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Our Library => Forrest Reid - Uncle Stephen (1931) => Topic started by: Admin on July 23, 2023, 05:28:23 am

Title: Chapter Eighteen
Post by: Admin on July 23, 2023, 05:28:23 am
WHEN a whole week had gone by without bringing news of Deverell, it was taken for granted even by his mother that there was no longer cause for anxiety. He had got away, and nobody had seen him go or knew his destination. Moreover, Mrs. Deverell had found out definitely---though Tom did not quite know how---that the police did not intend to do anything so long as the culprit remained in exile. But Tom had his own troubles---troubles which he kept to himself. He had not thought it right to bother Uncle Stephen, because Uncle Stephen was not well. This indeed was one of the causes of Tom’s inquietude, though the doctor had assured him there was no need to worry. All morning and all evening he sat with Uncle Stephen; every afternoon he hurried off to the other house. When he was in company he tried to be cheerful; when he was by himself he moped.

One afternoon, half an hour before tea-time, he had gone for a short walk along the Kilbarron road. But he had not proceeded far when he heard somebody calling his name, and looking round saw Mr. Knox. The curate waved his hand, hastened his footsteps: there was nothing for it but to wait.

‘It’s a long time since I’ve seen you,’ beamed Mr. Knox as he came up. ‘Where have you been hiding yourself?’

‘I’ve been busy,’ Tom answered.

Mr. Knox glanced at him, then glanced again, more closely, and there followed a brief pause.

‘I called at the Manor this afternoon,’ the curate said. ‘I’m glad to hear Mr. Collet is so much better.’

‘Yes, he felt better this morning, thank you.’

‘And how are you yourself?’

‘Very well, thank you.’

With an effort Tom continued the conversation. ‘Did you see Uncle Stephen?’

‘No. I’m afraid I didn’t ask to see him. It didn’t occur to me that he would want to see anybody while he was still in bed.’

And they walked on for another fifty yards.

‘It was Mrs. Deverell who told me he was better and hoped to get up for an hour or two to-morrow. As a matter of fact it was partly to see Mrs. Deverell that I called.’

‘Yes,’ said Tom.

‘Poor woman, she’s had a good deal to worry her, but I hope things will be all right now. It must be a temporary relief, at any rate, to have got rid of that blackguard, and I fancy from what I’ve heard he’s hardly likely to risk coming back.’

‘What blackguard?’ asked Tom.

Mr. Knox looked at him in surprise. ‘Surely you knew that her son had decamped?’



‘Did you know him?’

‘I can’t say I knew him, exactly,’ Mr. Knox replied. ‘I knew of him. I don’t suppose I’ve spoken more than half a dozen words to him in my life: any time I called at his mother’s cottage he slunk out by the back door.’

‘Yes---he would do that.’

‘You don’t think he was a blackguard?’ Mr. Knox said. ‘Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word.’

‘No, no; it’s not that: you may be right. I don’t know what a blackguard is. It’s somebody you don’t like, isn’t it? But then I liked Deverell, so it’s different for me.’

‘You liked him?’

‘Oh yes. I used to think I didn’t---or to pretend I didn’t---but I did, and do still.’

Mr. Knox looked at him again. ‘What is the matter, Tom?’

‘Nothing. Why?’

Mr. Knox walked on for some time in silence.

‘I asked for you also at the house, but Mrs. Deverell told me you had gone out with a friend. I’m very glad you’ve found somebody of your own age to be friends with. Mrs. Deverell did not seem to know his name, but she said you went out together every afternoon.’

Mr. Knox paused, as if expecting a little further enlightenment, but none was forthcoming.

‘Well, Tom, I’ll not inflict my company on you any longer,’ he said. ‘Because I don’t think you want it.’

Tom’s eyes met the curate’s for the first time. ‘That’s because I’ve been rude to you.’

‘No, not rude---I can’t imagine your being rude to anybody---but not very friendly.’

‘Rather a beast. I know. If I told you I’d been trying not to be, I suppose you’d hardly believe me.’

‘Yes,’ said Mr. Knox, ‘I should. But I can see you’re worried about something and would rather be alone.’

‘No----’ Tom began.

‘Now, Tom, don’t tell me an untruth: it’s better to be rude than to do that. So good-bye.’

‘Good-bye,’ said Tom.