« ZurückWeiter »
and saw no more; whoever they were, they had disappeared like rabbits when disturbed at feeding time. On leading my horse out of the plantation, no easy matter, the sound of wheels, receding at a rapid pace, caught my ear. There were no signs of any pic-nic party; and the woman at the shebeen, where I watered my horse, and got a glass of hard beer, said that she had not seen any gentlefolks there to-day.
I sat on the bank for a few minutes while I lighted my pipe, and my horse was refreshing himself. I placed my left hand on something shining. A bunch of keys. One of Aunt Rachel's bunches, which I had known ever since I could recollect anything. The thing was neither rich nor rare, but how the deuce did it get there?
I re-mounted and rode home, arriving (after leaving the animal at the farmer's) about a quarter of an hour before dinner.
I was late for dinner, and was greeted with black looks.
My uncle complained of want of appetite. He wanted a relishan appetiser. Samson, the butler, was commanded to produce some peculiar pickle. It was not in the sideboard. Mistress had gone out to-day without releasing the pickles from their prisons. If she would give him the keys he would save her the trouble.
I was going to say,
"I have the keys," but on Second Thoughts I
Where were the keys?
The butler requests the keys.
My uncle, somewhat irritated at this irregularity, as Blue Beard, demands the keys.
My step-aunt-mother, as Fatima, hesitates.
She must have left them in her room.
I wait, enjoying this. No, not there.
Could she have dropped them out of doors?
Oh no, except in the garden, as “she had only been driving a little way," she said, " and hadn't left the pony-chaise."
"Well, but where did you drive to ?" asks my uncle, querulously, if he'd scour the country for these keys.
"Towards Horsley," she replies.
"Dear me," I exclaimed, "how strange! I quite forgot that I found a bunch of keys to-day," but I didn't say where.
The butler brings them down from my room.
Now Horsley lies to the east, and Falcon Ring well to the west. Moreover, Horsley is five miles to the east of our house, and Falcon Ring eight miles by Downs, is ten or eleven by road.
"You walked to Horsley to day ?" asks my uncle of me.
"I rode," I answered, with a suppressio veri. My stepmother-I mean Mrs. Pincott-who had her back to the light, looked quickly towards me, and withdrew her eyes immediately. (She certainly has got deuced fine eyes. I do admire her sometimes. Do you know I can imagine her being fascinating with some people.)
"Rode!" exclaimed my uncle. "Whose horse ?"
My explanation diverted him from his inquiries. We talked about this horse, that horse, Aunt Rachel's horse, horses in general, until he jogged off with his bag of interrogatories in another direction altogether, and finally cantered into the land of Nod, where he might have mounted a nightmare, for aught I know, so loudly did he trumpet forth his prowess behind a table-napkin.
She was in the garden.
I was going to say to her, "I picked up these keys by the little inn near Falcon Ring." Second Thought. Better not. So I didn't. I approached-I regarded her, searchingly.
She observed that the wind was getting up, and that there would be a breeze to-morrow- -a breeze from the sea over the Downs.
I couldn't help it, I said, without a second thought, "As strong a breeze as to-day."
"There was none to-day," she remarked.
“Oh, yes, there was," I returned, "so strong as to blow a bunch of keys from Horsley, across the Down, to Falcon Ring."
"My dear Dick," she replied, looking me full in the face, and speaking as sweetly as if I'd been her lover instead of her stepson, I mean nephew, "you do talk such nonsense sometimes. I must go in; your uncle expects his piano, and there is Samson with the teathings."
So in she went to wake my uncle with tea, and lull him with tunes.
But, my friend, "My dear Dick" is the first note of battle on her instrument to-night.
D. P. is not deceived this time. I shall see you very soon. Goodnight. P.S. I re-open this before post time (morning) to say that Passmore has just looked in. He is going to take the duty for a week or so here, our Nookside parson wants a vacation.
"I MUST go and talk to Miss Rachel about this," I said to myself. And I did. It is very pleasant to have a subject of conversation. She was so glad to chat in those days. Just as I was commencing the news about Dick, etc., there comes in an old crone with the lumbago, who requires instant attention, and gets it, at Miss Rachel's hands; then comes in the gardener, who wants something for his little boy's cough, and he gets it; and after him (with an episode of a young man "as com'd for a book Miss Rachel said she'd lend 'um") the groom, with bad news about a pony's off-leg. Second Thought. Keep my intelligence to myself; say I'll call in to-morrow. She seems pleased at my leaving, and merely says, "Yes, do."
Ah Miss Rachel, Miss Rachel, why has my father's "Dictionary of Possibilities" languished? Why have I been interesting myself about your nephew, your brother, his house and happiness? I cannot believe that you are my senior; I was looking across a jam-pot top (which I was assisting Miss Rachel to tie up, my dear sir), and I am certain she hasn't many more years than I have, if any.
It is difficult for four hands, that is two pairs, to tie a small string round a jam-pot with anything like neatness and precision.
The hands become mixed up with one another; and if the gentleman's mind (I am supposing a male and a female engaged in this work) is not given entirely to the process, he may, by mistake, lay his hand gently upon the lady's; now, she may withdraw hers, and then my gentleman looks somewhat foolish.
At all events I broke a jam-pot, and lost my sweets, for that pot would, had I tied it up properly, have been bestowed on me.
So I put on my hat and went home to my solitary work on "Possibilities."
[This episode is from a note made at the time, when I also, as it appears, sketched a jam pot in the margin of my Dictionary.]
LETTING IN A LITTLE LIGHT.
I WILL have no more mysteries in this digressing story than are absolutely necessary. Of course there is a secret; something about which
I am at present as dumb as a post. Why not use this simile, why not dumb as well as deaf? No, no cloaks, slouched hats, dark lanterns, and daggers for me. I had arranged my plan so clearly that we should have followed Richard, on leaving his uncle's (who being a little more than kin was daily becoming, as far as his nephew was concerned, less than kind) to his private tutor's in the country, whither he went to read up for some examination-his Little Go, I think, which the young gentleman had failed to pass at its proper time. It was evident to him that he could no longer do what he liked at home-that is, in his uncle's house; and as he had been brought up, as I've already said, to follow his own fancy, so he determined to do now, and his fancy beckoning him towards Devonshire, to Devonshire Richard went.
Not without a Second Thought about those keys found by Falcon Ring.
Why did Mrs. Pincott say she'd been to Horsley? Richard ascertained from the groom that the pony had been over-driven on that identical day, and the apron required a mighty deal of cleaning in order to get the gritty sand out of its wrinkles; now, not the road to Horsley, but that below Falcon Ring, answers this description.
While Richard is journeying into a far country towards his private tutor's, where we will join him presently, I think it will be as well, for the better avoidance of mystery, to tell you the story, up to this time, of a reverend gentleman who has crossed our path, Maurice Passmore of St. Henry's.
I foresee, as a Providence with puppets, that this story must be told, and the question is now or then?
If kept till " then," we shall have such a crowd about us that it will be difficult for the Digressor to find him, or when found, to pay him sufficient attention; and yet if this is told out of season (for I did not discover it myself until much later on in the action of those living about me, which I am now representing as a tale) will not the slightlyroused interest of the reader in the recently mentioned matter of the keys be allowed to flag?
On Second Thoughts, no; for my reader must see that there is some deep plot at work, no matter what, and, trust me, this is the best place for getting at the bottom of it.
So your attention, ladies and gentlemen, to the story of Mr. Maurice Passmore.
IN WHICH WE LET RICHARD GO ON IN THE TRAIN WHILE WE GOSSIP AT THE STATION.
MAURICE PASSMORE was always known as a "good fellow."
I have a mind to call this the story of a Good Fellow. Thought. No: leave it as it is.
His father, a poor clergyman, being a sensible man, knew that the same education, which had been of small pecuniary benefit to him, could be turned to account, if rightly managed, in the case of his son. As soon, therefore, as Master Maurice could understand anything, he was made to comprehend this-namely, that, upon the amount of Latin and Greek which he should, within the years of seven and nineteen, acquire, would depend his future daily bread; then crust and crumb once gained, who could tell but that the relish cheese might be thereto added, and in the course of luck, the luxurious butter might not, peradventure, be wanting.
Old Passmore never for one moment contemplated his son deviating from the straight road he had mentally pioneered for him; and so judiciously did his reverence manage, that Master Maurice at an earlier age than is usual with most boys, was ready to fill the first vacancy on the Royal Foundation of Holyshade College.
As in the course of these digressions I shall, perhaps, take you with me on a visit to this great public school, we will not stop there now for any length of time.
[Second Thought. Perhaps we shan't go there again. So better stop now.]
Master Maurice was an Holyshadian Colleger for more than ten years, so I must say something about the place, even if it be only to show you what sort of a little creature is an Holyshadian Colleger, and also how to become one of such a distinguished body affects the future of youth in general, and what was the particular effect in this case.
The boys on the Foundation are the real bonâ fide Collegers of Holyshade. By living within the ancient collegiate halls; by their dining in one common hall; sleeping, that is the greater part of them, in one long chamber; by wearing a heavy gown, these lads are separated from their fellow-lads the Oppidans. Separated, too [before abuses crept in] by the gulf existing between Means and No Means; for, the Oppidans are supposed to be the Divites, and the Collegers the Lazari of the school.