The Wyvern Mystery, by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Chapter 15.

An Old Friend.

I AM going now to describe the occurrences of a particular evening on which my young friend drank tea at Stanlake Farm, which was the name of the house with the old garden to which I have introduced the reader.

A light shower had driven the party in from the garden, and so the boy and Amy were at their ninepins in the great hall, when, the door being open, a gentleman rode up and dismounted, placing the bridle in the hand of a groom who accompanied him.

A tall man he was, with whiskers and hair dashed with white, and a slight stoop. He strode into the hall, his hat on, and a whip still in his hand.

“Hollo! So there you are — and how is your ladyship?” said he. “Skittles, by the law! Bray TO! Two down, by Jove! I’d rather that young man took you in hand than I. And tell me — where’s Ally?”

“Mamma’s in the drawing-room,” said the young lady, scarcely regarding his presence. “Now play, it’s your turn,” she said, addressing her companion.

The new arrival looked at the boy and paused till he threw the ball.

“That’s devilish good too,” said the stranger — “very near the nine. Eh? But a miss is as good as a mile; and I don’t think he’s quite as good as you — and she’s in the drawing-room: which is the drawing-room?”

“Don’t you know the drawing-room! Well, there it is,” and the young lady indicated it with her finger. “My turn now.”

And while the game was pursued in the hall, the visitor pushed open the drawing-room door and entered.

“And how is Miss Ally?”

“Oh, Harry! Really!”

“Myself as large as life. You don’t look half pleased, Ally. But I have nout but good news for you today. You’re something richer this week than you were last.”

“What is it, Harry “? Tell me what you mean?”

“So I will. You know that charge on Carwell — a hundred and forty pounds a year — well, that’s dropped in. That old witch is dead — ye might ’a seen it in the newspaper, if you take in one — Bertha Velderkaust. No love lost between ye. Eh?”

“Oh, Harry! Harry! dojit,” said poor Alice, pale, and looking intensely pained.

“Well, I wont then; I didn’t think ’twould vex you. Only you know what a head devil that was — and she’s dead in the old place, Hoxton. I read the inquest in the Times. She was always drinkin’. I think she was a bit mad. She and the people in the back room were always quarrelling; and the father’s up for that and forgery. But ’twasn’t clear how it came about. Some swore she was out of her mind with drink, and pitched herself out ’o the window! and some thought it might ’a bin that chap as went in to rob her, thinkin’ she was stupid; and so there was a tussle for’t — she was main strong, ye know — and he chucked her out. Anyhow she got it awful, for she fell across the spikes of the area-rails, and she hung on them with three lodged in her side — the mad dog-fox, she was!”

“Oh, Harry! How shocking! Oh! pray don’t! “exclaimed Alice, who looked as if she was going to faint.

“Well, she lay there, without breath enough to screech, twistin’ like a worm — for three hours, it’s thous-ht.”

“Oh! Harry — pray don’t describe it; don’t, I implore. I feel so ill.”

“Well, I won’t, if you say so, only she’s smashed, and cold in her wooden surtout; and her charge is reverted to you, now; and I thought I’d tell ye.”

“Thank you, Harry,” she said very faintly.

“And when did you come here? I only heard this morning,” asked Harry.

“Five weeks ago.”

“Do you like it; ain’t it plaguy lonesome “?”

“I like the quiet — at least for a time,” she answered.

“And I’m thinkin’ o’ gettin’ married — upon my soul I am. What do you think o’ that?”

“Eeally!”

“Sure as you’re there, but it won’t be none o’ your love-matches.

‘Bring something, lass, along wi’ thee,
If thou intend to live wi’ me.’

That’s my motto. Sweetheart and honey-bird keeps no house, I’ve heard say. I like a body that can look after things, and that would rather fund fifty pounds than spend a hundred.

‘A nice wife and a back door
Hath made many a rich, man poor,’

as they say; and besides, I’m not a young fellow no longer. I’m pushin’ sixty, and I should be wise. And who’s the little chap that’s play in’ skittles wi’ Amy in the hall?”

“Oh, that’s such a nice little boy. His father’s name is Henry, and his mother has been dead a long time. He lives with a good old woman named Marjory Trevellian. What’s the matter, Harry?”

“Nothing. I beg your pardon. I was thinkin’ o’ something else, and I didn’t hear. Tell me now, and I’ll listen.”

So she repeated her information, and Harry yawned and stretched his arms.

“‘For want O’ company,
“Welcome trumpery,’

and I must be goin’ now. I wouldn’t mind drinkin’ a glass o’ sherry, as you’re so pressing, for I’ve had a stiff ride, and dust’s drouthy.”

So Harry, having completed his visit characteristically, took his leave, and mounted his nag and rode away.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:49