The Fugitive by E. V. Lucas
On the evening of the day which succeeded that of the visit to the
Fairy Island the baronet and his family were seated in the
drawing-room, and Lady Clairmont was arranging with her husband their
plans for the reception of their uncle, Mr. Geoffrey Clairmont, from
whom a letter had been just received intimating his intention of being
with them the next day to a late dinner, but requesting they would not
make any material addition to their table, as a white soup, a turbot, a
little venison, and a pheasant would be all he should require, or if
his fancy stood for any bonnes bouches, his factotum, Monsieur
Melange (his valet, cook, and occasional secretary) would bring
materials for preparing them.
The party were amusing themselves with admiring the modest
simplicity of the old gentleman's bill of fare when Denton, the
house-steward, ran in, and, staring wildly around, exclaimed: 'Thank
goodness everybody is here!' then, darting forward to an open door
which looked upon the lawn, he shut and locked it, and slammed down the
sashes with the greatest precipitation, then, turning to Sir William,
said: 'Pray, sir, please to come out of the room with me this moment.'
The baronet followed him outside the door, while the careful
servant, still holding it ajar, added: 'Pray, ladies and gentlemen,
don't stir out of this room, pray don't.' He then shut and locked the
'Why, what ails you, Denton; what is all this about?' said the
baronet. 'One would think you had been bit by a mad dog.'
'Not exactly that, Sir William,' replied the man, quivering in every
limb, 'but I fear we may all be bit, before an hour is over our heads,
by something quite as bad.'
He then informed his master that the keeper of a caravan of wild
beasts had just come to the castle, and stated that in going through
the nearest market-town his vehicle had been upset, and the damage
which ensued had given an opportunity for one of his most valuable
animals, a Bengal tiger, to make its escape, that he and two of the
keepers had tracked it as far as the Warren on the Clairmont estate,
and he had come to beg assistance from the castle, while the other two
stood armed on each side a gap in the Warren where they thought it was
hid, and from whence, should it attempt to issue, they hoped, by help
from Sir William, to intercept its free egress.
'They want ropes and blankets and coverlets from the servants'
beds,' added Denton, 'to spread over the gap, which things they mean to
fasten down on each side, and then lure the beast to the entrance by
the scent of his usual food, when he will try to force himself through
the coverings; then they can lay hold of his smothered head without
fear, and easily slipping a noose round his neck convey him in this
manner back to his old quarters.'
'By all means let them have what is necessary,' said the baronet,
'and tell the grooms to keep the stable-door locked, and get in the
horses. It is not likely that the creature will come near the house
till he is starved into a visitation, but let the gamekeeper and his
men be ready, and muster what arms you have.'
'To be sure, Sir William, it shall be done,' said the frightened
steward, as he walked cautiously across the hall, looking on every side
as he advanced.
'Well,' said the baronet laughing, as he returned to the
drawing-room, 'two such gourmands in one four-and-twenty hours
is one too many sure enough. Here's a tiger come amongst us to-day by
way of avant-courier to Uncle Geoffrey.'
'A tiger!' cried both the boys. 'Oh, where, father? But you are
'No; 'tis a plain fact, according to Denton,' said Sir William,
whose information he then gave, and added: 'Though I have no
apprehension of the animal coming here I must beg you all to move
upstairs, and keep in the house till it is secured.'
'Secured; how can that be? it must be shot,' said William, adding:
'Pray don't let Fred and me go upstairs with the misses, father. We can
load a gun, and take aim now as well as we shall do at
'Pray let us go, father,' said Frederick; 'it would be such a thing
for me to say in India that I had shot a tiger in England.'
'But,' said Mr. Stanhope, 'do you not think it would be better if
the poor creature's life could be preserved? Its death must be a great
loss to its owner, and life is, no doubt, happiness to the creature
itself. Why terminate the existence of any animal by which we are not
annoyed, and which is not necessary to our subsistence? We certainly
have no right to do so.'
'Then you would not even kill a moth, Mr. Stanhope?' said Julia.
'No, that he would not, I dare say,' said Agnes; 'dear little
silver-wings. Mr. Stanhope knows that clippings of Russia leather and
cedar-shavings will keep the little creatures off our shawls and muffs,
and why should not the pretty things live and be happy?'
'Are you the patroness of the spiders too, little girl?' said
'I would put one out of my room,' said Agnes, 'if I found one there,
but certainly I would not kill it, for you know it does me no harm, and
surely it was intended that spiders should have some place to live in,
or they would not have been made.'
'You are a very considerate miss,' said William; 'but, at all
events, we cannot afford any free place for tigers in this country. So
come, dear father, let us have guns, and go with you and Mr. Stanhope,
for I am sure neither of you intend to stay cooped up here. I promise
to be under orders, and not move an inch in any way without
'And I make the same promise,' said Frederick eagerly.
'And I can answer for both,' said Mr. Stanhope warmly, 'that neither
of those young gentlemen will fail to keep his word.'
'Thank you, dear sir,' said the youths in the same breath.
'Mother, grandmother, you don't wish us to stay here,' said William;
'you would not like to see us milk-sops?'
'Certainly not, my dears,' said the dowager. 'While you move under
your father's directions your mother and I can have nothing to fear.
Courage is a virtue indispensible in a man and a gentleman, and like
other virtues is confirmed by exercise. You need not walk into the
tiger's mouth, you know; but if you find him likely to do mischief, and
you can prevent it, I hope you will retain your self-possession so as
to make sure aim, and pull your trigger firmly.'
'Never fear, grandmother; never fear, dear mother,' cried the
'Good-bye, Bill; good-bye, Freddy,' said all the sisters.
'Now, father, shall we go?'
'What say you, Mr. Stanhope,' asked the baronet, 'will you make a
sortie with us.'
'Most willingly,' replied the tutor. 'I have a brace of trusty
pistols in prime condition, and with a gun shall feel well equipped.'
'Well, then, ladies, adieu for the present,' said Sir William; 'you
had better go up to the observatory; you may see all our movements from
'An excellent thought,' replied Lady Clairmont; and away went the
female party to their high station, while the gentlemen, well furnished
with arms, walked out into the park, looking with keen inquiring eyes
on every side as they went on. No enemy, however, appeared, but in
about ten minutes, having taken the direction of the western lodge,
they were surprised by the sight of a coach-and-four coming rapidly
'By Jove, 'tis the Clairmont livery! 'tis Uncle Geoffrey, as I am
alive!' exclaimed Sir William. 'What day of the month is this?'
'The seventeenth,' said Frederick.
'His letter says he shall be here on the eighteenth,' rejoined the
baronet. 'Well, he must put up with what he can get for his dinner, and
thank his own want of punctuality for his bad fare.'
'Oh, poor Sheldon, what a fuss he will be in,' said Frederick
laughing. 'The turbot is taking his pastime in the waters, and the
pheasant in the woods. Unfortunate Uncle Geff!'
At this moment a tremendous shout or rather yell was heard in the
direction of the Warren on the left, and at a considerable distance,
but it grew louder and approached nearer every moment.
'There is certainly something in the wind now,' said the gentlemen.
Every eye was upon the alert, and the carriage within two hundred paces
of our party.
'Ha, there he goes!' said William.
'There he goes!' cried Frederick, as the tiger darted across the
park towards the carriage. 'He'll make at the horses. See! see! he has
actually fastened upon poor Culina! No, 'tis Apicius, uncle's grand
favourite. Look at the horses, how they rear and tear away!'
'Now,' said Sir William, 'a little in this direction to be out of
his side-sight. Remember we must act in concert, and all fire at his
head at the same moment. A single bullet would but interrupt his
attentions to poor Apicius, and call them to ourselves, but two brace
must surely disable him.'
'Oh, father,' cried William, 'how terrified the horses are! See how
they plunge and rear, first on one side the road, then on the other;
they will upset poor Uncle Geff to a certainty. Look, the footman leaps
off like lightning, and now the coachman follows him. See, they are
climbing up into the old oak, and leave the horses to their fate, the
cowards! The poor beasts are perfectly mad. Now they have done it. The
fore-wheel has struck against the curbstone and flown off, and now the
hind-wheel on the same side is off too, and down goes the carriage. I'm
sure I heard poor Uncle Geff cry out, but the tiger still keeps hold on
the horse's shoulders.'
'Now there's a moment's pause,' said the baronet. 'Fire at his
head!' They did so, and their aim was so just that the creature fell
instantly, but his efforts to rise, in which he nearly succeeded two or
three times, filled the crowd which was now assembling with dismay.
'Mr. Stanhope will lend you his pistols, boys,' said Sir William.
'Go nearer, if you like, and share the honour of giving the beast his
The youths took the arms exultingly, and advancing boldly towards
the animal, who still writhed in fearful strength, they fired again at
his head, and he then sunk to rise no more. It seems he had actually
taken refuge in a hollow of the Warren, but the keepers had secured the
entrance so imperfectly that he easily effected his escape.
A loud cry of 'Victory! victory!' was uttered by the surrounding
multitude, and the words 'Brave boys!' 'True Clairmonts!' were many
times repeated by the crowd.
'And now let us see after poor Mr. Clairmont,' said Sir William,
going up to the carriage, which lay on its side. The two stout
gentlemen who had clambered up into the oak, seeing the enemy
breathless, had summoned courage to descend, and were trying to pacify
and unharness the trembling horses.
'How are you, my dear sir? how are you, Mr. Clairmont?' said the
baronet, speaking aloud, not being able to see into the carriage.
'What am I, you mean, nephew,' roared out the old gentleman.
'Why I am a perfect mass of blanc-mange, bruised to a universal pulp.'
[Illustration: 'There he goes!'Page 261.]
'I hope not,' replied the baronet; 'no bones broken, I trust?'
'Bones! I don't think I've such a thing as a bone belonging to me no
more than if I had been hermetically sealed in a register-boiler. I
tell you I'm nothing but a huge fricandeau; you may cut me in slices,
and take me out piecemeal.'
'I am happy to hear you are in a state to make merry with your
misfortunes, my dear sir,' rejoined Sir William; 'but, seriously, how
shall we manage to get you out?'
'The tiger is dead as Napoleon, uncle, and lies at the feet of your
favourite Apicius,' said William.
'And the horses are taken off,' added the baronet; 'but I fear the
raising of the carriage to assist your descending cannot be effected
without giving you some more severe jolting. Where is your valet?
Perhaps he can help you if the coach-door be got open. Melange,' cried
Mr. Clairmont, 'are you dead or stupid?'
'Ni l'un ni l'autre, monsieur,' replied the servant doggedly.
'Then pray bestir yourself, and get me out of this miserable ruin.
Don't you hear them say the tiger is killed? Why do you stay sprawling
here looking as ghastly as if he were grinning at you in all his
Melange began to move.
'There now,' said his master, 'you have set your foot on the bottle
in the side-pocket; there it goesa bottle of my finest claret!'
Melange popped his head over the perpendicular floor of the
carriage, and seeing the tiger positively dead he sprang out with great
facility, and appeared to have received no other injury than certain
indications of culinary luxuries which besprinkled his habit so
plentifully as to give his tailor (had he seen it) hopes of an ample
order for a refit.
'Well, Melange,' said Sir William, 'what measure are you about to
take for your master's relief?'
'The carriage must be unpacked, Sir William,' said the valet
consequentially, 'and then monsieur may be raised so gently as not to
suffer any farther inconvenience.'
He then, with the assistance of his two fellow-servants, removed all
the packages from the boot, etc., etc., and by the help of the numerous
bystanders propped up the carriage, and assisted his master to descend,
the skirts of whose coat bore evident marks of the course the claret
had taken when it escaped from its imprisonment in the flask, while his
trousers and stockings appeared to have been liberally complimented
with Ude's delicious consommé at the moment of the grand squash.
Lady Clairmont, having seen all from the observatory, had sent a
sofa and pillows for her uncle's accommodation, which arrived at this
moment, and the baronet, with Mr. Stanhope's aid, placed the old
gentleman upon it in a state of comparative comfort, the boys trying to
arrange the cushions and pillows for him, while an air of good-humoured
contempt mingled with their assiduities.
'Ah, my poor friend, Apicius,' he exclaimed on seeing the dying
horse panting beside the prostrate destroyer, 'nothing can be done for
you, I see. Lead him away if possible, and put him out of his pain as
mercifully as you can. Fine creature. I cannot bear to look at him; he
little thought, when he pranced off so stately yesterday morning, that
he was coming to feed the hounds at Clairmont, and a tit-bit they will
find him; he's in capital condition. Pray let him be taken away.'
'I think we had better take care of you first, dear sir,' said his
nephew, 'but I fear you will not find a dinner to your taste this
evening. There will be two dishes minus at least, for we did not expect
you till to-morrow, the eighteenththe day you named.'
'Ha, that was an unlucky mistake of Melange which we found out too
late. He put the paper before me and dated the letter; but, however, as
things have turned out it is of no consequence. I shall take no dinner
to-day, but some pearl-sago, enriched with a good dash of old Jamaica.
You must let me have a warm bath, nephew, and bid them put me to bed
directly, and in two or three days, perhaps, all will be set to rights.
Hope Lady Clairmont and all your family are well. How do you do, Mr.
Stanhope? Excuse me, I can't pretend to see anybody for the next
eight-and-forty hours. By this management I, perhaps, may escape a fit
of the gout, which has certainly received a most pressing invitation to
take intire possession of me, even on the very heels of the dog-days.
Ha, William, how are you, my boy? and dear Freddy, how are you? How
wonderfully you are both grown. No need to inquire if you are well; you
must have been playing a capital knife and fork this last year, young
gentlemen, but that's not surprising; you live in clover here at old
Clairmont as usual. Fat Scotch cattle and black-faced sheep in the
meadows, and a crowd of noble bucks in the park.'
'Et les poissons,' said Melange, edging in his remark as he stood
making some arrangement required by his master. 'Les jolis poissons qui
s'élèveront de temps hors l'eau, pour dire à leur façon vous êtes les
bienvenus, Messieurs, nous aurons l'honneur de vous régaler. Ah,
c'etait un coup d'oeil ravissant.'
The boys laughed aloud, and Mr. Stanhope could hardly preserve his
gravity, but Sir William gave Melange a look that seemed a deathblow to
his flippancy, for he moved off directly to the care of his jars and
'And your pheasants, how are they? Suppose you have had grouse this
fortnight? However, for fear of the worst, I've brought a few brace.
Are your partridges lovable? But I forgot; you never disturb them till
next month. But I should not dare to touch them if you could set me
down to a covey just now; my stomach would take it fearfully amiss if I
were to call upon it for any service at present, after all the bumpings
and thumpings it has just suffered. But stay, before they carry me off
I should like to ascertain the extent of the mischief we have
sustained. Melange, get into the carriage and examine the contents of
the sword-case and all the little private recesses. What a ruin it is!'
The valet skipped in.
'Well, is the curaçoa safe?'
'No, sir, the bottle is smashed to atoms.'
'Not a drop left?'
'Not a drop, monsieur.'
'Well, it was a liquor fit for the gods, and George the Fourthmade
after old Goddard's recipe. His late Majesty used to say he never
tasted any so excellent. And my Treatise on the Wines of the
Ancients, where is it?'
'Here, sir'holding it up outside the coach-door.
'Actually seasoned with sardines; not a page legible, I fear. And
there's the Cook's Oracle, dumb as a fish, drowned in claret, and a
new edition of Ude soaked, I'm aware, in one of his own delicious
consommés. This is sad work, indeed! And the glaze?'
'Oh, ruin upon ruin! Best portable soup in the kingdom! Only three
men in England can make it. However, Melange is one of the three. The
edible nests[B] and the Strasburg livers?'
'Quite safe, sir.'
'The potted char, and the Scotch laver? The limes, and the olives,
and the dravolinas?'
'Tout est à merveille, monsieur.'
'Then how have my medicines fared?'
'They were put in the boot with the ginger, the parmesan, the
Westphalia hams, and the reindeer tongues,' said Melange.
'Now then, come down and see if the colchicum sherry, l'eau
médicinale, gout mixture, cogniac, vespetro, noyau, and old Jamaica are
Melange examined, and reported, 'Perfectly safe, sir.'
'And the lachryma christi, Hermitage hock, and tokay, with the West
'Well, 'tis an untoward business enough, but it might have been
worse, nephew,' said Mr. Clairmont, consoled to think all his hampers
were in a sound state.
'True, sir,' replied Sir William, 'infinitely worse. You have
escaped broken bones, and out of four horses have lost only one.'
'Then are all the rest safe and sound, coachman?' asked his master.
'Quite well, sir, only terribly frightened, like some of us,'
replied the man, smiling on one side of his face, and blushing as well
as he could on the other, 'but life is sweet to us all, and who would
not have run away from that frightful beast?' looking at the tiger.
'What a beautiful animal it was!' said Mr. Stanhope to William.
'Very beautiful indeed, sir,' replied William, 'and if I were rich I
would buy its coat, and make a present of it to mother for a
'A very good thought, my boy,' said Mr. Clairmont, 'and you shall
have it, if it is to be sold.'
'Are you the proprietor of this unfortunate animal?' said the
'I am, sir,' said one of the three men who were standing guard over
the dead tiger, and waiting for an opportunity to ask the baronet for
the loan of a cart to convey it to the town where their caravan was
'What do you ask for the skin?' demanded Mr. Clairmont.
The man named his price, and the demand, though somewhat exorbitant,
was complied with, greatly to the satisfaction of the two youths, who
were anxious to have it in the family as a memento of this, to them,
important day. Sir William then ordered the tiger to be conveyed to the
butchery, and uncoated preparatory to the operation the currier would
have to perform on the skin previous to its exhibition in the
'Well, now, my good Melange,' said Mr. Clairmont, beckoning him to
come near, and whispering coaxingly, 'you will see all our valuables
safe before you leave them.'
'Sans doute, monsieur, n'ayez pas peur, I have sent Foster on to the
house for a cart, and shall have everything conveyed to that apartment
you are accustomed to occupy. Of course we shall be there?'
'Are we to have our old lodgings, nephew?' said Mr. Clairmont.
'If you please, sir,' replied the baronet; 'your bedroom is as usual
in the west angle, on the ground floor, close to the bath, which is the
situation you have always preferred.'
'Ha, thank you, that is comfortable. You hear, Melange?'
'And now, nephew, if your carriers be ready say the word, and let us
be moving, for I begin to feel terribly stiff and awkward in the
sinews, and shall be right glad to find myself in a steaming bath.
Don't forget,' added he to his servant, 'the gout-stool and the moxa,
and all necessary for a good shampooing, and remember to have the sago
ready for me on coming out of the bath. Now make haste, for here comes
the cart. Be alive, Foster, as you were when you clambered up the oak
like a squirrel.'
'My valet shall attend you till Melange has made his arrangements,'
said Sir William. 'No doubt your apartments are in perfect order by
this time; so come, chairmen, take up the sofa, and go gently.'
The men began their march, and the baronet walked on at a brisk pace
to apprise Lady Clairmont that the whole family had a respite of
Mr. Stanhope and his pupils lingered behind, walking on very slowly
till the men were out of hearing with their burden, and William then
'Go, you genuine sybarite! Uncle of mine, I would not accept the
gift of all your estates if your gourmandizing be entailed on them.'
'Neither would I,' said his brother. 'It is impossible for a man to
be a more devoted slave to his appetite than our great-uncle Geff. The
slave of the ring in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments had a holiday
life of it in comparison. Perhaps it is wrong to say it, but really I
feel quite disgusted with him. As father truly says, All his
conversation has reference to the sustenation of his insatiable maw,
and we shall all be glad when this animal infliction is over.'
'Gourmandizing,' said Mr. Stanhope, 'is indeed a vice which
fearfully degrades a man from the rank he was born to hold as a
rational being, and I trust you will never either of you be under the
dominion of such a tyrant.'
'We should both of us,' said William, 'revolt at the idea of being
an object of contempt to others, such as Uncle Geff is now to us.'
'That's plain English,' replied Frederick, 'but not the most polite
thing to say of one's venerable great uncle, brother Bill, and who has,
moreover, just now given you that superb tiger's skin.'
'The fear of the world's contempt,' said Mr. Stanhope, 'though
salutary, ought not to influence our conduct so much as the
consciousness that, while excess clogs our intellects, we become
incapable of the virtuous exertions we might otherwise make, and that
of the talents we have thus smothered we must one day render an
'And yet there are, I have heard, some men of great abilities and
eminent virtue who are said to eat enormously,' said Frederick.
'True,' replied the tutor, 'extreme hunger is, in some
constitutions, a rapid effect of intense study, and the appetite may be
innocently gratified while it rather adds to the impetus of thought
than checks its advance. Excess begins when the perceptions become weak
and indistinct by indulgence. Every person is able to judge for himself
when he approaches that point, and, if he respect himself, he will stop
short of it. Such men as those to whom you allude feel renovated by
their meal, and return to their intellectual pursuits with increased
alacrity, but the veritable gourmand divides his existence
between the contemplation of what his dinner shall be, the pleasure of
eating, and the labour of digesting it.'
'It is very odd in Uncle Geff to bring his eatables and his cook to
Clairmont. I wonder father will suffer it. What a larder this modern
Lucullus carries about with him!' said Frederick.
'Why, father has indulged him in the practice so many years that I
suppose he does not think it worth his while to set his face against it
now,' replied William. 'Besides, Melange is a superb cook. Sheldon
finds it his interest to keep well with him, and gets into many of his
culinary mysteries, of which father reaps the benefit when he is
obliged to give great dinners. As to the Frenchman himself, it is easy
to see he is the master of his master, and holds him fast by the
stomach, as it were, by a talisman.'
'What an honourable bondage for a man who is proud of his descent
from men who were hand and glove with the conqueror,' said Frederick,
A servant now came out upon the lawn to say tea had been waiting
some time. The youths and their tutor hastened to the drawing-room,
when William and his brother were congratulated on the fortunate issue
of their rencounter with the tiger. Their gentle mother shed a tear of
joy as she kissed the cheek of each darling child, and the dowager
expressed herself happy at seeing they had proved themselves worthy
descendants of the Clairmonts.
'Emily,' said she to her grand-daughter in the joy of her heart,
'what do you think of your brothers now? Do you not think they will
indeed prove an honour to the family, and realize in their manhood all
the anticipations of youth? For my part, I feel so much obliged to our
grand-dame Cicely Dewberry at the present moment, that I can hardly
find words to express myself in due terms; that task I shall,
therefore, leave to you.'
Emily coloured at this remark, but, after a pause, replied:
'I am so much pleased that my brothers have acquitted themselves
with honour that I am equally at a loss for words with your ladyship.'
The evening passed most agreeably, and the conversation was animated
and interesting from the topics the occurrences of the day gave birth
to. As for Lady Clairmont, she was, indeed, greatly pleased with the
present of her new hearthrug, and Sir William ordered the body of the
tiger to be deposited under the oak in which the servants had found
shelter, saying that, some time or other, he might probably put down on
that spot some solid memento of the event.
[B] The nest of a bird found in the southern latitudes, considered a
delicacy by the natives, particularly by European epicures.