The latter gazed at him with scrutinizing look, but acknowledged that he had no recollection of him.
“Like enough, like enough,” said the stranger, “every body seems to have forgotten poor Slingsby!”
“Why, no, sure! it can’t be Tom Slingsby?”
“Yes, but it is, though!” replied the stranger, shaking his head.
Ready-Money Jack was on his feet in a twinkling, thrust out his hand, gave his ancient crony the gripe of a giant, and slapping the other hand on a bench, “Sit down there,” cried he, “Tom Slingsby!”
A long conversation ensued about old times, while Slingsby was regaled with the best cheer that the farm-house afforded; for he was hungry as well as wayworn, and had the keen appetite of a poor pedestrian. The early playmates then talked over their subsequent lives and adventures. Jack had but little to relate, and was never good at a long story. A prosperous life, passed at home, has little incident for narrative; it is only poor devils, that are tossed about the world, that are the true heroes of story. Jack had stuck by the paternal farm, followed the same plough that his forefathers had driven, and had waxed richer and richer as he grew older. As to Tom Slingsby, he was an exemplification of the old proverb, “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” He had sought his fortune about the world, without ever finding it, being a thing oftener found at home than abroad. He had been in all kinds of situations, and had learned a dozen different modes of making a living; but had found his way back to his native village rather poorer than when he left it, his knapsack having dwindled down to a scanty bundle.
As luck would have it, the Squire was passing by the farmhouse that very evening, and called there, as is often his custom. He found the two schoolmates still gossiping in the porch, and according to the good old Scottish song, “taking a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.” The Squire was struck by the contrast in appearance and fortunes of these early playmates. Ready-Money Jack, seated in lordly state, surrounded by the good things of this life, with golden guineas hanging to his very watch-chain, and the poor pilgrim Slingsby, thin as a weasel, with all his worldly effects, his bundle, hat, and walking-staff, lying on the ground beside him.
The good Squire’s heart warmed towards the luckless cosmopolite, for he is a little prone to like such half-vagrant characters. He cast about in his mind how he should contrive once more to anchor Slingsby in his native village. Honest Jack had already offered him a present shelter under his roof, in spite of the hints, and winks, and half remonstrances of the shrewd Dame Tibbets; but how to provide for his permanent maintenance was the question. Luckily the Squire bethought himself that the village school was without a teacher. A little further conversation convinced him that Slingsby was as fit for that as for any thing else, and in a day or two he was seen swaying the rod of empire in the very school-house where he had often been horsed in the days of his boyhood.