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However, Tim may have changed.


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Meanwhile what about yourself? Passed my examinations, walked the hospitals, took my degree, and hearing that a doctor was wanted down at Barnstaple, I went there. For some years I practised with more or less success. Then I retired to give——". Country doctors never make fortunes. I inherit five hundred a year from my father, and as there is no necessity for me to physic people for a livelihood, I devote myself——". You had a butterfly and beetle mania at school. If I remember rightly, we rolled you in nettles to cure you of entomology.

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Boys don't relish scientific urchins. So you are still at it. But five hundred a year and beetles. Peter, you are not ambitious. My entomology gives me great pleasure, or why should I not enjoy myself in my own way? Ah, Philip, you do not know what true enjoyment is.

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Philip looked kindly at the little man who appeared to be so satisfied with his simple pleasures. Come with me on a cruise, and I will introduce you to the paradise of butterflies. Tropical America, Peter, where the insects are like flying flowers. Green butterflies, purple beetles, gilded moths——". Why, Philip, if only——". And Tim it was. Tim, large and burly, roaring like a Bull of Bashan, who hurled himself into the room, and flung himself on Philip's neck.

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Warned by the fate of Philip, the doctor skilfully evaded the embrace of the giant, and Tim was only able to demonstrate his affection by a handgrip. He threw all his soul into this latter, and Peter's face wrinkled up like a monkey's with pain. It was like a fly struggling with an elephant, and Philip, thoroughly roused from his ordinary placidity, laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks.

Tim, who had rushed upstairs without pause, meekly delivered the articles in question to the servant, who stood grinning at the door. Looking on this respectful grin as a liberty, Philip frowned at the poor man, who thereupon vanished, while Tim, overcome by his late exertions, fell so heavily into a chair that the room rocked.

Tim roared with laughter in the most unfeeling manner, and Cassim, with a smile, placed his hand on the giant's shoulder. I wouldn't have recognised you, though, save for the brogue. It's as strong as ever. Besides, I've been to Cork since. I can tell lies in any one of them. So here you are, lads. Where's Jack? What is the time? Tim took out his piece of paper from a pocket-book commensurate to his size, and smoothed it carefully with his huge hand.

But this is a special occasion, and Jack should be punctual. Confound him. How are you, Tim? But I needn't ask, you look like the giant Goribuster. Special corresponding isn't knocking about the world in a gentleman's yacht, sir. You are more like a Christian than when I last saw you. In London—no less. Didn't I see you at the theatre six months ago, looking for all the world as if you were attending your own funeral? Don't think me such a prig. Why, I came all the way from the Guinea coast just to meet you.

If you didn't recognise an old friend, it's thrashing you I'd be, as once I did at school. But we can talk of these things again. I want to know what Tim is doing.

The Harlequin Opal, Vol. 1 (of 3) A Romance

Am I not a special correspondent, you ignorant little person? When I left school, I went to Ireland and became a reporter. Then I was taken up by a paper in London, and went to the Soudan—afterwards to Burmah, where I was nearly drowned in the Irriwaddy. They know me in Algiers and Morocco. He's in glory now—rest his soul! They hanged him for being a Dacoit, poor devil. That boat of yours is a kind of Flying Dutchman.


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  5. I was just trying to persuade Peter to take a cruise with me. There's no war on at present, and I'm not busy. If those squabbling South American Republics don't come to blows again, I'll be free for six months, more or less. Let us take him back in Philip's yacht.

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    It's no use waiting any longer for Jack, so I vote we have dinner. It's a mighty little chap you are, Peter! You don't know the value of time, sir. Come along with me to the dining-room. Indeed, he would have carried him into the dining-room had not the presence of the servant restrained him.

    Tim had no idea of the dignity of the medical profession. The servant intimated that dinner was ready, so the three friends sat down to the meal rather regretting that Jack was not present to complete the quartette. Just as they finished their soup the servant announced—. Simultaneously the three sprang up from the table, and on looking towards the door beheld a tall young fellow, arrayed in tweeds, standing on the threshold. Having finished dinner, they repaired to the library, and there made themselves comfortable with coffee and tobacco.

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    Emotion at meeting one another after the lapse of so many years had by no means deprived them of their appetites, and they all did full justice to the excellent fare provided by Philip's cook. So busy were they in this respect that during the meal conversation waxed somewhat desultory, and it was not until comfortably seated in the library that they found time for a thoroughly exhaustive confabulation. For this purpose the quartette drew their chairs close together, and proceeded to incense the goddess Nicotina, of whom they were all devotees save Peter.

    He said that tobacco was bad for the nerves, especially when in the guise of cigarettes, which last shaft was aimed at Philip, who particularly affected those evil little dainties abhorred by Dr. Jack and Tim, to mark their contempt for Peter's counter-blast, produced well-coloured meerschaum pipes, which had circumnavigated the globe in their pockets. Whereat Peter, despairing of making proselytes, held his tongue and busied himself with his coffee—very weak coffee, with plenty of milk and no sugar.

    But you won't live any the longer for such self-denial. Tim, there, with his strong coffee and stronger tobacco, will live to bury you. Why, I never had a touch of liver in my life. All this time Jack had spoken very little. He alone of the party was not seated, but leaned against the mantelpiece, pipe in mouth, with a far-away look in his eyes. While Tim and Peter wrangled over the ailments of the former, Philip, lying back luxuriously in his chair, surveyed his old schoolfellow thoughtfully through a veil of smoke.

    He saw a greater change in Jack than in the other two.

    In truth, Duval was well worth looking at, for, without being the ideal Greek god of romance, he was undeniably a handsome young man. Tim had the advantage of him in height and size, but Jack's lean frame and iron muscles would carry him successfully through greater hardships than could the Irishman's uncultivated strength. Jack could last for days in the saddle; he could sustain existence on the smallest quantity of food compatible with actual life; he could endure all disagreeables incidental to a pioneer existence with philosophical resignation, and altogether presented an excellent type of the Anglo-Saxon race in its colonising capacity.

    Certainly the special correspondent had, in the interests of his profession, undergone considerable hardships with fair success; but Tim was too fond of pampering his body when among the fleshpots of Egypt, whereas Jack, constantly in the van of civilisation subjugating wildernesses, had no time to relapse into luxurious living. The spirit was willing enough, but the flesh had no chance of indulging.

    His face, bronzed by tropic suns, his curly yellow locks, his jauntily curled moustache, and a certain reckless gleam in his blue eyes, made him look like one of those dare-devil, Elizabethan seamen who thrashed the Dons on the Spanish Main. Man of action as he was, fertile in expedients, and constantly on the alert for possible dangers, Jack Duval was eminently fitted for the profession which he had chosen, and could only endure existence in the desert places of the world. This huge London, with its sombre skies, its hurrying crowds, its etiquette of civilisation, was by no means to his taste, and already he was looking forward with relief to the time when he would once more be on his way to the vivid, careless, dangerous life of the frontier.