“There!” said I, “there goes a fool’s dream! See how it scatters—a little here, a little there; but, so long as this world lasts, these pieces shall never come together again.” So saying, I set off along the road, looking neither to right nor left. But, when I had gone some distance, I found that George walked beside me, and he was very silent as he walked, and I saw the trouble was back in his eyes again.
“George,” said I, stopping, “why do you follow me?”
“I don’t follow ’ee, Peter,” he answered; “I be only wishful to walk wi’ you a ways.”
“I’m in no mood for company, George.”
“Well, I bean’t company, Peter—your friend, I be,” he said doggedly, and without looking at me.
“Yes,” said I; “yes, my good and trusty friend.”
“Peter,” he cried suddenly, laying his hand upon my shoulder, “don’t go back to that theer ghashly ’Oller to-night—”
“It is the only place in the world for me—to-night, George.” And so we went on again, side by side, through the evening, and spoke no more until we had come to the parting of the ways.
Down in the Hollow the shadows lay black and heavy, and I saw George shiver as he looked.
“Good-by!” said I, clasping his hand; “good-by, George!”
“Why do ’ee say good-by?”
“Because I am going away.”
“Goin’ away, Peter—but wheer?”
“God knows!” I answered, “but, wherever it be, I shall carry with me the memory of your kind, true heart—and you, I think, will remember me. It is a blessed thing, George, to know that, howso far we go, a friend’s kind thoughts journey on with us, untiring to the end.”
“Oh, Peter, man! don’t go for to leave me—”
“To part is our human lot, George, and as well now as later —good-by!”
“No, no!” he cried, throwing his arm about me, “not down theer —it be so deadly an’ lonely down theer in the darkness. Come back wi’ me—just for to-night.” But I broke from his detaining hand, and plunged on down into the shadows. And, presently, turning my head, I saw him yet standing where I had left him, looming gigantic upon the sky behind, and with his head sunk upon his breast.
Being come at last to the cottage, I paused, and from that place of shadows lifted my gaze to the luminous heaven, where were a myriad eyes that seemed to watch me with a new meaning, to-night; wherefore I entered the cottage hastily, and, closing the door, barred it behind me. Then I turned to peer up at that which showed above the door—the rusty staple upon which a man had choked his life out sixty and six years ago. And I began, very slowly, to loosen the belcher neckerchief about my throat.
“Peter!” cried a voice—“Peter!” and a hand was beating upon the door.
HOW, IN PLACE OF DEATH, I FOUND THE FULNESS OF LIFE