Where's my ink-bottle, and where's my thimble, and where's my little spoon? He's going to take it in a artful form now, my deary dear!'
Entering on her process, and beginning to bubble and blow at the faint spark enclosed in the hollow of her hands, she speaks from time to time, in a tone of snuffling satisfaction, without leaving off. When he speaks, he does so without looking at her, and as if his thoughts were already roaming away by anticipation.
'I've got a pretty many smokes ready for you, first and last, haven't I, chuckey?'
'A good many.'
'When you first come, you was quite new to it; warn't ye?'
'Yes, I was easily disposed of, then.'
'But you got on in the world, and was able by-and-by to take your pipe with the best of 'em, warn't ye?'
'Ah; and the worst.'
'It's just ready for you. What a sweet singer you was when you first come! Used to drop your head, and sing yourself off like a bird! It's ready for you now, deary.'
He takes it from her with great care, and puts the mouthpiece to his lips. She seats herself beside him, ready to refill the pipe.
After inhaling a few whiffs in silence, he doubtingly accosts her with:
'Is it as potent as it used to be?'
'What do you speak of, deary?'
'What should I speak of, but what I have in my mouth?'
'It's just the same. Always the identical same.'
'It doesn't taste so. And it's slower.'
'You've got more used to it, you see.'
'That may be the cause, certainly. Look here.' He stops, becomes dreamy, and seems to forget that he has invited her attention. She bends over him, and speaks in his ear.
'I'm attending to you. Says you just now, Look here. Says I now, I'm attending to ye. We was talking just before of your being used to it.'
'I know all that. I was only thinking. Look here. Suppose you had something in your mind; something you were going to do.'
'Yes, deary; something I was going to do?'
'But had not quite determined to do.'
'Might or might not do, you understand.'
'Yes.' With the point of a needle she stirs the contents of the bowl.
'Should you do it in your fancy, when you were lying here doing this?'
She nods her head. 'Over and over again.'
'Just like me! I did it over and over again. I have done it hundreds of thousands of times in this room.'
'It's to be hoped it was pleasant to do, deary.'
'It WAS pleasant to do!'
He says this with a savage air, and a spring or start at her. Quite unmoved she retouches and replenishes the contents of the bowl with her little spatula. Seeing her intent upon the occupation, he sinks into his former attitude.
'It was a journey, a difficult and dangerous journey. That was the subject in my mind. A hazardous and perilous journey, over abysses where a slip would be destruction. Look down, look down! You see what lies at the bottom there?'
He has darted forward to say it, and to point at the ground, as though at some imaginary object far beneath. The woman looks at him, as his spasmodic face approaches close to hers, and not at his pointing. She seems to know what the influence of her perfect quietude would be; if so, she has not miscalculated it, for he subsides again.
'Well; I have told you I did it here hundreds of thousands of times.