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Lavengro by George Henry Borrow

Presently in came the handmaid


'Jenny,' said the landlord, with the same gravity as before, 'go with the young gentleman to the pump in the back kitchen, and take a clean towel along with you.'

Thereupon the rosy-faced clean-looking damsel went to a drawer, and producing a large, thick, but snowy white towel, she nodded to me to follow her; whereupon I followed Jenny through a long passage into the back kitchen.

And at the end of the back kitchen there stood a pump; and going to it I placed my hands beneath the spout, and said, 'Pump, Jenny'; and Jenny incontinently, without laying down the towel, pumped with one hand, and I washed and cooled my heated hands.

And, when my hands were washed and cooled, I took off my neckcloth, and, unbuttoning my shirt collar, I placed my head beneath the spout of the pump, and I said unto Jenny, 'Now, Jenny, lay down the towel, and pump for your life.'

Thereupon Jenny, placing the towel on a linen-horse, took the handle of the pump with both hands and pumped over my head as handmaid had never pumped before; so that the water poured in torrents from my head, my face, and my hair down upon the brick floor.

And, after the lapse of somewhat more than a minute, I called out with a half-strangled voice, 'Hold, Jenny!' and Jenny desisted. I stood for a few moments to recover my breath, then taking the towel which Jenny proffered, I dried composedly my hands and head, my face and hair; then, returning the towel to Jenny, I gave a deep sigh and said, 'Surely this is one of the pleasant moments of life.'

Then, having set my dress to rights, and combed my hair with a pocket comb, I followed Jenny, who conducted me back through the long passage, and showed me into a neat sanded parlour on the ground-floor.

I sat down by a window which looked out upon the dusty street; presently in came the handmaid, and commenced laying the table-cloth. 'Shall I spread the table for one, sir,' said she, 'or do you expect anybody to dine with you?'

'I can't say that I expect anybody,' said I, laughing inwardly to myself; 'however, if you please you can lay for two, so that if any acquaintance of mine should chance to step in, he may find a knife and fork ready for him.'

So I sat by the window, sometimes looking out upon the dusty street, and now glancing at certain old-fashioned prints which adorned the wall over against me. I fell into a kind of doze, from which I was almost instantly awakened by the opening of the door. Dinner, thought I; and I sat upright in my chair. No; a man of the middle age, and rather above the middle height, dressed in a plain suit of black, made his appearance, and sat down in a chair at some distance from me, but near to the table, and appeared to be lost in thought.


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