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The Parting Guest
by [?]

After breakfast I lit a pipe and strolled outside. As I stood at the door drinking in the beauty of the morning I was the victim of a curious illusion. It seemed to me that outside the front door was the pony-cart–Joseph in the shafts, the gardener’s boy holding the reins, and by the side of the boy my bag!

“We’ll only just have time, sir,” said the boy.

“But–but I’m going by the five train,” I stammered.

“Well, sir, I shall be over at Newtown this afternoon–with the cart.”

I did not like to ask him why, but I thought I knew. It was, I told myself, to fetch back the horse which Charles was going over to inspect, the horse to which I had to give up my room that night.

“Very well,” I said. “Take the bag now and leave it in the cloak-room. I’ll walk in later.” What the etiquette was when your host gave you a hint by sending your bag to the station and going away himself, I did not know. But however many bags he packed and however many horses he inspected, I was not to be moved till the five o’clock train.

Half an hour after my bag was gone I made a discovery. It was that, when I started walking to the five o’clock train, I should have to start in pumps….

. . . . .

“My dear Charles,” I wrote that night, “it was delightful to see you this week-end, and I only wish I could have stayed with you longer, but, as you know, I had to dash up to town by the five train to inspect a mule. I am sorry to say that a slight accident happened just before I left you. In the general way, when I catch an afternoon train, I like to pack my bag overnight, but on this occasion I did not begin until nine in the morning. This only left me eight hours, and the result was that in my hurry I packed my shoes by mistake, and had to borrow a pair of yours in which to walk to the station. I will bring them down with me next time I come.”

I may say that they are unusually good shoes, and if Charles doesn’t want me he must at least want them. So I am expecting another invitation by every post. When it arrives I shall reply that I shall be delighted to come, but that, alas! pressure of work will prevent my staying beyond Tuesday.