When his anxiety permitted him to pause, a voice made itself heard within, cursing the dogs and roaring for Jarvey. A line of a hunting song, bawled at the top of a musical voice and ending in a shrill ’View Halloa!’ followed; then ‘To them, beauties; to them!’ and the crash of an overturned chair. Again the house echoed with ‘Jarvey, Jarvey!’ on top of which the door opened and an elderly man-servant, with his wig set on askew, his waistcoat unbuttoned, and his mouth twisted into a tipsy smile, confronted the wanderers.
The man held a candle in a hand that wavered and strewed tallow broadcast; the light from this for a moment dazzled the visitors. Then the draught of air extinguished it, and looking over the servant’s shoulder—he was short and squat—Mr. Thomasson’s anxious eyes had a glimpse of a spacious old-fashioned hall, panelled and furnished in oak, with here a blazon, and there antlers or a stuffed head. At the farther end of the hall a wide easy staircase rose, to branch at the first landing into two flights, that returning formed a gallery round the apartment. Between the door and the foot of the staircase, in the warm glow of an unseen fire, stood a small heavily-carved oak table, with Jacobean legs, like stuffed trunk-hose. This was strewn with cards, liquors, glasses, and a china punch-bowl; but especially with cards, which lay everywhere, not only on the table, but in heaps and batches beneath and around it, where the careless hands of the players had flung them.
Yet, for all these cards, the players were only two. One, a man something under forty, in a peach coat and black satin breeches, sat on the edge of the table, his eyes on the door and his chair lying at his feet. It was his voice that had shouted for Jarvey and that now saluted the arrivals with a boisterous ’Two to one in guineas, it’s a catchpoll! D’ye take me, my lord?’—the while he drummed merrily with his heels on a leg of the table. His companion, an exhausted young man, thin and pale, remained in his chair, which he had tilted on its hinder feet; and contented himself with staring at the doorway.
The latter was our old friend, Lord Almeric Doyley; but neither he nor Mr. Thomasson knew one another, until the tutor had advanced some paces into the room. Then, as the gentleman in the peach coat cried, ’Curse me, if it isn’t a parson! The bet’s off! Off!’ Lord Almeric dropped his hand of cards on the table, and opening his mouth gasped in a paroxysm of dismay.
‘Oh, Lord,’ he exclaimed, at last. ’Hold me, some one! If it isn’t Tommy! Oh, I say,’ he continued, rising and speaking in a tone of querulous remonstrance, ’you have not come to tell me the old man’s gone! And I’d pitted him against Bedford to live to—to—but it’s like him! It is like him, and monstrous unfeeling. I vow and protest it is! Eh! oh, it is not that! Hal—loa!’