“That’s what I be, Prue—a danged fule! If I do go afore that theer old, rusty stapil, ’twill serve me right—a danged fule I be! Allus loved ‘im—allus will, an’ wishful to wed wi’ ’im! Why, then,” said the Ancient, swallowing two or three times, “so ’ee shall, my sweet—so ‘ee shall, sure as sure, so come an’ kiss me, an’ forgive the old man as loves ’ee so.”
“What do ’ee mean, grandfer?” said Prue between two kisses.
“A fine, strappin’ chap be Jarge; arter all, Peter, you bean’t a patch on Jarge for looks, be you?”
“No, indeed, Ancient!”
“Wishful to wed ‘im, she is, an’ so she shall. Lordy Lord! Kiss me again, Prue, for I be goin’ to see Squire—ay, I be goin’ to up an’ speak wi’ Squire for Jarge an’ Peter be comin’ too.”
“Oh, Mr. Peter!” faltered Prudence, “be this true?” and in her eyes was the light of a sudden hope.
“Yes,” I nodded.
“D’you think Squire’ll see you—listen to you?” she cried breathlessly.
“I think he will, Prudence,” said I.
“God bless you, Mr. Peter!” she murmured. “God bless you!”
But now came the sound of wheels and the voice of Simon, calling, wherefore I took my hat and followed the Ancient to the door, but there Prudence stopped me.
“Last time you met wi’ Jarge he tried to kill you. Oh, I know, and now—you be goin’ to—”
“Nonsense, Prue!” said I. But, as I spoke, she stooped and would have kissed my hand, but I raised her and kissed her upon the cheek, instead. “For good luck, Prue,” said I, and so turned and left her.
In the porch sat Job, with Old Amos and the rest, still in solemn conclave over pipes and ale, who watched with gloomy brows as I swung myself up beside the Ancient in the cart.
“A fule’s journey!” remarked Old Amos sententiously, with a wave of his pipe; “a fule’s journey!”
The Ancient cast an observing eye up at the cloudless sky, and also nodded solemnly.
“Theer be some fules in this world, Peter, as mixes up rabbits wi’ pa’tridges, and honest men—like Jarge—wi’ thieves, an’ lazy waggabones—like Job—but we’ll show ’em, Peter, we’ll show ’em —dang ’em! Drive on, Simon, my bye!”
So, with this Parthian shot, feathered with the one strong word the Ancient kept for such occasions, we drove away from the silenced group, who stared mutely after us until we were lost to view. But the last thing I saw was the light in Prue’s sweet eyes as she watched us from the open lattice.
HOW WE SET OUT FOR BURNHAM HALL
“Peter,” said the Ancient, after we had gone a little way, “Peter, I do ‘opes as you aren’t been an’ gone an’ rose my Prue’s ’opes only to dash ’em down again.”
“I can but do my best, Ancient.”
“Old Un,” said Simon, “’tweren’t Peter as rose ’er ’opes, ‘twere you; Peter never said nowt about bringin’ Jarge ’ome—”