Mrs. Frost turned round from her saucepan.
“A scolding from the missis, Rachel?”
“There’s nobody else at Verner’s Pride should scold me,” responded Rachel, with a charming little air of self-consequence. “Mrs. Verner said a cross word or two, and I was so stupid as to burst out crying. I have had a headache all day, and that’s sure to put me out of sorts.”
“There’s always things to worry one in service, let it be ever so good on the whole,” philosophically observed Mrs. Frost, bestowing her attention again upon the saucepan. “Better be one’s own missus on a crust, say I, than at the beck and call of others.”
“Rachel,” interrupted old Matthew, “when I let you go to Verner’s Pride, I thought it was for your good. But I’d not keep you there a day, child, if you be unhappy.”
“Dear father, don’t take up that notion,” she quickly rejoined. “I am happier at Verner’s Pride than I should be anywhere else. I would not leave it. Where is Robin this evening?”
The answer was interrupted by the entrance of Robin himself. A short man with a red face, somewhat obstinate-looking. His eye lighted up when he saw Rachel; Mrs. Frost poured out the contents of her saucepan, which appeared to be a compound of Scotch oatmeal and treacle. Rachel was invited to take some, but declined. She lifted one of the children on her knee—a pretty little girl named after herself. The child did not seem well, and Rachel hushed it to her, bringing down her own sweet face caressingly upon the little one’s.
“So I hear as Mr. John Massingbird’s a-going to London on a visit?” cried Robin to his sister, holding out his basin for a second supply of the porridge.
The question had to be repeated three times, and then Rachel seemed to awake to it with a start. She had been gazing at vacancy, as if buried in a dream.
“Mr. John? A visit to London? Oh, yes, yes; he is going to London.”
“Do he make much of a stay?”
“I can’t tell,” said Rachel slightingly. A certain confidence had been reposed in her at Verner’s Pride; but it was not her business to make it known, even in her father’s home. Rachel was not a good hand at deception, and she changed the subject. “Has there not been some disturbance with the Dawsons to-day? Old Roy was at Verner’s Pride this afternoon, and the servants have been saying he came up about the Dawsons.”
“He wanted to turn ’em out,” replied Robin.
“He’s Grip Roy all over,” said Mrs. Frost.
Old Matthew Frost shook his head. “There has been ill-feeling smouldering between Roy and old Dawson this long while,” said he. “Now that it’s come to open war, I misdoubt me but there’ll be violence.”
“There’s ill-feeling between Roy and a many more, father, besides the Dawsons,” observed Robin.
“Ay! Rachel, child”—turning his head to the hearth, where his daughter sat apart—“folks have said that young Luke wants to make up to you. But I’d not like it. Luke’s a good-meaning, kind-hearted lad himself, but I’d not like you to be daughter-in-law to old Roy.”