Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
The rising sun made a glory in the east, purple, amber and flaming gold; before his advent sombre night fled away and sullen mists rolled up and vanished; up he came in triumphant majesty, his far-flung, level beams waking a myriad sparkles on grass and leaf where the dew yet clung; they woke also the blackbird inhabiting the great tree whose spreading boughs shaded a certain gable of the Manor. This blackbird, then, being awake, forthwith prepares to summon others to bid welcome to the day, tunes sleepy pipe, finds himself astonishingly hoarse, pauses awhile to ruminate on the wherefore of this, tries again with better effect, stretches himself, re-settles a ruffled feather and finally, being broad awake, bursts into a passionate ecstasy of throaty warblings.
It was at this precise moment that the Major thrust cropped head from his open lattice and leaned there awhile to breathe in the dawn's sweet freshness and to feast his eyes upon dew-spangled earth. And beholding noble house and stately trees with smiling green fields beyond where goodly farmsteads nestled, all his own far as the eye could see and farther, he drew a deep and joyous breath, contrasting all this with his late penury. Now, as he leaned thus in the warm sun, his wandering eye fell upon a small isolated outbuilding, its narrow windows strongly barred, its oaken door padlocked. Instantly the Major drew in his head and began to dress; which done, he clapped on his peruke and opening the door with some degree of care, stepped forth of his chamber, and, carrying his shoes in his hand, tiptoed along the wide gallery, and, descending the great stairs with the same caution, proceeded to a certain small room against whose walls were birding-pieces, fishing-rods, hunting-crops, spurs and the like. From amid these heterogeneous articles he reached down a great key and slipping it into his pocket, proceeded to furtively unbar, unlock and let himself out into the young morning. Outside he put on his shoes and descending marble steps and crossing trim lawns presently arrived at a forbidding oaken door, which he opened forthwith.
The poacher lay half-buried among a pile of hay in one corner but at the Major's entrance started up, disclosing a pale, youthful face, whose dark, aquiline features were vaguely reminiscent.
"Hum!" said the Major, rubbing his chin and staring, whereat the prisoner, scowling sullenly, turned away.
"Ha!" said the Major. "Sirrah, 'tis a fair day for walking I think, therefore, an you be so minded—walk!"
"D'ye mean you'll let me—go?" demanded the prisoner.
"There's the door!"
The prisoner sprang to his feet, brushed the hay from his rough and stained garments, glanced from his deliverer to the glory of the morning and stepped out into the sunlight.
"You were wiser to avoid Sir Oliver Rington's neighbourhood, and here's somewhat to aid you on your way."
So saying, the Major strode off and left the poacher staring down at the gold coins in his palm.
The Major wandered thoughtfully along box-bordered paths, past marble fauns and nymphs; between hedges of clipped yew and so to the rose-garden, ablaze with colour and fragrant with bloom. In the midst was a time-worn sundial set about with marble seats and here the Major leaned to muse awhile and so came upon a quaint-lettered posy graven upon the dial which ran as follows:
"Youth is joyous; Age is melancholy:
Age and Youth together is but folly."
"Hum!" said the Major and sighed, and sighing, turned away, limping more than usual, for his meditations were profound. Thus, deep in thought he came back to the isolated building, locked it up again, and wended his way back to the house.
Having replaced the key he sat himself down in his study and tucking up his ruffles, fell to work on his History of Fortification, though, to be sure, his pen was frequently idle and once he opened a drawer to stare down at a rapidly fading rose.
Gradually the great house about him awoke to life and morning bustle; light feet tripped to and fro, maids' voices chattered and sang merrily, dusters flicked, mops twirled and Mrs. Agatha admonished, while, from the kitchens afar came the faint but delectable rattle of crockery while the Major drove parallels, constructed trenches and covered ways and dreamed of the Lady Betty Carlyon, of her eyes, her hair, the dimple in her wilful chin and of all her alluring witchery. And bethinking him of her warm, soft daintiness, as when she had leaned in his clasp for that much-remembered moment, he almost thought to catch again the faint, sweet fragrance of her.
Moved by a sudden impulse he rose, and crossing to a mirror, stood to examine himself critically as he had never done before in all his life.
And truly, now he came to notice, his wig was shabby despite the Sergeant's unremitting care; then his shoes were clumsy and thick of sole, his cotton stockings showed a darn here and there and his coat—!
The Major shook his head and sighed:
"'Tis a very beast of a coat!"
In his heart he ruefully admitted that it was.
Now, as to his face?
The Major stared keenly at well-opened, grey eyes which stared back at him under level brows; at straightish nose, widish mouth and strong, deep-cleft chin; each feature in turn was the object of his wistful scrutiny and he must even trace out the scar that marked his left temple and seek to hide it with the limp side-curls of his peruke. Then he turned away and seating himself at his desk leaned there, head on hand, staring blindly at the written sheets before him.
And behind his thoughts was a line from the posy on the sundial:
"Youth is joyous, Age is melancholy:"
The Major sighed. Suddenly he started and turned as a knock sounded on the door, which, opening forthwith, disclosed the Sergeant, his usually trim habit slightly disordered, his usually serene brow creased and clammy, his eye woeful.
"Ah, Sergeant," said the Major placidly, "good morning, Zeb."
"Sir," said the Sergeant, advancing three steps and coming to attention. "I've come, sir, to report gross dee-reliction of dooty, sir."
"Mine, sir. You put prisoner in my charge, sir—same has took French leave, sir, by aid o' witchcraft, hocus-pocus, or the devil, sir, prisoner having vanished himself into thin air, sir——"
"Remarkable!" said the Major.
"Found the place locked up and all serene, sir, but on opening door found prisoner had went which didn't seem nowise nat'ral, sir. Hows'mever, fell in a search party immediate, self and gardeners, sir, but though we beat the park an' the spinney, sir, owing to spells and witchcraft 'twas but labour in vain, prisoner having been spirited away, d'ye see?"
"Astonishing!" said the Major.
The Sergeant mopped his brow and sighed.
"Prisoner having bolted and altogether went, sir—same being vanished, though suspecting witches and hocus-pocus, must hold myself responsible for same——"
"No, no, Zeb."
"And feel myself defaulter, sir, owing to which shall stop and deny myself customary ale to-day, sir."
"Very good, Zeb."
"And talking of ale, sir, think it my dooty to report as in the 'George and Dragon' last evening Sir Oliver Rington were talking agin' you, sir—very fierce."
"I'm not surprised, Zeb, his kind must talk."
"Same person, sir, made oncommon free wi' your name, laying thereto certain and divers eppythets, sir, among which was 'vulgar fellow' and 'beggarly upstart' which me overhearing was forced to shout 'damn liar' as in dooty bound, sir. Whereupon his two grooms, wi' five or six other rogues, took me front, flank and rear and run me out into the road. Whereupon, chancing to have pint-pot in my hand, contrived with same to alter the faces o' two or three of 'em for time being, as in dooty bound, sir. All of which has caused more talk which I do truly lament."
"A pint-pot is an awkward weapon, Zebedee!"
"True, sir, same being apt to bend."
"I trust you did no serious hurt, Sergeant?"
"Not so serious as I could ha' wished, sir."
"And I hope it won't occur again."
"I hope so too, sir! Regarding the prisoner, sir——"
"He has escaped, I understand, Zeb."
"He has so, your honour."
"Then there is no prisoner."
"Why as to that, sir," began the Sergeant, scratching his big chin—
"As to that, Zeb, 'tis just as well for everyone concerned, especially the prisoner, that—er—isn't, as 'twere and so forth, d'ye see, Sergeant?" So saying the Major took up his pen and the Sergeant strode away, though more than once he shook his head in dark perplexity.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.