reminded the waggoner painfully of the grim Leveller. Then hard by came down another drop, then two or three. Presently there was a continual tapping of these heavy drops upon the dead leaves, the road, and the travellers. The nearer boughs were beaded with the mist to the greyness of aged men, and the rusty-red leaves of the beeches were hung with similar drops, like diamonds on auburn hair.'

At the roadside hamlet called Roy-Town, just beyond this wood, was the old inn Buck's Head. It was about a mile and a half from Weatherbury, and in the meridian times of stage-coach travelling had been the place where many coaches changed and kept their relays of horses. All the old stabling was now pulled down, and little remained besides the habitable inn itself, which, standing a little way back from the road, signified its existence to people far up and down the highway by a sign hanging from the horizontal bough of an elm on the opposite side of the way.

Travellers - for the variety tourist had hardly developed into a distinct species at this date - sometimes said in passing, when they cast their eyes up to the sign-bearing tree, that artists were fond of representing the signboard hanging thus, but that they themselves had never before noticed so perfect an instance in actual working order. It was near this tree that the waggon was standing into which Gabriel Oak crept on his first journey to Weatherbury; but, owing to the darkness, the sign and the inn had been unobserved.

The manners of the inn were of the old-established type. Indeed, in the midst of its frequenters they existed as unalterable formulæ: e.g.--

Rap with the bottom of your pint for more liquor.

For tobacco shout.

In calling for the girl in waiting, say, Maid!'

Ditto for the landlady, `Old Soul!', etc., etc.

It was a relief to Joseph's heart when the friendly signboard came in view, and, stopping his horse immediately beneath it, he proceeded to fulfil an intention made a long time before. His spirits were oozing out of him quite. He turned the horse's head to the green bank, and entered the hostel for a mug of ale.

Going down into the kitchen of the inn, the floor of which was a step below the passage, which in its turn was a step below the road outside, what should Joseph see to gladden his eyes but two copper- coloured discs, in the form of the countenances of Mr Jan Coggan and Mr Mark Clark. These owners of the two most appreciative throats in the neighbourhood, within the pale of respectability, were now sitting face to face over a three-legged circular table, having an iron rim to keep cups and pots from being accidentally elbowed off they might have been said to resemble the setting sun and the fill moon shining vis-à-vis across the globe.

`Why, 'tis neighbour Poorgrass!' said Mark Clark. `I'm sure your face don't praise your mistress's table, Joseph.'

`I've had a very pale companion for the last four miles,' said Joseph, indulging in a shudder toned down by resignation. `And to speak the truth, 'twas beginning to tell upon me. I assure ye, I ha'n't seed the colour of victuals or drink since breakfast time this morning, and that was no more than a dew-bit afield.'

`Then drink, Joseph, and don't restrain yourself' said Coggan, handing him a hooped mug three-quarters hill.

Joseph drank for a moderately long time, then for a longer time, saying, as he lowered the jug. `'Tis pretty drinking - very pretty drinking, and is more than cheerful on my melancholy errand, so to speak it.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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