One day George Sannel asked and obtained leave for a holiday.
On the morning in question, he dressed himself in the cleanest of smocks, greased his boots, stuck a bloody warrior, or dark-colored wallflower, in his bosom, put a neatly folded, clean cotton handkerchief into his pocket,—which, even if he did not use it, was a piece of striking dandyism,—and scrubbed his honest face to such a point of cleanliness that Mrs. Lake was almost constrained to remark that she thought he must be going courting.
George did not blush,—he never blushed,—but he looked “voolish” enough to warrant the suspicion that his errand was a tender one, and he had no other reason to give for his spruce appearance
It was, perhaps, in his confusion that he managed to convey a mistaken notion of the place to which he was going to Mrs. Lake. She was under the impression that he went to the neighboring town, whereas he went to one in an exactly opposite direction, and some miles farther away.
He went to the bank, too, which seems an unlikely place for tender tryst; but George’s proceedings were apt to be less direct than the simplicity of his looks and speech would have led a stranger to suppose. When he reached home, the windmiller and his family were going to bed, for the night was still, and the mill idle. George betook himself at once to where his truckle-bed stood in the round-house, and proceeded to light his mill-candlestick, which was stuck into the wall.
From the chink into which it was stuck he then counted seven bricks downwards, and the seventh yielded to a slight effort and came out. It was the door, so to speak, of a hole in the wall of the mill, from which he drew a morocco-bound pocket-book. After an uneasy glance over his shoulder, to make sure that the long dark shadow which stretched from his own heels, and shifted with the draught in which the candle flared, was not the windmiller creeping up behind him, he took a letter out of the book and held it to the light as if to read it. But he never turned the page, and at last replaced it with a sigh. Then he put the pocket-book back into the hole, and pushed in after it his handkerchief, which was tied round something which chinked as he pressed it in. Then he replaced the brick, and went to bed. He said nothing about the bank in the morning nor about the hole in the mill-wall; and he parried Mrs. Lake’s questions with gawky grins and well-assumed bashfulness.
Abel overheard his mother’s jokes on the subject of “Gearge’s young ’ooman,” and they recurred to him when he and George formed a curious alliance, which demands explanation.
It was not solely because the windmiller looked favorably upon the little Jan that he and Abel were now allowed to wander in the business parts of the windmill, when they could not be out of doors, to an extent never before permitted to the children. Part of the change was due to a change in the miller’s man.