Young Jarge bent stiffly and tapped the seams, inside and out, much as a veterinary surgeon runs his hand over a horse's legs. "Ya-a-is," he confirmed, and sat down on the stem of the old boat. "'Er's very nigh's ole 's what us be," he added, after a pause, and began shredding some tobacco into the palm of his hand. Ole Jarge nodded. Then he lifted his head quickly.
"Jimini!" cried he, his smiles breaking in an instant through his tears. "It's a fine pipe. See to my new pipe, Norah. I lay that Jarge never had a pipe like that. You've got your firelock there, sergeant?" "Yes, sir. I was on my way back from the butts when I looked in." "Let me have the feel of it. Lordy, but it seems like old times to have one's hand on a musket.
Jarge had one song and only one that I ever heard, and he was always called upon for it at harvest suppers and other jollifications; it was not a classic, but he rendered it with characteristic drollery, and always brought down the house.
"Grandfer," she said very gently, "you mustn't speak of Jarge to me like that ye mustn't ye mustn't because I love him, and if he ever comes back I'll marry him if if he will only ax me; and if he never comes back, then I think I shall die!" The Ancient took out his snuff-box, knocked it, opened it, glanced inside, and shut it up again. "Did 'ee tell me as you love Black Jarge, Prue?"
"Poor maid out i' the storm an' clemmed wi' cold an' 'unger, poor lass! Bring her upstairs our warm bed, Jarge an' then brandy, lad, an' the kettle on th' fire up wi' you!"
"'Cause I had to go an' feed my outlaw, Auntie Lisbeth." "And," I put in to create a diversion, "incidentally I've discovered the secret of his 'enormous appetite. It is explained in three words, to wit, 'the bye Jarge." "Do you mean to say " began Lisbeth. "Fed him regularly twice a day," I went on, "and nearly famished himself in the doing of it you remember the dry-bread incident?"
'If I 'ave to wait, an' wait, an' foller 'im, an' foller 'im, says Jarge, 'I'll catch 'im alone, one o' these fine nights, an' it'll be man to man." "And when did he tell you all this?" "'S marnin' as ever was." "Where did you see him?" "Oh, no!" said the Pedler, shaking his head, "not by no manner o' means. I'm married, but I ain't that kind of a cove!" "What do you mean?"
The beautifully trimmed hedge in front of his cottage-garden proclaimed his method and love of order at a glance. Jarge was a wag; he was the man who, like Shakespeare's clowns, stepped on to the stage at the critical moment and saved a serious situation with a quaint or epigrammatic expression.
The clerk was nettled that the Rector should treat his story with such scant respect, but he saw that the others were listening with interest, and he went on: "Well, 'taint for I to say the old tower's a-going to fall, and I hope Sir Jarge won't ever live to larf the wrong side o' his mouth; but stopping of a ring never brought luck with it yet, and it brought no luck to my lord.
For a long moment there was silence, while I stared into the haggard face below, and the Imp looked from one to the other of us, utterly at a loss. "I wonder if you ever heard tell of 'the bye Jarge," I said suddenly. The convict started so violently that the jacket tore in my grasp. "How how did ye know ?" he gasped, and stared at me with dropped jaw. "I think I know your father."