Nutbrown Roger and I. A Romance of the Highway - J.H. Yoxall - ebook

Nutbrown Roger and I. A Romance of the Highway ebook

J.H. Yoxall

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Opis

The story of a boy who was deceived in his property. He is assisted in his trouble by a nobleman who, for various romantic reasons, accepted clothes without accepting the practice of a robber. After a series of exciting adventures, both of them succeeded not only in saving the betrothed nobleman from evil hands, but also in restoring the guy’s property.

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Liczba stron: 153

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Contents

MONDAY

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

TUESDAY

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

WEDNESDAY

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

THURSDAY

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

FRIDAY

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

MONDAY

CHAPTER I

I am Struck and Shot At

“Thwack!” came the crutch-stick down upon my shoulders, as I ruefully sat at my books in the rectory study.

It was a sunny afternoon, and the fragrant June air blew in through the half-open window of the grimy little room. I bent over my book in a dull and sullen humour. With all my heart I longed for the hay, the bird-song, and the freedom of the pleasant meadows outside. I was not in the mood for books, and besides, I was painfully hungry. “Tweet!” whistled a bob-tailed sparrow, hopping along the window-sill, looking in at me with sidelong head. “Tweet, tweet!” Away it flew, and I yearned to follow it. But my task-master, a frail old man in a shabby garb of black, stood over me, ebony staff in hand. It was my grand-uncle, the Rector of Beolea.

I looked hopelessly up at his hooked nose, set mouth, and keen sneering eyes. There was no pity in that hard old face.

“Tell me the accusative plural of custos, fool, I say!” cried my uncle.

“Cus–cust–custo,” I stammered.

“Accusative plural, ass!” my uncle shouted, raising his hard black staff.

“Cust–cust–oh, custard, custard, sir,” I cried, my thoughts on dinner bent.

“Dolt! Idiot!” hissed the lean old man, shaking and whitening with rage. He seized his wool-white wig by the pigtail and dashed it on the dusty floor; and down, down, down upon my back came the heavy crutch-stick, thwack, thwack, thwack again.

I was miserable, I was hungry, I was smarting and aching; I could bear it no longer. I wrenched the stick from the trembling old hands and sent it whizzing through the window. Then, ashamed of what I had done, I would have begged forgiveness, but, struck with horror at the words which frothed from the old man’s lips, as, bald and livid, he made towards me with claw-like hands outspread, I broke away from him and rushed from the dingy little room.

Down the flight of dirty oaken steps I sprang, into the spacious dirty hall. Snatching my hat from its hook in the greasy wainscoting, I rushed through the unkempt garden, leapt its low wall, and alighted on the hilly glebe meadow. And as my feet rebounded from the turf I heard the report of a firelock, and the whistle of shots around me. I turned and saw my grand-uncle raging at the study window, a smoking musket in his hands. In fear and horror I ran down the meadow for my life.

Over the meadow, down the hill, and along the Roman road that formed the highway there, I ran, and ran. Not till two good miles lay between me and my terrible old guardian did I pause; and only then because Nathan, the stable-boy from Beolea Grange, drew his horse across the path and stopped me.

“What be up with ‘ee, Maister Henry?” asked the big lumbering lad. “What’s th’ matter? Be th’ keeper arter ‘ee?”

The keeper, indeed! Scared and excited as I was I took the suggestion for an insult.

“I’m not a poacher, fellow!” I answered angrily, in my stupid pride. “I’m the old squire’s great-grandson. Gentlefolk do not poach.”

“Highty-tighty now, my young maister,” retorted Nathan, in a huff. “Gentlefolks doan’t wear them kind o’ rags, nayther,” and he pointed a scornful finger at my torn and rusty attire. “Highty-tighty, young gentlemun, I begs yer pardin. Th’ old rector’s thy uncle, I knows it, an’ a nice kind o’ nunkey he be, th’ old miser. Reg’lar old hunks! Thee’st got no call to boast on un, now; he treats thee bad enow. ’Tis th’ talk o’ Beolea.”

Mute and angry I tried to pass the big lad and pursue my way, but again he pulled the horse he was leading, a slender swathed-up racer, across my path.

“Lookee here, now, Maister Harry, what’s th’ matter with thee?” Nathan said, with a clumsy kindness in his tone. “Summat’s put ‘ee out; thee never spoke to Nathan like o’ that afore. Me an’ you was allays friends, me an’ you was. Friendly-like, now, what be th’ matter?” and he held out his big red hand.

I grasped it, but remained silent. Nathan coughed and shuffled, spat out the straw he was chewing, and shouted a needless “Who-a, then!” to his patiently standing steed.

“Lookee, now, Maister Harry,” he said at last. “I’m bound thee’st had a bad upset with th’ old rector. An’ I’m nation sure thee be runnin’ away from whoam! Bain’t ‘ee, now, bain’t ‘ee?” and he placed his left hand on my shoulder.

I winced, for he touched a bruise. “That’s it, Nathan, I’m running away from home. Home! not much of a home!” I said bitterly. “I won’t be starved and thrashed and stormed at any longer. He beat me again to-day–that’s three times in a week–because I made a fault in my Latin.”

“Never mind, never mind, now,” said Nathan soothingly. “Latin, now, Latin! Laws, what a scholard thee bee’st, Maister Harry! They never larned me much Latin, now,” said Nathan, trying to look wise and chewing a fresh straw.

“Well, he beat me like a dog, and then he–” tried to shoot me I was going to say, but I paused, and left that out, for the honour of the family.... “So I’ve left him, and I’m off to sea like my father! and–and that’s all,” I went on when I had gulped down my tears.

There was silence for a time as I turned my head aside and kicked at a stone in the gravelly road. An ancient rook was resting on the arm of an ash-tree in the hedge, and its black coat and beak reminded me of my grand-uncle. “Caw, Caw!” remarked the hoary bird, in what seemed to me a sneering tone. I picked up the pebble and jerked it at the black old fellow. “Caw–aw,” he croaked as he lazily flew away. “You’ll come to no good, you’ll come to no good!” was what his cawing seemed to me to say.

“Won’t I?” thought I. “I’ll go as cabin-boy and come back admiral.”

“Well, good-bye to you, Nathan,” I said. “You’re not to say a word of this in Beolea, mind you,” and I was moving on again.

But Nathan held fast to my shoulder. “Laws, Maister Harry, you bain’t gooin’ off like o’ that now, surely! Why, where’s your stick an’ bundle?”

“Stick and bundle?” said I inquiringly.

“Stick an’ bundle. Them as runs off to sea allays has a stick an’ bundle. Robison Crusey, now, he ‘ad a stick an’ bundle.”

In spite of my heavy heart I laughed at the good simple fellow’s idea. “And what must I have in the bundle, Nathan?”

“Why, bread-an’-beacon, to be sure, an’ a clean shirt, an’ a Bible, an’ a han’ful o’ sixpennies. Them’s what Caleb th’ wheelwright’s son had when he run away, an’ he said he was just like Robison Crusey. Not as ever I knew that Robison Crusey, mind ‘ee. I’m bound he didn’t live in these parts; anyhow, he warn’t a Beolea chap.”

“Well, I haven’t a stick or a bundle, Nathan; I must manage without.”

“Must have ‘em, I tell ‘ee. Hold the rein a minute, Maister Harry.” In a trice he had cut a hazel sapling from the hedge, and he was trimming it neatly when he suddenly paused.

“P’raps you ain’t got no shut-knife, nayther?” he said dubiously. “Must have a shut-knife; Robison, he ‘ad a shut-knife. Well, thee shalt ha’ mine–nay now, thee shalt ha’ un, thee shalt.

“An’ ‘ere’s a bundle ‘ankercher,” he went on, untwisting the red kerchief from his throat. “Hast got any sixpennies? Noa, of coorse thee hasn’t. Old passon gi’es ‘ee moor kicks than ha’pence.”

So saying the good fellow felt in all his pockets, collected from them two penny-pieces and a farthing, and dropped the coins into the kerchief, while I protested in vain.

“An’ here’s a hunk o’ bread-an’-beacon,” he said, producing it from a pocket. “On’y I hain’t got a fresh shirt here, an’ this un ain’t clean.”

He tied up the small bundle, thrust the stick through it, placed the stick across my shoulder, slapped me thrice on my smarting back, took the rein, and slowly moved away.

“Wish ‘ee luck, Maister Harry. Good luck to ‘ee, an’ don’t forget Nathan.”

“Forget you! that I never will!” I murmured, with a queer lump in my throat, as I turned and trudged down the road to Redwych.

CHAPTER II

I am Whipped Up

The moment I was out of sight of Nathan I sat down on a heap of gravel by the roadside and began to devour the great hunch of bacon-and-bread.

I was ravenous; hunger had been plaguing me for hours. Only a sorry breakfast had been given me, and dinner had been withheld until I should perfectly know my lesson. With what a relish, then, I ate the coarse bread, the fat and “reesty” bacon! But it was a heavy meal for a lad of fourteen, accustomed to meagre if more dainty fare, and I felt very sleepy after it. As by this time the afternoon was glaring and sultry, the heat and my weariness combined with the meal to invite me to nap. Tying up my diminished bundle, I made a pillow of it, and nestling into the warm and yielding sandy gravel, in five minutes I was fast asleep.

Five minutes afterwards–as it seemed to me–I was roused by the touch of a whiplash on my ill-defended shins. Dazed and startled I sat up, rubbing my eyes and blinking. By the length of the shadows on the yellow road I could tell that I had slept for hours.

“Why, it must be five o’clock and after!” I was thinking, when “swish” came the whiplash, gently curling round my legs again.

“Is the boy deaf? Is the boy dumb? Is the boy a fool? Now then, boy, now then, boy, what are you doing there–hey, boy, hey?” was barked at me in sharp, quick tones.

The words came from a short, stout, funny-looking old gentleman, sitting in a ramshackle old gig, drawn by a fat sleepy-looking old pony.

“Pills and powders! what do you mean by it–hey, boy, hey? Sleeping on a gravel-heap in the bare sun! Catch your young death of sunstroke! Come off it; come off it this instant, young dog! Up you jump, or I’ll tickle those ragged breeches of yours with whip-cord, hey!” said the short, stout, funny-looking gentleman in short, sharp barks, with a warning flick of the lash in the air around my head.

I did not hesitate. I jumped up, shouldered my stick and my pitiful little bundle, and stood silent and watchful, with my feet in the ditch by the side of the road.

“Is the boy deaf? Is the boy dumb, I say?” barked the old gentleman. “Is the boy a fool, hey? Hasn’t the young dog a tongue? Lungs and lancets! but I’ll make him speak!”

“Flick, flack!” went the warning whip again.

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