The Amateur Gentleman (Chapter 1, page 1 of 8)


 
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Chapter 1

John Barty, ex-champion of England and landlord of the "Coursing
Hound," sat screwed round in his chair with his eyes yet turned to
the door that had closed after the departing lawyer fully five
minutes ago, and his eyes were wide and blank, and his mouth (grim
and close-lipped as a rule) gaped, becoming aware of which, he
closed it with a snap, and passed a great knotted fist across his
brow.

"Barnabas," said he slowly, "I beant asleep an' dreaming be I,
Barnabas?"

"No, father!"

"But--seven--'undred--thousand--pound. It were seven--'undred
thousand pound, weren't it, Barnabas?"

"Yes, father!"

"Seven--'undred--thou--! No! I can't believe it, Barnabas my bye."

"Neither can I, father," said Barnabas, still staring down at the
papers which littered the table before him.

"Nor I aren't a-going to try to believe it, Barnabas."

"And yet--here it is, all written down in black and white, and you
heard what Mr. Crabtree said?"

"Ah,--I heered, but arter all Crabtree's only a lawyer--though
a good un as lawyers go, always been honest an' square wi'
me--leastways I 've never caught him trying to bamboozle John Barty
yet--an' what the eye don't ob-serve the heart don't grieve,
Barnabas my bye, an' there y'are. But seven 'undred thousand pound
is coming it a bit too strong--if he'd ha' knocked off a few 'undred
thousand I could ha' took it easier Barnabas, but, as it is--no,
Barnabas!"

"It's a great fortune!" said Barnabas in the same repressed tone and
with his eyes still intent.

"Fortun'," repeated the father, "fortun'--it's fetched me one in the
ribs--low, Barnabas, low!--it's took my wind an' I'm a-hanging on to
the ropes, lad. Why, Lord love me! I never thought as your uncle Tom
'ad it in him to keep hisself from starving, let alone make a fortun'!
My scapegrace brother Tom--poor Tom as sailed away in a emigrant
ship (which is a un-common bad kind of a ship to sail in--so I've
heered, Barnabas) an' now, to think as he went an' made all that
fortun'--away off in Jamaiky--out o' vegetables."

"And lucky speculation, father--!"

"Now, Barnabas," exclaimed his father, beginning to rasp his fingers
to and fro across his great, square, shaven chin, "why argufy? Your
uncle Tom was a planter--very well! Why is a man a planter--because
he plants things, an' what should a man plant but vegetables? So
Barnabas, vegetables I says, an' vegetables I abide by, now an'
hereafter. Seven 'undred thousand pound all made in Jamaiky--out o'
vegetables--an' there y' are!"

Here John Barty paused and sat with his chin 'twixt finger and thumb
in expectation of his son's rejoinder, but finding him silent, he
presently continued: "Now what astonishes an' fetches me a leveller as fair doubles me up
is--why should my brother Tom leave all this money to a young hop o'
me thumb like you, Barnabas? you, as he never see but once and you
then a infant (and large for your age) in your blessed mother's arms,
Barnabas, a-kicking an' a-squaring away wi' your little pink fists
as proper as ever I seen inside the Ring or out. Ah, Barnabas!"
sighed his father shaking his head at him, "you was a promising
infant, likewise a promising bye; me an' Natty Bell had great hopes
of ye, Barnabas; if you'd been governed by me and Natty Bell you
might ha' done us all proud in the Prize Ring. You was cut out for
the 'Fancy.' Why, Lord! you might even ha' come to be Champion o'
England in time--you 're the very spit o' what I was when I beat
the Fighting Quaker at Dartford thirty years ago."

 
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