The rough-handled pocket knife was taken out in the same moment and the largest blade opened by way of irresistible demonstration.

`What! Bob Jakin?' said Tom - not with any cordial delight, for he felt a little ashamed of that early intimacy symbolised by the pocket-knife, and was not at all sure that Bob's motives for recalling it were entirely admirable.

`Ay, ay, Bob Jakin - if Jakin it must be, 'cause there's so many Bobs as you went arter the squerrils with, that day as I plumped right down from the bough, and bruised my shins a good un - but I got the squerril tight for all that, an' a scratter it war. An' this littlish blade's broke, you see, but I wouldn't hev a new un put in, 'cause they might be cheatin' me an' givin' me another knife istid, for there isn't such a blade i' the country - it's got used to my hand, like. An' there was niver nobody else gen me nothin' but what I got by my own sharpness, only you, Mr Tom; if it wasn't Bill Fawks as gen me the terrier pup istid o' drowndin' it, and' I had to jaw him a good un afore he'd give it me.'

Bob spoke with a sharp and rather treble volubility, and got through his long speech with surprising despatch, giving the blade of his knife an affectionate rub on his sleeve when he had finished.

`Well, Bob,' said Tom, with a slight air of patronage, the foregoing reminiscences having disposed him to be as friendly as was becoming, though there was no part of his acquaintance with Bob that he remembered better than the cause of their parting quarrel, `is there anything I can do for you?'

`Why, no, Mr Tom,' answered Bob, shutting up his knife with a click and returning it to his pocket, where he seemed to be feeling for something else. `I shouldn't ha' come back upon you now you're i' trouble an' folks say as the master, as I used to frighten the birds for, an' he flogged me a bit for fun when he catched me eatin' the turnip, as they say he'll niver lift up his yead no more - I shouldn't ha' come now to ax you to gi' me another knife 'cause you gen me one afore. If a chap gives me one black eye, that's enough for me: I shan't ax him for another afore I sarve him out: an' a good turn's worth as much as a bad un, anyhow. I shall niver grow down'ards again, Mr Tom, an' you war the little chap as I liked the best when I war a little chap, for all you leathered me, and wouldn't look at me again. There's Dick Brumby, there, I could leather him as much as I'd a mind: but lors! you get tried o' leatherin' a chap when you can niver make him see what you want him to shy at. I'n seen chaps as 'ud stand starin' at a bough till their eyes shot out, afore they'd see as a bird's tail warn't a leaf. It's poor work goin' wi' such raff - but you war allays a rare un at shying, Mr Tom, an' I could trusten you for droppin' down wi' your stick in the nick o' time at a runnin'rot, or a stoat, or that, when I war a-beatin' the bushes.'

Bob had drawn out a dirty canvas bag, and would perhaps not have paused just then, if Maggie had not entered the room and darted a look of surprise and curiosity at him, whereupon he pulled his red locks again with due respect. But the next moment the sense of the altered room came upon Maggie with a force that overpowered the thought of Bob's presence. Her eyes had immediately glanced from him to the place where the bookcase had hung; there was nothing now but the oblong unfaded space on the wall, and below it the small table with the Bible and the few other books.

`O Tom,' she burst out, clasping her hands, `where are the books? I thought my uncle Glegg said he would buy them - didn't he? - are those all they've left us?'

`I suppose so,' said Tom, with a sort of desperate indifference. `Why should they buy many books when they bought so little furniture?'

`O but, Tom,' said Maggie, her eyes filling with tears, as she rushed up to the table to see what books had been rescued. `Our dear old Pilgrim's Progress that you coloured with your little paints, and that picture of Pilgrim with a mantle on, looking just like a turtle - O dear!' Maggie went on, half sobbing as she turned over the few books. `I thought we should never part with that while we lived - everything is going away from us - the end of our lives will have nothing in it like the beginning!'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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