's everything when you've got to be home by half-past six. I do hope Lord Andore's in, don't you?'
'I don't know,' said Charles. 'I think it would be more noble if we had to sacrifice ourselves and go to London to see him. We should have to break open our money-boxes. I've always wanted to do that. I do wish Rupert had been here. He could have made up something to say in Latin, and then Lord Andore would have had to pay attention.'
'He'll have to in English,' said Caroline, quietly, 'if he's there. Oh, I do hope he is! The Mineral woman is most likely crying all this time. She only stopped for a minute, I'm certain, to sort the bottles because of the men coming for them with the cart at three. Won't it be glorious going and telling her that it's all right and she needn't go?'
'But suppose it all isn't and she need?' said Charles, gloomily.
'The spells have never failed us yet,' said Caroline.
'I believe it's something to do with the garden and our being the ancestors of Dame Eleanour,' said Charlotte; 'of course it'll be all right, Charles.'
'Rupert didn't think so.'
'Rupert doesn't know as much as we do, when it isn't Latin,' said Charlotte. 'We're going to teach Rupert a lot by and by. You see if we don't. All right, William, we're getting out as fast as we can, aren't we?' for the carriage had stopped and a voice from the box was urging them to look slippy.
The carriage rolled away, leaving them at the corner, with the big bouquet which Caroline had hastily arranged as they drove along.
'If we see him, you'll let me tell him, won't you?' she said; 'because the Mineral woman told about it to me.' And the others agreed, though Charles pointed out that the Mineral woman only told her because she happened to be there.