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Dialstone Lane   By: (1863-1943)

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By W.W. Jacobs


Mr. Edward Tredgold sat in the private office of Tredgold and Son, land and estate agents, gazing through the prim wire blinds at the peaceful High Street of Binchester. Tredgold senior, who believed in work for the young, had left early. Tredgold junior, glad at an opportunity of sharing his father's views, had passed most of the work on to a clerk who had arrived in the world exactly three weeks after himself.

"Binchester gets duller and duller," said Mr. Tredgold to himself, wearily. "Two skittish octogenarians, one gloomy baby, one gloomier nursemaid, and three dogs in the last five minutes. If it wasn't for the dogs Halloa!"

He put down his pen and, rising, looked over the top of the blind at a girl who was glancing from side to side of the road as though in search of an address.

"A visitor," continued Mr. Tredgold, critically. "Girls like that only visit Binchester, and then take the first train back, never to return."

The girl turned at that moment and, encountering the forehead and eyes, gazed at them until they sank slowly behind the protection of the blind.

"She's coming here," said Mr. Tredgold, watching through the wire. "Wants to see our time table, I expect."

He sat down at the table again, and taking up his pen took some papers from a pigeon hole and eyed them with severe thoughtfulness.

"A lady to see you, sir," said a clerk, opening the door.

Mr. Tredgold rose and placed a chair.

"I have called for the key of the cottage in Dialstone Lane," said the girl, still standing. "My uncle, Captain Bowers, has not arrived yet, and I am told that you are the landlord."

Mr. Tredgold bowed. "The next train is due at six," he observed, with a glance at the time table hanging on the wall; "I expect he'll come by that. He was here on Monday seeing the last of the furniture in. Are you Miss Drewitt?"

"Yes," said the girl. "If you'll kindly give me the key, I can go in and wait for him."

Mr. Tredgold took it from a drawer. "If you will allow me, I will go down with you," he said, slowly; "the lock is rather awkward for anybody who doesn't understand it."

The girl murmured something about not troubling him.

"It's no trouble," said Mr. Tredgold, taking up his hat. "It is our duty to do all we can for the comfort of our tenants. That lock "

He held the door open and followed her into the street, pointing out various objects of interest as they went along.

"I'm afraid you'll find Binchester very quiet," he remarked.

"I like quiet," said his companion.

Mr. Tredgold glanced at her shrewdly, and, pausing only at the jubilee horse trough to point out beauties which might easily escape any but a trained observation, walked on in silence until they reached their destination.

Except in the matter of window blinds, Dialstone Lane had not changed for generations, and Mr. Tredgold noted with pleasure the interest of his companion as she gazed at the crumbling roofs, the red brick doorsteps, and the tiny lattice windows of the cottages. At the last house, a cottage larger than the rest, one side of which bordered the old churchyard, Mr. Tredgold paused and, inserting his key in the lock, turned it with thoughtless ease.

"The lock seems all right; I need not have bothered you," said Miss Drewitt, regarding him gravely.

"Ah, it seems easy," said Mr. Tredgold, shaking his head, "but it wants knack."

The girl closed the door smartly, and, turning the key, opened it again without any difficulty. To satisfy herself on more points than one she repeated the performance.

"You've got the knack," said Mr. Tredgold, meeting her gaze with great calmness. "It's extraordinary what a lot of character there is in locks; they let some people open them without any trouble, while others may fumble at them till they're tired."

The girl pushed the door open and stood just inside the room... Continue reading book >>

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