“We were beat; and walked out without a word. But that old man; I’ve thought of him a lot—ninety-two, and lying there. Whatever he’s been, and they tell you rum things of him, whatever his son may be, he’s a man. It’s not what he said, nor that there was anything to be afraid of just then, but somehow it’s the idea of the old chap lying there. I don’t ever wish to see a better plucked one....”
We sat silent after that; out of doors the light began to stir among the leaves. There were all kinds of rustling sounds, as if the world were turning over in bed.
Suddenly Dan said:
“He’s cheated me. I paid him to clear out and leave her alone. D’ you think she’s asleep?” He’s made no appeal for sympathy, he’d take pity for an insult; but he feels it badly.
“I’m tired as a cat,” he said at last, and went to sleep on my bed.
It’s broad daylight now; I too am tired as a cat....
“Saturday, 6th August.
.......I take up my tale where I left off yesterday.... Dan and I started as soon as we could get Mrs. Hopgood to give us coffee. The old lady was more tentative, more undecided, more pouncing, than I had ever seen her. She was manifestly uneasy: Ha-apgood—who “don’t slape” don’t he, if snores are any criterion—had called out in the night, “Hark to th’ ‘arses’ ’oofs!” Had we heard them? And where might we be going then? ‘Twas very earrly to start, an’ no breakfast. Haapgood had said it was goin’ to shaowerr. Miss Pasiance was not to ‘er violin yet, an’ Mister Ford ’e kept ‘is room. Was it?—would there be—? “Well, an’ therr’s an ’arvest bug; ’tis some earrly for they!” Wonderful how she pounces on all such creatures, when I can’t even see them. She pressed it absently between finger and thumb, and began manoeuvring round another way. Long before she had reached her point, we had gulped down our coffee, and departed. But as we rode out she came at a run, holding her skirts high with either hand, raised her old eyes bright and anxious in their setting of fine wrinkles, and said:
“’Tidden sorrow for her?”
A shrug of the shoulders was all the answer she got. We rode by the lanes; through sloping farmyards, all mud and pigs, and dirty straw, and farmers with clean-shaven upper lips and whiskers under the chin; past fields of corn, where larks were singing. Up or down, we didn’t draw rein till we came to Dan’s hotel.
There was the river gleaming before us under a rainbow mist that hallowed every shape. There seemed affinity between the earth and the sky. I’ve never seen that particular soft unity out of Devon. And every ship, however black or modern, on those pale waters, had the look of a dream ship. The tall green woods, the red earth, the white houses, were all melted into one opal haze. It was raining, but the sun was shining behind. Gulls swooped by us—ghosts of the old greedy wanderers of the sea.