The Amateur Gentleman (Chapter 9, page 1 of 9)


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Chapter 9

Pair of Stocks and the Perversity of Fathers Before them was a church, a small church, gray with age, and, like
age, lonely. It stood well back from the road which wound away down
the hill to the scattered cottages in the valley below.

About this church was a burial ground, upon whose green mounds and
leaning headstones the great square tower cast a protecting shadow
that was like a silent benediction. A rural graveyard this, very far
removed from the strife and bustle of cities, and, therefore, a good
place to sleep in.

A low stone wall was set about it, and in the wall was a gate with a
weather-beaten porch, and beside the gate were the stocks, and in
the stocks, with his hands in his pockets, and his back against the
wall, sat a young gentleman.

A lonely figure, indeed, whose boots, bright and polished, were
thrust helplessly enough through the leg-holes of the stocks, as
though offering themselves to the notice of every passer-by. Tall he
was, and point-de-vice from those same helpless boots to the
gleaming silver buckle in his hat band.

Now observing the elegance of his clothes, and the modish languor of
his lounging figure, Barnabas at once recognized him as a gentleman
par excellence, and immediately the memory of his own country-made
habiliments and clumsy boots arose and smote him. The solitary
prisoner seemed in no whit cast down by his awkward and most
undignified situation, indeed, as they drew nearer, Barnabas could
hear him whistling softly to himself. At the sound of their approach,
however, he glanced up, and observed them from under the brim of the
buckled hat with a pair of the merriest blue eyes in the world.

"Aha, Jerry!" he cried, "whom do you bring to triumph over me in my
abasement? For shame, Jerry! Is this the act of a loving and
affectionate Bo'sun, the Bo'sun of my innocent childhood? Oh, bruise
and blister me!"

"Why, sir," answered the Bo'sun, beaming through his whiskers,
"this be only a young genelman, like yourself, as be bound for Lonnon,
Master Horatio."

The face, beneath the devil-may-care rake of the buckled hat, was
pale and handsome, and, despite its studied air of gentlemanly
weariness, the eyes were singularly quick and young, and wholly
ingenuous.

Now, as they gazed at each other, eye to eye--the merry blue and the
steadfast gray--suddenly, unaffectedly, as though drawn by instinct,
their hands reached out and met in a warm and firm clasp, and, in
that instant, the one forgot his modish languor, and the other his
country clothes and blunt-toed boots, for the Spirit of Youth stood
between them, and smile answered smile.

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