“Come,” Wilfrid said to Emilia, “leave the harp, I will get you another. Come.”
“No, no,” she cried in her nervous fright.
“For God’s sake, come!” he reiterated, she, stamping her foot, as to emphasize “No! no! no!”
“But I will buy you another harp;” he made audible to her through the hubbub.
“This one!” she gasped with her hand on it. “What will he think if he finds that I forsook it?”
Wilfrid knew her to allude to the unknown person who had given it to her.
“There—there,” said he. “I sent it, and I can get you another. So, come. Be good, and come.”
“It was you!”
Emilia looked at him. She seemed to have no senses for the uproar about her.
But now the outer barricade was broken through, and the rout pressed on the second line. Tom Breeks, the orator, and Jim, transformed from a lurching yokel to a lithe dog of battle, kept the retreat of Ipley, challenging any two of Hillford to settle the dispute. Captain Gambier attempted an authoritative parley, in the midst of which a Hillford man made a long arm and struck Emilia’s harp, till the strings jarred loose and horrid. The noise would have been enough to irritate Wilfrid beyond endurance. When he saw the fellow continuing to strike the harp-frame while Emilia clutched it, in a feeble defence, against her bosom, he caught a thick stick from a neighbouring hand and knocked that Hillford man so clean to earth that Hillford murmured at the blow. Wilfrid then joined the front array.
“Half-a-dozen hits like that a-piece, sir,” nodded Tom Breeks.
“There goes another!” Jim shouted.
“Not quite, my lad,” interposed Ned Thewk, though Peter Bartholomew was reeling in confirmation.
His blow at Jim missed, but came sharply in the swing on Wilfrid’s cheek-bone.
Maddened at the immediate vision of that feature swollen, purple, even as a plum with an assiduous fly on it, certifying to ripeness:—Says the philosopher, “We are never up to the mark of any position, if we are in a position beneath our own mark;” and it is true that no hero in conflict should think of his face, but Wilfrid was all the while protesting wrathfully against the folly of his having set foot in such a place:— Maddened, I say, Wilfrid, a keen swordman, cleared a space. John Girling fell to him: Ned Thewk fell to him, and the sconce of Will Burdock rang.
“A rascally absurd business!” said Gambier, letting his stick do the part of a damnatory verb on one of the enemy, while he added, “The drunken vagabonds!”
All the Hillford party were now in the booth. Ipley, meantime, was not sleeping. Farmer Wilson and a set of the Ipley men whom age had sagaciously instructed to prefer stratagem to force, had slipped outside, and were labouring as busily as their comrades within: stooping to the tent-pegs, sending emissaries to the tent-poles.