On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking
homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining
Vale of Blakemore, or Blackmoor. The pair of legs that carried him
were rickety, and there was a bias in his gait which inclined him
somewhat to the left of a straight line. He occasionally gave a
smart nod, as if in confirmation of some opinion, though he was not
thinking of anything in particular. An empty egg-basket was slung
upon his arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, a patch being quite
worn away at its brim where his thumb came in taking it off.
Presently he was met by an elderly parson astride on a gray mare,
who, as he rode, hummed a wandering tune.
"Good night t'ee," said the man with the basket.
"Good night, Sir John," said the parson.
The pedestrian, after another pace or two, halted, and turned round.
"Now, sir, begging your pardon; we met last market-day on this road
about this time, and I said 'Good night,' and you made reply '_Good
night, Sir John_,' as now."
"I did," said the parson.
"And once before that--near a month ago."
"I may have."
"Then what might your meaning be in calling me 'Sir John' these
different times, when I be plain Jack Durbeyfield, the haggler?"
The parson rode a step or two nearer.
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