The Beetle by Keith Seume

By Keith Seume

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There is something strange to me, even now, in the reflection that he never saw me, and something stranger yet in the shadowy remembrance that I have of my first childish associations with his white grave-stone in the churchyard, and of the indefinable compassion I used to feel for it lying out alone there in the dark night, when our little parlour was warm and bright with fire and candle, and the doors of our house were—almost cruelly, it seemed to me sometimes—bolted and locked against it. An aunt of my father‘s, and consequently a great-aunt of mine, of whom I shall have more to relate by and by, was the principal magnate of our family.

He walked as softly as the Ghost in Hamlet, and more slowly. He carried his head on one side, partly in modest depreciation of himself, partly in modest propitiation of everybody else. It is nothing to say that he hadn’t a word to throw at a dog. He couldn’t have thrown a word at a mad dog. He might have offered him one gently, or half a one, or a fragment of one, for he spoke as slowly as he walked, but he wouldn’t have been rude to him, and he couldn’t have been quick with him, for any earthly consideration.

I was born with a caul, which was advertised for sale, in the newspapers, at the low price of fifteen guineas. Whether sea-going people were short of money about that time, or were short of faith and preferred cork jackets, I don’t know; all I know is that there was but one solitary bidding, and that was from an attorney connected with the bill-broking business, who offered two pounds in cash and the balance in sherry, but declined to be guaranteed from drowning on any higher bargain. Consequently the advertisement was withdrawn at a dead loss—for as to sherry, my poor dear mother’s own sherry was in the market then—and ten years afterwards the caul was put up in a raffle down in our part of the country, to fifty members at half-a-crown a head, the winner to spend five shillings.

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