But nature had endowed Tressilian with firm nerves, and his education, originally good, had been too sedulously improved by subsequent study to give way to any imaginary terrors; and after giving a glance around him, he again demanded of the artist who he was, and by what accident he came to know and address him by his name.
“Your worship cannot but remember,” said the smith, “that about three years since, upon Saint Lucy’s Eve, there came a travelling juggler to a certain hall in Devonshire, and exhibited his skill before a worshipful knight and a fair company.—I see from your worship’s countenance, dark as this place is, that my memory has not done me wrong.”
“Thou hast said enough,” said Tressilian, turning away, as wishing to hide from the speaker the painful train of recollections which his discourse had unconsciously awakened.
“The juggler,” said the smith, “played his part so bravely that the clowns and clown-like squires in the company held his art to be little less than magical; but there was one maiden of fifteen, or thereby, with the fairest face I ever looked upon, whose rosy cheek grew pale, and her bright eyes dim, at the sight of the wonders exhibited.”
“Peace, I command thee, peace!” said Tressilian.
“I mean your worship no offence,” said the fellow; “but I have cause to remember how, to relieve the young maiden’s fears, you condescended to point out the mode in which these deceptions were practised, and to baffle the poor juggler by laying bare the mysteries of his art, as ably as if you had been a brother of his order.—She was indeed so fair a maiden that, to win a smile of her, a man might well—”
“Not a word more of her, I charge thee!” said Tressilian. “I do well remember the night you speak of—one of the few happy evenings my life has known.”
“She is gone, then,” said the smith, interpreting after his own fashion the sigh with which Tressilian uttered these words—“she is gone, young, beautiful, and beloved as she was!—I crave your worship’s pardon—I should have hammered on another theme. I see I have unwarily driven the nail to the quick.”
This speech was made with a mixture of rude feeling which inclined Tressilian favourably to the poor artisan, of whom before he was inclined to judge very harshly. But nothing can so soon attract the unfortunate as real or seeming sympathy with their sorrows.