Page:Hopkinson Smith--armchair at the inn.djvu/22

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I had just helped him light the first blaze in the big baronial fireplace, an occupation I revel in, for to me the kindling of a fire is the gathering of half a dozen friends together, each log nudging his neighbor, the cheer of good comradeship warming them all. And a roaring fire it was when I had piled high the logs, swept the hearth, and made it ready for the choice spirits who were to share it with me. For years we have had our outings—or rather our “in-tings” before it—red-letter days for us in which the swish of a petticoat is never heard, and we are free to enjoy a “man’s time” together; red-letter days, too, in the calendar of the Inn, when even Lemois, tired out with the whirl of the season, takes on a new lease of life.

His annual rejuvenation began at dawn to-day, when he disappeared in the direction of the market and returned an hour later with his procession of baskets filled with fish and lobsters fresh out of the sea a mile away (caught at daylight), some capons, a string of pigeons, and an armful of vegetables snatched in the nick of time from the early grave of an impending frost.

As for the more important items, the Chablis Moutonne and Roumanée Conti—rare Burgundies—they were still asleep in their cob-