“And this is the man,” I said to myself, “whom I thought I should be able to teach! Well, the wisest learn most, and I may be useful to him after all.”
As I said nothing, the old man resumed—
“For you see, sir, it is not always a body feels he has a right to spend his ha’pence on baccay; and sometimes, too, he ’aint got none to spend.”
“In the meantime,” I said, “here is some that I bought for you as I came along. I hope you will find it good. I am no judge.”
The old sailor’s eyes glistened with gratitude. “Well, who’d ha’ thought it. You didn’t think I was beggin’ for it, sir, surely?”
“You see I had it for you in my pocket.”
“Well, that is good o’ you, sir!”
“Why, Rogers, that’ll last you a month!” exclaimed his wife, looking nearly as pleased as himself.
“Six weeks at least, wife,” he answered. “And ye don’t smoke yourself, sir, and yet ye bring baccay to me! Well, it’s just like yer Master, sir.”
I went away, resolved that Old Rogers should have no chance of “grumbling” for want of tobacco, if I could help it.
On the way back, my thoughts were still occupied with the woman I had seen in the little shop. The old man-of-war’s man was probably the nobler being of the two; and if I had had to choose between them, I should no doubt have chosen him. But I had not to choose between them; I had only to think about them; and I thought a great deal more about the one I could not understand than the one I could understand. For Old Rogers wanted little help from me; whereas the other was evidently a soul in pain, and therefore belonged to me in peculiar right of my office; while the readiest way in which I could justify to myself the possession of that office was to make it a shepherding of the sheep. So I resolved to find out what I could about her, as one having a right to know, that I might see whether I could not help her. From herself it was evident that her secret, if she had one, was not to be easily gained; but even the common reports of the village would be some enlightenment to the darkness I was in about her.
As I went again through the village, I observed a narrow lane striking off to the left, and resolved to explore in that direction. It led up to one side of the large house of which I have already spoken. As I came near, I smelt what has been to me always a delightful smell—that of fresh deals under the hands of the carpenter. In the scent of those boards of pine is enclosed all the idea the tree could gather of the world of forest where it was reared. It speaks of many wild and bright but chiefly clean and rather cold things. If I were idling, it would draw me to it across many fields.—Turning a corner, I heard the sound of a saw. And this sound drew me yet more. For a carpenter’s