“You are too handsome to neglect your clothes,” said the other.
As he read them, his cheeks were burning with his shame. He went for his hat and looked it over carefully. It was faded, and there was a little rent in the crown. His boots were tapped and mended, his trousers threadbare at the knee, and there were two patches on his coat.
“I hadn’t thought of it,” said he, with a sigh. Then he went for a talk with Darrel.
“Did you ever see a more shabby-looking creature?” he inquired, as Darrel came to meet him. “I am so ashamed of myself I’d like to go lie in your wood box while I talk to you.”
“‘What hempen homespun have we swaggering here?’” Darrel quoted in a rallying voice.
“I’ll tell you.” Trove began.
“Nay, first a roundel,” said the tinker, as he began to shuffle his feet to the measure of an old fairy song.
“If one were on his way to the gallows, you would make him laugh,” said Trove, smiling.
“An I could, so would I,” said the old man. “A smile, boy, hath in it ‘some relish o’ salvation.’ Now, tell me, what is thy trouble?”
“I’m going to leave school,” said Trove.
“I’m sick of this pinching poverty. Look at my clothes; I thought I could make them do, but I can’t.”
He put the two notes in Darrel’s hand. The tinker wiped his spectacles and then read them both.
“Tut, tut, boy!” said he, presently, with a very grave look. “Have ye forgotten the tatters that were as a badge of honour an’ success? Weeks ago I planned to find thee better garments, but, on me word, I had no heart for it. Nay, these old ones had become dear to me. I was proud o’ them—ay, boy, proud o’ them. When I saw the first patch on thy coat, said I, ’It is the little ensign o’ generosity.’ Then came another, an’, said I, ’That is for honour an’ true love,’ an’ these bare threads—there is no loom can weave the like o’ them. Nay, boy,” Darrel added, lifting an arm of the young man and kissing one of the patches, “be not ashamed o’ these—they’re beautiful, ay, beautiful. They stand for the dollars ye gave Polly.”
Trove turned away, wiping his eyes.
He looked down at his coat and trousers and began to wonder if he were, indeed, worthy to wear them.
“I’m not good enough for them,” said he, “but you’ve put new heart in me, and I shall not give up. I’ll wear them as long as I can make them do, and girls can say what they please.”
“The magpies!” said Darrel. “When they have a thought for every word they utter, Lord! there’ll be then a second Sabbath in the week.”
Next evening Trove went to see Polly.
As he was leaving, she held his hand in both of hers and looked down, blushing deeply, as if there were something she would say, had she only the courage.
“What is it, Polly?” said he.