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“Here’s a treat!” he burst out, with an affectation of joy, which was completely belied by the expression of his dirty face. “Here’s a kind and dear young lady, to help an old man to a drink with her own pretty hands.” He paused, and looked at the milk very much as he might have looked at a dose of physic. “Will anyone take a drink first?” he asked, offering the jug piteously to Isabel and Moody. “You see, I’m not wed to genuine milk; I’m used to chalk and water. I don’t know what effect the unadulterated cow might have on my poor old inside.” He tasted the milk with the greatest caution. “Upon my soul, this is too rich for me! The unadulterated cow is a deal too strong to be drunk alone. If you’ll allow me I’ll qualify it with a drop of gin. Here, Puggy, Puggy!” He set the milk down before the dog; and, taking a flask out of his pocket, emptied it at a draught. “That’s something like!” he said, smacking his lips with an air of infinite relief. “So sorry, Miss, to have given you all your trouble for nothing; it’s my ignorance that’s to blame, not me. I couldn’t know I was unworthy of genuine milk till I tried — could I? And do you know,” he proceeded, with his eyes directed slyly on the way back to the station, “I begin to think I’m not worthy of the fresh air, either. A kind of longing seems to come over me for the London stink. I’m home-sick already for the soot of my happy childhood and my own dear native mud. The air here is too thin for me, and the sky’s too clean; and — oh, Lord! — when you’re wed to the roar of the traffic — the ‘busses and the cabs and what not — the silence in these parts is downright awful. I’ll wish you good evening, miss; and get back to London.”

Isabel turned to Moody with disappointment plainly expressed in her face and manner.

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“Is that all he has to say?” she asked. “You told me he could help us. You led me to suppose he could find the guilty person.”

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Sharon heard her. “I could name the guilty person,” he answered, “as easily, miss, as I could name you.”

“Why don’t you do it then?” Isabel inquired, not very patiently

“Because the time’s not ripe for it yet, miss — that’s one reason. Because, if I mentioned the thief’s name, as things are now, you, Miss Isabel, would think me mad; and you would tell Mr. Moody I had cheated him out of his money — that’s another reason. The matter’s in train, if you will only wait a little longer.”

“So you say,” Isabel rejoined. “If you really could name the thief, I believe you would do it now.”

She turned away with a frown on her pretty face. Old Sharon followed her. Even his coarse sensibilities appeared to feel the irresistible ascendancy of beauty and youth.

“I say!” he began, “we must part friends, you know — or I shall break my heart over it. They have got milk at the farmhouse. Do you think they have got pen, ink, and paper too?”

Isabel answered, without turning to look at him, “Of course they have!”

“And a bit of sealing-wax?”

“I daresay!”

Old Sharon laid his dirty claws on her shoulder and forced her to face him as the best means of shaking them off.

“Come along!” he said. “I am going to pacify you with some information in writing.”