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A Love-Knot-by W.W.Jacobs-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:Love-Knot

Written by: W.W.jacobs

Category:Fiction, Classics,

Page 1:

Mr. Nathaniel Clark and Mrs. Bowman had just finished their third game of draughts. It had been a difficult game for Mr. Clark, the lady’s mind having been so occupied with other matters that he had had great difficulty in losing. Indeed, it was only by pushing an occasional piece of his own off the board that he had succeeded.

“A penny for your thoughts, Amelia,” he said, at last.

Mrs. Bowman smiled faintly. “They were far away,” she confessed.

Mr. Clark assumed an expression of great solemnity; allusions of this kind to the late Mr. Bowman were only too frequent. He was fortunate when they did not grow into reminiscences of a career too blameless for successful imitation.

“I suppose,” said the widow, slowly–“I suppose I ought to tell you: I’ve had a letter.”

Mr. Clark’s face relaxed.

“It took me back to the old scenes,” continued Mrs. Bowman, dreamily. “I have never kept anything back from you, Nathaniel. I told you all about the first man I ever thought anything of–Charlie Tucker?”

Mr. Clark cleared his throat. “You did,” he said, a trifle hoarsely. “More than once.”

“I’ve just had a letter from him,” said Mrs. Bowman, simpering. “Fancy, after all these years! Poor fellow, he has only just heard of my husband’s death, and, by the way he writes–“

She broke off and drummed nervously on the table.

“He hasn’t heard about me, you mean,” said Mr. Clark, after waiting to give her time to finish.

“How should he?” said the widow.

“If he heard one thing, he might have heard the other,” retorted Mr. Clark. “Better write and tell him. Tell him that in six weeks’ time you’ll be Mrs. Clark. Then, perhaps, he won’t write again.”

Mrs. Bowman sighed. “I thought, after all these years, that he must be dead,” she said, slowly, “or else married. But he says in his letter that he has kept single for my sake all these years.”

“Well, he’ll be able to go on doing it,” said Mr. Clark; “it’ll come easy to him after so much practice.”

“He–he says in his letter that he is coming to see me,” said the widow, in a low voice, “to–to–this evening.”

“Coming to see you?” repeated Mr. Clark, sharply. “What for?”

“To talk over old times, he says,” was the reply. “I expect he has altered a great deal; he was a fine-looking fellow–and so dashing. After I gave him up he didn’t care what he did. The last I heard of him he had gone abroad.”

Mr. Clark muttered something under his breath, and, in a mechanical fashion, began to build little castles with the draughts. He was just about to add to an already swaying structure when a thundering rat-tat- tat at the door dispersed the draughts to the four corners of the room. The servant opened the door, and the next moment ushered in Mrs. Bowman’s visitor.

A tall, good-looking man in a frock-coat, with a huge spray of mignonette in his button-hole, met the critical gaze of Mr. Clark. He paused at the door and, striking an attitude, pronounced in tones of great amazement the Christian name of the lady of the house.

“Mr. Tucker!” said the widow, blushing.

“The same girl,” said the visitor, looking round wildly, “the same as the day she left me. Not a bit changed; not a hair different.”

He took her extended hand and, bending over it, kissed it respectfully.

“It’s–it’s very strange to see you again, Mr. Tucker,” said Mrs. Bowman, withdrawing her hand in some confusion.

“Mr. Tucker!” said that gentleman, reproachfully; “it used to be Charlie.”

Mrs. Bowman blushed again, and, with a side glance at the frowning Mr. Clark, called her visitor’s attention to him and introduced them. The gentlemen shook hands stiffly.

“Any friend of yours is a friend of mine,” said Mr. Tucker, with a patronizing air. “How are you, sir?”

Mr. Clark replied that he was well, and, after some hesitation, said that he hoped he was the same. Mr. Tucker took a chair and, leaning back, stroked his huge mustache and devoured the widow with his eyes. “Fancy seeing you again!” said the latter, in some embarrassment. “How did you find me out?”

“It’s a long story,” replied the visitor, “but I always had the idea that we should meet again. Your photograph has been with me all over the world. In the backwoods of Canada, in the bush of Australia, it has been my one comfort and guiding star. If ever I was tempted to do wrong, I used to take your photograph out and look at it.”

“I s’pose you took it out pretty often?” said Mr. Clark, restlessly. “To look at, I mean,” he added, hastily, as Mrs. Bowman gave him an indignant glance.

“Every day,” said the visitor, solemnly. “Once when I injured myself out hunting, and was five days without food or drink, it was the only thing that kept me alive.”

Mr. Clark’s gibe as to the size of the photograph was lost in Mrs. Bowman’s exclamations of pity.

“I once lived on two ounces of gruel and a cup of milk a day for ten days,” he said, trying to catch the widow’s eye. “After the ten days–“

“When the Indians found me I was delirious,” continued Mr. Tucker, in a hushed voice, “and when I came to my senses I found that they were calling me ‘Amelia.'”

Mr. Clark attempted to relieve the situation by a jocose inquiry as to whether he was wearing a mustache at the time, but Mrs. Bowman frowned him down. He began to whistle under his breath, and Mrs. Bowman promptly said, “H’sh!”

“But how did you discover me?” she inquired, turning again to the visitor.

“Wandering over the world,” continued Mr. Tucker, “here to-day and there to-morrow, and unable to settle down anywhere, I returned to Northtown about two years ago. Three days since, in a tramcar, I heard your name mentioned. I pricked up my ears and listened; when I heard that you were free I could hardly contain myself. I got into conversation with the lady and obtained your address, and after travelling fourteen hours here I am.”

“How very extraordinary!” said the widow. “I wonder who it could have been? Did she mention her name?”

Mr. Tucker shook his head. Inquiries as to the lady’s appearance, age, and dress were alike fruitless. “There was a mist before my eyes,” he explained. “I couldn’t realize it. I couldn’t believe in my good fortune.”

“I can’t think–” began Mrs. Bowman.

“What does it matter?” inquired Mr. Tucker, softly. “Here we are together again, with life all before us and the misunderstandings of long ago all forgotten.”

Mr. Clark cleared his throat preparatory to speech, but a peremptory glance from Mrs. Bowman restrained him.

“I thought you were dead,” she said, turning to the smiling Mr. Tucker. “I never dreamed of seeing you again.”

“Nobody would,” chimed in Mr. Clark. “When do you go back?”

“Back?” said the visitor. “Where?”

“Australia,” replied Mr. Clark, with a glance of defiance at the widow. “You must ha’ been missed a great deal all this time.”

Mr. Tucker regarded him with a haughty stare. Then he bent towards Mrs. Bowman.

“Do you wish me to go back?” he asked, impressively,

“We don’t wish either one way or the other,” said Mr. Clark, before the widow could speak. “It don’t matter to us.”

“We?” said Mr. Tucker, knitting his brows and gazing anxiously at Mrs. Bowman. “We?”

“We are going to be married in six weeks’ time,” said Mr. Clark.

Mr. Tucker looked from one to the other in silent misery; then, shielding his eyes with his hand, he averted his head. Mrs. Bowman, with her hands folded in her lap, regarded him with anxious solicitude.

“I thought perhaps you ought to know,” said Mr. Clark.

Mr. Tucker sat bolt upright and gazed at him fixedly. “I wish you joy,” he said, in a hollow voice.

“Thankee,” said Mr. Clark; “we expect to be pretty happy.” He smiled at Mrs. Bowman, but she made no response. Her looks wandered from one to the other–from the good-looking, interesting companion of her youth to the short, prosaic little man who was exulting only too plainly in his discomfiture.

Mr. Tucker rose with a sigh. “Good-by,” he said, extending his hand.

“You are not going–yet?” said the widow.

Mr. Tucker’s low-breathed “I must” was just audible. The widow renewed her expostulations.

“Perhaps he has got a train to catch,” said the thoughtful Mr. Clark.

“No, sir,” said Mr. Tucker. “As a matter of fact, I had taken a room at the George Hotel for a week, but I suppose I had better get back home again.”

“No; why should you?” said Mrs. Bowman, with a rebellious glance at Mr. Clark. “Stay, and come in and see me sometimes and talk over old times. And Mr. Clark will be glad to see you, I’m sure. Won’t you Nath–Mr. Clark?”

“I shall be–delighted,” said Mr. Clark, staring hard at the mantelpiece. “De-lighted.”

Mr. Tucker thanked them both, and after groping for some time for the hand of Mr. Clark, who was still intent upon the mantelpiece, pressed it warmly and withdrew. Mrs. Bowman saw him to the door, and a low-voiced colloquy, in which Mr. Clark caught the word “afternoon,” ensued. By the time the widow returned to the room he was busy building with the draughts again.

Mr. Tucker came the next day at three o’clock, and the day after at two. On the third morning he took Mrs. Bowman out for a walk, airily explaining to Mr. Clark, who met them on the way, that they had come out to call for him. The day after, when Mr. Clark met them returning from a walk, he was assured that his silence of the day before was understood to indicate a distaste for exercise.

“And, you see, I like a long walk,” said Mrs. Bowman, “and you are not what I should call a good walker.”

“You never used to complain,” said Mr. Clark; “in fact, it was generally you that used to suggest turning back.”

“She wants to be amused as well,” remarked Mr. Tucker; “then she doesn’t feel the fatigue.”

Mr. Clark glared at him, and then, shortly declining Mrs. Bowman’s invitation to accompany them home, on the ground that he required exercise, proceeded on his way. He carried himself so stiffly, and his manner was so fierce, that a well-meaning neighbor who had crossed the road to join him, and offer a little sympathy if occasion offered, talked of the weather for five minutes and inconsequently faded away at a corner.

Trimington as a whole watched the affair with amusement, although Mr. Clark’s friends adopted an inflection of voice in speaking to him which reminded him strongly of funerals. Mr. Tucker’s week was up, but the landlord of the George was responsible for the statement that he had postponed his departure indefinitely.

Matters being in this state, Mr. Clark went round to the widow’s one evening with the air of a man who has made up his mind to decisive action. He entered the room with a bounce and, hardly deigning to notice the greeting of Mr. Tucker, planted himself in a chair and surveyed him grimly. “I thought I should find you here,” he remarked.

“Well, I always am here, ain’t I?” retorted Mr. Tucker, removing his cigar and regarding him with mild surprise.

“Mr. Tucker is my friend,” interposed Mrs. Bowman. “I am the only friend he has got in Trimington. It’s natural he should be here.”

Mr. Clark quailed at her glance.

“People are beginning to talk,” he muttered, feebly.

“Talk?” said the widow, with an air of mystification belied by her color. “What about?”

Mr. Clark quailed again. “About–about our wedding,” he stammered.

Filed in: Classics, Humor, Short Novel, W. W. Jacobs

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