kitchen. I locked myself in, and took off my coat, and turned up my shirt-sleeves, and cooked my own dinner. When it was done, I served it up in my best manner, and enjoyed it most heartily. I had my pipe and my drop of grog afterwards; and then I cleared the table, and washed the crockery, and cleaned the knives and forks, and put the things away, and swept up the hearth. When things were as bright and clean again as bright and clean could be, I opened the door and let Mrs. Betteredge in. "I've had my dinner, my dear," I said; "and I hope you will find that I have left the kitchen all that your fondest wishes can desire." For the rest of that woman's life, Mr. Franklin, I never had to cook my dinner again! Moral: You have put up with Miss Rachel in London; don't put up with her in Yorkshire. Come back to the house.'
Quite unanswerable! I could only assure my good friend that even his powers of persuasion were, in this case, thrown away on me.
`It's lovely evening,' I said. `I shall walk to Frizinghall, and stay at the hotel, and you must come to-morrow morning and breakfast with me. I have something to say to you.'
Betteredge shook his head gravely.
`I am heartily sorry for this,' he said. `I had hoped, Mr. Franklin, to hear that things were all smooth and pleasant again between you and Miss Rachel. If you must have your own way, sir,' he continued, after a moment's reflection, `there is no need to go to Frizinghall to-night for a bed. It's to be had nearer than that. There's Hotherstone's Farm, barely two miles from here. You can hardly object to that on Miss Rachel's account,' the old man added slily. `Hotherstone lives, Mr. Franklin, on his own freehold.'
I remembered the place the moment Betteredge mentioned it. The farm-house stood in a sheltered inland valley, on the banks of the prettiest stream in that part of Yorkshire: and the farmer had a spare bedroom and parlour, which he was accustomed to let to artists, anglers, and tourists in general. A more agreeable place of abode, during my stay in the neighbourhood, I could not have wished to find.
`Are the rooms to let?' I inquired.
`Mrs. Hotherstone herself, sir, asked for my good word to recommend the rooms, yesterday.'
`I'll take them, Betteredge, with the greatest pleasure.'
We went back to the yard, in which I had left my travelling-bag. After putting a stick through the handle, and swinging the bag over his shoulder, Betteredge appeared to relapse into the bewilderment which my sudden appearance had caused, when I surprised him in the beehive chair. He looked incredulously at the house, and then he wheeled about, and looked more incredulously still at me.
`I've lived a goodish long time in the world,' said this best and dearest of all old servants--`but the like of this, I never did expect to see. There stands the house, and here stands Mr. Franklin Blake--and, Damme, if one of them isn't turning his back on the other, and going to sleep in a lodging!'
He led the way out, wagging his head and growling ominously. `There's only one more miracle that can happen,' he said to me, over his shoulder. `The next thing you'll do, Mr. Franklin, will be to pay me back that seven and sixpence you borrowed of me when you were a boy.'
This stroke of sarcasm put him in a better humour with himself and with me. We left the house, and passed through the lodge gates. Once clear of the grounds, the duties of hospitality (in Betteredge's code of morals) ceased, and the privileges of curiosity began.
He dropped back, so as to let me get on a level with him. `Fine evening for a walk, Mr. Franklin,' he said, as if we had just accidentally encountered each other at that moment. `Supposing you had gone to the hotel at Frizinghall, sir?'
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|