' WILL-O'-THE-WISPS ARE IN THE TOWN : 861
1 What have you to say to me now ? ' asked the man. ' Is it anything about the Story ? '
' Can you never get beyond asking about that ? ' retorted the woman.
' Can you tell me anything about the poetry of the future ? ' resumed the man.
1 Don't get on your stilts,' said the crone, ' and I'll answer you. You think of nothing but poetry, and only ask about that Story, as if she were the lady of the whole troop. She 's the oldest of us all, but she always passes for the youngest. I know her well. I've been young, too, and she 's no chicken now. I was once quite a pretty elf-maiden, and have danced in my time with the others in the moonlight, and have heard the nightingale, and have gone into the forest and met the Story-maiden, who was always to be found out there, running about. Sometimes she took up her night's lodging in a half-blown tulip, or in a field flower ; sometimes she would slip into the church, and wrap herself in the mourning crape that hung down from the candles on the altar.'
1 You are capitally well informed,' said the man.
' I ought at least to know as much as you,' answered the Moor-woman. ' Stories and poetry—yes, they're like two yards of the same piece of stuff : they can go and lie down where they like, and one can brew all their prattle, and have it all the better and cheaper. You shall have it from me for nothing. I have a whole cupboardful of poetry in bottles. It makes essences ; and that 's the best of it—bitter and sweet herbs. I have everything that people want of poetry, in bottles, so that I can put a little on my handkerchief, on holidays, to smell.'
* Why, these are wonderful things that you're telling ! ' said the man. ' You have poetry in bottles ? '
1 More than you can stand,' said the woman. ' I suppose you know the history of " the Girl who trod on the Loaf, so that she might not soil her new Shoes " ? That has been written, and printed too.'
' I told that story myself,' said the man.
1 Yes, then you must know it ; and you must know also that the girl sank into the earth directly, to the Moor-woman, just as Old Bogey's grandmother was paying her