Whatever the defects of the rank and file of the Verity family in respect of liberal ideas, it can safely be asserted of all its members, male and female, clerical and lay, alike, that they belonged to the equestrian order. Hence it added considerably to Tom’s recovered self-complacency to find a smart two-wheel dog-cart awaiting him, drawn by a remarkably well-shaped and well-groomed black horse. The coachman was to match. Middle-aged, clean-shaven, his Napoleonic face set as a mask, his undress livery of pepper-and-salt mixture soberly immaculate. He touched his hat when our young gentleman appeared and mounted beside him; the horse, meanwhile, shivering a little and showing the red of its nostrils as the train, with strident whistlings, drew out of the station bound westward to Stourmouth and Barryport.
Later the horse broke up the abiding inertia of Marychurch High Street, by dancing as it passed the engine of a slowly ambulant thrashing machine; and only settled fairly into its stride when the three-arched, twelfth century stone bridge over the Arne was passed, and the road—leaving the last scattered houses of the little town—turned south and seaward skirting the shining expanse of The Haven and threading the semi-amphibious hamlets of Horny Cross and Lampit.
THE DOUBTFULLY HARMONIOUS PARTS OF A WHOLE
A long, low, rectangular and rather narrow room, supported across the centre—where passage walls had been cut away—by an avenue of dumpy wooden pillars, four on either side, leading to a glass door opening on to the garden. A man’s room rather than a woman’s, and, judging by appearances, a bachelor’s at that.—Eighteenth-century furniture, not ignoble in line, but heavy, wide-seated, designed for the comfort of bulky paunched figures arrayed in long napped waistcoats and full-skirted coats. Tabaret curtains and upholsterings, originally maroon, now dulled by sea damp and bleached by sun-glare to a uniform tone in which colour and pattern were alike obliterated. Handsome copperplate engravings of Pisa and of Rome, and pastel portraits in oval frames; the rest of the whity brown panelled wall space hidden by book-cases. These surmounted by softly shining, pearl-grey Chinese godlings, monsters, philosophers and saints, the shelves below packed with neatly ranged books.
A dusky room, in spite of its rounded, outstanding sash-windows, two on either side the glass door; the air of it holding, in permanent solution, an odour of leather-bound volumes. A place, in short, which, though not inhospitable, imposed itself, its qualities and traditions, to an extent impossible for any save the most thick-skinned and thick-witted wholly to ignore or resist.