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Thereby Hangs a Tale Volume One   By: (1831-1909)

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Volume 1, Chapter I.

A PEEP AT TOLCARNE.

"Ed Ward!"

"Yes, mum."

A stiff, high shouldered footman turned round as he reached the breakfast room door.

"Are you sure Sir Hampton has been called?"

"Yes, mum."

"And did Smith take up her ladyship's hot water?"

"Yes, mum."

"Are the young ladies coming down?"

"They went out for a walk nearly an hour ago, mum."

"Dear me! and such a damp morning, too! Did they take their waterproofs?"

"Please, 'm, I didn't see them go."

"Look if they're hanging in the hall, Edward."

"Yes, mum."

Edward walked stiffly out, closed the door, "made a face" at it, and returned at the end of a minute.

"Waterproofs hanging on the pegs, mum."

"Dear, dear, dear, dear! Then of course they put on their goloshes! Go and see if they're in the lobby, Edward."

"Did see, mum," said Edward, who was wise in his generation, and had learned the art of making his head save his heels "goloshes is in the lobby."

"Goloshes is in the plural, Edward, and should be are mind that: goloshes are."

"Yes, mum galoshes are," said Edward; "and the letter bag are just come into the kitchen. Shall I fetch it?"

" Is , Edward, is . Now do, pray, be careful. Nothing is more annoying to visitors than to hear servants make grammatical mistakes."

"Yes, mum," said Edward.

"Is the heater very hot?"

"Yes, mum white 'ot."

"White what , Edward?"

"'Ot, mum! white 'ot!"

Miss Matilda Rea, a rather compressed, squeezy lady of forty five, shuddered, and rearranged her black net mittens.

"Go and fetch the letter bag, Ed ward."

The footman made the best of his way out, and Miss Matilda inspected the well spread breakfast table through a large, square, gold rimmed eyeglass; walked to the sideboard, upon which were sundry cold meats; and finished with a glance round the handsomely furnished room, ready to be down upon a speck of dust. But the place was scrupulously well kept; even the great bay window, looking out upon sloping green lawn, flower beds, and clumps of evergreens, backed up by a wall of firs, was perfectly clean. So Miss Matilda preened her feathers, frowned, and waited the return of Edward with a locked wallet of leather, bearing the Rea crest a peacock with expanded tail, the motto " Floreat majestas " and, in large letters on the brass plate, the words, "Sir Hampton Rea, Tolcarne."

"Place it beside Sir Hampton's chair, Edward," said Miss Matilda.

The wallet was duly deposited in the indicated place.

"Now bring in the urn, Edward."

"Please, 'm, Sir Hampton said it was to come in at nine punctually, and it wants a quarter."

"Then go and be quite ready to fill it, Edward," said Miss Matilda, not daring to interfere with the Mede like laws of the master of the house.

And Edward departed to finish his own breakfast, and confide to the cook his determination that if that old tabby was to be always worriting him to death, he would give warning.

Miss Matilda gave another look round, and then going to the end of the hearthrug, she very delicately lifted up the corner of a thick wool antimacassar, when a little, sharp, black nose peeped up, and a pair of full black eyes stared at her.

"A little darling!" said Miss Matilda, soothingly. "It was very ill, it was; and it should have some medicine to day, it should."

The little toy terrier pointed its nose at the ceiling, and uttered a wretched, attenuated howl, cut short by Miss Matilda, who popped the antimacassar down; for at that moment there was heard upon the stairs a sonorous "Er rum! Er rum!" a reverberating, awe inspiring sound, as of a mighty orator clearing his voice before sending verbal thunder through an opposing crowd. Then came steps across the marble hall, the door handle rattled very loudly, the door was thrown open very widely, and entered Sir Hampton Rea.

The sounds indicated bigness grandeur; but Sir Hampton Rea was not a big man saving his head, which was so large that it had sunk a little down between his shoulders, where it looked massive and shiny, being very bald and surrounded by a frizzle of grizzly hair... Continue reading book >>




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