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The Story of Antony Grace   By: (1831-1909)

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The Story of Antony Grace By George Manville Fenn Illustrations by Gordon Browne Published by D. Appleton and Company, New York. This edition dated 1888. The Story of Antony Grace, by George Manville Fenn.

THE STORY OF ANTONY GRACE, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.

CHAPTER ONE.

THE MAN IN POSSESSION.

Mr Rowle came the day after the funeral, walking straight in, and, nodding to cook, who opened the door, hung up his shabby hat in the hall. Then, to my surprise, he took it down again, and after gazing into it as Mr Blakeford used to do in his when he came over to our church, he turned it round, made an offer as if about to put it on wrong way first, reconsidered the matter, put it on in the regular way, and as it seemed to me drew his sword.

But it was not his sword, only a very long clay pipe which he had been carrying up his left sleeve, with the bowl in his hand. Then, thrusting the said hand into his tail pocket, he brought out a little roll of tobacco, upon which was printed, as I afterwards saw, a small woodcut, and the conundrum, "When is a door not a door?"

"Ho!" said cook; "I suppose you're the "

"That's just what I am, my dear," said the stranger, interrupting her; "and my name's Rowle. Introduced by Mr Blakeford; and just fetch me a light."

"Which you'd best fetch this gentleman a light, Master Antony," said cook; "for I ain't going to bemean myself."

As she spoke she made a sort of whirlwind in the hall, and whisked herself out of the place, slamming the door at the end quite loudly.

"Waxey!" said Mr Rowle, looking hard at me, and shutting one eye in a peculiar way. "Got a light, young un?"

"Yes," I said, feeling sorry that cook should have been so rude to the visitor; and as I hurried into the study to get a match out of the little bronze stand, and lit the curled up wax taper that my father used to seal his particular letters, I found that Mr Rowle had followed me, tucking little bits of tobacco in the pipe bowl as he came.

He then proceeded to look about, stooped down and punched the big leather covered chair, uttered a grunt, took the taper, lit his pipe, and began to smoke.

"Now then, squire," he said, "suppose you and I have a look round."

There was such a calm at homeness about him that the thought struck me that he must somehow belong to the place now; and I gazed at him with a feeling akin to awe.

He was a little man in a loose coat, and his face put me greatly in mind of the cover of a new spelling book. He was dressed in black, and his tail coat had an enormously high collar, which seemed to act as a screen to the back of his half bald head when he sat down, as he did frequently, to try the different chairs or sofas. It never struck me that the coat might have been made for another man, but that he had had it shaped to come down to the tips of his fingers, and so keep him warm. When he had taken off his hat I had noticed that his hair lay in streaks across the top of his head, and the idea occurred to me that his name might be Jacob, because he was in other respects so smooth.

I followed Mr Rowle as he proceeded to have what he called "a look round," and this consisted in going from room to room, in every one of which he kept his hat on, and stood smoking as he gradually turned his eyes on everything it contained, ending with a grunt as of satisfaction at what he saw.

Every room was taken in turn, even to the kitchen, where our entry caused a sudden cessation of the conversation round the tea table, and the servants turned away their heads with a look of contempt.

"That'll do," said Mr Rowle quietly; then, "Mary, my dear, you can bring me my tea in the study."

No one answered, and as we went back I remember thinking that if Mr Rowle was to be the new master at Cedar Hill he would soon send our old servants away... Continue reading book >>




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