For several minutes Dick drove along homeward, with the inner eye of reflection so anxiously set on his passages at arms with Fancy, that the road and scenery were as a thin mist over the real pictures of his mind. Was she a coquette? The balance between the evidence that she did love him and that she did not was so nicely struck, that his opinion had no stability. She had let him put his hand upon hers; she had allowed her gaze to drop plumb into the depths of his—his into hers—three or four times; her manner had been very free with regard to the basin and towel; she had appeared vexed at the mention of Shiner. On the other hand, she had driven him about the house like a quiet dog or cat, said Shiner cared for her, and seemed anxious that Mr. Maybold should do the same.
Thinking thus as he neared the handpost at Mellstock Cross, sitting on the front board of the spring cart—his legs on the outside, and his whole frame jigging up and down like a candle-flame to the time of Smart’s trotting—who should he see coming down the hill but his father in the light wagon, quivering up and down on a smaller scale of shakes, those merely caused by the stones in the road. They were soon crossing each other’s front.
“Weh-hey!” said the tranter to Smiler.
“Weh-hey!” said Dick to Smart, in an echo of the same voice.
“Th’st hauled her back, I suppose?” Reuben inquired peaceably.
“Yes,” said Dick, with such a clinching period at the end that it seemed he was never going to add another word. Smiler, thinking this the close of the conversation, prepared to move on.
“Weh-hey!” said the tranter. “I tell thee what it is, Dick. That there maid is taking up thy thoughts more than’s good for thee, my sonny. Thou’rt never happy now unless th’rt making thyself miserable about her in one way or another.”
“I don’t know about that, father,” said Dick rather stupidly.
“But I do—Wey, Smiler!—’Od rot the women, ‘tis nothing else wi’ ’em nowadays but getting young men and leading ’em astray.”
“Pooh, father! you just repeat what all the common world says; that’s all you do.”
“The world’s a very sensible feller on things in jineral, Dick; very sensible indeed.”
Dick looked into the distance at a vast expanse of mortgaged estate. “I wish I was as rich as a squire when he’s as poor as a crow,” he murmured; “I’d soon ask Fancy something.”
“I wish so too, wi’ all my heart, sonny; that I do. Well, mind what beest about, that’s all.”
Smart moved on a step or two. “Supposing now, father,—We-hey, Smart!—I did think a little about her, and I had a chance, which I ha’n’t; don’t you think she’s a very good sort of—of—one?”