The conversation, which was at a high pitch of animation when Silas approached the door of the Rainbow, had, as usual, been slow and intermittent when the company first assembled. The pipes began to be puffed in a silence which had an air of severitythe more important customers, who drank spirits and sat nearest the fire, staring at each other as if a bet were depending on the first man who winked; while the beer-drinkers, chiefly men in fustian jackets and smock-frocks, kept their eyelids down and rubbed their hands across their mouths, as if their draughts of beer were a funereal duty attended with embarrassing sadness. At last Mr. Snell, the landlord, a man of a neutral disposition, accustomed to stand aloof from human differences as those of beings who were all alike in need of liquor, broke silence by saying in a doubtful tone to his cousin the butcher,
Some folks ud say that was a fine beast you druv in yesterday, Bob?
The butcher, a jolly, smiling, red-haired man, was not disposed to answer rashly. He gave a few puffs before he spat, and replied, And they wouldnt be fur wrong, John.
After this feeble delusive thaw the silence set in as severely as before.
Was it a red Durham? said the farrier, taking up the thread of discourse after the lapse of a few minutes.
The farrier looked at the landlord, and the landlord looked at the butcher, as the person who must take the responsibility of answering.
Red it was, said the butcher, in his good-humoured husky treble, and a Durham it was.
Then you neednt tell me who you bought it off, said the farrier, looking round with some triumph; I know who it is has got the red Durhams o this countryside. And shed a white star on her brow, Ill bet a penny? The farrier leaned forward with his hands on his knees as he put this question, and his eyes twinkled knowingly.
Well, yesshe might, said the butcher slowly, considering that he was giving a decided affirmative. I dont say contrairy.
I knew that very well, said the farrier, throwing himself backward again, and speaking defiantly; if I dont know Mr. Lammeters cows, I should like to know who does, thats all. And as for the cow youve bought, bargain or no bargain, Ive been at the drenching of hercontradick me who will.
The farrier looked fierce, and the mild butchers conversational spirit was roused a little.
Im not for contradicking no man, he said; Im for peace and quietness. Some are for cutting long ribs; Im for cutting em short myself. But I dont quarrel with em. All I say is, its a lovely carkiss; and anybody as was reasonable, it ud bring tears into their eyes to look at it.
Well, its the cow as I drenched, whatever it is, pursued the farrier angrily; and it was Mr. Lammeters cow, else you told a lie when you said it was a red Durham.
I tell no lies, said the butcher, with the same mild huskiness as before, and I contradick nonenot if a man was to swear himself black. Hes no meat o mine nor none o my bargains. All I say is, its a lovely carkiss. And what I say Ill stick to; but Ill quarrel wi no man.
No, said the farrier with bitter sarcasm, looking at the company generally; and prhaps you arnt pig- headed, and prhaps you didnt say the cow was a red Durham, and prhaps you didnt say shed got a star on her browstick to that, now youre at it.
Come, come, said the landlord; let the cow alone. The truth lies atween you; youre both right and both wrong, as I allays say. And as for the cows being Mr. Lammeters, I say nothing to that; but this I say, as the Rainbows the Rainbow. And for the matter o that, if the talk is to be o the Lammeters, you know
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