Uncle Jeremy’s Household by Arthur Conan Doyle
Uncle Jeremy’s Household I
Uncle Jeremy’s Household II
Uncle Jeremy’s Household III
Uncle Jeremy’s Household IV
Uncle Jeremy’s Household V
Uncle Jeremy’s Household VI

Uncle Jeremy’s Household II

When we descended to the dining-room the rest of the household had already assembled for dinner. Old Jeremy, still wearing his quaint headgear, sat at the head of the table. Next to him, on his right, sat a very dark young lady with black hair and eyes, who was introduced to me as Miss Warrender. Beside her were two pretty children, a boy and a girl, who were evidently her charges. I sat opposite her, with Copperthorne on my left, while John faced his uncle. I can almost fancy now that I can see the yellow glare of the great oil lamp throwing Rembrandt-like lights and’ shades upon the ring of faces, some of which were soon to have so strange an interest for me.

It was a pleasant meal, apart from the excellence of the viands and the fact that the long journey had sharpened my appetite. Uncle Jeremy overflowed with anecdote and quotation, delighted to have found a new listener. Neither Miss Warrender nor Copperthorne spoke much, but all that the latter said bespoke the thoughtful and educated man. As to John, he had so much to say of college reminiscences and subsequent events that I fear his dinner was a scanty one.

When the dessert was put on the table Miss Warrender took the children away, and Uncle Jeremy withdrew into the library, where we could hear the dull murmur of his voice as he dictated to his amanuensis. My old friend and I sat for some time before the fire discussing the many things which had happened to both of us since our last meeting.

“And what do you think of our household?” he asked at last, with a smile.

I answered that I was very much interested with what I had seen of it. “Your uncle,” I said, “is quite a character. I like him very much.”

“Yes; he has a warm heart behind all his peculiarities. Your coming seems to have cheered him up, for he’s never been quite himself since little Ethel’s death. She was the youngest of Uncle Sam’s children, and came here with the others, but she had a fit or something in the shrubbery a couple of months ago. They found her lying dead there in the evening. It was a great blow to the old man.”

“It must have been to Miss Warrender too?” I remarked. “Yes; she was very much cut up. She had only been here a week or two at the time. She had driven over to Kirby Lonsdale that day to buy something.”

“I was very much interested,” I said, “in all that you told me about her. You were not chaffing, I suppose?”

“No, no; it’s true as gospel. Her father was Achmet Genghis Khan, a semi-independent chieftain somewhere in the Central Provinces. He was a bit of a heathen fanatic in spite of his Christian wife, and he became chummy with the Nana, and mixed himself up in the Cawnpore business, so Government came down heavily on him.”

“She must have been quite a woman before she left her tribe,” I said. “What view of religion does she take? Does she side with her father or mother?”

“We never press that question,” my friend answered. “Between ourselves, I don’t think she’s very orthodox. Her mother must have been a good woman, and besides teaching her English, she is a good French scholar, and plays remarkably well. Why, there she goes!”

As he spoke the sound of a piano was heard from the next room, and we both paused to listen. At first the player struck a few isolated notes, as though uncertain how to proceed. Then came a series of clanging chords and jarring discords, until out of the chaos there suddenly swelled a strange barbaric march, with blare of trumpet and crash of cymbal. Louder and louder it pealed forth in a gust of wild melody, and then died away once more into the jerky chords which had preceded it. Then we heard the sound of the shutting of the piano, and the music was at an end.

“She does that every night,” my friend remarked; “I suppose it is some Indian reminiscence. Picturesque, don’t you think so? Now’ don’t stay here longer than you wish. Your room is ready whenever you would like to study.”

I took my companion at his word and left him with his uncle and Copperthorne, who had returned into the room, while I went upstairs and read Medical Jurisprudence for a couple of hours. I imagined that I should see no more of the inhabitants of Dunkelthwaite that night, but I was mistaken, for about ten o’clock Uncle Jeremy thrust his little red face into the room.

“All comfortable?” he asked.

“Excellent, thanks,” I answered.

“That’s right. Keep at it. Sure to succeed,” he said, in his spasmodic way. “Good night!”

“Good night!” I answered.

“Good night!” said another voice from the passage; and looking out I saw the tall figure of the secretary gliding along at the old man’s heels like a long dark shadow.

I went back to my desk and worked for another hour, after which I retired to bed, where I pondered for some time before I dropped to sleep over the curious household of which I had become a member.

Uncle Jeremy’s Household III

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