You may find the inn to this day on the western side of the Hauen as you go to the Old Quay. A pair of fish-scales faces the entrance, and the jolly pilchards themselves hang over your head, on a signboard that creaks mightily when the wind blows from the south.
The signboard was creaking that night, and a thick drizzle drove in gusts past the door. Behind the red blinds within, the landlady, Prudy Polwarne, stood with her back to the open hearth. Her hands rested on her hips, and the firelight, that covered all the opposite wall and most of the ceiling with her shadow, beat out between her thick ankles in the shape of a fan. She was a widow, with a huge, pale face and a figure nearly as broad as it was long; and no man thwarted her. Weaknesses she had none, except an inability to darn her stockings. That the holes at her heels might not be seen, she had a trick of pulling her stockings down under her feet, an inch or two at a time, as they wore out; and when the tops no longer reached to her knee, she gartered—so gossip said—half-way down the leg.
Around her, in as much of the warmth as she spared, sat Old Zeb, Uncle Issy, Jim Lewarne, his brother, and six or seven other notables of the two parishes. They were listening just now, and though the mug of eggy-hot passed from hand to hand as steadily as usual, a certain restrained excitement might have been guessed from the volumes of smoke ascending from their clay pipes.
“A man must feel it, boys,” the hostess said, “wi’ a rale four-poster hung wi’ yaller on purpose to suit his wife’s complexion, an’ then to have no wife arter all.”
“Ay,” assented Old Zeb, who puffed in the corner of a settle on her left, with one side of his face illuminated and the other in deep shadow, “he feels it, I b’lieve. Such a whack o’ dome as he’d a-bought, and a weather-glass wherein the man comes forth as the woman goes innards, an’ a dresser, painted a bright liver colour, engaging to the eye.”
“I niver seed a more matterimonial outfit, as you might say,” put in Uncle Issy.
“An’ a warmin’-pan, an’ likewise a lookin’-glass of a high pattern.”
“An’ what do he say?” inquired Calvin Oke, drawing a short pipe from his lips.
“In round numbers, he says nothing, but takes on.”
“A wisht state!”
“Ay, ’tis wisht. Will ’ee be so good as to frisk up the beverage, Prudy, my dear?”
Prudy took up a second large mug that stood warming on the hearthstone, and began to pour the eggy-hot from one vessel to the other until a creamy froth covered the top.
“’T’other chap’s a handsome chap,” she said, with her eyes on her work.
“Handsome is as handsome does,” squeaked Uncle Issy.
“If you wasn’ such an aged man, Uncle, I’ call ’ee a very tame talker.”
Uncle Issy collapsed.
“I reckon you’m all afeard o’ this man,” continued Prudy, looking round on the company, “else I’d have heard some mention of a shal-lal afore this.”