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A Changed Man and Other Tales


Chapter1
The person who, next to the actors themselves, chanced to know most of
their story, lived just below ÔTop oÕ TownÕ (as the spot was called) in an
old substantially-built house, distinguished among its neighbours by
having an oriel window on the first floor, whence could be obtained a
raking view of the High Street, west and east, the former including
LauraÕs dwelling, the end of the Town Avenue hard by (in which were
played the odd pranks hereafter to be mentioned), the Port-Bredy road
rising westwards, and the turning that led to the cavalry barracks where
the Captain was quartered. Looking eastward down the town from the
same favoured gazebo, the long perspective of houses declined and
dwindled till they merged in the highway across the moor. The white
riband of road disappeared over GreyÕs Bridge a quarter of a mile off, to
plunge into innumerable rustic windings, shy shades, and solitary undu-
lations up hill and down dale for one hundred and twenty miles till it ex-
hibited itself at Hyde Park Corner as a smooth bland surface in touch
with a busy and fashionable world.
To the barracks aforesaid had recently arrived the Ñth Hussars, a regi-
ment new to the locality. Almost before any acquaintance with its mem-
bers had been made by the townspeople, a report spread that they were
a ÔcrackÕ body of men, and had brought a splendid band. For some reas-
on or other the town had not been used as the headquarters of cavalry
for many years, the various troops stationed there having consisted of
casual detachments only; so that it was with a sense of honour that
everybodyÑeven the small furniture-broker from whom the married
troopers hired tables and chairsÑreceived the news of their crack
quality.
In those days the Hussar regiments still wore over the left shoulder
that attractive attachment, or frilled half-coat, hanging loosely behind
like the wounded wing of a bird, which was called the pelisse, though it
was known among the troopers themselves as a Ôsling-jacket.Õ It added
amazingly to their picturesqueness in womenÕs eyes, and, indeed, in the
eyes of men also.
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