“I threw it as a bone,” said he. “I think you will observe that they are already quieter. They are reflecting on what it signifies, and will by-and-by quarrel as to the spelling of it. At any rate it occupies them.”
Cornelia laughed inwardly, and marked with pain that his own humour gave him no merriment.
At the subsiding of the echoes that coupled Squire Pole and the Junction Club together, Squire Pole replied. He wished them well. He was glad to see them, and sorry he had not ale enough on the premises to regale every man of them. Clubs were great institutions. One fist was stronger than a thousand fingers—“as my friend here said just now.” Hereat the eyelids of Cornelia shed another queenly smile on the happy originator of the remark.
Squire Pole then descended to business. He named the amount of his donation. At this practical sign of his support, heaven heard the gratitude of the good fellows. The drum awoke from its torpor, and summoned its brethren of the band to give their various versions of the National Anthem.
“Can’t they be stopped?” Emilia murmured, clenching her little hands.
The patriotic melody, delivered in sturdy democratic fashion, had to be endured. It died hard, but did come to an end, piecemeal. Tom Breeks then retired from the front, and became a unit once more. There were flourishes that indicated a termination of the proceedings, when another fellow was propelled in advance, and he, shuffling and ducking his head, to the cries of “Out wi’ it, Jim!” and, “Where’s your stomach?” came still further forward, and showed a most obsequious grin.
“Why, it’s Jim!” exclaimed Emilia, on whom Jim’s eyes were fastened. Stepping nearer, she said, “Do you want to speak to me?”
Jim had this to say: which, divested of his petition for pardon on the strength of his perfect knowledge that he took a liberty, was, that the young lady had promised, while staying at Wilson’s farm, that she would sing to the Club-fellows on the night of their feast.
“I towl’d ’em they’d have a rare treat, miss,” mumbled Jim, “and they’re all right mad for ’t, that they be—bain’t ye, boys?”
That they were! with not a few of the gesticulations of madness too.
Emilia said: “I promised I would sing to them. I remember it quite well. Of course I will keep my promise.”
A tumult of acclamation welcomed her words, and Jim looked immensely delighted.
She was informed by several voices that they were the Yellow-and-Blues, and not the Blues: that she must not go to the wrong set: and that their booth was on Ipley Common: and that they, the Junction Club, only would honour her rightly for the honour she was going to do them: all of which Emilia said she would bear in mind.
Jim then retired hastily, having done something that stout morning ale would alone have qualified him to perform. The drum, in the noble belief that it was leading, announced the return march, and with three cheers for Squire Pole, and a crowning one for the ladies, away trooped the procession.