’Ye’ll all come when ye like, will ye? and do nout but what pleases yourselves, won’t you? And who’rt thou? Dost ’eer—who are ye, I say; and what the deil seek ye in the woods here? Come, bestir thee!’
If his wide mouth and great tobacco-stained teeth, his scowl, and loud discordant tones were intimidating, they were also extremely irritating. The moment my spirit was roused, my courage came.
’I am Miss Ruthyn of Knowl, and Mr. Silas Ruthyn, your master, is my uncle.’
‘Hoo!’ he exclaimed more gently, ‘an’ if Silas be thy uncle thou’lt be come to live wi’ him, and thou’rt she as come overnight—eh?’
I made no answer, but I believe I looked both angrily and disdainfully.
‘And what make ye alone here? and how was I to know’t, an’ Milly not wi’ ye, nor no one? But Maud or no Maud, I wouldn’t let the Dooke hisself set foot inside the palin’ without Silas said let him. And you may tell Silas them’s the words o’ Dickon Hawkes, and I’ll stick to’m—and what’s more I’ll tell him myself—I will; I’ll tell him there be no use o’ my striving and straining hee, day an’ night and night and day, watchin’ again poachers, and thieves, and gipsies, and they robbing lads, if rules won’t be kep, and folk do jist as they pleases. Dang it, lass, thou’rt in luck I didn’t heave a brick at thee when I saw thee first.’
‘I’ll complain of you to my uncle,’ I replied.
’So do, and and ’appen thou’lt find thyself in the wrong box, lass; thou canst na’ say I set the dogs arter thee, nor cau’d thee so much as a wry name, nor heave a stone at thee—did I? Well? and where’s the complaint then?’
I simply answered, rather fiercely,
‘Be good enough to leave me.’
‘Well, I make no objections, mind. I’m takin’ thy word—thou’rt Maud Ruthyn—’appen thou be’st and ’appen thou baint. I’m not aweer on’t, but I takes thy word, and all I want to know’s just this, did Meg open the gate to thee?’
I made him no answer, and to my great relief I saw Milly striding and skipping across the unequal stepping-stones.
‘Hallo, Pegtop! what are you after now?’ she cried, as she drew near.
‘This man has been extremely impertinent. You know him, Milly?’ I said.
’Why that’s Pegtop Dickon. Dirty old Hawkes that never was washed. I tell you, lad, ye’ll see what the Governor thinks o’t—a-ha! He’ll talk to you.’
’I done or said nout—not but I should, and there’s the fack—she can’t deny’t; she hadn’t a hard word from I; and I don’t care the top o’ that thistle what no one says—not I. But I tell thee, Milly, I stopped some o’ thy pranks, and I’ll stop more. Ye’ll be shying no more stones at the cattle.’
’Tell your tales, and welcome, cried Milly. ’I wish I was here when you jawed cousin. If Winny was here she’d catch you by the timber toe and put you on your back.’