“Yes, miss. But I think I’ll have one minute more of what I am owed, if you don’t mind.”
Eustacia gave him her hand as before.
“One minute,” she said, and counted on till she reached seven or eight minutes. Hand and person she then withdrew to a distance of several feet, and recovered some of her old dignity. The contract completed, she raised between them a barrier impenetrable as a wall.
“There, ’tis all gone; and I didn’t mean quite all,” he said, with a sigh.
“You had good measure,” said she, turning away.
“Yes, miss. Well, ’tis over, and now I’ll get home-along.”
Through the Moonlight
The next evening the mummers were assembled in the same spot, awaiting the entrance of the Turkish Knight.
“Twenty minutes after eight by the Quiet Woman, and Charley not come.”
“Ten minutes past by Blooms-End.”
“It wants ten minutes to, by Grandfer Cantle’s watch.”
“And ’tis five minutes past by the captain’s clock.”
On Egdon there was no absolute hour of the day. The time at any moment was a number of varying doctrines professed by the different hamlets, some of them having originally grown up from a common root, and then become divided by secession, some having been alien from the beginning. West Egdon believed in Blooms-End time, East Egdon in the time of the Quiet Woman Inn. Grandfer Cantle’s watch had numbered many followers in years gone by, but since he had grown older faiths were shaken. Thus, the mummers having gathered hither from scattered points each came with his own tenets on early and late; and they waited a little longer as a compromise.
Eustacia had watched the assemblage through the hole; and seeing that now was the proper moment to enter, she went from the “linhay” and boldly pulled the bobbin of the fuel-house door. Her grandfather was safe at the Quiet Woman.
“Here’s Charley at last! How late you be, Charley.”
“’Tis not Charley,” said the Turkish Knight from within his visor. “’Tis a cousin of Miss Vye’s, come to take Charley’s place from curiosity. He was obliged to go and look for the heath-croppers that have got into the meads, and I agreed to take his place, as he knew he couldn’t come back here again tonight. I know the part as well as he.”
Her graceful gait, elegant figure, and dignified manner in general won the mummers to the opinion that they had gained by the exchange, if the newcomer were perfect in his part.
“It don’t matter—if you be not too young,” said Saint George. Eustacia’s voice had sounded somewhat more juvenile and fluty than Charley’s.
“I know every word of it, I tell you,” said Eustacia decisively. Dash being all that was required to carry her triumphantly through, she adopted as much as was necessary. “Go ahead, lads, with the try-over. I’ll challenge any of you to find a mistake in me.”