THEY SEATED THEMSELVES in the heavy chairs on the pebbled floor beneath the eaves of the summer-house by the orchard. A table between them carried wine and glasses, and a packet of papers, with pen and ink. The larger man of the two, his doublet unbuttoned, his broad face blotched and scarred, puffed a little as he came to rest. The other picked an apple from the grass, bit it, and went on with the thread of the talk that they must have carried out of doors with them.
'But why waste time fighting atomies who do not come up to your belly-button, Ben?' he asked.
'It breathes me - it breathes me, between bouts! You'd be better for a tussle or two.'
'But not to spend mind and verse on 'em. What was Dekker to you? Ye knew he'd strike back - and hard.'
'He and Marston had been baiting me like dogs ... about my trade as they called it, though it was only my cursed stepfather's. "Bricks and mortar," Dekker said, and "hod-man". And he mocked my face. 'Twas clean as curds in my youth. This humour has come on me since.'
'Ah! "Every man and his humour"? But why did ye not have at Dekker in peace - over the sack, as you do at me?'
'Because I'd have drawn on him - and he's no more worth a hanging than Gabriel. Setting aside what he wrote of me, too, the hireling dog has merit, of a sort. His Shoe-maker's Holiday. Hey ? Though my Bartlemy Fair, when 'tis presented, will furnish out three of it and -'
'Ride all the easier. I have suffered two readings of it already. It creaks like an overloaded hay-wain,' the other cut in. 'You give too much.'
ŠThe National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty