Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/235

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
A Study in Temptations.
219
 

Vandeleur Shannon was 15th Earl of Warbeck, and one Jane Shannon stood in the inconsiderable relation of niece to his lordship. Jane's father had been the fourth son of the late Earl—a kinship in itself sufficiently contemptible from the standpoint of the heir, but when the said fourth son married the daughter of a yeoman-farmer, he lost even the small right he had to twinkle in the Warbeck heaven, and was considered—not a fallen star, but no star at all.

Since the object of such just indignation and scorn was unable to earn his own bread (from the fact, no doubt, that he had half-killed himself writing a Prize Essay—"De Labore"), he lived on the charity of his yeoman father-in-law till, as he himself expressed it, he left a world where he was not wanted, to abide with that sleek host, the worm. In other words, he died of his own grim humour, assisted by a certain difficulty in breathing, a trouble in his liver, a pain in his head, and a grip at his left side. His wife, who was with child at the time of his death, postponed breaking her heart till she had brought forth her little one, and then she turned her sad face to the wall, and died also. The care of the child thus fell to the yeoman-farmer, who, by this time, may be said to have some claim on the reader's sympathy.

Samuel Battle—such was his name—came of sound stock. One John Battle and Matthew his brother had fought under Cromwell. Their descendants, under the Restoration, had, with two exceptions, abandoned the field of war for the more tranquil, if less conspicuous, honours of farming. Of the exceptions, one was a certain Anthony, a scholar and wit, who wrote some love verses and a comedy (composi-