He went across the grass toward her.
She looked round as he came, and her face livened.
“You’re an early bird, Mr. Derek.”
“Haven’t been to bed.”
“Been up Malvern Beacon to see the sun rise.”
“You’re tired, I expect!”
“Must be fine up there. You’d see a long ways from there; near to London I should think. Do you know London, Mr. Derek?”
“They say ’tis a funny place, too.” Her rogue eyes gleamed from under a heavy frown. “It’d not be all ‘Do this’ an’ ‘Do that’; an’ ‘You bad girl’ an’ ‘You little hussy!’ in London. They say there’s room for more’n one sort of girl there.”
“All towns are beastly places, Wilmet.”
Again her rogue’s eyes gleamed. “I don’ know so much about that, Mr. Derek. I’m going where I won’t be chivied about and pointed at, like what I am here.”
“Your dad’s stuck to you; you ought to stick to him.”
“Ah, Dad! He’s losin’ his place for me, but that don’t stop his tongue at home. ’Tis no use to nag me—nag me. Suppose one of m’lady’s daughters had a bit of fun—they say there’s lots as do— I’ve heard tales—there’d be none comin’ to chase her out of her home. ‘No, my girl, you can’t live here no more, endangerin’ the young men. You go away. Best for you’s where they’ll teach you to be’ave. Go on! Out with you! I don’t care where you go; but you just go!’ ‘Tis as if girls were all pats o’ butter—same square, same pattern on it, same weight, an’ all.”
Derek had come closer; he put his hand down and gripped her arm. Her eloquence dried up before the intentness of his face, and she just stared up at him.
“Now, look here, Wilmet; you promise me not to scoot without letting us know. We’ll get you a place to go to. Promise.”
A little sheepishly the rogue-girl answered:
“I promise; only, I’m goin’.”
Suddenly she dimpled and broke into her broad smile.
“Mr. Derek, d’you know what they say—they say you’re in love. You was seen in th’ orchard. Ah! ’tis all right for you and her! But if any one kiss and hug me, I got to go!”
Derek drew back among the graves, as if he had been struck with a whip.
She looked up at him with coaxing sweetness.
“Don’t you mind me, Mr. Derek, and don’t you stay here neither. If they saw you here with me, they’d say: ‘Aw—look! Endangerin’ another young man—poor young man!’ Good mornin’, Mr. Derek!”
The rogue eyes followed him gravely, then once more began examining the grass, and the toe of her boot again began kicking a little hole. But Derek did not look back.