And, with this Parthian shot, the old man sighed, and turned his back upon me, and tottered out of the forge.
HOW GABBING DICK, THE PEDLER, SET A HAMMER GOING IN MY HEAD
Having finished my bars, with four strong brackets to hold them, I put away my tools, and donned hat and coat.
It was yet early, and there was, besides, much work waiting to be done, but I felt unwontedly tired and out of sorts, wherefore, with my bars and brackets beneath my arm, I set out for the Hollow.
From the hedges, on either side of me, came the sweet perfume of the honeysuckle, and beyond the hedges the fields stood high with ripening corn—a yellow, heavy-headed host, nodding and swaying lazily. I stood awhile to listen to its whisper as the gentle wind swept over it, and to look down the long green alleys of the hop-gardens beyond; and at the end of one of these straight arched vistas there shone a solitary, great star.
And presently, lifting my eyes to the sky, already deepening to evening, and remembering how I had looked round me ere I faced Black George, I breathed a sigh of thankfulness that I was yet alive with strength to walk within a world so beautiful.
Now, as I stood thus, I heard a voice hailing me, and, glancing about, espied one, some distance up the road, who sat beneath the hedge, whom, upon approaching, I recognized as Gabbing Dick, the Pedler.
He nodded and grinned as I came up, but in both there was a vague unpleasantness, as also in the manner in which he eyed me slowly up and down.
“You’ve stood a-lookin’ up into the sky for a good ten minutes!” said he.
“And what if I have?”
“Nothin,” said the Pedler, “nothin’ at all—though if the moon ‘ad been up, a cove might ha’ thought as you was dreamin’ of some Eve or other; love-sick folk always stares at the moon—leastways, so they tell me. Any one as stares at the moon when ’e might be doin’ summ’at better is a fool, as great a fool as any man as stares at a Eve, for a Eve never brought any man nothin’ but trouble and sorrer, and never will, no’ow? Don’t frown, young cove, nor shake your ’ead, for it’s true; wot’s caused more sorrer an’ blood than them Eves? Blood?—ah! rivers of it! Oceans of good blood’s been spilt all along o’ women, from the Eve as tricked old Adam to the Eve as tricks the like o’ me, or say—yourself.” Here he regarded me with so evil a leer that I turned my back in disgust.
“Don’t go, young cove; I ain’t done yet, and I got summ’at to tell ye.”
“Then tell it!” said I, stopping again, struck by the fellow’s manner, “and tell it quickly.”
“I’m a-comin’ to it as fast as I can, ain’t I? Very well then! You’re a fine, up-standin’ young cove, and may ’ave white ’ands (which I don’t see myself, but no matter) and may likewise be chock-full o’ taking ways (which, though not noticin’, I won’t go for to deny)—but a Eve’s a Eve, and always will be—you’ll mind as I warned you again’ ’em last time I see ye?—very well then!”