“Perhaps there’s meaning in it!” murmured Christian.
“How meaning?” said Wildeve sharply.
Christian was too scattered to reply, and Timothy helped him.
“He means, sir, that the lonesome dark-eyed creature up there that some say is a witch—ever I should call a fine young woman such a name—is always up to some odd conceit or other; and so perhaps ’tis she.”
“I’d be very glad to ask her in wedlock, if she’d hae me, and take the risk of her wild dark eyes ill-wishing me,” said Grandfer Cantle staunchly.
“Don’t ye say it, father!” implored Christian.
“Well, be dazed if he who do marry the maid won’t hae an uncommon picture for his best parlour,” said Fairway in a liquid tone, placing down the cup of mead at the end of a good pull.
“And a partner as deep as the North Star,” said Sam, taking up the cup and finishing the little that remained. “Well, really, now I think we must be moving,” said Humphrey, observing the emptiness of the vessel.
“But we’ll gie ’em another song?” said Grandfer Cantle. “I’m as full of notes as a bird!”
“Thank you, Grandfer,” said Wildeve. “But we will not trouble you now. Some other day must do for that—when I have a party.”
“Be jown’d if I don’t learn ten new songs for’t, or I won’t learn a line!” said Grandfer Cantle. “And you may be sure I won’t disappoint ye by biding away, Mr. Wildeve.”
“I quite believe you,” said that gentleman.
All then took their leave, wishing their entertainer long life and happiness as a married man, with recapitulations which occupied some time. Wildeve attended them to the door, beyond which the deep-dyed upward stretch of heath stood awaiting them, an amplitude of darkness reigning from their feet almost to the zenith, where a definite form first became visible in the lowering forehead of Rainbarrow. Diving into the dense obscurity in a line headed by Sam the turf-cutter, they pursued their trackless way home.
When the scratching of the furze against their leggings had fainted upon the ear, Wildeve returned to the room where he had left Thomasin and her aunt. The women were gone.
They could only have left the house in one way, by the back window; and this was open.
Wildeve laughed to himself, remained a moment thinking, and idly returned to the front room. Here his glance fell upon a bottle of wine which stood on the mantelpiece. “Ah—old Dowden!” he murmured; and going to the kitchen door shouted, “Is anybody here who can take something to old Dowden?”
There was no reply. The room was empty, the lad who acted as his factotum having gone to bed. Wildeve came back put on his hat, took the bottle, and left the house, turning the key in the door, for there was no guest at the inn tonight. As soon as he was on the road the little bonfire on Mistover Knap again met his eye.
“Still waiting, are you, my lady?” he murmured.