Twenty pounds! Consider of it, ma'am, for twenty minutes; give each pound a minute; that's a fair allowance. I'll enjoy the air the while, which is very mild and pleasant in these parts.'
With these words he groped his way to the door, carrying his chair with him. Then seating himself, under a spreading honeysuckle, and stretching his legs across the threshold so that no person could pass in or out without his knowledge, he took from his pocket a pipe, flint, steel and tinder-box, and began to smoke. It was a lovely evening, of that gentle kind, and at that time of year, when the twilight is most beautiful. Pausing now and then to let his smoke curl slowly off, and to sniff the grateful fragrance of the flowers, he sat there at his ease--as though the cottage were his proper dwelling, and he had held undisputed possession of it all his life--waiting for the widow's answer and for Barnaby's return.
When Barnaby returned with the bread, the sight of the pious old pilgrim smoking his pipe and making himself so thoroughly at home, appeared to surprise even him; the more so, as that worthy person, instead of putting up the loaf in his wallet as a scarce and precious article, tossed it carelessly on the table, and producing his bottle, bade him sit down and drink.
'For I carry some comfort, you see,' he said. 'Taste that. Is it good?'
The water stood in Barnaby's eyes as he coughed from the strength of the draught, and answered in the affirmative.
'Drink some more,' said the blind man; 'don't be afraid of it. You don't taste anything like that, often, eh?'
'Often!' cried Barnaby. 'Never!'
'Too poor?' returned the blind man with a sigh. 'Ay. That's bad. Your mother, poor soul, would be happier if she was richer, Barnaby.'
'Why, so I tell her--the very thing I told her just before you came to-night, when all that gold was in the sky,' said Barnaby, drawing his chair nearer to him, and looking eagerly in his face. 'Tell me. Is there any way of being rich, that I could find out?'
'Any way! A hundred ways.'
'Ay, ay?' he returned. 'Do you say so? What are they?--Nay, mother, it's for your sake I ask; not mine;--for yours, indeed. What are they?'
The blind man turned his face, on which there was a smile of triumph, to where the widow stood in great distress; and answered,
'Why, they are not to be found out by stay-at-homes, my good friend.'
'By stay-at-homes!' cried Barnaby, plucking at his sleeve. 'But I am not one. Now, there you mistake. I am often out before the sun, and travel home when he has gone to rest. I am away in the woods before the day has reached the shady places, and am often there when the bright moon is peeping through the boughs, and looking down upon the other moon that lives in the water. As I walk along, I try to find, among the grass and moss, some of that small money for which she works so hard and used to shed so many tears. As I lie asleep in the shade, I dream of it--dream of digging it up in heaps; and spying it out, hidden under bushes; and seeing it sparkle, as the dew-drops do, among the leaves. But I never find it. Tell me where it is. I'd go there, if the journey were a whole year long, because I know she would be happier when I came home and brought some with me. Speak again. I'll listen to you if you talk all night.'
The blind man passed his hand lightly over the poor fellow's face, and finding that his elbows were planted on the table, that his chin rested on his two hands, that he leaned eagerly forward, and that his whole manner expressed the utmost interest and anxiety, paused for a minute as though he desired the widow to observe this fully, and then made answer:
'It's in the world, bold Barnaby, the merry world; not in solitary places like those you pass your time in, but in crowds, and where there's noise and rattle.'
'Good! good!' cried Barnaby, rubbing his hands. 'Yes! I love that. Grip loves it too. It suits us both. That's brave!'
'--The kind of places,' said the blind man, 'that a young fellow likes, and in which a good son may do more for his mother, and himself to boot, in a month, than he could here in all his life-- that is, if he had a friend, you know, and some one to advise with.'
'You hear this, mother?' cried Barnaby, turning to her with delight.