Well, he couldn’t; and so, after a third pipe, he pulled an old French cloak out of his knapsack and wrapped himself in it and huddled himself to sleep there on the slope of the hillside.
When he woke up the sun was shining and the smoke coming up towards him from the chimneys, and all about him the larks a-singing just as they’d carried on every fine morning since he’d left Ardevora. And somehow, though he had dropped asleep in a puzzle of mind, he woke up with not a doubt to trouble him. He hunted out a crust from his knapsack and made his breakfast, and then he lit his pipe again and turned towards Penzance. He was going to play fair.
On he went in this frame of mind, feeling like a man almost too virtuous to go to church, until by-and-by he came in sight of Nancledrea and the inn he’d left in such a hurry over night. And who should be sitting in the porchway, and looking into the bottom of a pint pot, but Abe Cummins!
“Why, however on earth did you come here?” asked Billy.
“Cap’en landed us between four and five this morning,” said Abe.
“Well,” said Billy, “I’m right glad to meet you, anyway, for—tell ’ee the truth—you’re the very man I was looking for.”
“Really?” says Abe, like one interested.
“You and no other. I don’t mind telling ’ee I’ve been through a fire of temptation. You know why I jumped into that boat: it vexed you a bit, I dare say. And strickly speakin’, mind you”—Billy took his friend by the button-hole—“strickly speakin’ I’d the right on my side. ’Let the best man win’ was our agreement. But you needn’ to fret yourself: I ben’t the man to take an advantage of an old friend, fair though it be. Man, I ha’n’t been to Ardevora—I turned back. So finish your beer and come’st along with me, and we’ll walk down to Selina Johns together and ask her which of us she’ll choose, fair and square.”
Abe set down his mug and looked up, studying the signboard over the door.
“Well,” says he, “’tis a real relief to my mind to know you’ve played so fair. For man and boy, Bill, I always thought it of you.”
“Yes, indeed,” says Billy, “man and boy, it always was my motto.”
“But as consarnin’ Selina Johns,” Abe went on, “there ain’t no such woman.”
“You don’t tell me she’s dead!”
“No; ’tis her first husband that’s dead. She’s Selina Widlake now.”
“How long have ’ee knowed that?”
“Maybe an hour, maybe only three-quarters. Her name’s Selina Widlake, and she owns this here public. What’s more, her name isn’t going to be Selina Widlake, but Selina Cummins. We’ve fixed it up, and she’s to leave Nancledrea and take the Welcome Home over to Ardevora.”
Billy Bosistow took a turn across the road, and, coming back, stuck his hands in his pockets and stared up at the sign overhead.
“Well! And I, that was too honourable—” he began.