“There is one as leaves Roxham at nine o’clock, sir, and an uncommon fast one, I’m told. But you bean’t a-going yet, be you, sir?”
“Yes, have the gig ready in time to catch the train.”
“Very good, sir. Been to the fire, I suppose sir?” he went on, dimly perceiving that Arthur’s clothes were torn. “It were a fine place, it wore, and it did blaze right beautiful.”
“No; what fire?”
“Bless me, sir, didn’t you see it last night?—why, Isleworth Hall, to be sure. It wore burnt right out, and all as was in it.”
“Oh! How did it come to get burnt?”
“Can’t say, sir, but I did hear say how as Lady Bellamy was a-dining there last night along with the squire; the squire he went out somewhere, my lady she goes home, and the footman he goes to put out the lamp and finds the drawing-room a roaring fiery furnace, like as parson tells us on. But I don’t know how that can be, for I heard how as the squire was a-dying, so ’taint likely that he was a-going out. But, lord, sir, folk in these parts do lie that uncommon, ’taint as it be when I was a boy. As like as no, he’s no more dying than you are. Anyhow, sir, it all burned like tinder, and the only thing, so I’m told, as was saved was a naked stone statty of a girl with a chain round her wrists, as Jim Blakes, our constable, being in liquor, brought out in his arms, thinking how as it was alive, and tried to rewive it with cold water.”
At that moment Sam’s story was interrupted by the arrival of a farmer’s cart.
“How be you, Sam?”
“Well, I thank yer, for seventy-two, that is, not particular ill.”
“Have you a gentleman of the name of Heigham staying here?”
“I am he,” said Arthur, “do you want me?”
“No, sir, only the station-master at Roxham asked me to drop this here as it was marked immediate,” and he handed Arthur a box.
Arthur thanked him, and, taking it, went up to his
room, leaving old
Sam delighted to find a new listener to his story of the fire.
It was from the florist, and contained the bouquet he had meant to give Angela on her wedding-day. It had cost him a good deal of thought that bouquet, to say nothing of five guineas of the coin of the realm, and he felt a certain curiosity to look at it, though to do so gave him something of the same sensation that we experience in reading a letter written by some loved hand which we know grew cold before the lines it traced could reach us. He took the box to his room and opened it. The bouquet was a lovely thing, and did credit even to Covent Garden, and the masses of stephanois and orange-bloom, relieved here and there by rising sprays of lilies-of-the-valley, filled the whole room with fragrance.