LIZZIE AND HONORIA.
His apprenticeship lasted a year and six months, and all this while he lived with the Jolls, walking home every Sunday morning and returning every Sunday night, rain or shine. He carried his deftness of hand into his new trade, and it was Mendarva who begged and obtained an extension of the time agreed on, “Rather than lose the boy I’ll tache en for love.” So Taffy stayed on for another six months. He was now in his seventeenth year—a boy no longer. One evening, as he blew up his smithy fire, the glow of it fell on the form of a woman standing just outside the window and watching him. He had no silly fears of ghosts: but the thought of the buried woman flashed across his mind and he dropped his pincers with a clatter.
“’Tis only me,” said the woman. “You needn’t to be afeard.” And he saw it was the girl Lizzie.
She stepped inside the forge and seated herself on the Dane’s anvil.
“I was walking back from prayer-meeting,” she said. “’Tis nigher this way, but I don’t ever dare to come. Might, I dessay, if I’d somebody to see me home.”
“Ghosts?” asked Taffy, picking up the pincers and thrusting the bar back into the hot cinders.
“I dunno: I gets frightened o’ the very shadows on the road sometimes. I suppose, now, you never walks out that way?”
“Why, towards where your home is. That’s the way I comes.”
“No, I don’t.” Taffy blew at the cinders until they glowed again. “It’s only on Sundays I go over there.”
“That’s a pity,” said Lizzie candidly. “I’m kept in, Sunday evenings, to look after the children while farmer and mis’ess goes to Chapel. That’s the agreement I came ’pon.”
“It would be nice now, wouldn’t it—” She broke off, clasping her knees and staring at the blaze.
“What would be nice?”
Lizzie laughed confusedly. “Aw, you make me say’t. I can’t abear any of the young men up to the Chapel. If me and you—”
Taffy ceased blowing. The fire died down, and in the darkness he could hear her breathing hard.
“They’re so rough,” she went on, “and t’other night I met young Squire Vyell riding along the road, and he stopped me and wanted to kiss me.”
“George Vyell? Surely he didn’t?” Taffy blew up the fire again.
“Iss he did. I don’t see why not, neither.”
“Why he shouldn’t kiss you?”
“Why he shouldn’t want to.”
Taffy frowned, carried the white hot bar to his anvil, and began to hammer. He despised girls, as a rule, and their ways. Decidedly Lizzie annoyed him; and yet as he worked he could not help glancing at her now and then, as she sat and watched him. By-and-by he saw that her eyes were full of tears.
“What’s the matter?” he asked abruptly.