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Stories by English Authors: England   By: (1814-1884)

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STORIES BY ENGLISH AUTHORS

ENGLAND

THE BOX TUNNEL BY CHARLES READE MINIONS OF THE MOON BY F. W. ROBINSON THE FOUR FIFTEEN EXPRESS BY AMELIA B. EDWARDS THE WRONG BLACK BAG BY ANGELO LEWIS THE THREE STRANGERS BY THOMAS HARDY MR. LISMORE AND THE WIDOW BY WILKIE COLLINS THE PHILOSOPHER IN THE APPLE ORCHARD BY ANTHONY HOPE

THE BOX TUNNEL

BY CHARLES READE

The 10:15 train glided from Paddington May 7, 1847. In the left compartment of a certain first class carriage were four passengers; of these two were worth description. The lady had a smooth, white, delicate brow, strongly marked eyebrows, long lashes, eyes that seemed to change colour, and a good sized, delicious mouth, with teeth as white as milk. A man could not see her nose for her eyes and mouth; her own sex could, and would have told us some nonsense about it. She wore an unpretending grayish dress, buttoned to the throat with lozenge shaped buttons, and a Scottish shawl that agreeably evaded colour. She was like a duck, so tight her plain feathers fitted her, and there she sat, smooth, snug, and delicious, with a book in her hand and a soupcon of her wrist just visible as she held it. Her opposite neighbour was what I call a good style of man, the more to his credit since he belonged to a corporation that frequently turns out the worst imaginable style of young men. He was a cavalry officer, aged twenty five. He had a moustache, but not a very repulsive one not one of those subnasal pigtails on which soup is suspended like dew on a shrub; it was short, thick, and black as a coal. His teeth had not yet been turned by tobacco smoke to the colour of juice; his clothes did not stick to nor hang to him; he had an engaging smile, and, what I liked the dog for, his vanity, which was inordinate, was in its proper place, his heart, not in his face, jostling mine and other people's who have none; in a word, he was what one oftener hears of than meets a young gentleman. He was conversing in an animated whisper with a companion, a fellow officer; they were talking about what it is far better not to women. Our friend clearly did not wish to be overheard; for he cast ever and anon a furtive glance at his fair vis a vis and lowered his voice. She seemed completely absorbed in her book, and that reassured him. At last the two soldiers came down to a whisper (the truth must be told); the one who got down at Slough, and was lost to posterity, bet ten pounds to three that he who was going down with us to Bath and immortality would not kiss either of the ladies opposite upon the road. "Done, done!" Now I am sorry a man I have hitherto praised should have lent himself, even in a whisper, to such a speculation; "but nobody is wise at all hours," not even when the clock is striking five and twenty, and you are to consider his profession, his good looks, and the temptation ten to three.

After Slough the party was reduced to three. At Twylford one lady dropped her handkerchief; Captain Dolignan fell on it like a lamb; two or three words were interchanged on this occasion. At Reading the Marlborough of our tale made one of the safe investments of that day; he bought a "Times" and "Punch" the latter full of steel pen thrusts and woodcuts. Valour and beauty deigned to laugh at some inflamed humbug or other punctured by "Punch." Now laughing together thaws our human ice; long before Swindon it was a talking match; at Swindon who so devoted as Captain Dolignan? He handed them out, he souped them, he tough chickened them, he brandied and cochinealed one, and he brandied and burnt sugared the other; on their return to the carriage one lady passed into the inner compartment to inspect a certain gentleman's seat on that side of the line.

Reader, had it been you or I, the beauty would have been the deserter, the average one would have stayed with us till all was blue, ourselves included; not more surely does our slice of bread and butter, when it escapes from our hand, revolve it ever so often, alight face downward on the carpet... Continue reading book >>




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