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4. The Dillsborough Club
The club, so called at Dillsborough, was held every Saturday evening in a back
parlour at the Bush, and was attended generally by seven or eight members. It
was a very easy club. There was no balloting, and no other expense attending it
other than that of paying for the liquor which each man chose to drink.
Sometimes, about ten o'clock, there was a little supper, the cost of which was
defrayed by subscription among those who partook of it. It was one rule of the
club, or a habit, rather, which had grown to be a rule, that Mr. Runciman might
introduce into it any one he pleased. I do not know that a similar privilege was
denied to any one else; but as Mr. Runciman had a direct pecuniary advantage in
promoting the club, the new-comers were generally ushered in by him. When the
attorney and Twentyman entered the room Mr. Runciman was seated as usual in
an arm-chair at the corner of the fire nearest to the door, with the bell at his right
hand. He was a hale, good-looking man about fifty, with black hair, now turning
grey at the edges, and a clean-shorn chin. He had a pronounced strong face of
his own, one capable of evincing anger and determination when necessary, but
equally apt for smiles or, on occasion, for genuine laughter. He was a masterful
but a pleasant man, very civil to customers and to his friends generally while they
took him the right way; but one who could be a Tartar if he were offended,
holding an opinion that his position as landlord of an inn was one requiring
masterdom. And his wife was like him in everything,--except in this, that she
always submitted to him. He was a temperate man in the main; but on Saturday
nights he would become jovial, and sometimes a little quarrelsome. When this
occurred the club would generally break itself up and go home to bed, not in the
least offended. Indeed Mr. Runciman was the tyrant of the club, though it was
held at his house expressly with the view of putting money into his pocket.
Opposite to his seat was another arm-chair,--not so big as Mr. Runciman's, but
still a soft and easy chair, which was always left for the attorney. For Mr. Masters
was a man much respected through all Dillsborough, partly on his own account,
but more perhaps for the sake of his father and grandfather. He was a round-
faced, clean-shorn man, with straggling grey hair, who always wore black clothes
and a white cravat. There was something in his appearance which recommended
him among his neighbours, who were disposed to say he "looked the
gentleman;" but a stranger might have thought his cheeks to be flabby and his
mouth to be weak.
Making a circle, or the beginning of a circle, round the fire, were Nupper, the
doctor,--a sporting old bachelor doctor who had the reputation of riding after the
hounds in order that he might be ready for broken bones and minor accidents;
next to him, in another arm-chair, facing the fire, was Ned Botsey, the younger of
the two brewers from Norrington, who was in the habit during the hunting season
of stopping from Saturday to Monday at the Bush, partly because the Rufford
hounds hunted on Saturday and Monday and on those days seldom met in the