"Oh, it is not the scratches; but feel my hand, how it trembles. And it used to be as firm as a rock; for I never drink."
"So it do, I declare. Why, you do tremble all over; and no wonder, poor soul. Come you in this minut, and sit down a bit by the fire, while I go and make the room ready for you."
But, as soon as he was seated by the fire, the current began to flow again. "Well, I never liked Hillsborough folk much--poor, mean- visaged tykes they be--but now I do hate 'em. What, blow up a decent young man like you, and a well-favored, and hair like jet, and eyes in your head like sloes! But that's their ground of spite, I warrant me; the nasty, ugly, dirty dogs. Well, you may just snap your fingers at 'em all now. They don't come out so far as this; and, if they did, stouter men grows in this village than any in Hillsborough: and I've only to hold up my finger, for as little as I be, and they'd all be well ducked in father's horsepond, and then flogged home again with a good cart-whip well laid on. And, another thing, whatever we do, Squire, he will make it good in law: he is gentle, and we are simple; but our folk and his has stood by each other this hundred year and more. But, la, I run on so, and you was to write a letter again the doctor came back. I'll fetch you some paper this minut."
She brought him writing materials, and stood by him with this apology, "If 'twas to your sweetheart I'd be off. But 'tis to your mother." (With a side glance), "She have been a handsome woman in her day, I'll go bail."
"She is as beautiful as ever in my eyes," said Henry, tenderly. "And, oh, heaven! give me the sense to write to her without frightening her."
"Then I won't hinder you no more with my chat," said his hostess, with kindly good humor, and slipped away upstairs. She lighted a great wood fire in the bedroom, and laid the bed and the blankets all round it, and opened the window, and took the homespun linen sheets out of a press, and made the room very tidy. Then she went down again, and the moment Henry saw her, he said "I feel your kindness, miss, but I don't know your name, nor where in the world I am." His hostess smiled. "That is no secret. I'm Martha Dence--at your service: and this is Cairnhope town."
"Cairnhope!" cried Henry, and started back, so that his wooden chair made a loud creak upon the stones of the farmer's kitchen.
Martha Dence stared, but said nothing; for almost at that moment the doctor returned, all in a hurry, for the letter.