Page images

a stubborn Blossom to be sure !” and then he patted the squabby cob, and by many fruitless allurements, endeavoured to prevail upon him to yield to his persuasions.

“Shall I tip him a touch o'the flax, Sir?” inquired the post-boy, preparing his heavy thong for the infliction of the punishment to Blossom's sensitive behind.

“Decidedly not, good man,” said John, in as stern a tone as he could possibly deliver himself of; “I never allow my horse to be flogged by the hand of a stranger.'

“ Columbus, you may have heard,” said Tobias Smith, addressing John Hardy, astonished the natives about making an egg stand. Now," continued he, going to the heads of the two bony and raw animals, fixed by some very brown and shabby harness to the pole of the post-chaise, “I will imitate that eminent discoverer's example by an equally simple illustration of what may be easily effected when properly managed;" and jerking the horses



forcibly by their bits, the carriage rolled backwards, and down went the squabby cob upon his haunches.

Blossom was not prepared for this kind of attack, and evinced his sensibility of complete defeat by submitting, in a dogged, surly mood, to be unfastened by the hands of his master, without further resistance.

There were now signs of a speedy answer to the summons. Bars were heard to clink and clank as they were drawn from their fastenings, and bolts creaked and squeaked in their sockets, and, at length, the massive door was wheeled slowly back upon its hinges, and revealed the rubicund features of the Squire in the fore-ground, while a cluster of faces were peeping and peering immediately over his shoulders.

“I saw it was you, John,” said he, hurryirg forwards, and seizing his old friend by both hands, and giving them a hearty wring; I saw it was you, John,” repeated he,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


from my bed-room window, and I could not resist being the first to welcome you back again.”

There was so much sincerity in the friendly greeting of the Squire, and the haste of his toilet was so palpable in the night-cap still surmounting his brows, that the feelings of John Hardy were quite overcome; and if it had not been for the presence of Tobias Smith, it is less than questionable that he would have thrown himself into his old friend's arms, and cried like a petted child spoiled in temper. As it was, he could not speak, but stood silently clinching the Squire's fingers, while the tears rose and swam in his o'ercharged eyes.

“ I beg your pardon, Harry,” he managed to utter at last, after innumerable struggles to effect the delivery of speech ; " but permit me to introduce a stranger—that is, a friend of mine, Mr. Tobias Smith.”

The Squire lifted his night-cap from his head, and made a profound reverence, which

was as politely acknowledged by John's quondam acquaintance.

“ We arrive, Sir," said Tobias Smith, in a tone and manner that may fitly be described as insinuating, “ at a truly unseasonable hour; ; but I must leave it to your friend to explain the circumstances, pleading my apology."

“ Say not a word,” returned the Squire, ushering the twain into the hall; “ but hasten in from the cold, and a cup of mulled wine shall warm ye.”

“ We've been up all night, Harry," observed John, raising his hands as if he had committed an unpardonable sin.

Then you require rest,” responded the Squire; “ and when you've refreshed yourselves with a toast and some spiced sack, you shall have a shake-down among the soft feathers of the goose.”

The measure of duration is stealthy in its tread. The day dawns on the close of night's murky darkness, and the night draws her sha

dowy curtains round ere the bat and the owl are roused from the honey-heavy dew of one brief slumber. Thus the grains of ages fall upon the shores of time!

Within a few brief hours of John Hardy's arrival at the Range, there was a small party sitting round a cheerful log-fire, with absorbed attention, listening to the following o'er-true tale-true yet strange, and stranger than fiction.

To say that I was brought up," commenced Tobias Smith, clearing his voice, “would be paying a compliment to my guardian. From a very early stage of helpless infancy, the Fates decreed that I should lose my natural protectors, and become a burden to an old bachelor uncle, who, from the moment that I drew a farthing from his purse, regarded me in the light of a positive and unpardonable nuisance. Buffeted, cuffed, kicked, and neglected, I soon began to learn that self-protection was about the most useful acquirement for the human

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »