“Did you want the barrow very particular?” inquired the shoemaker, in a regretful voice.
“Very particular,” said Mr. Hogg.
Mr. Quince went through the performance of feeling in all his pockets, and then stood meditatively rubbing his chin.
“The door’s locked,” he said, slowly, “and what I’ve done with that there key——”
“You open that door,” vociferated Mr. Rose, “else I’ll break it in. You’ve got my daughter in that shed and I’m going to have her out.”
“Your daughter?” said Mr. Quince, with an air of faint surprise. “What should she be doing in my shed?”
“You let her out,” stormed Mr. Rose, trying to push past him.
“Don’t trespass on my premises,” said Lawyer Quince, interposing his long, gaunt frame. “If you want that door opened you’ll have to wait till my boy Ned comes home. I expect he knows where to find the key.”
Mr. Rose’s hands fell limply by his side and his tongue, turning prudish, refused its office. He turned and stared at Mr. Hogg in silent consternation.
“Never known him to be beaten yet,” said that admiring weather-cock.
“Ned’s been away three days,” said the shoemaker, “but I expect him home soon.”
Mr. Rose made a strange noise in his throat and then, accepting his defeat, set off at a rapid pace in the direction of home. In a marvellously short space of time, considering his age and figure, he was seen returning with Ned Quince, flushed and dishevelled, walking by his side.
“Here he is,” said the farmer. “Now where’s that key?”
Lawyer Quince took his son by the arm and led him into the house, from whence they almost immediately emerged with Ned waving the key.
“I thought it wasn’t far,” said the sapient Mr. Hogg.
Ned put the key in the lock and flinging the door open revealed Celia Rose, blinking and confused in the sudden sunshine. She drew back as she saw her father and began to cry with considerable fervour.
“How did you get in that shed, miss?” demanded her parent, stamping.
[Illustration: “‘How did you get in that shed?’ demanded her parent.”]
Miss Rose trembled.
“I—I went there,” she sobbed. “I didn’t want to go away.”
“Well, you’d better stay there,” shouted the over-wrought Mr. Rose. “I’ve done with you. A girl that ’ud turn against her own father I—I—”
He drove his right fist into his left palm and stamped out into the road. Lawyer Quince and Mr. Hogg, after a moment’s hesitation, followed.
“The laugh’s agin you, farmer,” said the latter gentleman, taking his arm.
Mr. Rose shook him off.
“Better make the best of it,” continued the peace-maker.
“She’s a girl to be proud of,” said Lawyer Quince, keeping pace with the farmer on the other side. “She’s got a head that’s worth yours and mine put together, with Hogg’s thrown in as a little makeweight.”