The dingle—Give them ale—Not over complimentary—America—Many people—Washington—Promiscuous company—Language of the roads—The old women—Numerals—The man in black.
The public-house where the scenes which I have attempted to describe in the preceding chapters took place, was at the distance of about two miles from the dingle. The sun was sinking in the west by the time I returned to the latter spot. I found Belle seated by a fire, over which her kettle was suspended. During my absence she had prepared herself a kind of tent, consisting of large hoops covered over with tarpaulins, quite impenetrable to rain, however violent. ‘I am glad you are returned,’ said she, as soon as she perceived me; ’I began to be anxious about you. Did you take my advice?’
‘Yes,’ said I; ’I went to the public-house and drank ale, as you advised me; it cheered, strengthened, and drove away the horror from my mind—I am much beholden to you.’
‘I knew it would do you good,’ said Belle; ’I remembered that when the poor women in the great house were afflicted with hysterics, and fearful imaginings, the surgeon, who was a good kind man, used to say, “Ale, give them ale, and let it be strong."’
‘He was no advocate for tea, then?’ said I.
’He had no objection to tea; but he used to say, “Everything in its season.” Shall we take ours now?—I have waited for you.’
‘I have no objection,’ said I; ’I feel rather heated, and at present should prefer tea to ale—“Everything in its season,” as the surgeon said.’
Thereupon Belle prepared tea, and, as we were taking it, she said—’What did you see and hear at the public-house?’
‘Really,’ said I, ’you appear to have your full portion of curiosity; what matters it to you what I saw and heard at the public-house?’
‘It matters very little to me,’ said Belle; ’I merely inquired of you, for the sake of a little conversation—you were silent, and it is uncomfortable for two people to sit together without opening their lips—at least I think so.’
‘One only feels uncomfortable,’ said I, ’in being silent, when one happens to be thinking of the individual with whom one is in company. To tell you the truth, I was not thinking of my companion, but of certain company with whom I had been at the public-house.’
‘Really, young man,’ said Belle, ’you are not over complimentary; but who may this wonderful company have been—some young—?’ and here Belle stopped.
‘No,’ said I, ’there was no young person—if person you were going to say. There was a big portly landlord, whom I daresay you have seen; a noisy savage Radical, who wanted at first to fasten upon me a quarrel about America, but who subsequently drew in his horns; then there was a strange fellow, a prowling priest, I believe, whom I have frequently heard of, who at first seemed disposed to side with the Radical against me, and afterwards with me against the Radical. There, you know my company, and what took place.’