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Samson And Delilah
by [?]

‘Oh, my, it’ll be the death o’ me,’ she panted. ‘Now, come on, Mr. Trevorrow, play fair. Play fair, I say, or I s’ll put the cards down.’

‘Play fair! Why who’s played unfair?’ ejaculated Mr. Trevorrow. ‘Do you mean t’accuse me, as I haven’t played fair, Mrs. Nankervis?’

‘I do. I say it, and I mean it. Haven’t you got the queen of spades? Now, come on, no dodging round me. I know you’ve got that queen, as well as I know my name’s Alice.’

‘Well–if your name’s Alice, you’ll have to have it–‘

‘Ay, now–what did I say? Did you ever see such a man? My word, but your missus must be easy took in, by the looks of things.’

And off she went into peals of laughter. She was interrupted by the entrance of four men in khaki, a short, stumpy sergeant of middle age, a young corporal, and two young privates. The woman leaned back in her chair.

‘Oh, my!’ she cried. ‘If there isn’t the boys back: looking perished, I believe–‘

‘Perished, Ma!’ exclaimed the sergeant. ‘Not yet.’

‘Near enough,’ said a young private, uncouthly.

The woman got up.

‘I’m sure you are, my dears. You’ll be wanting your suppers, I’ll be bound.’

‘We could do with ’em.’

‘Let’s have a wet first,’ said the sergeant.

The woman bustled about getting the drinks. The soldiers moved to the fire, spreading out their hands.

‘Have your suppers in here, will you?’ she said. ‘Or in the kitchen?’

‘Let’s have it here,’ said the sergeant. ‘More cosier–if you don’t mind.’

‘You shall have it where you like, boys, where you like.’

She disappeared. In a minute a girl of about sixteen came in. She was tall and fresh, with dark, young, expressionless eyes, and well-drawn brows, and the immature softness and mindlessness of the sensuous Celtic type.

‘Ho, Maryann! Evenin’, Maryann! How’s Maryann, now?’ came the multiple greeting.

She replied to everybody in a soft voice, a strange, soft aplomb that was very attractive. And she moved round with rather mechanical, attractive movements, as if her thoughts were elsewhere. But she had always this dim far-awayness in her bearing: a sort of modesty. The strange man by the fire watched her curiously. There was an alert, inquisitive, mindless curiosity on his well-coloured face.

‘I’ll have a bit of supper with you, if I might,’ he said.

She looked at him, with her clear, unreasoning eyes, just like the eyes of some non-human creature.

‘I’ll ask mother,’ she said. Her voice was soft-breathing, gently singsong.

When she came in again:

‘Yes,’ she said, almost whispering. ‘What will you have?’

‘What have you got?’ he said, looking up into her face.

‘There’s cold meat–‘

‘That’s for me, then.’

The stranger sat at the end of the table and ate with the tired, quiet soldiers. Now, the landlady was interested in him. Her brow was knit rather tense, there was a look of panic in her large, healthy face, but her small brown eyes were fixed most dangerously. She was a big woman, but her eyes were small and tense. She drew near the stranger. She wore a rather loud-patterned flannelette blouse, and a dark skirt.

‘What will you have to drink with your supper?’ she asked, and there was a new, dangerous note in her voice.

He moved uneasily.

‘Oh, I’ll go on with ale.’

She drew him another glass. Then she sat down on the bench at the table with him and the soldiers, and fixed him with her attention.

‘You’ve come from St Just, have you?’ she said.

He looked at her with those clear, dark, inscrutable Cornish eyes, and answered at length:

‘No, from Penzance.’

‘Penzance!–but you’re not thinking of going back there tonight?’


He still looked at her with those wide, clear eyes that seemed like very bright agate. Her anger began to rise. It was seen on her brow. Yet her voice was still suave and deprecating.

‘I thought not–but you’re not living in these parts, are you?’

‘No–no, I’m not living here.’ He was always slow in answering, as if something intervened between him and any outside question.