Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh

41. CHAPTER XLI (continued)

"Oh, Ernest," said he, in an off-hand, rather cheery manner, "there's a little matter which I should like you to explain to me, as I have no doubt you very easily can." Thump, thump, thump, went Ernest's heart against his ribs; but his father's manner was so much nicer than usual that he began to think it might be after all only another false alarm.

"It had occurred to your mother and myself that we should like to set you up with a watch again before you went back to school" ("Oh, that's all," said Ernest to himself quite relieved), "and I have been to-day to look out for a second-hand one which should answer every purpose so long as you're at school."

Theobald spoke as if watches had half-a-dozen purposes besides time-keeping, but he could hardly open his mouth without using one or other of his tags, and "answering every purpose" was one of them.

Ernest was breaking out into the usual expressions of gratitude, when Theobald continued, "You are interrupting me," and Ernest's heart thumped again.

"You are interrupting me, Ernest. I have not yet done." Ernest was instantly dumb.

"I passed several shops with second-hand watches for sale, but I saw none of a description and price which pleased me, till at last I was shown one which had, so the shopman said, been left with him recently for sale, and which I at once recognised as the one which had been given you by your Aunt Alethea. Even if I had failed to recognise it, as perhaps I might have done, I should have identified it directly it reached my hands, inasmuch as it had 'E. P., a present from A. P.' engraved upon the inside. I need say no more to show that this was the very watch which you told your mother and me that you had dropped out of your pocket."

Up to this time Theobald's manner had been studiously calm, and his words had been uttered slowly, but here he suddenly quickened and flung off the mask as he added the words, "or some such cock and bull story, which your mother and I were too truthful to disbelieve. You can guess what must be our feelings now."

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