“Nevertheless, I’m sure she never meant it, George.”
“Then let ’er come and tell me so.”
“I don’t think she’ll do that,” said I.
“No more do I, Peter.” Saying which, he fell to work with the towel even as I had done.
“George,” said I after a silence.
“Has it ever struck you that Prudence is an uncommonly handsome girl?”
“To be sure it ’as, Peter—I were blind else.”
“And that other men may see this too?”
“And some one—even tell her so?” His answer was a long time coming, but come it did at last:
“And—ask her to marry him, George?” This time he was silent so long that I had tied my neckerchief and drawn on my coat ere he spoke, very heavily and slowly, and without looking at me.
“Why, then, Peter, let ’im. I’ve told ’ee afore, I don’t care wheer she comes nor wheer she goes, she bean’t nothin’ to me no more, nor I to she. If so be some man ’as a mind to ax ’er for ‘isself, all open an’ aboveboard, I say again—let ’im. And now, let’s talk o’ summat else.”
“Willingly. There’s to be boxing, and single-stick, and wrestling at the Fair, I understand.”
“And, they tell me, there is a famous wrestler coming all the way from Cornwall to wrestle the best man for ten guineas.”
“Ay, so there be.”
“They were talking about it at ‘The Bull’ last night—”
“’The Bull’—to be sure—you was at ‘The Bull’ last night—well?”
“They were saying that you were a mighty wrestler, George, that you were the only man in these parts who could stand up to this Cornishman.”
“Ay, I can wrastle a bit, Peter,” he replied, speaking in the same heavy, listless manner; “what then?”
“Why then, George, get into your coat, and let’s be off.”
“The Fair.” Black George shook his head.
“What, you won’t?”
“And why not?”
“Because I aren’t got the mind to—because I aren’t never goin’ to wrastle no more, Peter—so theer’s an end on ’t.” Yet, in the doorway I paused and looked back.
“Won’t you come—for friendship’s sake?”
Black George picked up his coat, looked at it, and put it down again.
WHICH DESCRIBES SUNDRY HAPPENINGS AT THE FAIR, AND ENDS THIS FIRST BOOK
“I say, young cove, where are you a-pushing of?”
The speaker was a very tall individual whose sharp-pointed elbow had, more than once, obtruded itself into my ribs. He was extremely thin and bony, with a long, drooping nose set very much to one side, and was possessed of a remarkable pair of eyes—that is to say, one eyelid hung continually lower than the other, thus lending to his otherwise sinister face an air of droll and unexpected waggery that was quite startling to behold.