“Come,” Damaris said, with a certain brevity as of command.
“And feel a worm?”
“No—come and speak to my father.”
“Ah! I shall feel a worm there too,” the young man returned, an engaging candour in his smiling countenance; “and with far better reason, unless I am greatly mistaken.”
WATCHERS THROUGH THE SMALL HOURS
Love, ill-health and debt being, as yet, unknown quantities to young Tom Verity, it followed that insomnia, with its thousand and one attendant miseries, was an unknown quantity likewise. Upon the eve of the stiffest competitive examination those, now outlived, years of tutelage had imposed on him, he could still tumble into bed secure of lapsing into unconsciousness as soon as his head fairly touched the pillow. Dreams might, and usually did, visit him; but as so much incidental music merely to the large content of slumber—tittering up and down, too airily light-footed and evanescent to leave any impress on mind or spirits when he woke.
This night, at Deadham Hard, marked a new departure; sleep proving a less absolute break in continuity of sensation, a less absolute barrier between day and day.
The Honourable Augustus and Mrs. Cowden, and Felicia Verity, not without last words, adjurations, commands and fussings, started on their twelve-mile drive home to Paulton Lacy about six o’clock. A little later Dr. McCabe conveyed himself, and his brogue, away in an ancient hired landau to catch the evening train from Marychurch to Stourmouth. Dinner followed, shortly after which Damaris vanished, along with her governess-companion, Miss Theresa Bilson—a plump, round-visaged, pink-nosed little person, permanently wearing gold eyeglasses, the outstanding distinction of whose artless existence consisted, as Tom gathered from her conversation, in a tour in Rhineland and residence of some months’ duration at the university town of Bonn.
Then, at last, came the harvest of the young man’s excursion, in the shape of first-hand records of war and government—of intrigue and of sedition, followed by stern retributive chastisement—from that famous soldier, autocratic and practised administrator, his host.
In the opinion of a good many persons Tom Verity’s bump of reference showed very insufficient development. Dons, head-masters, the pedagogic and professorial tribe generally, he had long taken in his stride quite unabashed. Church dignitaries, too, left him saucily cool. For—so at least he argued—was not his elder brother, Pontifex, private chaplain to the Bishop of Harchester? And did not this fact—he knowing poor old Ponty as only brother can know brother—throw a rather lurid light upon the spiritual and intellectual limitations of the Bench? In respect of the British aristocracy, his social betters, he also kept an open mind. For had not Lord Bulparc’s son and