“Ketches ye, does it, my cove?” he repeated; “turn me away from your door on a cold, dark night, would ye (not as I bears you any ill-will for it, bein’ of a forgivin’ natur’)? But I says to you, I says—look out!—a fine ‘andsome lass she be, wi’ ’er soft eyes and red lips, and long, white arms—the eyes and lips and arms of a Eve; and Eve tricked Adam, didn’t she?—and you ain’t a better man nor Adam, are ye?—very well then!” saying which, he spat once more into the ditch, and, shouldering his pack, strode away.
And, after some while, I took up my iron bars, and trudged on towards the cottage. As I went, I repeated to myself, over and over again, the word “Liar.” Yet my step was very slow and heavy, and my feet dragged in the dust; and, somewhere in my head, a small hammer had begun to beat, soft and slow and regular, but beating, beating upon my brain.
Now the upper cover of my Virgil book was broken!
THE VIRGIL BOOK
A man was leaning in the shadow of a tree, looking down into the Hollow.
I could not see him very distinctly because, though evening had scarcely fallen, the shadows, where he stood, were very dense, but he was gazing down into the Hollow in the attitude of one who waits. For what?—for whom?
A sudden fit of shivering shook me from head to foot, and, while I yet shivered, I grew burning hot; the blood throbbed at my temples, the small hammer was drumming much faster now, and the cool night air seemed to be stifling me.
Very cautiously I began creeping nearer the passive figure, while the hammer beat so loud that it seemed he must hear it where he stood: a shortish, broad-shouldered figure, clad in a blue coat. He held his hat in his hand, and he leaned carelessly against the tree, and his easy assurance of air maddened me the more.
As he stood thus, looking always down into the Hollow, his neck gleamed at me above the collar of his coat, wherefore I stooped and, laying my irons in the grass, crept on, once more, and, as I went, I kept my eyes upon his neck.
A stick snapped sharp and loud beneath my tread, the lounging back stiffened and grew rigid, the face showed for an instant over the shoulder, and, with a spring, he had vanished into the bushes.
It was a vain hope to find a man in such a dense tangle of boughs and underbrush, yet I ran forward, nevertheless; but, though I sought eagerly upon all sides, he had made good his escape. So, after a while, I retraced my steps to where I had left my irons and brackets, and taking them up, turned aside to that precipitous path which, as I have already said, leads down into the Hollow.
Now, as I went, listening to the throb of the hammer in my head, whom should I meet but Charmian, coming gayly through the green, and singing as she came. At sight of me she stopped, and the song died upon her lip.