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|The Underground City||Jules Verne|
The Ford Family
|Page 4 of 5||
"And the second question?" asked the latter.
"Do you know, Simon, who the person is who can have written this?" answered the engineer, handing him the anonymous letter.
Ford took the letter and read it attentively. Then giving it to his son, "Do you know the writing?" he asked.
"No, father," replied Harry.
"And had this letter the Aberfoyle postmark?" inquired Simon Ford.
"Yes, like yours," replied James Starr.
"What do you think of that, Harry?" said his father, his brow darkening.
"I think, father," returned Harry, "that someone has had some interest in trying to prevent Mr. Starr from coming to the place where you invited him."
"But who," exclaimed the old miner, "who could have possibly guessed enough of my secret?" And Simon fell into a reverie, from which he was aroused by his wife.
"Let us begin, Mr. Starr," she said. "The soup is already getting cold. Don't think any more of that letter just now."
On the old woman's invitation, each drew in his chair, James Starr opposite to Madge--to do him honor--the father and son opposite to each other. It was a good Scotch dinner. First they ate "hotchpotch," soup with the meat swimming in capital broth. As old Simon said, his wife knew no rival in the art of preparing hotchpotch. It was the same with the "cockyleeky," a cock stewed with leeks, which merited high praise. The whole was washed down with excellent ale, obtained from the best brewery in Edinburgh.
But the principal dish consisted of a "haggis," the national pudding, made of meat and barley meal. This remarkable dish, which inspired the poet Burns with one of his best odes, shared the fate of all the good things in this world--it passed away like a dream.
Madge received the sincere compliments of her guest. The dinner ended with cheese and oatcake, accompanied by a few small glasses of "usquebaugh," capital whisky, five and twenty years old--just Harry's age. The repast lasted a good hour. James Starr and Simon Ford had not only eaten much, but talked much too, chiefly of their past life in the old Aberfoyle mine.
Harry had been rather silent. Twice he had left the table, and even the house. He evidently felt uneasy since the incident of the stone, and wished to examine the environs of the cottage. The anonymous letter had not contributed to reassure him.
Whilst he was absent, the engineer observed to Ford and his wife, "That's a fine lad you have there, my friends."
"Yes, Mr. Starr, he is a good and affectionate son," replied the old overman earnestly.
"Is he happy with you in the cottage?"
"He would not wish to leave us."
"Don't you think of finding him a wife, some day?"
"A wife for Harry," exclaimed Ford. "And who would it be? A girl from up yonder, who would love merry-makings and dancing, who would prefer her clan to our mine! Harry wouldn't do it!"
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