“Up comes Jarge,” chuckled the Ancient. ‘What’s all this?’ say Jarge. ‘I be goin’ to teach John ’ere to keep away from my Prue,’ says Simon. ‘No, no,’ says Jarge, ‘John’s young, an’ you bean’t the man you was ten years ago—let me,’ says Jarge. ‘You?’ says John, ’you get back to your bellers—you be purty big, but I’ve beat the ‘eads off better men nor you!’ ’Why, then, ’ave a try at mine,’ says Jarge; an’ wi’ the word, bang! comes John’s fist again’ ‘is jaw, an’ they was at it. Oh, Peter! that were a fight! I’ve seed a few in my time, but nothin’ like that ’ere.”
“And when ’twere all over,” added Simon, “Jarge went back to ’is ‘ammer an’ bellers, an’ we picked John up, and I druv ’im ’ome in this ‘ere very cart, an’ nobody’s cared to stand up to Jarge since.”
“You have both seen Black George fight, then?” I inquired.
“Many’s the time, Peter.”
“And have you ever—seen him knocked down?”
“No,” returned the Ancient, shaking his head, “I’ve seed ’im all blood from ‘ead to foot, an’ once a gert, big sailor-man knocked ‘im sideways, arter which Jarge got fu’rus-like, an’ put ’im to sleep—”
“No, Peter!” added Simon, “I don’t think as there be a man in all England as could knock Black Jarge off ’is pins in a fair, stand-up fight.”
“Hum!” said I.
“Ye see—’e be that ’ard, Peter!” nodded the Ancient. “Why, look!” he cried—“look ’ee theer!”
Now, looking where he pointed, I saw a man dart across the road some distance away; he was hidden almost immediately, for there were many trees thereabouts, but there was no mistaking that length of limb and breadth of shoulder.
“’Twere Black Jarge ’isself!” exclaimed Simon, whipping up his horses; but when we reached the place George was gone, and though we called and sought for some time, we saw him no more.
So, in a while, we turned and jogged back towards Sissinghurst.
“What be you a-shakin’ your ’ead over, Old Un?” inquired Simon, after we had ridden some distance.
“I were wonderin’ what that old fule Amos’ll say when we drive back wi’out Jarge.”
Being come to the parting of the ways, I descended from the cart, for my head was strangely heavy, and I felt much out of sorts, and, though the day was still young I had no mind for work. Therefore I bade adieu to Simon and the Ancient, and turned aside towards the Hollow, leaving them staring after me in wonderment.
IN WHICH I FALL FROM FOLLY INTO MADNESS
It was with some little trepidation that I descended into the Hollow, and walked along beside the brook, for soon I should meet Charmian, and the memory of our parting, and the thought of this meeting, had been in my mind all day long.
She would not be expecting me yet, for I was much before my usual time, wherefore I walked on slowly beside the brook, deliberating on what I should say to her, until I came to that large stone where I had sat dreaming the night when she had stood in the moonlight, and first bidden me in to supper. And now, sinking upon this stone, I set my elbows upon my knees, and my chin in my hands, and, fixing my eyes upon the ever-moving waters of the brook, fell into a profound meditation.