I Had Already Got Some Way Past Him; But, Leaving Modestine Once
More, Retraced My Steps.
Alas, it was a very commonplace affair.
The old gentleman had forgot to
ask the pedlar what he sold, and wished to remedy this neglect.
I told him sternly, 'Nothing.'
'Nothing?' cried he.
I repeated 'Nothing,' and made off.
It's odd to think of, but perhaps I thus became as inexplicable to the
old man as he had been to me.
The road lay under chestnuts, and though I saw a hamlet or two below me
in the vale, and many lone houses of the chestnut farmers, it was a very
solitary march all afternoon; and the evening began early underneath the
trees. But I heard the voice of a woman singing some sad, old, endless
ballad not far off. It seemed to be about love and a bel amoureux, her
handsome sweetheart; and I wished I could have taken up the strain and
answered her, as I went on upon my invisible woodland way, weaving, like
Pippa in the poem, my own thoughts with hers. What could I have told
her? Little enough; and yet all the heart requires. How the world gives
and takes away, and brings sweethearts near only to separate them again
into distant and strange lands; but to love is the great amulet which
makes the world a garden; and 'hope, which comes to all,' outwears the
accidents of life, and reaches with tremulous hand beyond the grave and
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