Algernon's," Stephen was corrected. Edward's, I tell ye--the cousin. And right across the face. My Lord! He had nothing to help him but his hand. Says he, 'That's a poor way of trying to stop me. My business is with this gentleman;' and Bob set his horse at Mr. Algernon, and Mrs. Lovell rode across him with her hand raised; and just at that moment up jogged the old gentleman, Squire Blancove, of Wrexby: and Robert Eccles says to him, 'You might have saved your son something by keeping your word.
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All Mrs. Lovell could do was hardly enough to hold back Mr. Edward from laying out at Bob.
He was like a white devil, and speaking calm and polite all the time. Says Bob, 'I'm willing to take one when I've done with the other;' and the squire began talking to his son, Mrs.
Rhoda Fleming Book 4
Lovell to Mr. Edward, and the rest of the gentlemen all round poor dear old Bob, rather bullying--like for my blood; till Bob couldn't help being nettled, and cried out, 'Gentlemen, I hold him in my power, and I'm silent so long as there's a chance of my getting him to behave like a man with human feelings.
But Mrs. Lovell, she settled the case--a lady, Farmer Wainsby, with your leave. There's the good of having a lady present on the field. That's due to a lady!
And I don't see this, so glad as I saw that, my word of honour on it! Boys all! Boulby was still in attendance. The talk over the circumstances was sweeter than the bare facts, and the replenished glass enabled Stephen to add the picturesque bits of the affray, unspurred by a surrounding eagerness of his listeners--too exciting for imaginative effort.
In particular, he dwelt on Robert's dropping the reins and riding with his heels at Algernon, when Mrs. Lovell put her horse in his way, and the pair of horses rose like waves at sea, and both riders showed their horsemanship, and Robert an adroit courtesy, for which the lady thanked him with a bow of her head. You've seen a yacht upon the sea, She dances and she dances, O! As fair is my wild maid to me Something about 'prances, O! I never could sing; wish I could!
It's the joy of life! It's utterance!
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Hey for harmony! Here's a health to Robert Eccles, wheresoever and whatsoever! Cheers, my lads! Boulby received her compliments on that head. Here it is--which is enough, except for discontented fellows. It was quite a fiction that kegs of the good cognac were sown at low water, and reaped at high, near the river-gate of the old Pilot Inn garden; but it was greatly to Mrs. Boulby's interest to encourage the delusion which imaged her brandy thus arising straight from the very source, without villanous contact with excisemen and corrupting dealers; and as, perhaps, in her husband's time, the thing had happened, and still did, at rare intervals, she complacently gathered the profitable fame of her brandy being the best in the district.
Billing," she said. The jolly butcher asked whether Will Moody was satisfied, and Mr. William Moody declaring himself thoroughly satisfied, "then I'm satisfied too! Every glass in the room was filled again. The young fellows now loosened tongue; and Dick Curtis, the promising cricketer of Hampshire, cried, "Mr. Moody, my hearty! Moody in a song. He gave the-- "So many young Captains have walked o'er my pate, It's no wonder you see me quite bald, sir," with emphatic bitterness, and the company thanked him.
Seeing him stand up as to depart, however, a storm of contempt was hurled at him; some said he was like old Sedgett, and was afraid of his wife; and some, that he was like Nic Sedgett, and drank blue. Moody put out his fist, "is that to be borne? Didn't you," he addressed Dick Curtis,--"didn't you sing into my chorus--" 'It's no wonder to hear how you squall'd, sir? Boulby's brandy look ashamed of itself in his face? I ask e'er a gentleman present.
Moody Nic Sedgett's friend; and a sort of criminal inquiry was held.
It was proved that Moody had been seen with Nic Sedgett; and then three or four began to say that Nic Sedgett was thick with some of the gentlemen up at Fairly;--just like his luck! Stephen let it be known that he could confirm this fact; he having seen Mr. Algernon Blancove stop Nic on the road and talk to him.
Did ever anybody see Nic and the devil together? Moody together," said Dick Curtis. Our evening's broke up, and I, for one, 'd ha' made it morning. Hark, outside; By Gearge! A bout of the smart exercise made Mr.
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Moody laugh again, and all parted merrily, delivering final shots as they went their several ways. Boulby; "or when I should have got to my bed, Goodness only can tell! A fleet of South-westerly rainclouds had been met in mid-sky by a sharp puff from due North, and the moisture had descended like a woven shroud, covering all the land, the house-tops, and the trees.
Young Harry Boulby was at sea, and this still weather was just what a mother's heart wished for him. The widow looked through her bed-room window and listened, as if the absolute stillness must beget a sudden cry. The thought of her boy made her heart revert to Robert.
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She was thinking of Robert when the muffled sound of a horse at speed caused her to look up the street, and she saw one coming--a horse without a rider. The next minute he was out of sight. Boulby stood terrified. The silence of the night hanging everywhere seemed to call on her for proof that she had beheld a real earthly spectacle, and the dead thump of the hooves on the snow-floor in passing struck a chill through her as being phantom-like. But she had seen a saddle on the horse, and the stirrups flying, and the horse looked affrighted.
The scene was too earthly in its suggestion of a tale of blood. What if the horse were Robert's? She tried to laugh at her womanly fearfulness, and had almost to suppress a scream in doing so. There was no help for it but to believe her brandy as good and efficacious as her guests did, so she went downstairs and took a fortifying draught; after which her blood travelled faster, and the event galloped swiftly into the recesses of time, and she slept.
While the morning was still black, and the streets without a sign of life, she was aroused by a dream of some one knocking at her grave-stone. She knew that good brandy did not give bad dreams, and was self-convicted. Strange were her sensations when the knocking continued; and presently she heard a voice in the naked street below call in a moan, "Mother! A glance from the open window showed Robert leaning in the quaint old porch, with his head bound by a handkerchief; but he had no strength to reply to a question at that distance, and when she let him in he made two steps and dropped forward on the floor.
Lying there, he plucked at her skirts. She was shouting for help, but with her ready apprehension of the pride in his character, she knew what was meant by his broken whisper before she put her ear to his lips, and she was silent, miserable sight as was his feeble efforts to rise on an elbow that would not straighten. His head was streaming with blood, and the stain was on his neck and chest. He had one helpless arm; his clothes were torn as from a fierce struggle. His face was to the ground; after a while he was still.
In alarm the widow stooped over him: she feared that he had given up his last breath; but the candle-light showed him shaken by a sob, as it seemed to her, though she could scarce believe it of this manly fellow.