But so far as 'erbs an' seeds, an' precious stalks an' flowers is savin' grace for man an' beast, Matthew Peke's got 'em all in there. An' Matthew Peke wouldn't be the man he is, if he didn't know where to find 'em better'n any livin' soul iver born!
Helmsley walked beside his companion at an even pace, the "yerb wine" had undoubtedly put strength in him and he was almost unconscious of his former excessive fatigue. He was interested in Peke's "jabber," and wondered, somewhat enviously, why such a man as this, rough, ragged, and uneducated, should seem to possess a contentment such as he had never known.
"And if I had invested Uncle Peke's legacy and kept on fishing, or tried for a berth in a deep bottom somewhere, I would not get ahead any faster or make so much money. Besides, long voyages would take me away from home, and, after all, Aunt Lucretia is my only kin and she would miss me sore." "I am sure she would," said the girl with sympathy.
The fumbling at his door continued, and presently it slowly opened, letting in a pale stream of moonlight from a lattice window outside. He just saw the massive figure of Tom o' the Gleam standing on the threshold, clad in shirt and trousers only, and behind him there seemed to be the shadowy outline of Matt Peke's broad shoulders and Bill Bush's bullet head.
He walked on patiently, his limbs trembling a little with fatigue and nervous exhaustion. But Peke's words had started the old dream of his life again into being, the latent hope within him, which though often half-killed, was not yet dead, flamed up like newly kindled vital fire in his mind, and he moved as in a dream, his eyes fixed on the darkening heavens and the brightening star.
This 'ere's a friend o' mine, Mister David e's out o' work through the Lord's speshul dispensation an' rule o' natur gettin' old!" A laugh went round, but a more favourable impression towards Peke's companion was at once created by this introduction. "Sorry for ye!" said the individual called Bill Bush, nodding encouragingly to Helmsley. "I'm a bit that way myself."
They paid her, Peke adding a halfpenny to his threepence for the girl herself, and Helmsley, who judged it safest to imitate Peke's behaviour, doing the same. She giggled. "'Ope you aint deprivin' yourselves!" she said pertly. "No, my dear, we aint!" retorted Peke. "We can afford to treat ye like the gentlemen doos! Buy yerself a ribbin to tie up yer bonnie brown 'air!"
"Will ye now?" and Peke's rugged features visibly brightened "That's just like ye, Miss! Aint it, Tom? Aint it, Bill?" Both individuals appealed to agreed that it was "Miss Tranter all over." "Now off to bed with you!" proceeded that lady peremptorily. "And leave your collected 'fund' with me I'll give it to him." But Tom o' the Gleam would not hear of this.
'Ullo, Parson! Goin'?" The door slammed furiously, Arbroath had suddenly lost his dignity and temper together. Peke's raillery proved too much for him, and amid the loud guffaws of "Feathery" Joltram, Bill Bush and the rest, he beat a hasty retreat, and they heard his heavy footsteps go hurriedly across the passage of the "Trusty Man," and pass out into the road beyond.
Moreover, every man in the room was conscious of a stranger's presence, and each one cast a furtive glance at Helmsley, who, imitating Peke's example, had taken off his hat, and now sat quietly under the flickering light of the oil lamp which was suspended from the middle of the ceiling. He himself was intensely interested in the turn his wanderings had taken.