Geoffrey put his hand in his pocket and gave the old man a sovereign. He could afford to do so now.
“Does Miss Beatrice go out canoeing now?” he asked while Edward mumbled his astonished thanks.
“At times, sir—thanking you kindly; it ain’t many suvrings as comes my way—though I hate the sight on it, I do. I’d like to stave a hole in the bottom of that there cranky concern; it ain’t safe, and that’s the fact. There’ll be another accent out of it one of these fine days and no coming to next time. But, Lord bless you, it’s her way of pleasuring herself. She’s a queer un is Miss Beatrice, and she gets queerer and queerer, what with their being so tight screwed up at the Vicarage, no tithes and that, and one thing and another. Not but what I’m thinking, sir,” he added in a portentous whisper, “as the squire has got summut to do with it. He’s a courting of her, he is; he’s as hard after her as a dog fish after a stray herring, and why she can’t just say yes and marry him I’m sure I don’t know.”
“Perhaps she doesn’t like him,” said Geoffrey coldly.
“May be, sir, may be; maids all have their fancies, in whatsoever walk o’ life it has pleased God to stick ’em, but it’s a wonderful pity, it is. He ain’t no great shakes, he ain’t, but he’s a sound man—no girl can’t want a sounder—lived quiet all his days you see, sir, and what’s more he’s got the money, and money’s tight up at the Vicarage, sir. Gals must give up their fancies sometimes, sir. Lord! a brace of brats and she’d forget all about ’em. I’m seventy years old and I’ve seen their ways, sir, though in a humble calling. You should say a word to her, sir; she’d thank you kindly five years after. You’d do her a good turn, sir, you would, and not a bad un as the saying goes, and give it the lie—no, beg your pardon, that is the other way round—she’s bound to do you the bad turn having saved your life, though I don’t see how she could do that unless, begging your pardon, she made you fall in love with her, being married, which though strange wouldn’t be wunnerful seeing what she is and seeing how I has been in love with her myself since she was seven, old missus and all, who died eight years gone and well rid of the rheumatics.”
Beatrice was one of the few subjects that could unlock old Edward’s breast, and Geoffrey retired before his confusing but suggestive eloquence. Hurriedly bidding the old man good-night he returned to the house, and leaning on the gate watched the twilight dying on the bosom of the west.
Suddenly, a bunch of wild roses in her girdle, Beatrice emerged from the gathering gloom and stood before him face to face.
THE THIRD APPEAL
Face to face they stood, while at the vision of her sweetness his heart grew still. Face to face, and the faint light fell upon her tender loveliness and died in her deep eyes, and the faint breeze fragrant with the breath of pines gently stirred her hair. Oh, it was worth living to see her thus!