“Most annoying!” said he, shaking his venerable head, “really most exasperating—I particularly wished to secure a sample of that fellow’s pills—the collection of quack remedies is a fad of mine—as it is—”
“My purse is entirely at your disposal, sir,” said I, “though, to be sure, a very—” But there I stopped, staring, in my turn, blankly at him.
“Ha?” he exclaimed, his eyes twinkling.
“Yes,” I nodded, “the rascal made off with my purse also; we are companions in misfortune.”
“Then as such, young sir, come and dine with me, my habitation is but a little way off.”
“Thank you, sir, but I am half expecting to meet with certain good friends of mine, though I am none the less honored by your offer.”
“So be it, young sir; then permit me to wish you a very, ’Good day!’” and, touching the brim of his hat with the long stem of his pipe, the Venerable Man turned and left me.
Howbeit, though I looked diligently on all hands, I saw nothing of Simon or the Ancient; thus evening was falling as, bending my steps homeward, I came to a part of the Fair where drinking-booths had been set up, and where they were preparing to roast an ox whole, as is the immemorial custom. Drinking was going on, with its usual accompaniment of boisterous merriment and rough horseplay—the vulgarity of which ever annoys me. Two or three times I was rudely jostled as I made my way along, so that my temper was already something the worse, when, turning aside to avoid all this, I came full upon two fellows, well-to-do farmers, by their look, who held a struggling girl between them—to each of whom I reached out a hand, and, gripping them firmly by their collars, brought their two heads together with a sounding crack—and then I saw that the girl was Prudence. Next moment we were running, hand in hand, with the two fellows roaring in pursuit. But Prudence was wonderfully fleet and light of foot, wherefore, doubling and turning among carts, tents, and booths, we had soon outstripped our pursuers, and rid ourselves of them altogether. In spite of which Prudence still ran on till, catching her foot in some obstacle, she tripped, and would have fallen but for my arm.
And looking down into her flushed face, glowing through the sweet disorder of her glossy curls, I could not but think how lovely she was. But, as I watched, the color fled from her cheeks, her eyes dilated, and she started away from me.
Now, turning hastily, I saw that we were standing close by a certain small, dirty, and disreputable-looking tent, the canvas of which had been slit with a knife—and my movement had been quick enough to enable me to see a face vanish through the canvas. And, fleeting though the glimpse had been, yet, in the lowering brow, the baleful glare of the eye, and the set of the great jaw, I had seen Death.
And, after we had walked on a while together, looking at Prue, I noticed that she trembled.