Milly gaped in a total puzzle as Lady Knollys rattled on.
’You know, Milly, you must not be talking about this when you go home to Bartram, because Silas would prevent your coming to me any more if he thought I spoke so freely; but I can’t help it: so you must promise to be more discreet than I. And I am told that all kinds of claims are about to be pressed against him, now that he is thought to have got some money; and he has been cutting down oak and selling the bark, Doctor Bryerly has been told, in that Windmill Wood; and he has kilns there for burning charcoal, and got a man from Lancashire who understands it—Hawk, or something like that.’
‘Ay, Hawkes—Dickon Hawkes; that’s Pegtop, you know, Maud,’ said Milly.
’Well, I dare say; but a man of very bad character, Dr. Bryerly says; and he has written to Mr. Danvers about it—for that is what they call waste, cutting down and selling the timber, and the oakbark, and burning the willows, and other trees that are turned into charcoal. It is all waste, and Dr. Bryerly is about to put a stop to it.’
‘Has he got your carriage for you, Maud, and your horses?’ asked Cousin Monica, suddenly.
‘They have not come yet, but in a few weeks, Dudley says, positively—’
Cousin Monica laughed a little and shook her head.
’Yes, Maud, the carriage and horses will always be coming in a few weeks, till the time is over; and meanwhile the old travelling chariot and post-horses will do very well;’ and she laughed a little again.
’That’s why the stile’s pulled away at the paling, I suppose; and Beauty—Meg Hawkes, that is—is put there to stop us going through; for I often spied the smoke beyond the windmill,’ observed Milly.
Cousin Monica listened with interest, and nodded silently.
I was very much shocked. It seemed to me quite incredible. I think Lady Knollys read my amazement and my exalted estimate of the heinousness of the procedure in my face, for she said—
’You know we can’t quite condemn Silas till we have heard what he has to say. He may have done it in ignorance; or, it is just possible, he may have the right.’