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Enter A Dragoon
by [?]

A step with a clink of spurs in it struck upon the entry floor.

‘Danged if I bain’t catched!’ murmured Mr. Miller, forgetting company- speech. ‘Never mind–I may as well meet him here as elsewhere; and I should like to see the chap, and make friends with en, as he seems one o’ the right sort.’ He returned to the fireplace just as the sergeant-major was ushered in.


He was a good specimen of the long-service soldier of those days; a not unhandsome man, with a certain undemonstrative dignity, which some might have said to be partly owing to the stiffness of his uniform about his neck, the high stock being still worn. He was much stouter than when Selina had parted from him. Although she had not meant to be demonstrative she ran across to him directly she saw him, and he held her in his arms and kissed her.

Then in much agitation she whispered something to him, at which he seemed to be much surprised.

‘He’s just put to bed,’ she continued. ‘You can go up and see him. I knew you’d come if you were alive! But I had quite gi’d you up for dead. You’ve been home in England ever since the war ended?’

‘Yes, dear.’

‘Why didn’t you come sooner?’

‘That’s just what I ask myself! Why was I such a sappy as not to hurry here the first day I set foot on shore! Well, who’d have thought it–you are as pretty as ever!’

He relinquished her to peep upstairs a little way, where, by looking through the ballusters, he could see Johnny’s cot just within an open door. On his stepping down again Mr. Miller was preparing to depart.

‘Now, what’s this? I am sorry to see anybody going the moment I’ve come,’ expostulated the sergeant-major. ‘I thought we might make an evening of it. There’s a nine gallon cask o’ “Phoenix” beer outside in the trap, and a ham, and half a rawmil’ cheese; for I thought you might be short o’ forage in a lonely place like this; and it struck me we might like to ask in a neighbour or two. But perhaps it would be taking a liberty?’

‘O no, not at all,’ said Mr. Paddock, who was now in the room, in a judicial measured manner. ‘Very thoughtful of ‘ee, only ’twas not necessary, for we had just laid in an extry stock of eatables and drinkables in preparation for the coming event.’

”Twas very kind, upon my heart,’ said the soldier, ‘to think me worth such a jocund preparation, since you could only have got my letter this morning.’

Selina gazed at her father to stop him, and exchanged embarrassed glances with Miller. Contrary to her hopes Sergeant-Major Clark plainly did not know that the preparations referred to were for something quite other than his own visit.

The movement of the horse outside, and the impatient tapping of a whip- handle upon the vehicle reminded them that Clark’s driver was still in waiting. The provisions were brought into the house, and the cart dismissed. Miller, with very little pressure indeed, accepted an invitation to supper, and a few neighbours were induced to come in to make up a cheerful party.

During the laying of the meal, and throughout its continuance, Selina, who sat beside her first intended husband, tried frequently to break the news to him of her engagement to the other–now terminated so suddenly, and so happily for her heart, and her sense of womanly virtue. But the talk ran entirely upon the late war; and though fortified by half a horn of the strong ale brought by the sergeant-major she decided that she might have a better opportunity when supper was over of revealing the situation to him in private.

Having supped, Clark leaned back at ease in his chair and looked around. ‘We used sometimes to have a dance in that other room after supper, Selina dear, I recollect. We used to clear out all the furniture into this room before beginning. Have you kept up such goings on?’