‘Governor’s callin’ for ye, Milly; and he told me to send you slick home to him if I saw you, and I think he’ll gi’e ye some money; but ye better take him while he’s in the humour, lass, or mayhap ye’ll go long without.’
And with those words, apparently intent on his game, he nodded again, and, pipe in mouth, drove at a quick trot over the slope of the hill, and disappeared.
So I agreed to await Milly’s return while she ran home, and rejoined me where I was. Away she ran, in high spirits, and I wandered listlessly about in search of some convenient spot to sit down upon, for I was a little tired.
She had not been gone five minutes, when I heard a step approaching, and looking round, saw the dog-cart close by, the horse browsing on the short grass, and Dudley Ruthyn within a few paces of me.
‘Ye see, Maud, I’ve bin thinkin’ why you’re so vexed wi’ me, an’ I thought I’d jest come back an’ ask ye what I may a’ done to anger ye so; there’s no sin in that, I think—is there?’
‘I’m not angry. I did not say so. I hope that’s enough,’ I said, startled; and, notwithstanding my speech, very angry, for I felt instinctively that Milly’s despatch homeward was a mere trick, and I the dupe of this coarse stratagem.
’Well then, if ye baint angry, so much the better, Maud. I only want to know why you’re afeard o’ me. I never struck a man foul, much less hurt a girl, in my days; besides, Maud, I likes ye too well to hurt ye. Dang it, lass, you’re my cousin, ye know, and cousins is all’ays together and lovin’ like, an’ none says again’ it.’
’I’ve nothing to explain—there is nothing to explain. I’ve been quite friendly,’ I said, hurriedly.
’Friendly! Well, if there baint a cram! How can ye think it friendly, Maud, when ye won’t a’most shake hands wi’ me? It’s enough to make a fellah sware, or cry a’most. Why d’ye like aggravatin’ a poor devil? Now baint ye an ill-natured little puss, Maud, an’ I likin’ ye so well? You’re the prettiest lass in Derbyshire; there’s nothin’ I wouldn’t do for ye.’
And he backed his declaration with an oath.
‘Be so good, then, as to re-enter your dog-cart and drive away,’ I replied, very much incensed.
’Now, there it is again! Ye can’t speak me civil. Another fellah’d fly out, an’ maybe kiss ye for spite; but I baint that sort, I’m all for coaxin’ and kindness, an’ ye won’t let me. What be you drivin’ at, Maud?’
’I think I’ve said very plainly, sir, that I wish to be alone. You’ve nothing to say, except utter nonsense, and I’ve heard quite enough. Once for all, I beg, sir, that you will be so good as to leave me.’
’Well, now, look here, Maud; I’ll do anything you like—burn me if I don’t—if you’ll only jest be kind to me, like cousins should. What did I ever do to vex you? If you think I like any lass better than you—some fellah at Elverston’s bin talkin’, maybe—it’s nout but lies an’ nonsense. Not but there’s lots o’ wenches likes me well enough, though I be a plain lad, and speaks my mind straight out.’