“Yes,” said I, “and my name?”
“Sir Maurice Vibart!”
“Sir Maurice Vibart?” I sprang to my feet, staring at him in amazement. “Sir Maurice Vibart is my cousin,” said I.
And so we stood, for a long minute, immobile and silent, eyeing each other above the bread and cheese.
FURTHER CONCERNING THE GENTLEMAN IN THE BATTERED HAT
“Sir,” said my companion at last, lifting the battered hat, “I tender you my apology, and I shall be delighted to eat with you in the ditch, if you are in the same mind about it?”
“Then you believe me?”
“Indubitably, sir,” he answered with a faint smile; “had you indeed been Sir Maurice, either he or I, and most probably I, would be lying flat in the road, by this.”
So, without more ado, we sat down in the ditch together, side by side, and began to eat. And now I noticed that when he thought my eye was upon him, my companion ate with a due deliberation and nicety, and when he thought it was off, with a voracity that was painful to witness. And after we had eaten a while in silence, he turned to me with a sigh.
“This is very excellent cheese!” said he.
“The man from whom I bought it,” said I, “called it a noble cheese, I remember.”
“I never tasted one of a finer flavor!” said my companion.
“Hunger is a fine sauce,” said I, “and you are probably hungry?”
“Hungry!” he repeated, bolting a mouthful and knocking his hat over his eyes with a slap on its dusty crown. “Egad, Mr. Vibart! so would you be—so would any man be who has lived on anything he could beg, borrow, or steal, with an occasional meal of turnips—in the digging of which I am become astonishingly expert—and unripe blackberries, which latter I have proved to be a very trying diet in many ways—hungry, oh, damme!”
And after a while, when there nothing remained of loaf or cheese save a few scattered crumbs, my companion leaned back, and gave another sigh.
“Sir,” said he, with an airy wave of the hand, “in me you behold a highly promising young gentleman ruined by a most implacable enemy—himself, sir. In the first place you must know my name is Beverley—”
“Beverley?” I repeated.
“Beverley,” he nodded, “Peregrine Beverley, very much at your service —late of Beverley Place, Surrey, now of Nowhere-in-Particular.”
“Beverley,” said I again, “I have heard that name before.”
“It is highly probable, Mr. Vibart; a fool of that name—fortunate or unfortunate as you choose to classify him—lost houses, land, and money in a single night’s play. I am that fool, sir, though you have doubtless heard particulars ere now?”
“Not a word!” said I. Mr. Beverley glanced at me with a faint mingling of pity and surprise. “My life,” I explained, “has been altogether a studious one, with the not altogether unnatural result that I also am bound for Nowhere-in-Particular with just eight shillings and sixpence in my pocket.”