Master Dicky munched his macaroon and sipped his cordial. He had a whole guinea in his breeches pocket, and was thinking it would be great fun to step out and explore the town, if only for a little way. To-morrow was Sunday, and all the stores would be closed. But Manasseh was too busy to come with him for bodyguard—and his father’s boots were off; and besides, he stood in great awe and shyness of his admired parent. Had the boots been on, it would have cost him a bold effort to make the request. On the whole, the cordial warming him, Master Dicky had a mind to take French leave.
Though the wind hummed among the chimneys and on the back of the roof, on either side of the lamp over the gateway the maples stood in the lee and waved their boughs gently, shedding a leaf now and then in some deflected gust. Beyond and to the left stretched a dim avenue, also of maples; and at the end of this, as he reached the gate, the boy could spy the lights of the fair.
There was no risk at all of losing his way.
He stepped briskly forth and down the avenue. Where the trees ended, and with them the high wall enclosing the inn’s stable-yard, the wind rushed upon him with a whoop, and swept him off the side-walk almost to the middle of the road-way. But by this time the lights were close at hand. He pressed his little hat down on his head and battled his way towards them.
The first booth displayed sweetmeats; the next hung out lines of sailors’ smocks, petticoats, sea-boots, oilskin coats and caps, that swayed according to their weight; the third was no booth but a wooden store, wherein a druggist dispensed his wares; the fourth, also of wood, belonged to a barber, and was capable of seating one customer at a time while the others waited their turn on the side-walk. Here—his shanty having no front—the barber kept them in good humour by chatting to all and sundry while he shaved; but a part of the crowd had good-naturedly drifted on to help his neighbour, a tobacco-seller, whose stall had suffered disaster. A painted wooden statue of a Cherokee Indian lay face downward across the walk, as the wind had blown it: bellying folds of canvas and tarpaulin hid the wreck of the poor man’s stock-in-trade. Beyond this wreckage stood, in order, a vegetable stall, another sweetmeat stall, and a booth in which the boy (who cared little for sweetmeats, and, moreover, had just eaten his macaroon) took much more interest. For it was hung about with cages; and in the cages were birds of all kinds (but the most of them canaries), perched in the dull light of two horn lanterns, and asleep with open, shining eyes; and in the midst stood the proprietor, blowing delightful liquid notes upon a bird-call.