The Silver Stream. An Idyl of the Wye - Fred M. White - ebook

The Silver Stream. An Idyl of the Wye ebook

Fred M White



A story about two guys who defended the honor of their university in rowing. There were only two men in the narrow craft; and as they were double sculling, with long clean sweep, making a musical click of oars in the rowlocks, there was not much opportunity for conversation They moved with a regular rapid rhythm, until they were almost in the shadow of the bridge. But can they get to their goal? After all, many obstacles will be in their way.

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AS the shadows began to lengthen over Belmont–for the cathedral chimes floating along the bosom of the waters proclaimed the seventh hour–a long outrigged gig pair flashed round the point into the level stretch of dead pool reaching right away to the Wye Bridge. There was a pleasant smell of flowers lying upon the sweet August air, a lowing of cattle, a reflection of many boats in the track as the gig, propelled by four muscular arms, slid on towards the town. There were only two men in the narrow craft; and as they were double sculling, with long clean sweep, making a musical click of oars in the rowlocks, there was not much opportunity for conversation. The ‘stroke,’ a young fellow with clear gray eyes and pleasant face, was clad in a suit of plain white flannels; and perched upon the back of his head was a light-blue cap–the badge of distinction sacred to those only who have fought for the honour of the ‘Varsity against their rivals from the twin seat of learning, Oxford. Egbert–or as his familiars called him–Bertie Trevor, the stroke in question, had rowed ‘four’ in that year’s Cambridge boat, and now, with his friend Frederick Denton, was making a Wye boating tour from Hay to Chepstow. Denton, a somewhat older man, sported the light-blue and black of Caius College. He was not a blue, for two reasons: first, because the severe training was not to his taste; and secondly, a restless ambition and the result dependent upon a successful university career had left him no time for such a serious and practical business. A hard-working college tutor has no time for the toil of pleasure.

They pulled on with regular sweeping rhythm till they were almost within the bridge-shadows. An arrowy craft bearing a town four rushed by with clean sweep and swirl upstream, a little knot of admirers running along the bank in the wake of a flannel-clad youth who was bent upon exercising an extraordinary ingenuity for giving each of the unhappy crew the most apparently contradictory directions. As they sped swiftly by Denton paused in his stroke and looked over his shoulder at the thin line, like a gigantic spider, fading in the golden track.

‘That is what some people call pleasure,’ he observed–‘sacrificing a perfect summer evening for the satisfaction of sitting in a confined space for two hours to be bullied by an implacable miscreant called a coach. Depend upon it if it was called work, they wouldn’t get a man to turn out.’

‘I like their stroke,’ Trevor replied. ‘Well marked and lively, and the last ounce pulled out.–What a grand stretch of water this is, Denton!–two miles without a curve, and room for at least five eights. If we only had such a river at Cambridge!’

A few more strokes and the landing stage was reached. A bronzed Waterman, with visage tanned to the colour of Spanish mahogany, awaited them on the barge: old ‘Dick’ Jordan, with his solitary keen eye and everlasting pipe, best of men and bravest of watermen, as every rowing man on the Wye can tell. He looked up into the fading blue sky and prophesied, after the manner of his kind, a fair day on the morrow.

‘What time be you gentlemen going to start in the morning?’ he asked, addressing Trevor, whose light-blue cap he had immediately spotted.

Trevor turned to his friend and asked what hour it was to be.

‘It depends altogether upon Phil, you know. He may get here tonight, or not till to-morrow afternoon. We must leave it open, Dick. Only, you had better have everything ready by ten, o’clock.’

The two friends strolled together over the old stone bridge, below which lay the cathedral and bishop’s palace, with the trim cloister gardens sloping down to the water-side. The clean city lay very quiet in the evening. As they passed through the close, under an avenue of ancient elms, there was a clamour of rooks in the feathery branches, clear cut against the sky. Turning into Castle Street, Denton came to a house at length, the door of which he opened with a latchkey; for the twain had deemed it best to take a lodging, instead of availing themselves of the accommodation of the Green Dragon. In the hall were two small portmanteaus, bearing the monogram P. D. in neat black letters. Denton’s face lighted with pleasure. In the joint sitting-room up-stairs there were the remains of a meal, as if some one had recently partaken of refreshment and on the table a card, upon which were written the words, ‘Back in half an hour.’

But the appointed time went on, and the expected guest had not reappeared. Tea had been disposed of; the windows were thrown open, and our friends sat over their pipes, looking out upon the Castle Green, where the world of Hereford was taking its pleasure in the cool summer evening.

‘I wonder what has become of Decie?’ Trevor observed. ‘It’s nearly nine o’clock.’

‘I hope he isn’t going to make an ass of himself as he did in the Easter “Vac,”’ Denton said practically. ‘You never saw such a wet blanket; and a fellow who had just come into a clear three thousand a year, too! And twelve months ago there wasn’t a cheerier, happier man in the ‘Varsity.’

Trevor pulled at his pipe a few moments in reflective silence.

‘I noticed the change when we were at Cookham together at the commencement of this “long” Colden had a houseboat there with a lot of people in the party; and when Dixon and I agreed to join, Phil cut it. After agreeing to join, too! Miss Rashleigh was one of them; and, between ourselves, Decie would have jumped at the chance of meeting her once.’

‘Oh, Miss Rashleigh was there!’ Denton replied reflectively. ‘My dear Bertie, did it ever strike you that that was the very reason why Phil threw over Colden at the last moment? I daresay you won’t believe me, but it is the fact nevertheless.’

‘We used to think Phil would have married her.’

‘We were not the only people who thought so: anyway, there was something between them. She is a nice girl; and I dare swear that if anything was wrong, it wasn’t her fault. Phil was poor enough then; but she liked him better than any of us, all the same. Everything seemed to go smoothly enough, till that unpleasant affair over the diamond bracelet.’

‘I never heard of it,’ said Trevor. ‘Where was that?’

‘Well, perhaps I ought not to mention it; but I was under the impression you knew. It was during the May races last year–you didn’t keep that term I recollect now. And they were all up there–Colonel Scobell and his family, with Miss Rashleigh, who is his niece, you know.–I was all the more put out because the affair happened in my rooms. The Scobells had been very kind to Decie the “long” before, and nothing would do but he must give them a lunch; and my rooms, being some of the best in the college, were borrowed for the purpose. Miss Rashleigh’s diamond bracelet, the last thing her mother gave her before she died, was lost.’

‘Seems strange to lose a thing like that in a man’s rooms.’

‘Precisely–that is the most unpleasant part of it. It was only laid down for a moment in an inner apartment; and when Miss Rashleigh went in, it was gone. No servant had been there–no one but Decie and Gerard Rashleigh, her brother, you know.–Anyway, it was never found.’

‘What do you make of it?’ Trevor asked cautiously. ‘Valuable trinkets like that don’t disappear without aid. Still, at the same time, it would be absurd to dream of Phil having a hand in it.’

Denton watched the smoke curling round his bead for a few minutes. His next words startled Bertie out of his philosophic calm: ‘We shouldn’t; but there is no doubt Miss Rashleigh did–and does.’

‘My dear Fred, you rave! Philip Decie would cut off his right hand first. Besides, with all his money’–

‘Now, see how rash youth rushes to conclusions.–How long is it since Philip’s uncle died and left him a fortune?–Five months. And up to that time, if you had searched the university of Cambridge through, you would not have found a poorer undergraduate than Decie.’

‘But surely you don’t think’–

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