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76. CHAPTER LXXVI (continued)
It was a lovely soft spring morning at the end of March, and unusually balmy for the time of year; even Ernest's melancholy was relieved for a while by the look of spring that pervaded earth and sky; but it soon returned, and smiling sadly he said to himself: "It may bring hope to others, but for me there can be no hope henceforth."
As these words were in his mind he joined the small crowd who were gathered round the railings, and saw that they were looking at three sheep with very small lambs only a day or two old, which had been penned off for shelter and protection from the others that ranged the park.
They were very pretty, and Londoners so seldom get a chance of seeing lambs that it was no wonder every one stopped to look at them. Ernest observed that no one seemed fonder of them than a great lubberly butcher boy, who leaned up against the railings with a tray of meat upon his shoulder. He was looking at this boy and smiling at the grotesqueness of his admiration, when he became aware that he was being watched intently by a man in coachman's livery, who had also stopped to admire the lambs, and was leaning against the opposite side of the enclosure. Ernest knew him in a moment as John, his father's old coachman at Battersby, and went up to him at once.
"Why, Master Ernest," said he, with his strong northern accent, "I was thinking of you only this very morning," and the pair shook hands heartily. John was in an excellent place at the West End. He had done very well, he said, ever since he had left Battersby, except for the first year or two, and that, he said, with a screw of the face, had well nigh broke him.
Ernest asked how this was.
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