‘A cow! a cow !’ I repeated, in my superior pleasure.
She spun out in a breath, ’ If you say that, I ’ll run away with every bit of your clothes, and you’ll come out and run about naked, you will.’
‘Now I float,’ was my answer, ‘now I dive’; and when I came up she welcomed me with a big bright grin.
A smart run in the heat dried me. I dressed, finding half my money on the grass. She asked me to give her one of those bits-a shilling. I gave her two, upon which she asked me, invitingly, if ever I tossed. I replied that I never tossed for money; but she had caught a shilling, and I could not resist guessing ‘heads,’ and won; the same with her second shilling. She handed them to me sullenly, sobbing, yet she would not take them back.
‘By-and-by you give me another two,’ she said, growing lively again. We agreed that it would be a good thing if we entered the village and bought something. None of the shops were open. We walked through the churchyard. I said, ‘Here’s where dead people are buried.’
‘I’ll dance if you talk about dead people,’ said she, and began whooping at the pitch of her voice. On my wishing to know why she did it, her reply was that it was to make the dead people hear. My feelings were strange: the shops not open, and no living people to be seen. We climbed trees, and sat on a branch talking of birds’ eggs till hunger drove us to the village street, where, near the public-house, we met the man-tramp, who whistled.
He was rather amusing. He remarked that he put no questions to me, because he put no question to anybody, because answers excited him about subjects that had no particular interest to him, and did not benefit him to the extent of a pipe of ’tobacco; and all through not being inquisitive, yesterday afternoon he had obtained, as if it had been chucked into his lap, a fine-flavoured fat goose honourably for his supper, besides bottles of ale, bottles of ginger-pop, and a fair-earned half-crown. That was through his not being inquisitive, and he was not going to be inquisitive now, knowing me for a gentleman: my master had tipped him half-a-crown.
Fortunately for him, and perhaps for my liberty, he employed a verb marvellously enlightening to a schoolboy. I tipped him another half-crown. He thanked me, observing that there were days when you lay on your back and the sky rained apples; while there were other days when you wore your fingers down to the first joint to catch a flea. Such was Fortune!
In a friendly manner he advised me to go to school; if not there, then to go home. My idea, which I had only partly conceived, was to have a look at Riversley over a hedge, kiss my aunt Dorothy unaware, and fly subsequently in search of my father. Breakfast, however, was my immediate thought. He and the girl sat down to breakfast at the inn as my guests. We ate muttonchops and eggs, and drank coffee. After it, though I had no suspicions, I noticed that the man grew thoughtful. He proposed to me, supposing I had no objection against slow travelling, to join company for a couple of days, if I was for Hampshire, which I stated was the county I meant to visit.