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DESCRIBING THE HOSPITALITY OF ONE JERRY JARVIS A TINKER
We stood upon a hill beneath an orbed moon whose splendour dimmed the stars; below us lay a mystery of sombre woods with a prospect of hill and dale beyond, and never a sound to disturb the all-pervading stillness save the soft, bubbling notes of a nightjar and the distant murmur of the brook that flowed in the valley at our feet, here leaping in glory, there gliding,--a smooth and placid mirror to Dian's beauty, a brook that wound amid light and shadow until it lost itself in the gloom of trees thick-clustered about a little hamlet that slept in the shadow of hoary church tower.
Thus as we descended the hill, I walked reverently, my soul upraised in chaste and fervent ecstasy. However, this fine, poetical rhapsody was banished, suddenly and most unpleasantly, by my companion who, setting fingers to mouth, emitted a shrill whistle,--three ear-piercing blasts that shattered the night's holy calm and startled me to indignant protest.
"Heavens, Diana!" I exclaimed, "why do that? It was desecration!"
"You'll know if you listen, Peregrine!" As she spoke there came an answering whistle from the woods before us. "It's Jerry!" she nodded. "It's Jerry Jarvis--hark, he be coming to meet me!"
"Then he knows it is you?"
"Of course! He learned me to whistle for him so when I was a little child and--" She turned suddenly, and with a little, glad cry of "O Jerry!" ran forward into the shadows and was clasped and hugged in a pair of dim arms.
"Why, Ann--why, Anna, dear child--have ye come a-seeking your old Jeremy? What is it this time, dear lass; tell your trouble to your old pal--"
"O Jerry, I'm free, I'm free of 'em at last!"
"Free o' the Folk, lass? Lord, here's j'y! But what of old Azor--that witch o' darkness?"
"Her too, Jerry."
"How, lass, how so?" Here Diana reached her hand to me and I stepped into the Tinker's purview.
"He did it for me, Jerry."
"Lord!" exclaimed the Tinker, falling back a step. "Lord love me--a boy! A lad at last! Well, well, 't is nat'ral, I suppose, though what I can see of him bean't much to look at, Ann--but no more am I, for that matter! And he ain't exactly a Goliath of Gath--though no more am I again. But then I've noticed that great men be generally of a comfortable, middling size. And if he be your chal, my dear--"
"Have you forgotten me so soon, Mr. Jarvis?" said I at this juncture, whereupon he turned to peer into my face, then caught and wrung my hand.
"Strike me blue!" he exclaimed. "It's the bang-up young gent in the jerry 'at 'as left a home luxoorious to see the world and l'arn to be a man!"
"That very same!" said I.
"Why, then, Lord love me, here's j'y again!" cried he, grasping my hand with a heartiness there was no mistaking. "But how come you hereabouts and along of Anna, too? And how comes Anna free o' the Folk at last and along wi' a young gorgio gent wi' nothing flash about him? And what's come o' your bang-up duds? And I'd like to know--but wait a bit! Are ye hungry?"
"We are!" answered Diana.
"Good!" exclaimed the Tinker. "Then come your ways to my fire, children; I've a couple o' rabbits in the pot wi' a lump o' pork and an onion or so for comp'ny, which is a supper fit for any king."
"You are very kind, Mr. Jarvis," said I, a little awkwardly, "but I ought to tell you that I am as poor as I look--I haven't one penny--"
"Well, that don't make me speechless wi' surprise, young sir; money has a habit o' going, 'specially when you're young, but a full stomach's better than a full purse, I think."
"But," said I, "having no money, how may I repay your hospitality?"
"By eating hearty! And as for money, Lord love my eyes and limbs--who wants your money?"
"There, there, Jerry--don't get peppery!" said Diana soothingly. "Peregrine don't understand the likes of us, yet."
"Why no, Ann, I was forgetting the poor, misfort'nate young gent has never known the blessings of hardship, never suffered, never lacked for anything all his days and consequently knows nothing o' true hospitality or the brotherhood o' the roadside--how should he?"
"Then you shall teach me, if you will, Mr. Jarvis," said I, humbly.
"Then, sir--come and eat," he answered, "and don't go 'mistering' me; I'm Tinker Jarvis and Jerry to my friends."
"Then please don't call me 'sir'--my name is Peregrine."
"Then it's a bargain, friend Peregrine!" said he, and led us into the deeps of the wood where was a small clearing well shut in by bush and thicket; and here burned a fire that crackled cheerily beneath a bubbling pot, a fire whose dancing light showed me the three-legged stool, the dingy tent and Diogenes the pony tethered near by, who, having lifted shaggy head to snuff towards us enquiringly, fell to cropping the grass again. And beholding all this, the Tinker's shrewd and kindly face and Diana smiling at me across the fire, I felt a sense of rest and companionship vastly comforting.
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