ST. Ives

Page 71

Oh, you had been expected! Why, when I go down to supper, I'll be the 'ero of the servants' 'all: the 'ole of the staff is that curious!'

'Well,' said I, 'I hope you may be able to give a fair account of me--sober, steady, industrious, good-tempered, and with a first- rate character from my last place?'

He laughed an embarrassed laugh. 'Your hair curls beautiful,' he said, by way of changing the subject. 'The Viscount's the boy for curls, though; and the richness of it is, Mr. Powl tells me his don't curl no more than that much twine--by nature. Gettin' old, the Viscount is. He 'AVE gone the pace, 'aven't 'e, sir?'

'The fact is,' said I, 'that I know very little about him. Our family has been much divided, and I have been a soldier from a child.'

'A soldier, Mr. Anne, sir?' cried Rowley, with a sudden feverish animation. 'Was you ever wounded?'

It is contrary to my principles to discourage admiration for myself; and, slipping back the shoulder of the dressing-gown, I silently exhibited the scar which I had received in Edinburgh Castle. He looked at it with awe.

'Ah, well!' he continued, 'there's where the difference comes in! It's in the training. The other Viscount have been horse-racing, and dicing, and carrying on all his life. All right enough, no doubt; but what I do say is, that it don't lead to nothink. Whereas--'

'Whereas Mr. Rowley's?' I put in.

'My Viscount?' said he. 'Well, sir, I DID say it; and now that I've seen you, I say it again!'

I could not refrain from smiling at this outburst, and the rascal caught me in the mirror and smiled to me again.

'I'd say it again, Mr. Hanne,' he said. 'I know which side my bread's buttered. I know when a gen'leman's a gen'leman. Mr. Powl can go to Putney with his one! Beg your pardon, Mr. Anne, for being so familiar,' said he, blushing suddenly scarlet. 'I was especially warned against it by Mr. Powl.'

'Discipline before all,' said I. 'Follow your front-rank man.

With that, we began to turn our attention to the clothes. I was amazed to find them fit so well: not a la diable, in the haphazard manner of a soldier's uniform or a ready-made suit; but with nicety, as a trained artist might rejoice to make them for a favourite subject.

''Tis extraordinary,' cried I: 'these things fit me perfectly.'

'Indeed, Mr. Anne, you two be very much of a shape,' said Rowley.

'Who? What two?' said I.

'The Viscount,' he said.

'Damnation! Have I the man's clothes on me, too?' cried I.

But Rowley hastened to reassure me. On the first word of my coming, the Count had put the matter of my wardrobe in the hands of his own and my cousin's tailors; and on the rumour of our resemblance, my clothes had been made to Alain's measure.

'But they were all made for you express, Mr. Anne. You may be certain the Count would never do nothing by 'alf: fires kep' burning; the finest of clothes ordered, I'm sure, and a body- servant being trained a-purpose.'

'Well,' said I, 'it's a good fire, and a good set-out of clothes; and what a valet, Mr. Rowley! And there's one thing to be said for my cousin--I mean for Mr. Powl's Viscount--he has a very fair figure.'

'Oh, don't you be took in, Mr. Anne,' quoth the faithless Rowley: 'he has to be hyked into a pair of stays to get them things on!'

'Come, come, Mr. Rowley,' said I, 'this is telling tales out of school! Do not you be deceived. The greatest men of antiquity, including Caesar and Hannibal and Pope Joan, may have been very glad, at my time of life or Alain's, to follow his example. 'Tis a misfortune common to all; and really,' said I, bowing to myself before the mirror like one who should dance the minuet, 'when the result is so successful as this, who would do anything but applaud?'

My toilet concluded, I marched on to fresh surprises. My chamber, my new valet and my new clothes had been beyond hope: the dinner, the soup, the whole bill of fare was a revelation of the powers there are in man. I had not supposed it lay in the genius of any cook to create, out of common beef and mutton, things so different and dainty.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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