An Interview

No human creature stirred to go or come,
No face looked forth from shut or open casement,
No chimney smoked, there was no sign of borne
From parapet to basement - Hood
And so the days went on, until there came to be but two nights more before we were to leave our cave. Now I have said that the delay chafed us, because we were impatient to get at the measure; but there was something else that vexed me and made me more unquiet with every day that passed. And this was that I had resolved to see Grace before I left these parts, and yet knew not how to tell it to Elzevir. But on this evening, seeing the time was grown so short, I knew that I must speak or drop my purpose, and so spoke.

We were sitting like the sea-birds on the ledge outside our cave, looking towards St Alban's Head and watching the last glow of sunset. The evening vapours began to sweep down Channel, and Elzevir shrugged his shoulders. "The night turns chill," he said, and got up to go back to the cave. So then I thought my time was come, and following him inside said:

"Dear Master Elzevir, you have watched over me all this while and tended me kinder than any father could his son; and 'tis to you I owe my life, and that my leg is strong again. Yet I am restless this night, and beg that you will give me leave to climb the shaft and wall: abroad. It is two months and more that I have been in the cave" and seen nothing but stone walls, and I would gladly tread once more upon the Down."

"Say not that I have saved thy life," Elzevir broke in; "'twas I who brought thy life in danger; and but for me thou mightst even now be lying snug abed at Moonfleet, instead of hiding in the chambers of these rocks. So speak not of that, but if thou hast a mind to air thyself an hour, I see little harm in it. These wayward fancies fall men as they get better of sickness; and I must go tonight to that ruined house of which I spoke to thee, to fetch a pocket compass Master Ratsey was to put these. So thou canst come with me and smell the night air on the Down."

He has agreed more readily than I looked for, and so I pushed the matter, saying:

"Nay, master, grant me leave to go yet a little farther afield. You know that I was born in Moonfleet, and have been bred there all my life, and love the trees and stream and very stones of it. And I have set my heart on seeming it once more before we leave these parts for good and all, so give me leave to walk along the Down and look on Moonfleet but this once, and in this plough boy guise I shall be safe enough, and will come back to you tomorrow night."

He looked at me a moment without speaking; and all the while I felt he saw me through and through, and yet he was not angry. But I turned red, and cast my eyes upon the ground, and then he spoke:

"Lad, I have known men risk their lives for many things: for gold, and love, and hate; but never one would play with death that he might see a tree or stream or stones. And when men say they love a place or town, thou mayst be sure 'tis not the place they love but some that live there ; or that they loved some in the past, and so would see the spot again to kindle memory withal. Thus when thou speakest of Moonfleet, I may guess that thou hast someone there to see - or hope to see. It cannot be thine aunt, for there is no love lost between ye; and besides, no man ever perilled his life to bid adieu to an aunt. So have no secrets from me, John, but tell me straight, and I will judge whether this second treasure that thou seekest is true gold enough to fling thy life into the scale against it."

Then I told him all, keeping nothing back, but trying to make him see that there was little danger in my visiting Moonfleet, for none would know me in a carter's dress, and that my knowledge of the place would let me use a hedge or wall or wood for cover; and finally, if I were seen, my leg was now sound, and there were few could beat me in a running match upon the Down. So I talked on, not so much in the hope of convincing him as to keep saying something; for I durst not look up, and feared to hear an angry word from him when I should stop. But at last I had spoken all I could, and ceased because I had no more. Yet he did not break out as I had thought, but there was silence; and after a moment I Med up, and saw by his face that his thoughts were wandering. When he spoke there was no anger in his voice, but only something sad.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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