The Hand of Ethelberta HTML version

3.Sandbourne Moor (Continued)
It was one of those hostile days of the year when chatterbox
ladies remain miserably in their homes to save the carriage
and harness, when clerks' wives hate living in lodgings,
when vehicles and people appear in the street with
duplicates of themselves underfoot, when bricklayers,
slaters, and other out-door journeymen sit in a shed and
drink beer, when ducks and drakes play with hilarious delight
at their own family game, or spread out one wing after
another in the slower enjoyment of letting the delicious
moisture penetrate to their innermost down. The smoke from
the flues of Sandbourne had barely strength enough to
emerge into the drizzling rain, and hung down the sides of
each chimney-pot like the streamer of a becalmed ship; and
a troop of rats might have rattled down the pipes from roof to
basement with less noise than did the water that day.
On the broad moor beyond the town, where Christopher's
meetings with the teacher had so regularly occurred, were a
stream and some large pools; and beside one of these, near
some hatches and a weir, stood a little square building, not
much larger inside than the Lord Mayor's coach. It was
known simply as 'The Weir House.' On this wet afternoon,
which was the one following the day of Christopher's last
lesson over the plain, a nearly invisible smoke came from
the puny chimney of the hut. Though the door was closed,
sounds of chatting and mirth fizzed from the interior, and
would have told anybody who had come near--which nobody
did--that the usually empty shell was tenanted to-day.
The scene within was a large fire in a fireplace to which the
whole floor of the house was no more than a hearthstone.
The occupants were two gentlemanly persons, in shooting
costume, who had been traversing the moor for miles in
search of wild duck and teal, a waterman, and a small