Chapter 95

Wooded retreat - Fresh shoes - Wood fire - Ash, when green - Queen of China - Cleverest people - Declensions - Armenian - Thunder - Deep olive - What do you mean? - Koul Adonai - The thick bushes - Wood pigeon - Old Gothe.

NEARLY three days elapsed without anything of particular moment occurring. Belle drove the little cart containing her merchandise about the neighbourhood, returning to the dingle towards the evening. As for myself, I kept within my wooded retreat, working during the periods of her absence leisurely at my forge. Having observed that the quadruped which my companion drove was as much in need of shoes as my own had been some time previously, I had determined to provide it with a set, and during the aforesaid periods occupied myself in preparing them. As I was employed three mornings and afternoons about them, I am sure that the reader will agree that I worked leisurely, or rather, lazily. On the third day Belle arrived somewhat later than usual; I was lying on my back at the bottom of the dingle, employed in tossing up the shoes which I had produced, and catching them as they fell - some being always in the air mounting or descending, somewhat after the fashion of the waters of a fountain.

‘Why have you been absent so long?’ said I to Belle; ‘it must be long past four by the day.’

‘I have been almost killed by the heat,’ said Belle; ‘I was never out in a more sultry day - the poor donkey, too, could scarcely move along.’

‘He shall have fresh shoes,’ said I, continuing my exercise; ‘here they are quite ready; to-morrow I will tack them on.’

‘And why are you playing with them in that manner?’ said Belle.

‘Partly in triumph at having made them, and partly to show that I can do something besides making them; it is not every one who, after having made a set of horse-shoes, can keep them going up and down in the air, without letting one fall - ‘

‘One has now fallen on your chin,’ said Belle.

‘And another on my cheek,’ said I, getting up; ‘it is time to discontinue the game, for the last shoe drew blood.’

Belle went to her own little encampment; and as for myself, after having flung the donkey’s shoes into my tent, I put some fresh wood on the fire, which was nearly out, and hung the kettle over it. I then issued forth from the dingle, and strolled round the wood that surrounded it; for a long time I was busied in meditation, looking at the ground, striking with my foot, half unconsciously, the tufts of grass and thistles that I met in my way. After some time, I lifted up my eyes to the sky, at first vacantly, and then with more attention, turning my head in all directions for a minute or two; after which I returned to the dingle. Isopel was seated near the fire, over which the kettle was now hung; she had changed her dress - no signs of the dust and fatigue of her late excursion remained; she had just added to the fire a small billet of wood, two or three of which I had left beside it; the fire cracked, and a sweet odour filled the dingle.

‘I am fond of sitting by a wood fire,’ said Belle, ‘when abroad, whether it be hot or cold; I love to see the flames dart out of the wood; but what kind is this, and where did you get it?’

‘It is ash,’ said I, ‘green ash. Somewhat less than a week ago, whilst I was wandering along the road by the side of a wood, I came to a place where some peasants were engaged in cutting up and clearing away a confused mass of fallen timber: a mighty aged oak had given way the night before, and in its fall had shivered some smaller trees; the upper part of the oak, and the fragments of the rest, lay across the road. I purchased, for a trifle, a bundle or two, and the wood on the fire is part of it - ash, green ash.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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