It came to a halt on a level roadway some few rods beyond this bright traffic, in an open space which, he knew, must be near the waterside, for beyond the lights of the booths he had spied a cluster of masts quite close at hand. Or perhaps he had fallen asleep and in his sleep had been transported far inland. For the wind had suddenly died down, the coach appeared to be standing in a forest glade—at any rate, among trees—and through the trees fell a soft radiance that might well be the moon’s were it only a tinge less yellow. In the shine of it stood Manasseh, holding open the coach door; and as the child stepped out these queer impressions were succeeded by one still more curious and startling. For a hand, as it seemed, reached out of the darkness, brushed him smartly across the face, and was gone. He gave a little cry and stood staring aloft at a lantern that hung some feet above him from an arched bracket. Across its glass face ran the legend bowling green inn, in orange-coloured lettering, and the ray of its oil-lamp wavered on the boughs of two tall maples set like sentinels by the Inn gateway and reddening now to the fall of the leaf. Yes, the ground about his feet was strewn with leaves: it must be one of these that had brushed by his face.
If the folk in the streets had been sullen, those of the Inn were eager enough, even obsequious. A trio of grooms fell to unharnessing the horses; a couple of porters ran to and fro, unloading the baggage and cooking-pots; while the landlady shouted orders right and left in the porchway. She deemed, honest soul, that she was mistress of the establishment, until Manasseh undeceived her.
Manasseh’s huge stature and gold-encrusted livery commanded respect in spite of his colour. He addressed her as “woman.” “Woman, if you will stop yo’ cacklin’ and yo’ crowin’? Go in now and fetch me fish, fetch me chickens, fetch me plenty eggs. Fetch me a dam scullion. Heh? Stir yo’ legs and fetch me a dam scullion, and the chickens tender. His Exc’llence mos’ partic’ler the chickens tender.”
Still adjuring her he shouldered his way through the house to the kitchen, whence presently his voice sounded loud, authoritative, above the clatter of cooking-pots. From time to time he broke away from the business of unpacking to reiterate his demands for fish, eggs, chicken—the last to be tender at all costs and at pain of his tremendous displeasure.
“And I assure you, ma’am,” said Captain Vyell, standing in the passage at the door of his private room, “his standard is a high one. I believe the blackguard never stole a tough fowl in his life. . . . Show me to my bedroom, please, if the trunks are unstrapped; and the child, here, to his. . . . Eh? What’s this?—a rush-light? I don’t use rush-lights. Go to Manasseh and ask him to unpack you a pair of candles.”