As he stood thus, overcome by the bitter sense of wrong from the one he loved best in the world, something darkened the stable-door, and a voice he knew reached his ear. Mistaking the head she saw across an empty stall for that of one of the farm-servants, Goody Rees was calling aloud to know if he wanted a charm for the toothache.
Richard looked up.
‘And what may your charm be, mistress Rees?’ he asked.
‘Aha! is it thou, young master?’ returned the woman. ’Thou wilt marvel to see me about the place so soon again, but verily desired to know how that godly man, Faithful Stopchase, found himself after his fall.’
’Nay, mistress Rees, make no apology for coming amongst thy friends. I warrant thee against further rudeness of man or beast. I have taken them to task, and truly I will break his head who wags tongue against thee. As for Stopchase, he does well enough in all except owing thee thanks which he declines to pay. But for thy charm, good mistress Rees, what is it—tell me ?’
She took a step inside the door, sent her small eyes peering first into every corner her sight could reach, and then said:
‘Are we alone—we two, master Richard?’
’There’s a cat in the next stall, mistress: if she can hear, she can’t speak.’
‘Don’t be too sure of that, master Richard. Be there no one else?’
‘Not a body; soul there may be—who knows?’
’I know there is none. I will tell thee my charm, or what else I may that thou would wish to know; for he is a true gentleman who will help a woman because she is a woman, be she as old and ugly as Goody Rees herself. Hearken, my pretty sir: it is the tooth of a corpse, drawn after he hath lain a se’en-night in the mould: wilt buy, my master? Or did not I see thee now asking comfort from thy horse for the—’
She paused a moment, peered narrowly at him from under lowered eyebrows, and went on:
’—heartache, eh, master Richard? Old eyes can see through velvet doublets.’
‘All the world knows yours can see farther than other people’s,’ returned Richard. ’Heaven knows whence they have their sharpness. But suppose it were a heartache now, have you got e’er a charm to cure that?’
’The best of all charms, my young master, is a kiss from the maiden; and what would thou give me for the spell that should set her by thy side at the old dial, under a warm harvest moon, all the long hours ’twixt midnight and the crowing of the black cock—eh, my master? What wilt thou give me?’