"Come, my pretty young gent, and I'll tell you your fortune true."
I thought it rather mercenary, but, having spent an hour or so at the Farmers' Arms, I went and sat on my heel in front of her, since she didn't rise. She took my wrist in her bony hand, which seemed startlingly white, like a skeleton one, but it may have been a play of moonlight or daylight through a hole in the hedge. Her hair was grey under the hood, a dirty grey, her face was hollow, but the lower half squarish, in thin lines, like her mouth. But her eyes! I hadn't noticed them so much in daylight—perhaps they had contracted like a cat's—but now they seemed the blackest and most piercing I had ever seen. Piercing, but like a shining black wall when you tried to look into them. And they were fastened on mine. I thought of cheap mesmerism or hypnotism, and all the old tricks and patter, as she repeated in a harsh, cracking voice—
My pretty young gent, you may laugh your last,
And laugh till your laugh is through,
But I'll tell you the tale of your dead, dead past,
And I'll tell you all too true.
"Oh, I've heard that before," I said; "tell me something new, granny? "
"The old before the new," she said; "the old before the new." Then, after a pause that seemed no pause, and with a distant humming in my ears and a sudden feeling of helplessness and heaviness, came a voice, or voices—they didn't seem hers—as of a hundred imps singing round in a great mile wide circle—