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Mr. Casely
by [?]


Young Mr. Ellington strolled down the narrow walk that led through the woods from the Hall to the sea. The morning had lain heavy on his hands, for he was without companionship, and he was not one of the happy folk who can make resources or who find a sufficient delight in mere living. A few sharp commonplaces delivered with dry imperiousness by the old Squire; a little well-meaning babble from a couple of timid maiden aunts–such was the range of his converse with his kind from day to day. And this quiet dreariness had lasted for months past, and seemed likely to last as far into the future that young Ellington faced his prospect with a sort of pained confusion of mind, and began by slow degrees to understand the bovine apathy of the ploughmen. Old Mr. Ellington was a magnate who would have been commended by Mr. John Ruskin. The fashions of other country people did not influence him to imitation, and he steadfastly performed that feat of “living on the land” which is supposed to bring such blessedness to all whom the land supports. For fifty years he had never been twenty miles beyond the bounds of his southernmost farm, and for fifty years the ugly Hall had never opened its doors to an invited guest. People talked a good deal, and made theories more or less malignant, but the hard old man minded them no whit. He went on his own road with perfect propriety, outraging every convention in the most virtuous manner, and opposing a dry reticence to the curiosity and wonderment of the few neighbours who continued to have any vivid remembrance of his existence. In fine weather his stout and opinionated cob bore him gravely along the lanes. The cottagers’ children ceased their play and looked respectfully sheepish as he rode by; the farm girls dropped their elaborate curtseys, and the labourers at the roadside made efforts to appear at their ease. These and the farmers were the only people who saw his daily progress, and they all held him a good deal in fear. Nothing escaped his steady eye. If anything displeased him he did not use words, for he had not talents of the vocal description, but he took very sudden means of making his displeasure felt. Within his domain he was absolute master. He disliked the intrusion of even passing strangers, and the harmless bagmen who sometimes travelled along the coast road found no hostelry on the estate. It was said that he once met an alien person walking in the woods, and that this erratic foreigner was smoking a pipe. The most learned purveyors of myths were never able to detail exactly what happened, but the incident was always mentioned with awe. The inhabitants of the district never managed to get up any personal feeling about the Squire;–they regarded him as an operation of Nature. So he lived his life in his colourless fashion, rousing no hate, gaining no love, and fulfilling his duties as though his own epitaph were an abiding vision to him. He cared for no enjoyments, and did not particularly like to see other people enjoying themselves. He seemed to fancy that laughter should be taken like the Sacrament, and, for his own part, he preferred not being a communicant. When his only son was killed in a pitiful frontier skirmish, the old man rode out as usual on the day following the receipt of the ill news. The gamekeeper said that he drew up his cob alongside the fence of a paddock wherein was kept an aged pony that the heir had ridden long ago. He watched the stumbling pensioner cropping the bright grass for a few minutes, breathed heavily, turned the cob into the road again, and went on with sharp eyes glancing emotionless. His daughter-in-law died soon after, and he assumed sole charge of the young Ellington whom we have seen making a forlorn pilgrimage under the trees. The young man had received a queer sort of nondescript education. All the Ellingtons for a generation or two back had gone in due course to Eton and Oxford, but no such conventional training was vouchsafed to the latest of the family. The hand of the private tutor had been heavy upon him, and he was brought up absolutely without a notion of what his own future might be. He had mooned about among books to some trifling extent, but the taste for study had never taken him. The silly mode of culture which he had undergone availed nothing against the instincts of his race. His grandfather was a sort of living aberration–a queer variety such as Nature will sometimes interpolate amid the most steady of strains; but young Ellington’s moods, and tendencies, and capabilities reverted to the old line. Yet, despite his restless energy, despite his incapacity for that active thought which makes solitude bearable, he was crushed into the mould that the Squire had prepared for him. His distractions were few, and in his vigorous mind, with its longing for instant action, its continual revolt against self-contained speculation, there arose a dull fear of the future, a longing for deliverance. It was not a merry existence for a young man who heard the brave currents of life sounding around and calling him vaguely to come and adventure himself with the rest. He knew that the sons of the men who laughed at his grandfather laughed also at him, and regarded him with a somewhat impertinent wonder, but he dared explain himself to none, and dared seek companionship with none. This is why he looked so listless as he lounged toward the sea that fine afternoon. There was enough all round him to please anyone with an eye for the quiet beauty of inanimate things. The lights slid and quivered on the golden windings of the walk. Here and there the beams that came through were toned into a kind of floating greenness that looked glad and tender. The light wind overhead set the leaves talking, and their silky rustle sounded sharp through the low murmur of the near sea. Now and then came other sounds. A cushat would moan from her high fir-top, or a pheasant deep in the shadows would call with his resonant guttural. But young Mr. Ellington did not heed the sounds and sights that asked his attention; he hardly heeded his own being, and his footsteps grated on till the veil of the trees seemed drawn back, and he saw the shining sea glimmering under a light haze. Far out toward the centre of the blue circle, a fishing-boat lunged heavily as the deliberate rollers came shoreward, and upon this boat he fixed his eye with that meaningless intentness born of weariness.