‘If I cross, I’ll give you a knock,’ said Milly.
‘And I’ll gi’ thee another,’ she answered, with a vicious wag of the head.
‘Come, Milly, I’ll go if you don’t,’ I said.
‘But we must not be beat,’ whispered she, vehemently, catching my arm; ’and ye shall get over, and see what I will gi’ her!’
‘I’ll not get over.’
‘Then I’ll break the door, for ye shall come through,’ exclaimed Milly, kicking the stout paling with her ponderous boot.
‘Purr it, purr it, purr it!’ cried the lass in the red petticoat with a grin.
‘Do you know who this lady is?’ cried Milly, suddenly.
‘She is a prettier lass than thou,’ answered Beauty.
’She’s my cousin Maud—Miss Ruthyn of Knowl—and she’s a deal richer than the Queen; and the Governor’s taking care of her; and he’ll make old Pegtop bring you to reason.’
The girl eyed me with a sulky listlessness, a little inquisitively, I thought.
‘See if he don’t,’ threatened Milly.
‘You positively must come,’ I said, drawing her away with me.
‘Well, shall we come in?’ cried Milly, trying a last summons.
‘You’ll not come in that much,’ she answered, surlily, measuring an infinitesimal distance on her finger with her thumb, which she pinched against it, the gesture ending with a snap of defiance, and a smile that showed her fine teeth.
‘I’ve a mind to shy a stone at you,’ shouted Milly.
‘Faire away; I’ll shy wi’ ye as long as ye like, lass; take heed o’ yerself;’ and Beauty picked up a round stone as large as a cricket ball.
With difficulty I got Milly away without an exchange of missiles, and much disgusted at my want of zeal and agility.
‘Well, come along, cousin, I know an easy way by the river, when it’s low,’ answered Milly. ‘She’s a brute—is not she?’
As we receded, we saw the girl slowly wending her way towards the old thatched cottage, which showed its gable from the side of a little rugged eminence embowered in spreading trees, and dangling and twirling from its string on the end of her finger the key for which a battle had so nearly been fought.
The stream was low enough to make our flank movement round the end of the paling next it quite easy, and so we pursued our way, and Milly’s equanimity returned, and our ramble grew very pleasant again.
Our path lay by the river bank, and as we proceeded, the dwarf timber was succeeded by grander trees, which crowded closer and taller, and, at last, the scenery deepened into solemn forest, and a sudden sweep in the river revealed the beautiful ruin of a steep old bridge, with the fragments of a gate-house on the farther side.
‘Oh, Milly darling!’ I exclaimed, ’what a beautiful drawing this would make! I should so like to make a sketch of it.’
’So it would. Make a picture—do!—here’s a stone that’s pure and flat to sit upon, and you look very tired. Do make it, and I’ll sit by you.’