“And that is the history of our adventure.
“Why we were not dashed to pieces? But that, as I accept it, is easy of elucidation. Imagine a vast crescent moon, with a downward nick from the end of the tail. This form the fissure took, in one enormous sweep and drop towards the mouth of the valley. Now, as we rushed headlong, the gentle curve received us from space to substance quite gradually, until we were whirring forward wholly on the latter, my luggage suffering the brunt of the friction. The upward sweep of the crescent diminished our progress—more and yet more—until we switched over the lower point and shot quietly down the incline beyond. And all this in ample room, and without meeting with a single unfriendly obstacle.
“‘Voila, mes chers amis, ce qui me met en peine.’
“Fidele laughs, the rogue!
“‘Ta, ta, ta!’ she says. ‘But they will not believe a word of it all.’”
“My grandfather,” said the banjo, “drank ‘dog’s-nose,’ my father drank ‘dog’s-nose,’ and I drink ‘dog’s-nose.’ If that ain’t heredity, there’s no virtue in the board schools.”
“Ah!” said the piccolo, “you’re always a-boasting of your science. And so, I suppose, your son’ll drink ‘dog’s-nose,’ too?”
“No,” retorted the banjo, with a rumbling laugh, like wind in the bung-hole of an empty cask; “for I ain’t got none. The family ends with me; which is a pity, for I’m a full-stop to be proud on.”
He was an enormous, tun-bellied person—a mere mound of expressionless flesh, whose size alone was an investment that paid a perpetual dividend of laughter. When, as with the rest of his company, his face was blackened, it looked like a specimen coal on a pedestal in a museum.
There was Christmas company in the Good Intent, and the sanded tap-room, with its trestle tables and sprigs of holly stuck under sooty beams reeked with smoke and the steam of hot gin and water.
“How much could you put down of a night, Jack?” said a little grinning man by the door.
“Why,” said the banjo, “enough to lay the dustiest ghost as ever walked.”
“Could you, now?” said the little man.
“Ah!” said the banjo, chuckling. “There’s nothing like settin’ one sperit to lay another; and there I could give you proof number two of heredity.”
“What! Don’t you go for to say you ever see’d a ghost!”
“Haven’t I? What are you whisperin’ about, you blushful chap there by the winder?”
“I was only remarking sir, ‘twere snawin’ like the devil.”
“Is it? Then the devil has been misjudged these eighteen hundred and ninety odd years.”
“But did you ever see a ghost?” said the little grinning man, pursuing his subject.
“No, I didn’t, sir,” mimicked the banjo, “saving in coffee grounds. But my grandfather in his cups see’d one; which brings us to number three in the matter of heredity.”