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A Rogue's Life

Ceremonies. These visions and events I can recall vaguely; and with them my
remembrances of the ball come to a close. It was a complete failure, and that
would, of itself, have been enough to sicken me of remaining at the Duskydale
Institution, even if I had not had any reasons of the tender sort for wishing to
extend my travels in rural England to the neighborhood of Barkingham.
The difficulty was how to find a decent pretext for getting away. Fortunately, the
Managing Committee relieved me of any perplexity on this head, by passing a
resolution, one day, which called upon the President to remonstrate with me on
my want of proper interest in the affairs of the Institution. I replied to the
remonstrance that the affairs of the Institution were so hopelessly dull that it was
equally absurd and unjust to expect any human being to take the smallest
interest in them. At this there arose an indignant cry of "Resign!" from the whole
committee; to which I answered politely, that I should be delighted to oblige the
gentlemen, and to go forthwith, on condition of receiving a quarter's salary in the
way of previous compensation.
After a sordid opposition from an economical minority, my condition of departure
was accepted. I wrote a letter of resignation, received in exchange twelve pounds
ten shillings, and took my place, that same day, on the box-seat of the
Barkingham mail.
Rather changeable this life of mine, was it not? Before I was twenty-five years of
age, I had tried doctoring, caricaturing portrait-painting, old picture-making, and
Institution-managing; and now, with the help of Alicia, I was about to try how a
little marrying would suit me. Surely, Shakespeare must have had me
prophetically in his eye, when he wrote about "one man in his time playing many
parts." What a character I should have made for him, if he had only been alive
now!
I found out from the coachman, among other matters, that there was a famous
fishing stream near Barkingham; and the first thing I did, on arriving at the town,
was to buy a rod and line.
It struck me that my safest way of introducing myself would be to tell Doctor
Dulcifer that I had come to the neighborhood for a little fishing, and so to prevent
him from fancying that I was suspiciously prompt in availing myself of his offered
hospitality. I put up, of course, at the inn--stuck a large parchment book of flies
half in and half out of the pocket of my shooting-jacket--and set off at once to the
doctor's. The waiter of whom I asked my way stared distrustfully while he
directed me. The people at the inn had evidently heard of my new friend, and
were not favorably disposed toward the cause of scientific investigation.
The house stood about a mile out of the town, in a dip of ground near the famous
fishing-stream. It was a lonely, old-fashioned red-brick building, surrounded by
high walls, with a garden and plantation behind it.
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