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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter IX My Convalescent Home

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I began to wonder how the young squire had found it in his conscience to recommend such a pair. I wondered less when the woman finally ushered me upstairs to my rooms. These were small and rugged, but eminently snug and clean. In each a good fire blazed cheerfully; my portmanteau was already unstrapped, the table in the sitting-room already laid; and I could not help looking twice at the silver and the glass, so bright was their condition, so good their quality. Mrs. Braithwaite watched me from the door.

"I doubt you'll be thinking them's our own," said she. "I wish they were; t'squire sent 'em in this afternoon."

"For my use?"

"Ay; I doubt he thought what we had ourselves wasn't good enough. An' it's him 'at sent t' armchair, t'bed-linen, t'bath, an' that there lookin'-glass an' all."

She had followed me into the bedroom, where I looked with redoubled
interest at each object as she mentioned it, and it was in the glass
    - a masqueline shaving-glass - that I caught my second glimpse of my
landlady's evil expression - levelled this time at myself.

I instantly turned round and told her that I thought it very kind of Mr. Rattray, but that, for my part, I was not a luxurious man, and that I felt rather sorry the matter had not been left entirely in her hands. She retired seemingly mollified, and she took my sympathy with her, though I was none the less pleased and cheered by my new friend's zeal for my comfort; there were even flowers on my table, without a doubt from Kirby Hall.

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And in another matter the squire had not misled me: the woman was an excellent plain cook. I expected ham and eggs. Sure enough, this was my dish, but done to a turn. The eggs were new and all unbroken, the ham so lean and yet so tender, that I would not have exchanged my humble, hearty meal for the best dinner served that night in London. It made a new man of me, after my long journey and my cold, damp drive. I was for chatting with Mrs. Braithwaite when she came up to clear away. I thought she might be glad to talk after the life she must lead with her afflicted husband, but it seemed to have had the opposite effect on her. All I elicited was an ambiguous statement as to the distance between the cottage and the hall; it was "not so far." And so she left me to my pipe and to my best night yet, in the stillest spot I have ever slept in on dry land; one heard nothing but the bubble of a beck; and it seemed very, very far away.

A fine, bright morning showed me my new surroundings in their true colors; even in the sunshine these were not very gay. But gayety was the last thing I wanted. Peace and quiet were my whole desire, and both were here, set in scenery at once lovely to the eye and bracing to the soul.

>From the cottage doorstep one looked upon a perfect panorama of healthy, open English country. Purple hills hemmed in a broad, green, undulating plateau, scored across and across by the stone walls of the north, and all dappled with the shadows of rolling leaden clouds with silver fringes. Miles away a church spire stuck like a spike out of the hollow, and the smoke of a village dimmed the trees behind. No nearer habitation could I see. I have mentioned a hamlet which we passed in the spring-cart. It lay hidden behind some hillocks to the left. My landlady told me it was better than half a mile away, and "nothing when you get there; no shop; no post-office; not even a public - house."

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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