THE BLUE PAVILIONS
THE FOUR MEN AT THE "WHITE LAMB".
"Well, my son," began Captain Salt, as the Earl reascended the stairs. "Thanks be that we are alone together at last! Do I not keep my promises?"
"Indeed, father, you are kind. There is only one thing—"
"What is that?"
"I should prefer to return to Harwich alive; and seeing that I have eaten nothing for a day and a half—"
His father interrupted him by taking his arm and hurrying him off to the kitchen of the auberge, where a fat woman was basting a couple of ducks before a roaring fire.
"Pardon me, mistress," he began in Dutch; "but can you give this young man a breakfast?"
The hostess seemed to be annoyed.
"What does he want?" she inquired sharply.
The question being interpreted to Tristram, he answered that he wanted everything, but that in the meantime the ducks would serve to break the edge of his fast.
"But these are for his Majesty."
"What have you besides?"
"I will begin with salt fish."
"I see," said Tristram, nodding up at a regiment of hams that depended from a rack overhead; "I will eat these also. What else?"
"On second thoughts, I will begin with cheese while the fish is being prepared. Is that all?"
"Mother of God! Is it not enough?"
"How can I tell yet? Let me see your bread and cheese."
The woman left her ducks, and in a minute had dumped down a loaf and a huge round cheese of an orange colour before our hero.
"When do we start?" he asked, with his mouth full.
"Shortly after dark."
"Then I have plenty of time."
"I should hope so. Hostess, bring a bottle of wine."
"Two bottles," Tristram interrupted.
"It will get into your head."
"I hope so, for my head is something light at present."
"You propose, then, to spend the day in eating and drinking?"
"Unless you know of some better amusement with which we can beguile the time."
"None whatever. And as I must leave you for some time while I make arrangements for our return—"
"I shall not be lonely," said Tristram, with a glance at the ducks, followed by an upward look of resignation directed at the rows of hams.
It was dark when Captain Salt returned, and found his son on the settle where he had left him. Tristram was not sitting, however, but stretched at length and breathing heavily. At the farther end of the table sat the host and hostess of the inn, engaged in making out the bill.
"One—two—three—six bottles!" exclaimed his father, counting the ruins on the board. "Why, the boy is drunk!"
"No, father," Tristram interrupted, sitting up and rubbing his eyes; "not so much drunk as asleep, and not so much asleep but that I could see the landlord here add three empty bottles to the two I had finished, without counting one that came full to the table and was emptied by him for his supper."
Captain Salt shot a searching glance at the couple, who coloured and seemed confused.
"What is this?" he cried, examining the reckoning. "Two ducks!"
"Ah, I'm afraid it is true that I ate one of the ducks."
"But they were for his Majesty!"
"It appears they were cooked on the chance of pleasing his Majesty, who left, however, without inquiring for them. The landlord and his wife have just eaten the other. Is it time to start?"
Tristram jumped up and stretched himself, smiling amiably on the host and hostess, who returned his look with no very good will. Captain Salt, having made the proper deductions calmly, paid the reckoning, and they left the house.
Outside the weather was still dirty, and a wind, which had gradually risen since the morning, blew in their faces charged with chilly moisture. The mist, however, had cleared a little, and Tristram, as he rammed his hat tightly on his head before facing the night, could see the lights of the squadron far out upon the black and broken waters of the Maese.
"In what ship do we return?" he asked.
The wind apparently drowned his question; for Captain Salt started off without replying and led the way down across the sandbanks. It seemed to Tristram that their path lay to the left of that by which they had approached the inn early in the morning. He was straining his eyes on the look out for the wooden landing-stage, when suddenly, on climbing a ridge somewhat higher than the rest, he saw the white fringe of the waves glimmering close under his feet and the inky shadow of a boat, in which sat a couple of dark forms. One of them, hearing the low whistle uttered by Captain Salt, scrambled forward to the bows and held out a hand.
Tristram looked at his father, who nodded. They entered the boat in silence, and within a minute were being rowed rapidly across the tide. It struck our hero that the oars made remarkably little noise, in spite of the energy with which they were plied. He was about to speak, but checked himself on seeing his father raise a finger to his lips. "What is the meaning of this?" he wondered. His enormous meal had made him drowsy; and deciding that, if not allowed to speak, he might at least nod, he closed his eyes.
He opened them again with a start. From the shore behind them the roar of guns had just burst out upon the night.
This was his first impression; but the sound was not repeated, and in a moment or two he fancied he must have been dreaming of the salute he had heard in the lazarette of the Good Intent, as the squadron sailed out of Harwich. The boat was still moving with unabated speed, and the dark, choppy water stretched all round them. Through the murky night the ships' lanterns still shone steadily enough, but farther off than before, and at a sharp angle behind his right shoulder.
"It seems we are not steering very straight for the fleet," he could not help remarking.
"We are not steering for the fleet," said his father.
"But I thought—"
He broke off as a series of sharp flashes danced out in the distance, followed by the rattle of musketry and a dull, confused shouting.
"You perceive," Captain Salt remarked, "that the squadron is not the safest means of reaching Harwich."
"What are they doing out there?"
"They are killing each other."
"That sounds very unpleasant."
"And as the night is too dark to distinguish faces with any certainty, I thought you would prefer to go home by another way."
"A longer way?"
"It is certainly a trifle longer; but then, as it won't expose you to the risk of being killed—"
"That's true. I won't grudge the time."
The explosions of musketry, meanwhile, had been following each other faster and faster, and at length became incessant.
"Bravo!" muttered Captain Salt to himself; "this will take some time to quell."
"What did you say?"
"I was thinking, my son, that 'tis lucky you have somebody to look after you."
Tristram sought for his father's hand and pressed it. "I am not ungrateful, as you think."
"Why should I think so? You will have more yet to thank me for, I hope."
The boat at this moment swung to the left, around a sandy promontory that hid the jets of firearms behind them; but waves of light still flickered across the black sky and the shouting still went on, though growing fainter as they hurried forward. By one of the flashes, more vivid than the rest and accompanied by the crackle of a whole volley, Tristram saw that the boat was now being propelled down a narrow channel, both shores of which he could just perceive across the gloom.
Captain Salt suddenly raised both hands to his mouth, and hollowing the palms, uttered three mournful cries, long and loud, like the wailing of a gull.
Within half a minute the sound was echoed back from the darkness on the right shore, for which the boat immediately headed. After thirty strokes Tristram felt the sand rub beneath the keel, and they came to a stand.
"Show the light!" his father called, jumping out into the water that hardly covered the insteps of his riding-boots.
The red glow of a lantern appeared as if by magic, and revealed a man standing but twenty yards ahead on a gentle slope of sand. He held the lantern in one hand, and his right arm was slipped through the bridles of two horses that waited, side by side, and ready saddled, their breath smoking out on the night wind.
"Dear me," Captain Salt observed, reaching a hand to Tristram, and helping him to land; "I forgot to ask if you could ride."
"A very little, my father."
"You will find it difficult, then, to trot. Therefore we will gallop."
"You intend me to climb upon one of these beasts?"
"That is easy enough."
"I do not deny it; but I suppose you also wish me to stay on."
"Come; we must lose no time."
"Luckily the soil of Holland, as far as I am acquainted with it, is soft and sandy. On the other hand—"
"I was about to remark that they grow an immense quantity of tulips in this country, which demand a harder soil."
"We shall pass none."
"That is fortunate. For when I reach home and they ask me, 'Well, what have you done in Holland?' it would be sad to own, 'I have done little beyond rolling on a bed of tulips.'"
With this he climbed into the saddle and thrust his feet well into the stirrups, while his father whispered a word or two to the boatmen, who were about to push off on their return journey.
"Are you ready, my son?" he asked, returning and mounting beside him.
The two horses broke into a trot. "Ugh," exclaimed Tristram, bobbing up and down.
"I told you we must go faster. Stick your knees tightly into the saddle—so."
The wind and the night began to race by Tristram's ears as his horse leapt forward. The motion became easier, but the pace was terrifying to a desperate degree; for it seemed that he sat upon nothing, but was being whirled through the air as from a catapult at the heels of his father, who pounded furiously through the darkness a dozen yards ahead. For three minutes at least he felt at every stride an extreme uncertainty as to his chances of realighting in the saddle. It reminded him of cup-and-ball, and he reflected with envy that the ball in that game is always attached to the cup with a string.
At the end of ten minutes Captain Salt reined up, and Tristram's horse, after being carried past for twenty yards by his mere impetus, stopped of his own accord and to his rider's intense satisfaction.
"Look," said the Captain, pointing to the sky behind them, which was now illumined by a broad scarlet glare.
"What is that?"
"One of the ships on fire."
"Then I am better off where I am."
"Did you doubt it?"
"I was beginning to.… How much farther must we ride?"
Tristram groaned, and they set off again, but more slowly, for the road now was paved with bricks instead of the loose sand over which they had travelled hitherto, and moreover it ran, without fence or parapet, along the top of a formidable dyke, the black waters of which far beneath him caused Tristram the most painful apprehension. Captain Salt, guessing this, slackened the pace to a walk. The glare still reddened the sky behind: but either the firing had ceased or they had passed beyond sound of it. At any rate, they heard only the water lapping in the dykes and the wind that howled over the wastes around.
Tristram had long since lost his hat, and his nose was bleeding from a sharp blow against his horse's neck. He was trying to stanch the flow when the chimes of a clock pealed down the wind from somewhere ahead and upon his right. His father halted again, and after scanning the gloom for a minute uttered again the three calls that were like the wailing of a gull.
Again the signal was answered, this time from their left, and the spark of a lantern appeared. "Dismount, my son," said the Captain, setting the example and leading his horse by the bridle towards the light; "we leave our horses here."
"No, for a canal-boat."
"This country may be flat," thought Tristram; "but decidedly the travelling is not monotonous."
As he drew near the lantern, he saw indeed that they were on the edge of a canal, wherein lay a long black barge, with a boy on horseback waiting on the tow-path, a little ahead of it. On the barge's deck by the tiller an immensely fat boatman leant and smoked his pipe, which he withdrew placidly from his lips as Captain Salt gave the password to the man with the lantern and handed over the smoking horses.
The fat man spat, stood upright and prepared for business as the passengers stumbled on board. Not a word more was spoken until Tristram found himself in a long, low cabin divided into two parts by a deal partition. By the light of a swinging lamp he saw that a bench ran along the after-compartment, and asked if he might stretch himself out to sleep.
"By all means," said his father. "I was going to propose it myself. We shall travel without halting till morning."
"Then 'good night.'"
"You appear in a hurry."
"It seems to me that it's my turn."
The barge was hardly in motion before Tristram began to snore. Nor did he awake till the sun was up and shining in through the little opening by the stern, through which he could see the legs of the fat steersman on deck. While he rubbed his eyes his father appeared at the cabin door with a bundle in one hand and a big market-basket in the other.
"You sleep late, my son. I have already been marketing, as you see."
"Then we are at a standstill."
"Yes, but we move on again in three minutes."
"What have you bought?"
"Your breakfast. See—" and the Captain spread on the cabin table an enormous sausage, two loaves of bread and a bottle of red wine.
"That is good, for I warn you I am hungry."
"But first of all you must dress."
"Am I not already dressed?"
"Let me point out that the uniform of a private soldier in his Majesty's Coldstream Guards differs in so many respects from the native costume of these parts that it can hardly fail to excite remark. Listen: I have here two suits of clothes, in which we must travel for the next day or two; I as a private gentleman and you as my lackey."
"I begin to see that this way back to Harwich has its difficulties as well as the other," sighed Tristram while they changed their suits. This reflection threw him into a melancholy which lasted throughout the day, insomuch that he hardly found heart to go on deck, but sat on his bench in the cabin, feeding his heart on the prospect of Sophia's joy at his return and listening to his father, who sat and whistled on the cabin hatch, to the thuds of the towing-horse's hoofs, and to the monotonous "huy!" and "vull!" of the boatman whenever their barge encountered another and one of the twain slackened rope to allow passage.
Occasionally they were hailed from the bank by travellers who desired to journey downstream; but the invariable answer was that this barge had been hired by a nobleman who wished to travel without company and at his leisure. As Tristram, however, knew nothing of the Dutch language, he imagined these to be but kindly salutations of the inhabitants designed to enliven a voyage which (as he judged) must be inexpressibly tedious to anyone who made it with any other purpose than that of being restored to Sophia's embrace.
Towards sunset he went on deck, and observed his father steadily gazing at the left bank of the canal, parallel to which, and at a distance of five hundred yards or less, there ran an embankment with a highroad along the top of it. Following the direction of Captain Salt's eyes, he descried a party of four horsemen about half a mile behind them advancing down this road at a steady trot. The Captain had paused in his whistling—which had been pretty continuous all day—and was regarding these horsemen with great interest.
"I do not like them," he said reflectively, and spoke a few words to the steersman, who glanced back over his shoulder.
"You have met them before?" Tristram inquired.
"Not that I know of. Nevertheless, I do not like them."
Tristram thought this odd, for it was impossible at that distance to descry the features of the riders.
"We will go below," his father announced, rising in a leisurely manner.
They did so, and stood by the cabin door, so that their forms were hidden while they could see perfectly all that passed on the bank. The four horsemen drew near and trotted by at the same pace without seeming to turn their heads towards the canal. Two rode horses of a dark bay colour, the third a dapple grey, and the fourth a sorrel. As soon as they had passed out of sight, Captain Salt ascended to the deck again and entered into a long conversation in Dutch with the fat boatman. As this did not amuse Tristram any more than the windmills of which the scenery was mainly composed, he remained below and, stretching himself again on the bench, began to dream of Sophia.
Three hours later he awoke, said his prayers, and was preparing to go to sleep again, when his father entered the cabin.
"Hullo! What are you doing?"
"I was just thanking Heaven, which, against my inclinations, makes our journey a slow one."
"You do not wish to reach home in a hurry?"
"On the contrary, I desire it ardently. But having remarked that whenever I travel fast I am either seasick or jolted raw, I feel grateful for every restraint put upon my ardour."
"In that case I almost fear to announce that we shall move faster to-morrow."
"I am willing to be coerced," said Tristram, and dropped off again.
It was but an hour after dawn when his father aroused him. The boat lay moored by a little quay, beyond which his eye travelled to clusters of red roofs glowing in the easterly sunshine, and a dominant spire, the weathercock of which dazzled the eye with its brightness. The town was just waking up, as could be perceived from the blue wreaths of smoke that poured out of the chimneys.
Captain Salt was in an evident hurry. Without giving Tristram time to wash in the fore-cabin, he hustled him on shore and up a narrow street to an inn, over the archway of which hung the sign of a White Lamb with a flag between its forelegs. Here they rang a bell, and were admitted after ten minutes by a sleepy chambermaid, who led them upstairs to a low-browed sitting-room facing the street, as they perceived when she drew back the shutters. At the back of this room lay two bedchambers; and Tristram withdrew into the nearer, while his father ordered breakfast.
It happened that these two bedrooms overlooked a broad court or stable-yard behind the White Lamb. Captain Salt, having given his instructions, retired, whistling cheerfully, to perform his toilet. He was in the best of spirits, and broke now and again into snatches of song, which he trolled out in a tenor voice of great richness and flexibility. Tristram listened in admiration on the other side of the partition. The songs were those of Tom d'Urfey and his imitators, and dealt in a strain of easy sentimentality with hay-rakes, milking-pails and all the apparatus of a country life as etherealised by a cockney fancy; but the Captain sang with such a gusto, such bravura, and such an appealing tremolo in the pathetic passages, that you might have mistaken the splashing of water in his basin, as he broke off to wash his face, for tears of uncontrollable regret that he had not been born a "swain" (as he put it). Suddenly, however, one of his roulades ceased with more abruptness than usual and the enchanted Tristram waited in vain for the ditty to be resumed. The fact was that Captain Salt had glanced out of the window and seen at a stable door across the court a man stooping with his back to the inn and washing down the legs of a dark bay horse.
The Captain contemplated this group for a moment; then hastily donning his coat and turning into the parlour looked out upon the street.
Immediately under the signboard of the White Lamb, and before the front-door, stood a couple of men who chatted as they passed a tankard of beer to each other. Captain Salt could not see their faces owing to the extreme width of their hat-brims. But he turned a shade paler, and drawing back from the window stepped to the door, which opened upon the landing. Moving softly to the balusters, he peered over. Directly beneath him, at the foot of the stairs, sat yet another man in a broad-brimmed hat, who was engaged very tranquilly in polishing a pistol with an oily rag. The barrel glimmered in the light that shone down the well of the staircase from a skylight above Captain Salt's head.
He retired to the parlour again and, after trying the lock of the door, walked to and fro in deep thought for awhile. Then, from the bedroom, he fetched his sword and belt, with the two pistols which he had carried throughout the journey. He was examining the priming of these very narrowly when Tristram appeared, red and glowing from his ablutions. Almost at the same instant footsteps were heard ascending the stairs. The Captain went quickly to the door pistol in hand.
It was only the waitress, however, with the tray containing their breakfast. He told her to set it down, looked at the tray and, announcing that he was hungrier than he had imagined, desired her to bring up a ham, another loaf, and four bottles of wine. Tristram stared.
"You seem puzzled, my son."
"It is my turn again. Let me remind you that two days ago you marvelled at my appetite."
"But this has to last us for a whole day, and perhaps longer."
"Are we not, then, to proceed farther to-day?"
"I doubt if we can."
"Decidedly this journey gets slower and slower."
The waitress came back with the additional provisions and set them on the table. As soon as she was gone Captain Salt locked the door.
"Why is that?"
"Merely that I don't wish to be interrupted."
They ate their breakfast in silence. Tristram, as soon as it was over, rose, and, strolling across the room, was about to gaze out upon the street, when his father begged him to come away from the window.
"My son, you should obey your father without questioning," the Captain answered somewhat tartly.
Tristram had been taught to obey, but considering the wide views for which this country was notorious, he began to reflect with astonishment on the small amount he was able to see. Also he remarked, as the morning wore on, that his father was perpetually at one window or another, moving from parlour to bedroom and back, and scanning now the street, now the stable-yard, yet always with a certain amount of caution. Captain Salt, indeed, was gradually working himself into a state of restless irritation. The man in the stable-yard groomed away at the four horses, one after another, saddled them, led them back to the stable again, then composed himself to sleep on the stool outside the stable door, with a straw in his mouth and his hat-brim well over his eyes. The others still lounged in the sunshine before the inn door. He could hear the sound of their voices and occasional laughter, but not the words of their conversation.
It was about six in the evening when the Captain was struck with an idea. At first it staggered him a little: then he thought it over and looked at it from several sides. Each time he reviewed the plan he got rid of a scruple or two, and by degrees began to like it exceedingly. His restlessness diminished, and in the end he became quite still.
Tristram, yawning before the fire, glanced up and found his father's eyes fixed upon him.
"My company wearies you, dear lad?"
The dear lad disclaimed weariness. But Captain Salt advanced, sighed, and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Yes, Tristram; let us not deceive ourselves. I have done you a wrong, for which you must forgive me. I hoped, by delaying your return and keeping you near me—I hoped that perhaps—" Here he sighed again, and appeared to struggle with an inward grief. "Do not make it hard for me by bearing malice!" he implored, breaking off his explanation.
"I don't quite understand. Are you telling me that you have kept me here unnecessarily?"
"Alas! my boy—I hoped that your affection for me might grow with this opportunity, as mine has grown for you."
Tristram thought that to spend a morning in pacing from one window to another was an odd way of encouraging affection; but he merely answered:
"My dear father, I have a confession to make."
"One that will not only explain my eagerness to get home, but also will, I trust, soothe your disappointment. The fact is, I am in love."
"Oh! that certainly alters matters. With whom?"
"Who is Sophia?"
"She is Captain Runacles' only daughter, and lives on the other side of our hedge."
"My dear lad, why did you not tell me this? Detain you! No. You shall fly on the wings of the wind. We will set out this very afternoon on the swiftest horses this inn can furnish."
Tristram winced. "There are limits even to a lover's zeal," he murmured.
"No, no. Ah, my boy!—I too have been in love—I can find the key to your feelings by searching my memory. May you be happier than I!"
He passed the back of his hand across his eyes and continued more cheerfully, hilariously almost:
"But away with an old man's memories! I was young then, and ardent as you. Nay, as I look upon you I see my very self reflected across a score of sorrowful years. We are extraordinarily alike, Tristram. Stand up and measure with me, back to back."
They did so. The Captain found himself the taller by a mere shade.
"It is the wig," he said. "Come, twist up your natural hair and let me see you in this wig."
Tristram obeyed, and his father fell back in astonishment. "It is extraordinary!"
"Certainly I perceive the likeness," admitted Tristram, contemplating himself in the mirror that hung above the mantelpiece.
"It is nothing to what could be produced by the merest touch or two of art. Give me five minutes, and I warrant you shall deceive the waitress here."
He drew the curtain, took down a candle from the mantelshelf, lit it and set it on the table; then, picking up the cork of an empty bottle, held it to the flame for two seconds or so and began to operate on his son's face.
"Ah!" he said, "to think that each wrinkle, each line, that I copy with a piece of cork has been traced in the original by a separate sorrow! Tristram, your presence makes me young again, young and childish. And in return I make you old—a pretty recompense!"
Tristram, whose nature was profoundly serious, stood up very stiff and blinked at the hand which wandered over his face, touching it here and there as softly as with a feather.
"Are we not wasting time?" he protested.
"Not at all: and to prove it, I am about to send you downstairs to order horses. It is wonderful! I wager the people of the inn shall not know you. Order a couple of fleet horses to be waiting in an hour from now: that will give us plenty of time to reach Nieupoort, and take a night's rest before sailing to-morrow. Here, kick off those clumsy boots and take mine; also my cloak here, and sword. Your breeches and stockings will do. Afterwards you can stroll out into the town, if you will, and purchase a keepsake for Sophia. I, myself, will buy a ring at Nieupoort for you to fit upon her pretty finger, if you succeed in tricking the folk below-stairs. Farewell, my son, and God bless you!—only, be back within the hour."
As the door closed upon Tristram, Captain Salt advanced to the keyhole and listened.
"A sound skin," he muttered to himself, "is better than a dull son. Moreover, at the worst he'll be taken back to The Hague, and there the Earl will keep him from me." He examined his pistols for a moment, opened the door softly, and, creeping out on the landing, began to listen with all his ears.
Meanwhile our hero marched downstairs, and, encountering the waitress in the passage below, gave the order for the horses. The waitress summoned a lethargic, round-bellied man from an inner parlour, who bowed as well as his waist would let him, and straddled out to the stables to repeat the order. Somewhat pleased to find he had not been recognised, Tristram sauntered up the dusky passage and forth at the front-door. As he passed out leisurably, he took careless note of a party of three men seated a few paces to the right of the door around a rough wooden table. On the other hand, the effect of his exit upon this party was extraordinary. For a moment they gazed after him, their faces expressing sheer amazement. Then they whispered together and stared again. Finally all three stood on their legs and buckled on their sword-belts. Two of them started off to follow Tristram, who had by this time reached the street corner, and was gazing up at the house fronts on each hand with rapt interest. The third man waited until they had gone a dozen yards, and then blew a whistle. In less than half a minute he was joined by the man from the stable-yard, and after a short colloquy this pair also linked arms and strolled up the street.
It was drawing towards sunset, and lights began to appear in several of the houses as Tristram passed along. The few foot-passengers in the street wished him "Good night" in the Dutch tongue, and he answered their salutations amiably in English, guessing the good will in their voices. He was greatly pleased, also, by the number of villas and small gardens that diversified the houses of business, each with a painted summer-house over-topping the wall and a painted motto on the gate. He longed to explore these gardens and take home to Harwich some report of the famous Dutch tulip-beds on which Captain Barker was perpetually descanting. A row of these garden-walls enticed him down a street to the right and out towards the suburbs, where the prospect at the end of the road was closed by a long line of windmills.
All this while he had been sauntering along at the idlest pace, with a score of pauses. Suddenly he bethought him that it must be time to return, and was about to do so when his eye was caught by a little shop on the other side of the road. He could not read the inscription above it; but the window was crowded with bulbs and roots of all kinds and bags of seed in small stacks. He crossed the road and entered the low door, meaning to buy a present for Sophia, whom for the last half an hour he had completely forgotten.
The proprietor of the shop sat inside behind a low counter, reading a book by the light of a defective oil-lamp, the smoke of which had smeared the rafters in a large, irregular circle. He was a little, wizened man, with a pair of horn spectacles, which he pushed high upon his brow as his customer entered.
"Since my father has engaged to buy Sophia a ring," said Tristram to himself, "I will get her a tulip. We will sit hand in hand and watch it unfold."
The prospect so engaged his fancy that he entered and began a sentence in excellent English. The shopman replied by shaking his head and uttering a few unintelligible words.
This was dashing. Tristram cast about for a few seconds, and began again in dog-Latin, a tongue which he had acquired in order to read the herbals to Captain Barker on winter evenings. To his delight the little man answered him promptly. Within a minute they were charmed with each other; within two, they had the highest opinion of each other; within ten, the counter was heaped with trays of the rarest bulbs, insomuch that Tristram found a grave difficulty in choosing that which should give the greatest pleasure to his Sophia. But, alas, in changing clothes with his son, Captain Salt had found it unnecessary to change breeches! Tristram put a hand into his pocket and discovered that it contained one coin only—the shilling with which he had been presented when forcibly enlisted in his Majesty's Coldstream Guards.
The Latin of the enthusiastic shopman was becoming almost Ciceronian, when Tristram pulled out the coin, and holding it under his nose briefly stated the case. Then the wizened face fell a full inch, and the eloquent voice broke off to explain that an English shilling, though doubtless a valid tender in England, was not worth more than a stiver, if that, to a Dutch tradesman.
Tristram apologised, adding that, if the shopman had a pennyworth of any kind of seed, he would purchase it as a small reparation for his intrusion on the time of so learned a man.
The shopman took the shilling and tossed upon the counter a packet of pepper-cress seed.
Our hero pocketed it, and was leaving the shop; but paused on the threshold and began to renew his apologies.
The little man had picked up his book again, and turned a deaf ear.
Tristram stepped out into the street. As he did so a hand was laid on his arm, and a voice said in good English:
"I arrest you in the name of King William!"