Lance slipped to the floor and trotted to the drawing-room door.
The room was lighted only by two tall Yule candles burning on the mantel-piece; and a small, brown-bearded clergyman was reposing in an arm-chair beside the wood-fire. Lance, peering round the door, saw his father start upright in his chair with a face of terror.
“Gracious heavens!” said the clergyman. “Why, Charlie, do you take me for a ghost?” cried the stranger. “Dick—it’s Dick!” said the little clergyman, jumping up. The brothers-in-law shook hands.
“How brown you are!” the Reverend
Charles went on delightedly. “How are you? How did you get here? We never expected you until next week.”
“We had a quick run, and I came straight through, so as to arrive on Christmas Eve. That’s the proper day for the prodigal to arrive on, is n’t it?”
“Of course,” said the parson. “Lance, run and tell cook to bring supper for your Uncle Dick at once.” “Why do you wear a dog-collar, Charles?” his new uncle was
inquiring when Lance came back. “You never used to.” “It’s clerical, it’s comfortable—look at the girth—it saves wash ing, you can’t see the join, and it’s High Church,” said the Reverend Charles, fingering the circlet of thin brass sheathed in linen, which was his own invention. “I wear a jewelled stole now—you shall see me wear it on the next festival.”
“Shall I?” said Uncle Dick.
“Hullo, here’s the Tyke.
here, nephew, and let me have a look at you.” Uncle Dick, Lance thought, was a very handsome man, with his
bright eyes, heavy mustache, and his sun-browned face. “How old are you, Tyke?” said Uncle Dick. “Nine,” said the boy.
“You’ve grown since I saw you,” said the uncle. “I knew you’d say that,” retorted his nephew. “You’d be sur prised if I had n’t grown, would n’t you?” “Tyke,” said Uncle Dick, “do you know who I am?
I am the
fairy uncle from the back of beyond, who has come home to make all your fortunes.” And Lance, who had met this hero in more than one story-book,
went to bed highly excited, because he knew his father to be a poor man. “He’s not like his poor mother—not like a Thornhaigh, is he?
He’s more like you, Charles,” said Uncle Dick, when they were alone. “And yet,” said the Reverend Charles, “I sometimes seem to trace in him a strain of poor Maria's temperament.”
“Cheer up, Charles,” said Uncle Dick, filling his glass. “He’s young yet, and you have him all to yourself.” “I did n’t mean that at all, Dick,” the clergyman mildly protested.