But at the age of fourteen his brother took him from school, though Mr. Burslem had pleaded that he might remain longer and afterwards proceed to the university. He was set to do odd jobs about the farm. To farming itself he had no objection; he was fond of animals and would willingly have spent his life with them. But he did object to drudging for a hard and inconsiderate taskmaster such as his brother was, and the work he was compelled to do became loathsome to him, and bred a spirit of discontent and rebellion. The further news of Clive’s exploits in India, coming at long intervals, set wild notions beating in Desmond’s head, and made him long passionately for a change. At times he thought of running away: his father had run away and carved out a successful career, why should not he do the same? But he had never quite made up his mind to cut the knot.
Meanwhile it became known in Market Drayton that Clive had returned to England. Rumor credited him with fabulous wealth. It was said that he drove through London in a gold coach, and outshone the king himself in the splendor of his attire. No report was too highly colored to find easy credence among the simple country folk. Clive was indeed rich: he had a taste for ornate dress, and though neither so wealthy nor so gaily appareled as rumor said, he was for a season the lion of London society. The directors of the East India Company toasted him as “General” Clive, and presented him with a jeweled sword as a token of their sense of his services on the Coromandel coast.
No one suspected at the time that his work was of more than local importance and would have more far-reaching consequences than the success of a trading company. Clive had, in fact, without knowing it, laid the foundations of a vast empire.
At intervals during the two years, scraps of news about Clive filtered through to his birthplace. His father had left the neighborhood, and Styche Hall was now in the hands of a stranger, so that Desmond hardly dared to hope that he would have an opportunity of seeing his idol. But, information having reached the court of directors that all was not going well in India, their eyes turned at once to Clive as the man to set things right. They requested him to return to India as Governor of Fort St. David, and, since a good deal of the trouble was caused by quarrels as to precedence between the king’s and the Company’s officers, they strengthened his hands by obtaining for him a lieutenant colonel’s commission from King George.
Clive was nothing loath to take up his work again. He had been somewhat extravagant since his arrival in England; great holes had been made in the fortune he had brought back; and he was still a young man, full of energy and ambition. What was Desmond’s ecstasy, then, to learn that his hero, on the eve of his departure, had accepted an invitation to the town of his birth, there to be entertained by the court leet. From the bailiff and the steward of the manor down to the javelin men and the ale taster, official Market Drayton was all agog to do him honor. Desmond looked forward eagerly to this red letter day.