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Two on a Tower

Chapter 2
Swithin St. Cleeve lingered on at his post, until the more sanguine birds of the
plantation, already recovering from their midwinter anxieties, piped a short
evening hymn to the vanishing sun.
The landscape was gently concave; with the exception of tower and hill there
were no points on which late rays might linger; and hence the dish-shaped ninety
acres of tilled land assumed a uniform hue of shade quite suddenly. The one or
two stars that appeared were quickly clouded over, and it was soon obvious that
there would be no sweeping the heavens that night. After tying a piece of
tarpaulin, which had once seen service on his maternal grandfather's farm, over
all the apparatus around him, he went down the stairs in the dark, and locked the
door.
With the key in his pocket he descended through the underwood on the side of
the slope opposite to that trodden by Lady Constantine, and crossed the field in a
line mathematically straight, and in a manner that left no traces, by keeping in the
same furrow all the way on tiptoe. In a few minutes he reached a little dell, which
occurred quite unexpectedly on the other side of the field-fence, and descended
to a venerable thatched house, whose enormous roof, broken up by dormers as
big as haycocks, could be seen even in the twilight. Over the white walls, built of
chalk in the lump, outlines of creepers formed dark patterns, as if drawn in
charcoal.
Inside the house his maternal grandmother was sitting by a wood fire. Before it
stood a pipkin, in which something was evidently kept warm. An eight-legged oak
table in the middle of the room was laid for a meal. This woman of eighty, in a
large mob cap, under which she wore a little cap to keep the other clean,
retained faculties but little blunted. She was gazing into the flames, with her
hands upon her knees, quietly re-enacting in her brain certain of the long chain of
episodes, pathetic, tragical, and humorous, which had constituted the parish
history for the last sixty years. On Swithin's entry she looked up at him in a
sideway direction.
'You should not have waited for me, granny,' he said.
''Tis of no account, my child. I've had a nap while sitting here. Yes, I've had a
nap, and went straight up into my old country again, as usual. The place was as
natural as when I left it,--e'en just threescore years ago! All the folks and my old
aunt were there, as when I was a child,--yet I suppose if I were really to set out
and go there, hardly a soul would be left alive to say to me, dog how art! But tell
Hannah to stir her stumps and serve supper--though I'd fain do it myself, the poor
old soul is getting so unhandy!'
Hannah revealed herself to be much nimbler and several years younger than
granny, though of this the latter seemed to be oblivious. When the meal was
nearly over Mrs. Martin produced the contents of the mysterious vessel by the
fire, saying that she had caused it to be brought in from the back kitchen,
because Hannah was hardly to be trusted with such things, she was becoming
so childish.
 
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