He slammed down his fist on the rickety deal table, which promptly collapsed flat on the floor, with its four legs splayed under the circular cover.
“Bein’ a carpenter—” Geake began to stammer apologetically, and in a totally different tone.
For a second—two seconds—the issue hung between tears and laughter. An hysterical merriment twinkled in Naomi’s eyes.
But the strength of Geake’s passion saved the situation. He stepped up to Naomi, laid a hand on each shoulder, and shook her gently to and fro.
“Listen to me! As I hold ’ee now, so I take your fate in my hands. Naomi Bricknell, you’ve got to be my wife, so make up your mind to that.”
She cowered a little under his grasp; put out a hand to push him off; drew it back; and broke into helpless sobbing. But this time she did not command him to go away.
Fifteen minutes later William Geake left Vellan’s Rents with joy on his face and a broken table under his arm.
And two days later Naomi’s face wore a look of demure happiness when Long Oliver stopped her on the staircase and asked,
“Is it true, what I hear?”
“It is true,” she answered.
“An’ when be the banns called?”
“There ain’t goin’ to be no banns.”
“There ain’t goin’ to be no banns; leastways, there ain’t goin’ to be none called. We’m goin’ to the Registry Office. You look all struck of a heap. Was you hopin’ to be best man?”
“Well, I reckoned I’d take a hand in the responses,” he answered; and seemed about to say more, but turned on his heel and went back to his room, shutting the door behind him.
We pass to a Saturday morning, two years later, and to William Geake’s cottage at the western end of Gantick village.
Naomi had plucked three fowls and trussed them, and wrapping each in a white napkin, had packed them in her basket with a dozen and a half of eggs, a few pats of butter, and a nosegay or two of garden-flowers—Sweet Williams, marigolds, and heart’s-ease: for it was market-day at Tregarrick. Then she put on boots and shawl, tied her bonnet, and slung a second pair of boots across her arm: for the roads were heavy and she would leave the muddy pair with a friend who lived at the entrance of the town, not choosing to appear untidy as she walked up the Fore Street. These arrangements made, she went to seek her husband, who was busy planing a coffin-lid in the workshop behind the cottage, and ruminating upon to-morrow’s sermon.
“You’ll be about startin’,” he said, lifting his head and pushing his spectacles up over his eye-brows.
Naomi set her basket down on his work-table, and drew her breath back between her teeth—which is the Cornish mode of saying “Yes.” “I want you to make me a couple of skivers,” she said. “Aun’ Hambly sent over word she’d a brace o’ chicken for me to sell, an’ I was to call for ‘em: an’ I’d be ashamed to sell a fowl the way she skivers it.”