Gradually he grew less constrained in my presence, and certainly his manners were not improved by his growing ease and confidence.
He came in while Milly and I were at luncheon, jumped up, with a ‘right-about face’ performed in the air, sitting on the sideboard, whence grinning slyly and kicking his heels, he leered at us.
‘Will you have something, Dudley?’ asked Milly.
‘No, lass; but I’ll look at ye, and maybe drink a drop for company.’
And with these words, he took a sportsman’s flask from his pocket; and helping himself to a large glass and a decanter, he compounded a glass of strong brandy-and-water, as he talked, and refreshed himself with it from time to time.
‘Curate’s up wi’ the Governor,’ he said, with a grin. ‘I wanted a word wi’ him; but I s’pose I’ll hardly git in this hour or more; they’re a praying and disputing, and a Bible-chopping, as usual. Ha, ha! But ’twon’t hold much longer, old Wyat says, now that Uncle Austin’s dead; there’s nout to be made o’ praying and that work no longer, and it don’t pay of itself.’
‘O fie! For shame, you sinner!’ laughed Milly. ’He wasn’t in a church these five years, he says, and then only to meet a young lady. Now, isn’t he a sinner, Maud—isn’t he?’
Dudley, grinning, looked with a languishing slyness at me, biting the edge of his wide-awake, which he held over his breast.
Dudley Ruthyn probably thought there was a manly and desperate sort of fascination in the impiety he professed.
‘I wonder, Milly,’ said I, ‘at your laughing. How can you laugh?’
‘You’d have me cry, would ye?’ answered Milly.
‘I certainly would not have you laugh,’ I replied.
’I know I wish some one ‘ud cry for me, and I know who,’ said Dudley, in what he meant for a very engaging way, and he looked at me as if he thought I must feel flattered by his caring to have my tears.
Instead of crying, however, I leaned back in my chair, and began quietly to turn over the pages of Walter Scott’s poems, which I and Milly were then reading in the evenings.
The tone in which this odious young man spoke of his father, his coarse mention of mine, and his low boasting of his irreligion, disgusted me more than ever with him.
’They parsons be slow coaches—awful slow. I’ll have a good bit to wait, I s’pose. I should be three miles away and more by this time—drat it!’ He was eyeing the legging of the foot which he held up while he spoke, as if calculating how far away that limb should have carried him by this time. ‘Why can’t folk do their Bible and prayers o’ Sundays, and get it off their stomachs? I say, Milly lass, will ye see if Governor be done wi’ the Curate? Do. I’m a losing the whole day along o’ him.’
Milly jumped up, accustomed to obey her brother, and as she passed me, whispered, with a wink—