Chapter 64

New acquaintance - Old French style - The portrait - Taciturnity - The evergreen tree - The dark hour - The flash - Ancestors - A fortunate man - A posthumous child - Antagonist ideas - The hawks - Flaws - The pony - Irresistible impulse - Favourable crisis - The topmost branch - Twenty feet - Heartily ashamed.

I FOUND the stranger awaiting me at the door of the inn. ‘Like yourself, I am fond of walking,’ said he, ‘and when any little business calls me to this place I generally come on foot.’

We were soon out of the town, and in a very beautiful country. After proceeding some distance on the high-road, we turned off, and were presently in one of those mazes of lanes for which England is famous; the stranger at first seemed inclined to be taciturn; a few observations, however, which I made appeared to rouse him, and he soon exhibited not only considerable powers of conversation, but stores of information which surprised me. So pleased did I become with my new acquaintance that I soon ceased to pay the slightest attention either to place or distance. At length the stranger was silent, and I perceived that we had arrived at a handsome iron gate and a lodge; the stranger having rung a bell, the gate was opened by an old man, and we proceeded along a gravel path, which in about five minutes brought us to a large brick house, built something in the old French style, having a spacious lawn before it, and immediately in front a pond in which were golden fish, and in the middle a stone swan discharging quantities of water from its bill. We ascended a spacious flight of steps to the door, which was at once flung open, and two servants with powdered hair and in livery of blue plush came out and stood one on either side as we passed the threshold. We entered a large hall, and the stranger, taking me by the hand, welcomed me to his poor home, as he called it, and then gave orders to another servant, but out of livery, to show me to an apartment, and give me whatever assistance I might require in my toilet. Notwithstanding the plea as to primitive habits which I had lately made to my other host in the town, I offered no objection to this arrangement, but followed the bowing domestic to a spacious and airy chamber, where he rendered me all those little nameless offices which the somewhat neglected state of my dress required. When everything had been completed to my perfect satisfaction, he told me that if I pleased he would conduct me to the library, where dinner would be speedily served.

In the library I found a table laid for two; my host was not there, having as I supposed not been quite so speedy with his toilet as his guest. Left alone, I looked round the apartment with inquiring eyes; it was long and tolerably lofty, the walls from the top to the bottom were lined with cases containing books of all sizes and bindings; there was a globe or two, a couch, and an easy-chair. Statues and busts there were none, and only one painting, a portrait, that of my host, but not him of the mansion. Over the mantelpiece, the features staringly like, but so ridiculously exaggerated that they scarcely resembled those of a human being, daubed evidently by the hand of the commonest sign-artist, hung a half-length portrait of him of round of beef celebrity - my sturdy host of the town.

I had been in the library about ten minutes, amusing myself as I best could, when my friend entered; he seemed to have resumed his taciturnity - scarce a word escaped his lips till dinner was served, when he said, smiling, ‘I suppose it would be merely a compliment to ask you to partake?’

‘I don’t know,’ said I, seating myself; ‘your first course consists of troutlets, I am fond of troutlets, and I always like to be companionable.’

The dinner was excellent, though I did but little justice to it from the circumstance of having already dined; the stranger also, though without my excuse, partook but slightly of the good cheer; he still continued taciturn, and appeared lost in thought, and every attempt which I made to induce him to converse was signally unsuccessful.

And now dinner was removed, and we sat over our wine, and I remember that the wine was good, and fully justified the encomiums of my host of the town. Over the wine I made sure that my entertainer would have loosened the chain which seemed to tie his tongue - but no! I endeavoured to tempt him by various topics, and talked of geometry and the use of the globes, of the heavenly sphere, and the star Jupiter, which I said I had heard was a very large star, also of the evergreen tree, which, according

  By PanEris using Melati.

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