Chapter 68

Elastic step - Disconsolate party - Not the season - Mend your draught - Good ale - Crotchet - Hammer and tongs - Schoolmaster - True Eden life - Flaming Tinman - Twice my size - Hard at work - My poor wife - Grey Moll - A Bible - Half-and-half - What to do - Half inclined - In no time - On one condition - Don’t stare - Like the wind.

AFTER walking some time, I found myself on the great road, at the same spot where I had turned aside the day before with my new-made acquaintance, in the direction of his house. I now continued my journey as before, towards the north. The weather, though beautiful, was much cooler than it had been for some time past; I walked at a great rate, with a springing and elastic step. In about two hours I came to where a kind of cottage stood a little way back from the road, with a huge oak before it, under the shade of which stood a little pony and a cart, which seemed to contain various articles. I was going past - when I saw scrawled over the door of the cottage, ‘Good beer sold here’; upon which, feeling myself all of a sudden very thirsty, I determined to go in and taste the beverage.

I entered a well-sanded kitchen, and seated myself on a bench, on one side of a long white table; the other side, which was nearest to the wall, was occupied by a party, or rather family, consisting of a grimy- looking man, somewhat under the middle size, dressed in faded velveteens, and wearing a leather apron - a rather pretty- looking woman, but sun-burnt, and meanly dressed, and two ragged children, a boy and girl, about four or five years old. The man sat with his eyes fixed upon the table, supporting his chin with both his hands; the woman, who was next him, sat quite still, save that occasionally she turned a glance upon her husband with eyes that appeared to have been lately crying. The children had none of the vivacity so general at their age. A more disconsolate family I had never seen; a mug, which, when filled, might contain half a pint, stood empty before them; a very disconsolate party indeed.

‘House!’ said I; ‘House!’ and then, as nobody appeared, I cried again as loud as I could, ‘House! do you hear me, House!’

‘What’s your pleasure, young man?’ said an elderly woman, who now made her appearance from a side apartment.

‘To taste your ale,’ said I.

‘How much?’ said the woman, stretching out her hand towards the empty mug upon the table.

‘The largest measure-full in your house,’ said I, putting back her hand gently. ‘This is not the season for half-pint mugs.’

‘As you will, young man,’ said the landlady; and presently brought in an earthen pitcher which might contain about three pints, and which foamed and frothed withal.

‘Will this pay for it?’ said I, putting down sixpence.

‘I have to return you a penny,’ said the landlady, putting her hand into her pocket.

‘I want no change,’ said I, flourishing my hand with an air.

‘As you please, young gentleman,’ said the landlady, and then, making a kind of curtsey, she again retired to the side apartment.

‘Here is your health, sir,’ said I to the grimy-looking man, as I raised the pitcher to my lips.

The tinker, for such I supposed him to be, without altering his posture, raised his eyes, looked at me for a moment, gave a slight nod, and then once more fixed his eyes upon the table. I took a draught of the ale, which I found excellent; ‘Won’t you drink?’ said I, holding the pitcher to the tinker.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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