“And to think,” he whispered, with a sob in his throat, “that I can’t ever speak to a girl like that!”
Ricks, jubilant over the success of the evening, decided to follow the circus, which was to be in the next town on the following day.
“It ain’t fur,” he said. “We kin push on to-night and be ready to open early in the morning.”
Sandy, miserable in body and spirit, mechanically obeyed instructions. His head was getting queerer all the time, and he could not remember whether it was day or night. About a mile from Clayton he sank down by the road.
“Say, Ricks,” he said abruptly; “I’m after quittin’ peddlin’.”
“What you goin’ to do?”
“I’m goin’ to school.”
If Sandy had announced his intention of putting on baby clothes and being wheeled in a perambulator, Ricks could not have been more astonished.
“What?” he asked in genuine doubt.
“’Cause I want to be the right sort,” burst out Sandy, passionately. “This ain’t the way you get to be the right sort.”
Ricks surveyed him contemptuously. “Look-a here, are you comin’ along of me or not?”
“I can’t,” said Sandy, weakly.
Ricks shifted his pack, and with never a parting word or a backward look he left his business partner of three months lying by the roadside, and tramped away in the darkness.
Sandy started up to follow him; he tried to call, but he had no strength. He lay with his face on the road and talked. He knew there was nobody to listen, but still he kept on, softly talking about microscopes and pink soap, crying out again and again that he couldn’t ever speak to a girl like that.
After a long while somebody came. At first he thought he must have gone back to the land behind the peat-flames, for it was a great black witch who bent over him, and he instinctively felt about in the grass for the tender, soft hand which he used to press against his cheek. He found instead the hand of the witch herself, and he drew back in terror.
“Fer de Lawd sake, honey, what’s de matter wif you?” asked a kindly voice. Sandy opened his eyes. A tall old negro woman bent over him, her head tied up in a turban, and a shawl about her shoulders.
“Did you git runned over?” she asked, peering down at him anxiously.
Sandy tried to explain, but it was all the old mixture of soap and microscopes and never being able to speak to her. He knew he was talking at random, but he could not say the things he thought.
“Where’d you come from, boy?”
“Curragh Chase, Limerick,” murmured Sandy.
“’Fore de Lawd, he’s done been cunjered!” cried the old woman, aghast. “I’ll git it outen of you, chile. You jus’ come home wif yer Aunt Melvy; she’ll take keer of you. Put yer arm on my shoulder; dat’s right. Don’t you mind where you gwine at. I got yer bundle. It ain’t fur. Hit’s dat little house a-hangin’ on de side of de hill. Dey calls it ’Who’d ‘a’ Thought It,’ ’ca’se you nebber would ‘a’ thought of puttin’ a house dere. Dat’s right; lean on yer mammy. I’ll git dem old cunjers outen you.”