Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

PAGE 2

Interlopers at the Knap
by [?]

The darkness thickened rapidly, at intervals shutting down on the land in a perceptible flap, like the wave of a wing. The customary close of day was accelerated by a simultaneous blurring of the air. With the fall of night had come a mist just damp enough to incommode, but not sufficient to saturate them. Countrymen as they were–born, as may be said, with only an open door between them and the four seasons–they regarded the mist but as an added obscuration, and ignored its humid quality.

They were travelling in a direction that was enlivened by no modern current of traffic, the place of Darton’s pilgrimage being an old-fashioned village–one of the Hintocks (several villages of that name, with a distinctive prefix or affix, lying thereabout)–where the people make the best cider and cider-wine in all Wessex, and where the dunghills smell of pomace instead of stable refuse as elsewhere. The lane was sometimes so narrow that the brambles of the hedge, which hung forward like anglers’ rods over a stream, scratched their hats and curry- combed their whiskers as they passed. Yet this neglected lane had been a highway to Queen Elizabeth’s subjects and the cavalcades of the past. Its day was over now, and its history as a national artery done for ever.

‘Why I have decided to marry her,’ resumed Darton (in a measured musical voice of confidence which revealed a good deal of his composition), as he glanced round to see that the lad was not too near, ‘is not only that I like her, but that I can do no better, even from a fairly practical point of view. That I might ha’ looked higher is possibly true, though it is really all nonsense. I have had experience enough in looking above me. “No more superior women for me,” said I–you know when. Sally is a comely, independent, simple character, with no make-up about her, who’ll think me as much a superior to her as I used to think–you know who I mean–was to me.’

‘Ay,’ said Johns. ‘However, I shouldn’t call Sally Hall simple. Primary, because no Sally is; secondary, because if some could be, this one wouldn’t. ‘Tis a wrong denomination to apply to a woman, Charles, and affects me, as your best man, like cold water. ‘Tis like recommending a stage play by saying there’s neither murder, villainy, nor harm of any sort in it, when that’s what you’ve paid your half-crown to see.’

‘Well; may your opinion do you good. Mine’s a different one.’ And turning the conversation from the philosophical to the practical, Darton expressed a hope that the said Sally had received what he’d sent on by the carrier that day.

Johns wanted to know what that was.

‘It is a dress,’ said Darton. ‘Not exactly a wedding-dress; though she may use it as one if she likes. It is rather serviceable than showy–suitable for the winter weather.’

‘Good,’ said Johns. ‘Serviceable is a wise word in a bridegroom. I commend ye, Charles.’

‘For,’ said Darton, ‘why should a woman dress up like a rope-dancer because she’s going to do the most solemn deed of her life except dying?’

‘Faith, why? But she will, because she will, I suppose,’ said Dairyman Johns.

‘H’m,’ said Darton.

The lane they followed had been nearly straight for several miles, but it now took a turn, and winding uncertainly for some distance forked into two. By night country roads are apt to reveal ungainly qualities which pass without observation during day; and though Darton had travelled this way before, he had not done so frequently, Sally having been wooed at the house of a relative near his own. He never remembered seeing at this spot a pair of alternative ways looking so equally probable as these two did now. Johns rode on a few steps.