In the window across the road a saddler sat cutting out a strap, and reminding the Emigrant of a certain First of April when he had ventured in and inquired for half a pint of strap-oil. It might almost be the same strap, as it certainly was the same saddler.
Down at the street corner, by the clock, a couple of Town Councillors stood chatting. While the Emigrant looked there came round the corner a ruck of boys from school chivvying and shouting after an ungainly man, who turned twice and threatened them with a stick. The Town Councillors did not interfere, and the rabble passed bawling by the Pack-horse. Long before it came the Emigrant had recognised the ungainly man. It was Dicky Loony, the town butt. He had chivvied the imbecile a hundred times in just the same fashion, yelling “Black Cat!” after him as these young imps were yelling—though why “Black Cat” neither he nor the imps could have told. But Dicky had always resented it as he resented it now, wheeling round, shaking his stick, and sputtering maledictions. A stone or two flew harmlessly by. The Emigrant did not interfere.
As yet no one had recognised him. He had arrived the night before, and taken a room at the Pack-horse, nobody asking his name; had sat after supper in a corner of the smoking-room and listened to the gossip there, saying nothing.
“Who’s he travellin’ for?” somebody had asked of Abel Walters, the landlord. “He ain’t a commercial. He han’t got the trunks, only a kit-bag. By the soft hat he wears I should say a agent in advance. Likely we’ll have a circus before long.”
His father and mother were dead these ten years. He had sent home money to pay the funeral expenses and buy a substantial headstone. But he had not been up to the cemetery yet. He was not a sentimental man. Still, he had expected his return to make some little stir in Tregarrick, and now a shade of disappointment began to creep over his humour.
He flung away the end of his cigar and strolled up the sunny pavement to a sweetshop where he had once bought ha’porths of liquorice and cinnamon-rock. The legend, “E. Hosking, Maker of Cheesecakes to Queen Victoria,” still decorated the window. He entered and demanded a pound of best “fairing,” smiling at the magnificence of the order. Mrs. Hosking—her white mob—cap and apron clean as ever—offered him a macaroon for luck, and weighed out the sweets. Her hand shook more than of old.
“You don’t remember me, Mrs. Hosking?”
“What is it you say? You must speak a little louder, please, I’m deaf.”
“You don’t remember me?”
“No, I don’t,” she said composedly. “I’m gone terrible blind this last year or two.”
The Emigrant paid for his sweets and walked out. He had bought them with a purpose, and now bent his steps down Market Street. At the foot of the hill he paused before a row of white-washed cottages. A green fence ran along their front, and a pebbled path; and here he found a stout, matronly woman bent over a wash-tub.