Page:Twice-Told Tales (1851) vol 2.djvu/291

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285
THE THREEFOLD DESTINY.

doubtless long ago corrected; taking all these matters, I say, into due consideration, we are of opinion that Providence hath sent you hither, at this juncture, for our very purpose.'

During this harangue, Cranfield gazed fixedly at the speaker, as if he beheld something mysterious and unearthly in his pompous little figure, and as if the Squire had worn the flowing robes of an ancient sage, instead of a square-skirted coat, flapped waistcoat, velvet breeches and silk stockings. Nor was his wonder without sufficient cause; for the flourish of the Squire's staff, marvellous to relate, had described precisely the signal in the air which was to ratify the message of the prophetic Sage, whom Cranfield had sought around the world.

'And what,' inquired Ralph Cranfield, with a tremor in his voice, 'what may this office be, which is to equal me with kings and potentates?'

'No less than instructor of our village school, answered Squire Hawkwood; the office being now vacant by the death of the venerable Master Whitaker, after a fifty years' incumbency.'

'I will consider of your proposal,' replied Ralph Cranfield, hurriedly, 'and will make known my decision within three days.'

After a few more words, the village dignitary and his companions took their leave. But to Cranfield's fancy their images were still present, and became more and more invested with the dim awfulness of figures which had first appeared to him in a dream, and afterwards had shown themselves in his waking moments, assuming homely aspects among familiar