17. The Events Of One Day
1. MARCH THE THIRTEENTH. THREE TO SIX O'CLOCK A.M.
They entered Anglebury Station in the dead, still time of early morning, the clock
over the booking-office pointing to twenty-five minutes to three. Manston lingered
on the platform and saw the mail-bags brought out, noticing, as a pertinent
pastime, the many shabby blotches of wax from innumerable seals that had been
set upon their mouths. The guard took them into a fly, and was driven down the
road to the post-office.
It was a raw, damp, uncomfortable morning, though, as yet, little rain was falling.
Manston drank a mouthful from his flask and walked at once away from the
station, pursuing his way through the gloom till he stood on the side of the town
adjoining, at a distance from the last house in the street of about two hundred
The station road was also the turnpike-road into the country, the first part of its
course being across a heath. Having surveyed the highway up and down to
make sure of its bearing, Manston methodically set himself to walk backwards
and forwards a stone's throw in each direction. Although the spring was
temperate, the time of day, and the condition of suspense in which the steward
found himself, caused a sensation of chilliness to pervade his frame in spite of
the overcoat he wore. The drizzling rain increased, and drops from the trees at
the wayside fell noisily upon the hard road beneath them, which reflected from its
glassy surface the faint halo of light hanging over the lamps of the adjacent town.
Here he walked and lingered for two hours, without seeing or hearing a living
soul. Then he heard the market-house clock strike five, and soon afterwards,
quick hard footsteps smote upon the pavement of the street leading towards him.
They were those of the postman for the Tolchurch beat. He reached the bottom
of the street, gave his bags a final hitch-up, stepped off the pavement, and struck
out for the country with a brisk shuffle.
Manston then turned his back upon the town, and walked slowly on. In two
minutes a flickering light shone upon his form, and the postman overtook him.
The new-comer was a short, stooping individual of above five-and- forty, laden
on both sides with leather bags large and small, and carrying a little lantern
strapped to his breast, which cast a tiny patch of light upon the road ahead.
'A tryen mornen for travellers!' the postman cried, in a cheerful voice, without
turning his head or slackening his trot.
'It is, indeed,' said Manston, stepping out abreast of him. 'You have a long walk
'Yes--a long walk--for though the distance is only sixteen miles on the straight--
that is, eight to the furthest place and eight back, what with the ins and outs to
the gentlemen's houses, it makes two- and-twenty for my legs. Two-and-twenty
miles a day, how many a year? I used to reckon it, but I never do now. I don't
care to think o' my wear and tear, now it do begin to tell upon me.'