The Amateur Gentleman (Chapter 1, page 3 of 8)


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Chapter 1

"For which I can never be sufficiently grateful, both to her--and to
you!" said Barnabas, who sat with his chin propped upon his hand,
gazing through the open lattice to where the broad white road wound
away betwixt blooming hedges, growing ever narrower till it vanished
over the brow of a distant hill. "Not as I holds wi' eddication
myself, Barnabas, as you know," pursued his father, "but that's why
you was sent to school, that's why me an' Natty Bell sat by quiet
an' watched ye at your books. Sometimes when I've seen you
a-stooping your back over your reading, or cramping your fist
round a pen, Barnabas, why--I've took it hard, Barnabas, hard,
I'll not deny--But Natty Bell has minded me as it was her wish and
so--why--there y' are."

It was seldom his father mentioned to Barnabas the mother whose face
he had never seen, upon which rare occasions John Barty's deep voice
was wont to take on a hoarser note, and his blue eyes, that were
usually so steady, would go wandering off until they fixed themselves
on some remote object. Thus he sat now, leaning back in his elbow
chair, gazing in rapt attention at the bell-mouthed blunderbuss
above the mantel, while his son, chin on fist, stared always and
ever to where the road dipped, and vanished over the hill--leading
on and on to London, and the great world beyond.

"She died, Barnabas--just twenty-one years ago--buried at Maidstone
where you were born. Twenty-one years is a longish time, lad, but
memory's longer, an' deeper,--an' stronger than time, arter all, an'
I know that her memory will go wi' me--all along the way--d' ye see
lad: and so Barnabas," said John Barty lowering his gaze to his
son's face, "so Barnabas, there y' are."

"Yes, father!" nodded Barnabas, still intent upon the road.

"And now I come to your uncle Tom--an' speaking of him--Barnabas my
lad,--what are ye going to do wi' all this money?"

Barnabas turned from the window and met his father's eye.

"Do with it," he began, "why first of all--"

"Because," pursued his father, "we might buy the 'White Hart'--t' other
side o' Sevenoaks,--to be sure you're over young to have any say in
the matter--still arter all the money's yours, Barnabas--what d' ye
say to the 'White Hart'?"

"A very good house!" nodded Barnabas, stealing a glance at the road
again--"but--"

"To be sure there's the 'Running Horse,'" said his father, "just
beyond Purley on the Brighton Road--a coaching-house, wi' plenty o'
custom, what d' ye think o' the 'Running Horse'?"

"Any one you choose, father, but--"

"Then there's the 'Sun in the Sands' on Shooter's Hill--a fine inn
an' not to be sneezed at, Barnabas--we might take that."

"Just as you wish, father, only--"

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