'You haven't got it, sir?' repeated Mr Willet, eyeing him from top to toe. 'You haven't got it, sir? You HAVE got it, sir. Don't I tell you that His blessed Majesty King George the Third would no more stand a rioting and rollicking in his streets, than he'd stand being crowed over by his own Parliament?'
'Yes, Johnny, but that's your sense--not your senses,' said the adventurous Mr Parkes.
'How do you know? 'retorted John with great dignity. 'You're a contradicting pretty free, you are, sir. How do YOU know which it is? I'm not aware I ever told you, sir.'
Mr Parkes, finding himself in the position of having got into metaphysics without exactly seeing his way out of them, stammered forth an apology and retreated from the argument. There then ensued a silence of some ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, at the expiration of which period Mr Willet was observed to rumble and shake with laughter, and presently remarked, in reference to his late adversary, 'that he hoped he had tackled him enough.' Thereupon Messrs Cobb and Daisy laughed, and nodded, and Parkes was looked upon as thoroughly and effectually put down.
'Do you suppose if all this was true, that Mr Haredale would be constantly away from home, as he is?' said John, after another silence. 'Do you think he wouldn't be afraid to leave his house with them two young women in it, and only a couple of men, or so?'
'Ay, but then you know,' returned Solomon Daisy, 'his house is a goodish way out of London, and they do say that the rioters won't go more than two miles, or three at the farthest, off the stones. Besides, you know, some of the Catholic gentlefolks have actually sent trinkets and suchlike down here for safety--at least, so the story goes.'
'The story goes!' said Mr Willet testily. 'Yes, sir. The story goes that you saw a ghost last March. But nobody believes it.'
'Well!' said Solomon, rising, to divert the attention of his two friends, who tittered at this retort: 'believed or disbelieved, it's true; and true or not, if we mean to go to London, we must be going at once. So shake hands, Johnny, and good night.'
'I shall shake hands,' returned the landlord, putting his into his pockets, 'with no man as goes to London on such nonsensical errands.'
The three cronies were therefore reduced to the necessity of shaking his elbows; having performed that ceremony, and brought from the house their hats, and sticks, and greatcoats, they bade him good night and departed; promising to bring him on the morrow full and true accounts of the real state of the city, and if it were quiet, to give him the full merit of his victory.
John Willet looked after them, as they plodded along the road in the rich glow of a summer evening; and knocking the ashes out of his pipe, laughed inwardly at their folly, until his sides were sore. When he had quite exhausted himself--which took some time, for he laughed as slowly as he thought and spoke--he sat himself comfortably with his back to the house, put his legs upon the bench, then his apron over his face, and fell sound asleep.
How long he slept, matters not; but it was for no brief space, for when he awoke, the rich light had faded, the sombre hues of night were falling fast upon the landscape, and a few bright stars were already twinkling overhead. The birds were all at roost, the daisies on the green had closed their fairy hoods, the honeysuckle twining round the porch exhaled its perfume in a twofold degree, as though it lost its coyness at that silent time and loved to shed its fragrance on the night; the ivy scarcely stirred its deep green leaves. How tranquil, and how beautiful it was!
Was there no sound in the air, besides the gentle rustling of the trees and the grasshopper's merry chirp? Hark! Something very faint and distant, not unlike the murmuring in a sea-shell. Now it grew louder, fainter now, and now it altogether died away. Presently, it came again, subsided, came once more, grew louder, fainter--swelled into a roar.