So I bade him good-by, and, sitting in the ditch, watched him stride away to his new life. Presently, reaching the brow of the hill (there are hills everywhere in the South country), I saw him turn to flourish the battered hat ere he disappeared from my sight.
IN WHICH I MEET WITH A PEDLER BY THE NAME OF “GABBING” DICK
“You won’t be wantin’ ever a broom, now?”
I sat up, sleepily, and rubbed my eyes. The sun was gone, and the blue sky had changed to a deep purple, set here and there with a quivering star. Yet the light was still strong enough to enable me to distinguish the speaker—a short, thick-set man. Upon his shoulder he carried a bundle of brooms, a pack was slung to his back, while round his neck there dangled a heterogeneous collection of articles—ribbons, laces, tawdry neck chains, and the like; indeed, so smothered was he in his wares that, as he stood there, he had more the aspect of some disordered fancy than of a human being.
“You won’t be wantin’ ever a broom, now?” he repeated, in a somewhat melancholy tone.
“No,” said I.
“Nor yet a mop?”
“Nor that either,” said I.
“A belt, now,” he suggested mournfully, “a fine leather belt wi’ a steel buckle made in Brummagem as ever was, and all for a shillin’; what d’ye say to a fine belt?”
“That I have no need of one, thank you.”
“Ah, well!” said the man, spitting dejectedly at a patch of shadow, “I thought as much; you aren’t got the look of a buyer.”
“Then why ask me?”
“Hinstinct!” said he, “it’s jest hinstinct—it comes as nat’ral to me as eatin’, or walkin’ these ’ere roads.”
“Have you come far to-day?”
“Twenty mile, maybe,” he answered, setting down his bundle of brooms.
“Are you tired?”
“’Course I’m tired.”
“Then why not sit down and rest?”
“Because I’d ’ave to get up again, wouldn’t I?”
“Are you hungry?
“’Ungry aren’t the word for it.”
“And how is trade?”
“Couldn’t be worse!”
“I perceive you are a pessimist,” said I.
“No,” said he, “I’m a pedler—baptism’l name Richard, commonly known as ‘Gabbin’ Dick.’”
“At least yours is a fine healthy trade,” said I.
“A life of constant exercise, and fresh air; to-day for instance—”
“’Ot as a hoven!” said he.
“Yet there was a good, cool wind,” said I.
“Ah! an’ with dust enough to choke a man! And then there’s the loneliness o’ these ’ere roads.”
“Loneliness?” said I.
“That’s the word; sometimes it gets so bad as I’m minded to do away wi’ myself—”
“Strange!” I began.