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The Ships of Tarshish

Chapter XI. Preparation

Chapter XI. Preparation.

"St. Mark's Wood, London, 1st Sept., 1864.

"Dear Randolph,

When you asked my advice in Heidelberg relative to your turning artist instead of going on with the law, I said I would send word about it soon after. As promised, I have reflected over the subject, and now think that you are most decidedly right in your wish for changing. I would recommend you to leave where you are at once, and come to me, and we will see about your being inducted into your future avocation. I have some interest that way. But, however, come at once, as I am longing to see you. I have not the least fear of your not succeeding.

"Your friend,

"John Mandevil.

"Randolph Norval, Esq.,

"15, Irgendwo Strasse, Heidelberg.

"P. S. I have made up my mind to fix my quarters here for the next three years at least."

When Norval read this letter, he gave such a thundering thump on the table, and yelled such a "hurrah" that he started Pauline, the servant, who was bringing in his morning's coffee, to that extent that she dropped the tray which held it. Fortunately, as it fell on the door mat, nothing was damaged but the coffee, for the cup and saucer and jug being about half an inch thick, it would have taken a good knock to have broken them. In answer to the girl's inquiries, he cried:—

"Va-room, did I do it, Pauliney! Vy, to give room to my feelings, to be sure, at leaving this dear old Fatherland." An then he continued in German, "You must get my things home from the wash, for I am going to-morrow. And here is etwas for yourself, for I want you to share in my joy."

page 39

Three mornings after this, Norval met Mandevil at the latter's house.

"You can't think how jolly glad I was to receive your epistle," Norval said; "but I was surprised on seeing your address. I was under the impression that you were still at Stuttgart."

"I became tired of the useless life I was leading," said Mandevil, "so I made up my mind to come over here and find something to do. I think I shall try to employ myself in the engineering line. You know what a natural inclination I have that way."

"Ah, yes! I know—those ships," answered Norval. "But for one who has not served his time, as they say, regularly to it, you will find it very difficult to get anything worth your while."

"That is true," said Mandevil, quietly; "but I think I shall succeed—that is to my own satisfaction, notwithstanding."

"How about old Samuel, now that you've come over here?" asked Norval. "Have you given up all ideas of that affair?"

"Samuel is dead" answered Mandevil, gravely.

"Dead!" repeated Norval, eagerly; "and did you find out whether there was really anything for you?"

"My good fellow," said Mandevil, "you must not be offended if I beg of you as a favour not to ask me any more questions about that matter, either now or in future; nor also if I ask you never to speak of it to any one else, as I most particularly wish what I told you to remain a secret."

"Sorry I spoke," returned Norval; "but I will most readily agree to observe your request." Then he thought to himself, "He's found out it's a hoax!"

"And now, my dear fellow," said Mandevil, "to make amends for leaving your curiosity ungratified, I will give you some good news. But first, how would you like to be a pupil of 'the great Vance'?"

"How would I like?" exclaimed Norval, eagerly. "Ah! but it's no use thinking about such a thing as that; he wouldn't be bothered with a fellow like me; that is, I could not make it worth his while."

"Well, then," said Mandevil, "he has consented to be bothered with a fellow like you, for he has promised me already. You know I told you I had some interest which was at your service; and I've used it. So don't ask any questions about it, but have your breakfast, and then we'll look out for lodgings. By-and-by, page 40when I've made my fortune at engineering, I will commission you to take my portrait."

In answer to Norval's repeated inquiries as to how he had managed the affair, Mandevil furnished him with evasions. Once afterwards Norval made a slight attempt to pump "the great Vance." "The great Vance" looked at him gravely, and in return simply proceeded to give him technical information in his art, ignoring Norval's query completely. Norval never tried it again.

But "the great Vance" might have told him, if he had liked, that Mandevil with a handful of bank notes had been to him (Vance) and asked him to name any sum he liked, provided he would accept Norval as a pupil. And that Mandevil had required that that part of his share in the transactions should be a secret.

And now Mandevil, having disposed of the immediate care for his friend's fortunes, was free to pursue his own plans for the future. Whether he had any plans; what use he was going to make of the enormous power, which almost fabulous events had placed in his hands, this story will proceed to show. 'What will he do with it?" is, as we said before, a thought that must already have arisen in the reader's mind. Will he bury himself in luxury, and outvie princes in splendour? Overshadow the haughty Lady Trousely into insignificance, and carry off his bride with a high hand whenever he liked?

It is true he might have done this. But Mandevil was proud, and more—Mandevil was honest. As for the last, the wealth, he considered was a trust in his hands, not for his own self-pampering—for Samuel's last words were continually haunting him. And his nature was of that lofty kind that it was really no trial or sacrifice to him to abstain from such a use of money. As for lowering the high position which Lady Trousely had assumed with respect to him, he was certainly resolved to do that, but in his own magnanimous way and at the proper time. But he was too proud to conquer in the guise, alone, of a two-legged money-bag. As for Florence, he said to himself, that he would wait for the three years, which she herself had appointed. Should she still be attached to him, after so long a trial—so much the greater prize. If on the other hand—but he would not think it out.

With respect to what he had done for Norval, it would perhaps seem very little for one to have accomplished for a friend when, page 41without missing anything, he could have placed him in affluence at once. But Mandevil had a good judgment; he knew that the probable end of such a course would be to turn Norval out a moral good-for-nothing. He thought that by giving him a start in the direction for which he had a natural inclination, and allowing him to school himself in self-reliance, and conquer out his own path, he was being much kinder than by drowning all incentive to exertion at the outset.