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Mad A Story of Dust and Ashes   By: (1831-1909)

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Mad A Story of Dust and Ashes By George Manville Fenn Published by Tinsley Brothers, 18 Catherine Street, Strand, London. This edition dated 1868.

Volume One, Chapter I.


Septimus Hardon bore his Christian name from no numerical reason, for he was an only child; but his father, Octavius Hardon, Esquire, of Somesham, thought that, like his own, the name had a good bold sound with it a sonorous classical twang. There was a vibration with it that should impress people in the future life of the bearer and add importance denied by Nature; but Mrs Octavius, during her lifetime, was always in disgrace with her lord for shortening the name into Sep, which was decidedly not impressive; while as for Septimus himself, he too was always in trouble with his father for being what he was decidedly impressive, but not in the way his father wished; for to look at Septimus Hardon it might have been supposed that Nature, after trying her 'prentice hand on man, and then making "the lasses, O," had had a quantity of rough stuff left odds and ends, snips and scraps and awkward tags when, sooner than there should be any waste of the precious material, she made Septimus Hardon. You could not say that he was deformed, but there was an odd look about him; his head seemed too big, and was badly thatched, while, by contrast, his body was too small; then his nose was a trifle on one side, and his mouth too wide, though it certainly disclosed an enviable set of teeth; his arms were long, and swung about too much, while one leg was slightly shorter than the other, short enough to make him limp; but there was mildness written in his pitted face, and honesty peered at you from his clear bright eyes. And there was a true heart too in his breast, a large swelling heart, to which must have been due the obtrusiveness of his breast, and the decided roundness of his shoulders. And while Septimus Hardon had in some things most excellent taste taste that his cousins sneered at, save when they wanted their music copied neatly, or their drawings touched up yet dress was not his forte, since he always made the worst of himself by wearing clothes that did not fit him, and bad as his figure was, some tailor could have been found who would have guaranteed fit, if not style. Septimus generally wore shabby faded black coats and vests, trousers of a dead leaf or baker's drab, blucher boots of the pattern known as contract very bulgy and wrinkly; and a real beaver hat, with a propensity for growing irritated under the brush, and becoming rough and startling.

Born in London, Septimus had lived since childhood with his father at the Grange, a solitary house about a couple of miles from Somesham town; and for years past the amusement and toil of the father and son had been centred in a little amateur printing office, fitted up in a side room, where they laboriously printed, page by page, the work that Octavius Hardon called his brother Thomas the doctor practising in the town a fool for not appreciating, a work upon political reform, one that was to astonish the world at large when it was completed; and though Septimus owned to himself that the world would be easily astonished and its state rather startling if it accepted and acted upon the opinions there set forth, yet, at forty years of age, he was still working on day after day at his father's beck and call, obedient as a child, and never venturing an opinion of his own in presence of the irascible old man, who always called him "boy."

It might have been supposed that living so secluded a life himself, and being so strange of aspect, the idle god would have spared him as an object for his shafts; but for long years Septimus Hardon had loved in secret, loved and sorrowed, for he was not happy in the choice he had made. Mary Phillips was the betrothed of Tom Grey, the mate of an East Indiaman; and Septimus Hardon had been divided between love for the fair girl and friendship for his old schoolfellow, who made him the repository, in his frank, sailorlike fashion, of all his secrets... Continue reading book >>

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