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Lady of the Barge and Others, Entire Collection by W.W. Jacobs

Part 4 out of 4

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"'I am sorry,' said I, as I reached across the table and gripped his
hand, 'that I am such a fool; but it was only in the dark that you
startled me.'

"From a faint tinge in the old man's cheek and a certain pleasant
softening of the poor solitary eye in front of me I secretly
congratulated myself upon this last remark.

"'We never see a friend,' said the old man, apologetically, 'and the
temptation to have company was too much for us. Besides, I don't know
what else you could have done.'

"'Nothing else half so good, I'm sure,' said I.

"'Come,' said my host, with almost a sprightly air. 'Now we know each
other, draw our chairs to the fire and let's keep this birthday in a
proper fashion.'

"He drew a small table to the fire for the glasses and produced a box of
cigars, and placing a chair for the old servant, sternly bade her to sit
down and drink. If the talk was not sparkling, it did not lack for
vivacity, and we were soon as merry a party as I have ever seen. The
night wore on so rapidly that we could hardly believe our ears when in a
lull in the conversation a clock in the hall struck twelve.

"'A last toast before we retire,' said my host, pitching the end of his
cigar into the fire and turning to the small table.

"We had drunk several before this, but there was something impressive in
the old man's manner as he rose and took up his glass. His tall figure
seemed to get taller, and his voice rang as he gazed proudly at his
disfigured son.

"'The health of the children my boy saved!' he said, and drained his
glass at a draught."


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