His brother, as a yeoman of standing, was invited to the banquet, and it seemed to Desmond that Richard took a delight in taunting him, throwing cold water on his young enthusiasm, ironically commenting on the mistake someone had made in not including him among the guests. His crowning stroke of cruelty was to forbid the boy to leave the house on the great evening, so that he might not even obtain a glimpse of Clive. But this was too much: Desmond for the first time deliberately defied his guardian, and though he suffered the inevitable penalty, he had seen and heard his hero, and was content.
Sore from his flogging, Desmond, when he slept at last, slept heavily. Richard Burke was a stickler for early rising, and admitted no excuses. When his brother did not appear at the usual hour Richard went to his room, and, smiting with his rough hand the boy’s bruised shoulders, startled him to wakefulness and pain.
“Now, slug-a-bed,” he said, “you have ten minutes for your breakfast, then you will foot it to the Hall and see whether Sir Willoughby has returned or is expected.”
Turning on his heel, he went out to harry his laborers.
Desmond, when he came down stairs, felt too sick to eat. He gulped a pitcher of milk, then set off for his two-mile walk to the Hall. He was glad of the errand. Sir Willoughby Stokes, the lord of the manor, was an old gentleman of near seventy years, a good landlord, a persistent Jacobite, and a confirmed bachelor. By nature genial, he was subject to periodical attacks of the gout, which made him terrible. At these times he betook himself to Buxton, or Bath, or some other spa, and so timed his return that he was always good tempered on rent day, much to the relief of his tenants. He disliked Richard Burke as a man as much as he admired him as a tenant; but he had taken a fancy to Desmond, lent him books from his library, took him out shooting when the weather and Richard permitted, and played chess with him sometimes of a rainy afternoon. His housekeeper said that Master Desmond was the only human being whose presence the squire could endure when the gout was on him. In short, Sir Willoughby and Desmond were very good friends.
Desmond had almost reached the gate of the Hall when, at a sudden turn of the road, he came upon a man seated upon a low hillock by the roadside, idly swishing at the long ripe grass with a cane. At the first glance Desmond noticed the strangely-clad right hand of his overnight acquaintance; the shabby clothes, the red feather, the flaming neckcloth.
The man looked up at his approach; the winning smile settled upon his swarthy face, which daylight now revealed as seamed and scarred; and, without stirring from his seat or desisting from his occupation, he looked in the boy’s face and said softly: