“You wouldn’t, ‘ardly,” said Tilda, “seein’ as I ’ad one on’y yestiddy. But that’s the worst of ‘orspitals. They get you inside, an’ a’most before you know where you are, they’ve set up a ’abit. I dessay it’ll wear off, all right; but oh, Mr. Bossom—”
“Would you mind callin’ me Sam? It’s more ushual.”
“Oh, Mr. Sam, this mornin’ I’m feelin’ it all over. If I got a pailful out o’ the canal, now?”
“I wouldn’ recommend it—not ’ereabouts.” Sam, eyeing her with his head cocked slightly aside, spoke gently as one coaxing a victim of the drink habit. “But, as it ’appens, a furlong this side of Ibbetson’s you’ll find the very place. Take Arthur Miles along with you. He’ll be thankful for it, later on—an’ I’ll loan you a cake o’ soap.”
THE FOUR DIAMONDS.
“Where the hazel bank is steepest,
Where the shadow falls the deepest,
Where the clustering nuts fall free,
That’s the way for Billy and me.”—JAMES HOGG.
The spot was a hollow between two grassy meadows, where a brook came winding with a gentle fall, under coverts of hazel, willow and alder, to feed the canal. It was a quite diminutive brook, and its inflow, by the wharf known as Ibbetson’s, troubled the stagnant canal water for a very short distance. But it availed, a mile above, to turn a mill, and— a marvel in this country of factories—it had escaped pollution. Below the mill-dam it hurried down a pretty steep declivity, dodging its channel from side to side, but always undercutting the bank on one side, while on the other it left miniature creeks or shoals and spits where the minnows played and the water-flies dried their wings on the warm pebbles; always, save that twice or thrice before finding its outlet it paused below one of these pebbly spits to widen and deepen itself into a pool where it was odds that the sun, slanting through the bushes, showed a brown trout lurking.
By such a pool—but they had scared away the trout—our two children were busy. Tilda, her ablutions over, had handed the cake of soap to Arthur Miles, scrambled out on the deeper side, and ensconced herself in the fork of an overhanging hazel-mote; where, having reached for a cluster of nuts and cracked them, she sat and munched, with petticoat dripping and bare legs dangling over the pool.
“Be sure you don’t fergit be’ind the ears,” she admonished the boy. “You may think you’re on’y a small boy an’ nobody’s goin’ to search yer corners; but back at the Good Samaritan there was a tex’ nailed up— Thou Gawd seest me; and Sister said ’E was most partic’lar just in the little places you wouldn’t think.”
By her orders the boy had stripped off shirt and stockings, and stood now almost knee-deep in the water, lathering his hair and face and neck and shoulders with vigour. Tilda observed that his skin was delicately fair and white. She had never seen a more beautiful boy. But he was slender, and would need mothering.