The first thing I did, after we were left together alone, was to make a third attempt
to get up from my seat on the sand. Mr. Franklin stopped me.
"There is one advantage about this horrid place," he said; "we have got it all to
ourselves. Stay where you are, Betteredge; I have something to say to you."
While he was speaking, I was looking at him, and trying to see something of the
boy I remembered, in the man before me. The man put me out. Look as I might, I
could see no more of his boy's rosy cheeks than of his boy's trim little jacket. His
complexion had got pale: his face, at the lower part was covered, to my great
surprise and disappointment, with a curly brown beard and mustachios. He had a
lively touch-and-go way with him, very pleasant and engaging, I admit; but
nothing to compare with his free-and-easy manners of other times. To make
matters worse, he had promised to be tall, and had not kept his promise. He was
neat, and slim, and well made; but he wasn't by an inch or two up to the middle
height. In short, he baffled me altogether. The years that had passed had left
nothing of his old self, except the bright, straightforward look in his eyes. There I
found our nice boy again, and there I concluded to stop in my investigation.
"Welcome back to the old place, Mr. Franklin," I said. "All the more welcome, sir,
that you have come some hours before we expected you."
"I have a reason for coming before you expected me," answered Mr. Franklin. "I
suspect, Betteredge, that I have been followed and watched in London, for the
last three or four days; and I have travelled by the morning instead of the
afternoon train, because I wanted to give a certain dark-looking stranger the slip."
Those words did more than surprise me. They brought back to my mind, in a
flash, the three jugglers, and Penelope's notion that they meant some mischief to
Mr. Franklin Blake.
"Who's watching you, sir,--and why?" I inquired.
"Tell me about the three Indians you have had at the house to-day," says Mr.
Franklin, without noticing my question. "It's just possible, Betteredge, that my
stranger and your three jugglers may turn out to be pieces of the same puzzle."
"How do you come to know about the jugglers, sir?" I asked, putting one question
on the top of another, which was bad manners, I own. But you don't expect much
from poor human nature-- so don't expect much from me.
"I saw Penelope at the house," says Mr. Franklin; "and Penelope told me. Your
daughter promised to be a pretty girl, Betteredge, and she has kept her promise.
Penelope has got a small ear and a small foot. Did the late Mrs. Betteredge
possess those inestimable advantages?"
"The late Mrs. Betteredge possessed a good many defects, sir," says I. "One of
them (if you will pardon my mentioning it) was never keeping to the matter in
hand. She was more like a fly than a woman: she couldn't settle on anything."
"She would just have suited me," says Mr. Franklin. "I never settle on anything
either. Betteredge, your edge is better than ever. Your daughter said as much,