He glanced from it to my face, and immediately, lowering his eyes, shook his head.
“’Tis the Evil Eye’!” said he, and drew across upon the floor with his stick, “the ’Evil Eye’!”
“Nonsense!” said I again; “my eye is no more evil than yours or Job’s. I never wished any man harm yet, nor wronged one, and I hope I never may. As for Mr. Dutton’s pigs, if he take better care of them, and keep them out of the damp, they will probably thrive better than ever—come, shake hands!”
But, one by one, they edged their way to the door after Old Amos, until only John Pringle was left; he, for a moment, stood hesitating, then, suddenly reaching out, he seized my hand, and shook it twice.
“I’ll call for they ‘orseshoes in the marnin’, Peter,” said he, and vanished.
“Arter all,” I heard him say, as he joined the others, “’tis summat to ha’ shook ‘ands wi’ a chap as fights wi’ demons!”
A SHADOW IN THE HEDGE
Over the uplands, to my left, the moon was peeping at me, very broad and yellow, as yet, casting long shadows athwart my way. The air was heavy with the perfume of honeysuckle abloom in the hedges—a warm, still air wherein a deep silence brooded, and in which leaf fluttered not and twig stirred not; but it was none of this I held in my thoughts as I strode along, whistling softly as I went. Yet, in a while, chancing to lift my eyes, I beheld the object of my reverie coming towards me through the shadows.
“Why—Charmian!” said I, uncovering my head.
“Did you come to meet me?”
“It must be nearly nine o’clock, sir.”
“Yes, I had to finish some work.”
“Did any one pass you on the road?”
“Not a soul.”
“Peter, have you an enemy?”
“Not that I know of, unless it be myself. Epictetus says somewhere that—”
“Oh, Peter, how dreadfully quiet everything is!” said she, and shivered.
“Are you cold?”
“No—but it is so dreadfully—still.”
Now in one place the lane, narrowing suddenly, led between high banks crowned with bushes, so that it was very dark there. As we entered this gloom Charmian suddenly drew closer to my side and slipped her hand beneath my arm and into my clasp, and the touch of her fingers was like ice.
“Your hand is very cold!” said I. But she only laughed, yet I felt her shiver as she pressed herself close against me.
And now it was she who talked and I who walked in silence, or answered at random, for I was conscious only of the clasp of her fingers and the soft pressure of hip and shoulder.
So we passed through this place of shadows, walking neither fast nor slow, and ever her cold fingers clasped my fingers, and her shoulder pressed my arm while she talked, and laughed, but of what, I know not, until we had left the dark place behind. Then she sighed deeply and turned, and drew her arm from mine, almost sharply, and stood looking back, with her two hands pressed upon her bosom.