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Samson And Delilah
by [?]

‘Oh, I see,’ she said. ‘You’ve got relations down here.’

Again he looked straight into her eyes, as if looking her into silence.

‘Yes,’ he said.

He did not say any more. She rose with a flounce. The anger was tight on her brow. There was no more laughing and card-playing that evening, though she kept up her motherly, suave, good-humoured way with the men. But they knew her, they were all afraid of her.

The supper was finished, the table cleared, the stranger did not go. Two of the young soldiers went off to bed, with their cheery:

‘Good-night, Ma. Good-night, Maryann.’

The stranger talked a little to the sergeant about the war, which was in its first year, about the new army, a fragment of which was quartered in this district, about America.

The landlady darted looks at him from her small eyes, minute by minute the electric storm welled in her bosom, as still he did not go. She was quivering with suppressed, violent passion, something frightening and abnormal. She could not sit still for a moment. Her heavy form seemed to flash with sudden, involuntary movements as the minutes passed by, and still he sat there, and the tension on her heart grew unbearable. She watched the hands of the dock move on. Three of the soldiers had gone to bed, only the crop-headed, terrier-like old sergeant remained.

The landlady sat behind the bar fidgeting spasmodically with the newspaper. She looked again at the clock. At last it was five minutes to ten.

‘Gentlemen–the enemy!’ she said, in her diminished, furious voice. ‘Time, please. Time, my dears. And good-night all!’

The men began to drop out, with a brief good-night. It was a minute to ten. The landlady rose.

‘Come,’ she said. ‘I’m shutting the door.’

The last of the miners passed out. She stood, stout and menacing, holding the door. Still the stranger sat on by the fire, his black overcoat opened, smoking.

‘We’re closed now, sir,’ came the perilous, narrowed voice of the landlady.

The little, dog-like, hard-headed sergeant touched the arm of the stranger.

‘Closing time,’ he said.

The stranger turned round in his seat, and his quick-moving, dark, jewel-like eyes went from the sergeant to the landlady.

‘I’m stopping here tonight,’ he said, in his laconic Cornish-Yankee accent.

The landlady seemed to tower. Her eyes lifted strangely, frightening.

‘Oh! indeed!’ she cried.’ Oh, indeed! And whose orders are those, may I ask?’

He looked at her again.

‘My orders,’ he said.

Involuntarily she shut the door, and advanced like a great, dangerous bird. Her voice rose, there was a touch of hoarseness in it.

‘And what might your orders be, if you please?’ she cried. ‘Who might you be, to give orders, in the house?’

He sat still, watching her.

‘You know who I am,’ he said. ‘At least, I know who you are.’

‘Oh, you do? Oh, do you? And who am I then, if you’ll be so good as to tell me?’

He stared at her with his bright, dark eyes.

‘You’re my Missis, you are,’ he said. ‘And you know it, as well as I do.’

She started as if something had exploded in her.

Her eyes lifted and flared madly.

Do I know it, indeed!’ she cried. ‘I know no such thing! I know no such thing! Do you think a man’s going to walk into this bar, and tell me off-hand I’m his Missis, and I’m going to believe him?–I say to you, whoever you may be, you’re mistaken. I know myself for no Missis of yours, and I’ll thank you to go out of this house, this minute, before I get those that will put you out.’

The man rose to his feet, stretching his head towards her a little. He was a handsomely built Cornishman in the prime of life.

‘What you say, eh? You don’t know me?’ he said, in his sing-song voice, emotionless, but rather smothered and pressing: it reminded one of the girl’s. ‘I should know you anywhere, you see. I should! I shouldn’t have to look twice to know you, you see. You see, now, don’t you?’