“Look like silver!”
“They are silver,” said I.
“Lord!” he exclaimed, “you wouldn’t part wi’ they buttons, I suppose?”
“On how much you would give for them.” The Ploughman thrust a hand into a deep pocket, and brought up five shillings.
“I were a-goin’ to buy a pair o’ boots, on my way ’ome,” he explained, “but I’d rayther ‘ave they buttons, if five shillin’ ’ll buy ’em.”
“The boots would be more serviceable,” said I.
“Maybe, sir, but then, everybody wears boots, but there bean’t many as can show buttons the like o’ them—so if you’re willin’—”
“Lend me your knife,” said I. And, forthwith, I sawed off the eight silver buttons and dropped them into his palm, whereupon he handed me the money with great alacrity.
“And now,” said I, “tell me why you are not happy.”
“Well,” returned the Ploughman, back at his ear again, “ye see it bein’ as you ask so sudden-like, I can’t ’zack’ly say, but if you was to pass by in a day or two, why, maybe I could tell ye.”
So, pocketing the buttons, he whooped cheerily to his horses, and plodded off, whistling more merrily than ever.
WHICH INTRODUCES THE READER TO THE ANCIENT
The sun was high when I came to a place where the ways divided, and, while I stood hesitating which road to take, I heard the cool plash and murmur of a brook at no great distance. Wherefore, being hot and thirsty, I scrambled through the hedge, and, coming to the brook, threw myself face down beside it, and, catching up the sweet pure water in my hands, drank my fill; which done, I bathed my feet, and hands, and face, and became much heartened and refreshed thereby. Now because I have ever loved the noise of running waters, in a little while, I rose and walked on beside the stream, listening to its blithesome melody. So, by devious ways, for the brook wound prodigiously, I came at length to a sudden declivity down which the water plunged in a miniature cascade, sparkling in the sun, and gleaming with a thousand rainbow hues. On I went, climbing down as best I might, until I found myself in a sort of green basin, very cool after the heat and glare of the roads, for the high, tree-clad sides afforded much shade. On I went, past fragrant thickets and bending willows, with soft lush grass underfoot and leafy arches overhead, and the brook singing and chattering at my side; albeit a brook of changeful mood, now laughing and dimpling in some fugitive ray of sunshine, now sighing and whispering in the shadows, but ever moving upon its appointed way, and never quite silent. So I walked on beside the brook, watching the fish that showed like darting shadows on the bottom, until, chancing to raise my eyes, I stopped. And there, screened by leaves, shut in among the green, stood a small