There’s a braggerty worm with a speckled throat,
Nine double hath he.’
“That means he’s got nine rings.”
“Well, I shall allers say I’m surprised at such nonsense. What do you think he cares for it all?”
“Why, we told you it would make him twist himself up to nothing. Go on, Hughie. It’s very useful to be able to get rid of snakes.”
“’Now from nine double to eight double,
And from eight double to seven double,
And from seven double to six double.
And from six double to five double,
And from five double to four double,
And from four double to three double.’
(He’s getting very tight now!)
three double to two double,
And from two double to one double,
No double hath he,’
“There, now he’s gone, doubled up to nothing. Now dig, Swanny, and you’ll see he’s gone.”
“It’s only an old Cornish charm,” said Valentine. “I often heard it when I was a boy.”
“I call it heathenish!” exclaimed Mr. Swan. “What do folks want with a charm when they’ve got a spade to chop the beast’s head off with?”
“But as he’s gone, Swan,” observed Valentine, “of course you cannot dig him out; so you need not trouble yourself to dig at all.”
“Oh, but that’s not fair. We want, in case he’s there, to see him.”
“No, no,” said Swan dogmatically; “I never heard of such a thing as having the same chance twice over. I said if you’d sit on that bench, all on you, I’d dig him out, if he was there. You wouldn’t; you thought you’d a charm worth two of that work, and so you’ve said your charm.”
“Well, we’ll come and sit upon the bench tomorrow, then, and you’ll dig him.”
“That’ll be as I please. I’ve no call to make any promises,” said Swan, looking wise.
The only observer felt a deep conviction that the children would never see that snake, and slight and ridiculous as the incident was, Swan’s last speech sunk deeply into Valentine’s heart, and served to increase his dejection. “And yet,” he repeated to himself, “I fully hope, when I’ve given up all, that I shall have my chance—the same chance over again. I hope, please God, to prove that very soon; for now Laura’s gone, I’m bound to Melcombe no longer than it takes me to pack up my clothes and the few things I brought with me.”
A VISIT TO MELCOMBE.
“Fairest fair, best
Too high for hope that stood;
White star of womanhood shining apart
O my liege lady,
And O my one lady,
And O my loved lady, come down to my heart.
“Reach me life’s
wine and gold,
What is man’s best all told,
If thou thyself withhold, sweet, from thy throne?
O my liege lady,
And O my loved lady,
And O my heart’s lady, come, reign there alone.”