This was the suddenly-thought-of burden of a discussion over the cups one night at the canteen, soon after Gard’s arrival, when the possibility of his being a married man had been mooted and had remained in Tom’s turgid brain as a fact.
“By the Lord!” cried Gard, starting up in black fury, “if you can’t behave yourself I’ll break every bone in your body.”
And Nance’s face, which had unconsciously stiffened at Tom’s words, glowed again at Gard’s revelation of the natural man in him, and her eyes shone with various emotions—doubts, hopes, fears, and a keen interest in what would follow.
The first thing that followed was the dish of butter, which hurtled past Gard’s head and crashed into the face of the clock, and then fell with a flop to the earthen floor.
The next was Tom’s lowered head and cumbrous body, as he charged like a bull into Gard and both rolled to the ground, the table escaping catastrophe by a hair’s-breadth.
Mrs. Hamon had sprung up with clasped hands and piteous face. Nance and Bernel had sprung up also, with distress in their faces but still more of interest. They had come to a certain reliance on Gard’s powers, and how many and many a time had they longed to be able to give Tom a well-deserved thrashing!
Through the open door of her room came Grannie’s hard little voice, “Now then! Now then! What are you about there?” but no one had time to tell her.
Gard was up in a moment, panting hard, for Tom’s bull-head had caught him in the wind.
“If you want ... to fight ... come outside!” he jerked.
“—— you!” shouted Tom, as he struggled to his knees and then to his feet. “I’ll smash you!” and he lowered his head and made another blind rush.
But this time Gard was ready for him, and a stout buffet on the ear as he passed sent him crashing in a heap into the bowels of the clock, which had witnessed no such doings since Tom’s great-grandfather brought it home and stood it in its place, and it testified to its amazement at them by standing with hands uplifted at ten minutes to two until it was repaired many months afterwards.
Tom got up rather dazedly, and Gard took him by the shoulders and ran him outside before he had time to pull himself together.
“Now,” said Gard, shaking him as a bull-dog might a calf. “See here! You’re not wanted here at present, and if you make any more trouble you’ll suffer for it,” and he gave him a final whirl away from the house and went in and closed the door.
Tom stood gazing at it in dull fury, thought of smashing the window, picked up a stone, remembered just in time that it would be his window, so flung the stone and a curse against the door and departed.
“I’m sorry,” said Gard, looking deprecatingly at Nance. “I’m afraid I lost my temper.”
“It was all his fault,” said Nance. “Did he hurt you?”
“Only my feelings. He had no right to say such things or do what he did.”