And, in a little, having knocked out my negro-head pipe upon my palm, I called for and settled my score. As I rose, the pretty chambermaid picked up my knapsack from the corner, and blushing, aided me to put it on.
“My dear, thank you,” said I, and kissed her. This time she neither shrieked nor ran from the room; she merely blushed a trifle rosier.
“Do you think I have fishes’ eyes, my dear?”
“La! no, sir—handsome they be, I’m sure, so bright an’ black an’ wi’ little lights a-dancing in them—there, sir, do ha’ done, and go along wi’ you!”
“By the way,” I said, pausing upon the worn steps, and looking back at her, “by the way, how far is it to Deepdene Wood?”
WHICH RELATES THE END OF AN HONORABLE AFFAIR
Some half-mile along the road, upon the left hand, was a stile, and beyond the stile, a path—a path that led away over field, and meadow, and winding stream, to the blue verge of distant woods.
Now, midway between these woods and the place where I stood, there moved three figures; and, far away though they were, I could still make out that the middle one walked with his hands—those tremulous betraying hands thrust deep within his pockets.
And presently I climbed the stile, and set off along the path.
“Sir Jasper!” said I to myself. Somewhere in the background of my consciousness I had a vague recollection of having heard mention of such a name before, but exactly when and where I could not, for the life of me, remember.
“Sir Jasper!” said I to myself again. “It is a very uncommon name, and should be easy to recollect.” I had often prided myself on possessing a singularly retentive memory, more especially for names and faces, but, upon the present occasion, the more I pondered the matter, the more hazy I became. So I walked on through the sweet, wet grass, racking my brain for a solution of the problem, but finding none.
When I again looked up, the three figures had vanished where the path took a sharp bend round a clump of pollard oaks, and, determined not to lose them, I hurried my steps; but when I, in turn, rounded the corner, not a soul was in sight.
The path sloped up gently before me, with a thick hedge upon my right, and, after crossing a brawling stream, lost itself in the small wood or coppice, that crowned the ascent. Wondering, I hastened forward, and then, happening to look through the hedge, which grew very thick and high, I stopped all at once.