Of course Madame had tampered with him. But truth, like murder, will out some day. Tom Williams, the groom, had seen her, when alone with him, and pretending to look at his stock, with her face almost buried in his silks and Welsh linseys, talking as fast as she could all the time, and slipping money, he did suppose, under a piece of stuff in his box.
In the mean time, I and Madame were walking over the wide, peaty sheep-walks that lie between Knowl and Church Scarsdale. Since our visit to the mausoleum in the wood, she had not worried me so much as before. She had been, indeed, more than usually thoughtful, very little talkative, and troubled me hardly at all about French and other accomplishments. A walk was a part of our daily routine. I now carried a tiny basket in my hand, with a few sandwiches, which were to furnish our luncheon when we reached the pretty scene, about two miles away, whither we were tending.
We had started a little too late; Madame grew unwontedly fatigued and sat down to rest on a stile before we had got half-way; and there she intoned, with a dismal nasal cadence, a quaint old Bretagne ballad, about a lady with a pig’s head:—
’This lady was neither pig nor maid,
And so she was not of human mould;
Not of the living nor the dead.
Her left hand and foot were warm to touch;
Her right as cold as a corpse’s flesh!
And she would sing like a funeral bell, with a ding-dong tune.
The pigs were afraid, and viewed her aloof;
And women feared her and stood afar.
She could do without sleep for a year and a day;
She could sleep like a corpse, for a month and more.
No one knew how this lady fed—
On acorns or on flesh.
Some say that she’s one of the swine-possessed,
That swam over the sea of Gennesaret.
A mongrel body and demon soul.
Some say she’s the wife of the Wandering Jew,
And broke the law for the sake of pork;
And a swinish face for a token doth bear,
That her shame is now, and her punishment coming.’
And so it went on, in a gingling rigmarole. The more anxious I seemed to go on our way, the more likely was she to loiter. I therefore showed no signs of impatience, and I saw her consult her watch in the course of her ugly minstrelsy, and slyly glance, as if expecting something, in the direction of our destination.
When she had sung to her heart’s content, up rose Madame, and began to walk onward silently. I saw her glance once or twice, as before, toward the village of Trillsworth, which lay in front, a little to our left, and the smoke of which hung in a film over the brow of the hill. I think she observed me, for she enquired—
‘Wat is that a smoke there?’
‘That is Trillsworth, Madame; there is a railway station there.’
‘Oh, le chemin de fer, so near! I did not think. Where it goes?’
I told her, and silence returned.