‘I was going to Bursley to-night to buy me a pair o’ boots, and when I was at top o’ th’ hill I remembered as I’d forgotten the measure o’ my feet. So I ran back again for it. Then I saw the light in here, and I stepped up to bid ye good-evening.’
Someone had told him the ancient story of the fool and his boots, and, with the pride of an idiot in his idiocy, he had determined that it should be related of himself.
Froyle was silent.
The idiot laughed with a dry cackle.
‘Now you go,’ said Froyle, when the rope was fixed.
‘Let me see ye do it,’ the idiot pleaded with pathetic eyes.
‘No; out you get!’
Protesting, the idiot went forth, and his irregular clumsy footsteps sounded on the pebble-paved yard. When the noise of them ceased in the soft roadway, Froyle jumped off the table again. Gradually his body, like a stopping pendulum, came to rest under the hook, and hung twitching, with strange disconnected movements. The horse in the stable, hearing unaccustomed noises, rattled his chain and stamped about in the straw of his box.
Furtive steps came down the yard again, and Daft Jimmy peeped into the coach-house.
‘He done it! he done it!’ the idiot cried gleefully. ’Damned if he hasna’.’ He slapped his leg and almost danced. The body still twitched occasionally. ‘He done it!’
‘Done what, Daft Jimmy? You’re making a fine noise there! Done what?’
The idiot ran out of the stable. At the side-entrance to the hotel stood the barmaid, the outline of her fine figure distinct against the light from within.
The idiot continued to laugh.
‘Done what?’ the girl repeated, calling out across the dark yard in clear, pleasant tones of amused inquiry. ‘Done what?’
‘What’s that to you, Miss Tucker?’
‘Now, none of your sauce, Daft Jimmy! Is Willie Froyle in there?’
The idiot roared with laughter.
‘Yes, he is, miss.’
’Well, tell him his master wants him. I don’t want to cross this mucky, messy yard.’
The girl closed the door.
The idiot went into the coach-house, and, slapping William’s body in a friendly way so that it trembled on the rope, he spluttered out between his laughs:
‘Master wants ye, Mr. Froyle.’
Then he walked out into the village street, and stood looking up the muddy road, still laughing quietly. It was quite dark, but the moon aloft in the clear sky showed the highway with its shining ruts leading in a straight line over the hill to Bursley.
‘Them shoes!’ the idiot ejaculated suddenly. ’Well, I be an idiot, and that’s true! They can take the measure from my feet, and I never thought on it till this minute!’
Laughing again, he set off at a run up the hill.
* * * * *