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قراءة كتاب One of the 28th: A Tale of Waterloo

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‏اللغة: English
One of the 28th: A Tale of Waterloo

One of the 28th: A Tale of Waterloo

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 6

have plenty of friends here."

"Where does Mr. Penfold live, mother?"

"Down in Dorsetshire. It is a very nice place, and only about a mile from the sea. But, as I say, I do not expect you will find it lively; but that you mustn't mind. It will be a very good thing for you, and will be well worth your while putting up with a little dullness for a time. Mr. Penfold is one of the kindest of men, but I do not think you will like his sisters much. Certainly you will not unless they are a good deal changed from what they were as I remember them. Still you must try to get on with them as well as you can, and I dare say you will find some pleasant companions in the neighborhood. I am sure you will do your best when I tell you that I am most anxious for many reasons that Mr. Penfold should like you."

"Of course I will do my best, mother, though I must say that the lookout is not, according to your description, a very cheerful one, and I would a deal rather stop at home with you."

"We can't always do exactly as we like, Ralph; though that is a lesson you have as yet to learn. What day did you say your holidays began?"

"Next Monday week, mother. But I do hope I may have two or three days' sailing with Joe Knight the fisherman before I go."

"Mr. Penfold says he will be glad to see you as soon as your holidays begin, Ralph; still I suppose a day or two will make no difference, so we will settle that you shall go on Friday. As you go down to school this afternoon you had better tell Rogerson the tailor to come up this evening to measure you for a suit of clothes. You must look decent when you go down; and you know except your Sunday suit, you have got nothing fit to wear in such a house as that."

"I am afraid it's going to be a horrible nuisance altogether," Ralph said ruefully. "However, I suppose it's got to be done as you say so, mother; though it's hard breaking in on my holidays like that. He might just as well have asked me in school-time. One could have put up with it ever so much better if it took one out of old Harper's clutches for a bit. How long am I to stay there?"

"I expect the greater part of your holidays, Ralph. I think he wants to get to know all about you."

Ralph groaned loudly. "He may intend very kindly," he said; "but I wish he would keep his good intentions to himself."

"You think so now," Mrs. Conway said with a smile. "You won't think so when you are in the army, but will find a little extra allowance or a tip now and then very welcome."

"I dare say I shall, mother," Ralph said, brightening. "Anyhow, if the old gentleman—that is to say, the gentleman—takes it into his head to make me an allowance, it will take me off your hands, and I shall not be always feeling that I am an awful expense to you. All right, mother. I think I can promise that I will be on my best behavior, and will try hard to get on even with his sisters. I wish he had asked Phil Landrey to go down with me. Two fellows can get on anywhere."

"I should have very little hope of your making a good impression if you went there with your friend Phil," Mrs. Conway said, smiling. "I can believe in your good conduct while you are alone, but I should have no hopes whatever of you if you and he were together."

"But how am I to go, mother? It seems such a tremendous way from here down into Dorsetshire."

"I have not thought anything about it yet, Ralph; but probably Mr. Penfold will give some instructions as to your journey when he hears from me that you are coming."




When Ralph had gone off to school again Mrs. Conway sat down to answer the letter—by no means an easy task—and she sat with the paper before her for a long time before she began. At last, with an air of desperation, she dipped her pen into the ink and began:

"MY DEAR HERBERT PENFOLD: It is difficult to answer such a letter as yours—to say all one feels without saying too much; to express the gratitude with which one is full, but of which one feels that you do not desire the expression. First, a word as to the past. Now that it is irreparable, why should I not speak freely? We were the victims of a mistake! You were misled respecting me. I foolishly resented the line you took, failed to make sufficient allowances for your surroundings, and even doubted a love that seemed to me to be so easily shaken. Thus my pride was, perhaps, as much responsible for what happened as your too easy credence of tales to my disadvantage. At any rate, believe me that I have cherished no such feelings as those with which you credit me toward you. Now that I know the truth, I can only regret that your life has been, as you say, spoiled, by what can but be called a fatal misunderstanding.

"Next, I must thank you, although you make no allusion to it in your letter, for your kindness during past years. Of these, believe me, I never suspected that you were the author; and I need hardly say how deeply I have been touched at finding that the hand to which I and my boy owe so much is that of Herbert Penfold. Of this I will say no more. I leave you to picture my feelings and my gratitude. Also, most warmly I thank you for your intentions regarding my boy. He will be ready to come to you on Friday week. I suppose his best way will be to go by coach to London and then down to you, or he could take passage perhaps in a coaster. He is very fond of the sea.

"We had settled that he should enter the army; but of course I consider that nothing will be decided on this or any other point as to his future until I know your wishes on the matter. Lastly, dear Herbert, believe me that the news that you have given me concerning your state of health has caused me deep sorrow, and I earnestly hope and trust that the doctors may be mistaken in your case, that you may have a long life before you, and that life may be happier in the future than it has been in the past.

"I remain,

"Your grateful and affectionate


A fortnight later Ralph Conway took his place on the outside of the coach for London. As to the visit to this unknown friend of his mother, he anticipated no pleasure from it whatever; but at the same time the journey itself was delightful to him. He had never during his remembrance been further away from Dover than Canterbury; and the trip before him was in those days a more important one than a journey half over Europe would be at the present time. In his pocket he carried a piece of paper, on which his mother had carefully written down the instructions contained in the letter she had received in answer to her own from Herbert Penfold. Sewn up in the lining of his waistcoat were five guineas, so that in case the coach was stopped by highwaymen, or any other misfortune happened, he would still be provided with funds for continuing his journey.

Under the seat was a small basket filled with sandwiches, and his head ought to have been equally well filled with the advice his mother had given him as to his behavior at Penfold Hall. As his place had been booked some days before, he had the advantage of an outside seat. Next to him was a fat woman, who was going up to town, as she speedily informed her fellow-passengers, to meet her husband, who was captain of a whaler.

"I see in the Gazette of to-day," she said, "as his ship was signaled off Deal yesterday, and with this ere wind he will be up at the docks to-morrow; so off I goes. He's been away nigh eighteen months; and I know what men is. Why, bless you, if I wasn't there to meet him when he steps ashore, as likely as not he would meet with friends and go on the spree, and I shouldn't hear of him for a week; and a nice hole that would make in his earnings. Young man, you are scrouging me dreadful! Can't you get a little further along."

"It seems to me, ma'am, that it is you who are scrouging me," Ralph replied. "This rail is almost