Chapter 85

Free and independent - I don’t see why - Oats - A noise - Unwelcome visitors - What’s the matter? - Good-day to ye - The tall girl - Dovrefeld - Blow on the face - Civil enough - What’s this? - Vulgar woman - Hands off - Gasping for breath - Long Melford - A pretty manoeuvre - A long draught - Signs of animation - It won’t do - No malice - Bad people.

Two mornings after the period to which I have brought the reader in the preceding chapter, I sat by my fire at the bottom of the dingle; I had just breakfasted, and had finished the last morsel of food which I had brought with me to that solitude.

‘What shall I now do?’ said I to myself; ‘shall I continue here, or decamp? - this is a sad lonely spot - perhaps I had better quit it; but whither shall I go? the wide world is before me, but what can I do therein? I have been in the world already without much success. No, I had better remain here; the place is lonely, it is true, but here I am free and independent, and can do what I please; but I can’t remain here without food. Well, I will find my way to the nearest town, lay in a fresh supply of provision, and come back, turning my back upon the world, which has turned its back upon me. I don’t see why I should not write a little sometimes; I have pens and an ink-horn, and for a writing-desk I can place the Bible on my knee. I shouldn’t wonder if I could write a capital satire on the world on the back of that Bible; but, first of all, I must think of supplying myself with food.’

I rose up from the stone on which I was seated, determining to go to the nearest town, with my little horse and cart, and procure what I wanted. The nearest town, according to my best calculation, lay about five miles distant; I had no doubt, however, that, by using ordinary diligence, I should be back before evening. In order to go lighter, I determined to leave my tent standing as it was, and all the things which I had purchased of the tinker, just as they were. ‘I need not be apprehensive on their account,’ said I to myself; ‘nobody will come here to meddle with them - the great recommendation of this place is its perfect solitude - I daresay that I could live here six months without seeing a single human visage. I will now harness my little gry and be off to the town.’

At a whistle which I gave, the little gry, which was feeding on the bank near the uppermost part of the dingle, came running to me, for by this time he had become so accustomed to me that he would obey my call, for all the world as if he had been one of the canine species. ‘Now,’ said I to him, ‘we are going to the town to buy bread for myself and oats for you - I am in a hurry to be back; therefore I pray you to do your best, and to draw me and the cart to the town with all possible speed, and to bring us back; if you do your best, I promise you oats on your return. You know the meaning of oats, Ambrol?’ Ambrol whinnied as if to let me know that he understood me perfectly well, as indeed he well might, as I had never once fed him during the time that he had been in my possession without saying the word in question to him. Now, Ambrol, in the gypsy tongue, signifieth a pear.

So I caparisoned Ambrol, and then, going to the cart, I removed two or three things from it into the tent; I then lifted up the shafts, and was just going to call to the pony to come and be fastened to them, when I thought I heard a noise.

I stood stock still, supporting the shaft of the little cart in my hand, and bending the right side of my face slightly towards the ground, but I could hear nothing; the noise which I thought I had heard was not one of those sounds which I was accustomed to hear in that solitude - the note of a bird, or the rustling of a bough; it was - there I heard it again, a sound very much resembling the grating of a wheel amongst gravel. Could it proceed from the road? Oh no, the road was too far distant for me to hear the noise of anything moving along it. Again I listened, and now I distinctly heard the sound of wheels, which seemed to be approaching the dingle; nearer and nearer they drew, and presently the sound of wheels was blended with the murmur of voices. Anon I heard a boisterous shout, which seemed to proceed from the entrance of the dingle. ‘Here are folks at hand,’ said I, letting the shaft of the cart fall to the ground; ‘is it possible that they can be coming here?’ My doubts on that point, if I entertained any, were soon dispelled; the wheels, which had ceased moving for a moment or two, were once again in motion, and were now evidently moving down the winding path which led to my retreat. Leaving my cart, I came

  By PanEris using Melati.

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