Chapter 97

Fire of charcoal - The new-comer - No wonder! - Not a blacksmith - A love affair - Gretna Green - A cool thousand - Family estates - Borough interest - Grand education - Let us hear - Already quarrelling - Honourable parents - Most heroically - Not common people - Fresh charcoal.

IT might be about ten o’clock at night. Belle, the postilion, and myself, sat just within the tent, by a fire of charcoal which I had kindled in the chafing-pan. The man had removed the harness from his horses, and, after tethering their legs, had left them for the night in the field above to regale themselves on what grass they could find. The rain had long since entirely ceased, and the moon and stars shone bright in the firmament, up to which, putting aside the canvas, I occasionally looked from the depths of the dingle. Large drops of water, however, falling now and then upon the tent from the neighbouring trees, would have served, could we have forgotten it, to remind us of the recent storm, and also a certain chilliness in the atmosphere, unusual to the season, proceeding from the moisture with which the ground was saturated; yet these circumstances only served to make our party enjoy the charcoal fire the more. There we sat bending over it: Belle, with her long beautiful hair streaming over her magnificent shoulders; the postilion smoking his pipe, in his shirt-sleeves and waistcoat, having flung aside his greatcoat, which had sustained a thorough wetting; and I without my wagoner’s slop, of which, it being in the same plight, I had also divested myself.

The new-comer was a well-made fellow of about thirty, with an open and agreeable countenance. I found him very well informed for a man in his station, and with some pretensions to humour. After we had discoursed for some time on indifferent subjects, the postilion, who had exhausted his pipe, took it from his mouth, and, knocking out the ashes upon the ground, exclaimed, ‘I little thought, when I got up in the morning, that I should spend the night in such agreeable company, and after such a fright.’

‘Well,’ said I, ‘I am glad that your opinion of us has improved; it is not long since you seemed to hold us in rather a suspicious light.’

‘And no wonder,’ said the man, ‘seeing the place you were taking me to! I was not a little, but very much afraid of ye both; and so I continued for some time, though, not to show a craven heart, I pretended to be quite satisfied; but I see I was altogether mistaken about ye. I thought you vagrant gypsy folks and trampers; but now - ‘

‘Vagrant gypsy folks and trampers,’ said I; ‘and what are we but people of that stamp?’

‘Oh,’ said the postilion, ‘if you wish to be thought such, I am far too civil a person to contradict you, especially after your kindness to me, but - ‘

‘But!’ said I; ‘what do you mean by but? I would have you to know that I am proud of being a travelling blacksmith; look at these donkey-shoes, I finished them this day.’

The postilion took the shoes and examined them. ‘So you made these shoes?’ he cried at last.

‘To be sure I did; do you doubt it?’

‘Not in the least,’ said the man.

‘Ah! ah!’ said I, ‘I thought I should bring you back to your original opinion. I am, then, a vagrant gypsy body, a tramper, a wandering blacksmith.’

‘Not a blacksmith, whatever else you may be,’ said the postilion, laughing.

‘Then how do you account for my making those shoes?’

‘By your not being a blacksmith,’ said the postilion; ‘no blacksmith would have made shoes in that manner. Besides, what did you mean just now by saying you had finished these shoes to-day? A real blacksmith would have flung off three or four sets of donkey- shoes in one morning, but you, I will be sworn, have

  By PanEris using Melati.

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