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An Old Meerschaum by David Christie Murray

Produced by David Widger

AN OLD MEERSCHAUM

By David Christie Murray

From Coals Of Fire And Other Stories By David Christie Murray In Three Volumes Vol. II.

Chatto & Windus, Piccadilly 1882

CHAPTER I.

The market-place at Trieste lay in a blaze of colour under the June sunlight. The scent of fruits and flowers was heavy on the air. A faint-hearted breeze which scarcely dared to blow came up from the harbour now and again, and made the heat just bearable. Mr. William Holmes Barndale, of Barndale in the county of Surrey, and King's Bench Walk-, Temple, sat in shadow in front of a restaurant with his legs comfortably thrust forth and his hat tilted over his eyes. He pulled his tawny beard lazily with one hand, and with the other caressed a great tumbler of iced beer. He was beautifully happy in his perfect idleness, and a sense was upon him of the eternal fitness of things in general. In the absolute serenity of his beatitude he fell asleep, with one hand still lazily clutching his beard, and the other still lingering lovingly near the great tumbler. This was surely not surprising, and on the face of things it would not have seemed that there was any reason for blushing at him. Yet a young lady, unmistakably English and undeniably pretty, gave a great start, beholding him, and blushed celestial rosy red. She was passing along the shady side of the square with papa and mamma, and the start and the blush came in with some hurried commonplace in answer to a commonplace. These things, papa and mamma noted not--good, easy, rosy, wholesome people, who had no great trouble in keeping their heads clear of fancies, and were chiefly engaged just then with devices for keeping cool.

Two minutes later, or thereabouts, came that way a young gentleman of whom the pretty young lady seemed a refined and feminine copy, save and except that the young lady was dearly and daintily demure, whilst from this youth impudence and mischief shone forth as light radiates from a lantern. He, pausing before the sleeping Barndale, blushed not, but poked him in the ribs with the end of his walking-stick, and regarded him with an eye of waggish joy, as who should say that to poke a sleeping man in the ribs was a stroke of comic genius whereof the world had never beheld the like. He sat on his stick, cocked Mr. Barndale's hat on one side, and awaited that gentleman's waking. Mr. Barndale, languidly stretching himself, arose, adjusted his hat, took a great drink of iced beer, and, being thereby in some degree primed for conversation, spoke.

'That you, Jimmy?' said Mr. Barndale.

'Billy, my boy?' said the awakener, 'how are you?'

'Thought you were in Oude, or somewhere,' said Mr. Barndale.

'Been back six months,' the other answered.

'Anybody with you here?'

'Yes,' said the awakener, 'the Mum, the Pater, and the Kid.'


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