“A bad mistake in my lease!” gasped the alarmed Attorney.
“Yes,” replied Sir Arthur, pulling the lease out of his pocket. “Here it is. You will see it has not been signed.”
“But you won’t take advantage of a mistake, surely!” said the Attorney, who seemed to forget that he had shortly before said that it was fair to do so.
“I shall not take advantage of you as you would have done of this honest man,” replied Sir Arthur. “You shall be paid the value of your house and land upon condition that you leave the parish within one month.”
The Attorney knew it was useless to reply. He therefore turned and sneaked away.
“You write a good hand, you can keep accounts, cannot you?” said Sir Arthur to Mr. Price, as they walked towards the cottage. “I think I saw a bill of your little daughter’s drawing out the other day, which was very neatly written. Did you teach her to write?”
“No, sir,” said Price, “I can’t say I did that, for she mostly taught it to herself; but I taught her a few sums, as far as I knew, on winter nights when I had nothing else to do.”
“Your daughter shows that she has been well taught,” said Sir Arthur; “and her good conduct is a credit to you and her mother.”
“You are very good, very good indeed, sir, to speak in this way,” said the delighted father.
“But I mean to do more than pay you with words,” said Sir Arthur. “You are attached to your own family, perhaps you may become attached to me, when you know me, and we shall have many chances of judging one another. I want no one to do my hard work. I only want a steady, honest man, like you, to collect my rents, and I hope, Mr. Price, you will do that for me.”
“I hope, sir,” said Price, with joy and gratitude glowing in his honest face, “that I’ll never give you cause to regret your goodness to me.”
“And what are my sisters about here?” said Sir Arthur, entering the cottage and going behind the two ladies, who were busy measuring a pretty colored calico.
“It is for Susan, my dear brother. I knew she did not keep that guinea for herself,” said Miss Somers. “I have just asked her mother to tell me what became of it. Susan gave it to her father; but she must not refuse a gown of our choosing this time; and I am sure she will not, because her mother, I see, likes it. And, Susan, I hear that instead of becoming Queen of the May this year, you were sitting in your mother’s room as she was ill. Your mother has a little color in her cheeks now.”
“Oh, ma’am,” said Mrs. Price, “I’m a different being. Joy, I think, has done it.”
“Then,” said Miss Somers, “I hope you will be able to come out on your daughter’s birthday, which, I hear, is on the twenty-fifth of this month. Make haste and get quite well before that day, for my brother means that all the boys and girls of the village shall have a dance on Susan’s birthday.”