“I can’t say,” said George. “I bean’t weatherwise myself, Abel. But if there be no wind, there be no work, Abel; so us may go back to our larning. Look here, my boy,” he added, as Abel reseated himself on the grain-sack which did duty as chair of instruction, and drawing, as he spoke, a letter forth to the light; “come to the candle, Abel, and see if so be thee can read this, but don’t tell any one I showed it thee, Abel.”
“Not me, Gearge,” said Abel, warmly; and he added,—“Be it from thy young ’ooman, Gearge?”
No rustic swain ever simpered more consciously or looked more foolish than George under this accusation, as he said, “Be quiet, Abel, do ’ee.”
“She be a good scholar, too!” said Abel, looking admiringly at the closely written sheet.
George could hardly disguise the sudden look of fury in his face, but he hastily covered up the letter with his hands in such a manner as only to leave the first word on the page visible. There was a deeply cunning reason for this clever manoeuvre. George held himself to be pretty “cute,” and he reckoned that, by only showing one word at a time, he could effectually prevent any attempt on Abel’s part to read the letter himself without giving its contents to George. Like many other cunning people, George overreached himself. The first word was beyond Abel’s powers, though he might possibly have satisfied George’s curiosity on one essential point, by deciphering a name or two farther on. But the clever George concluded that he had boasted beyond his ability, so he put the letter away. Abel tried hard at the one word which George exhibited, and gazed silently at it for some time with a puzzled face. “Spell it, mun, spell it!” cried the miller’s man, impatiently. It was a process which he had seen to succeed, when a long word had puzzled his teacher in the newspaper, before now.
“M O E R, mower; D Y K, dik,” said Abel. But he looked none the wiser for the effort.
“Mower dik! What be that?” said George, peering at the word. “Do’ee think it be Mower dik, Abel?”
“I be sure,” said Abel.
“Or do ’ee think ’tis ’My dear Dick’?” suggested George, anxiously, and with a sort of triumph in his tone, as if that were quite what he expected.
“No, no. ’Tis an O, Gearge, that second letter. Besides, twould be My dear Gearge to thee, thou knows.”
Again the look with which the miller’s man favored Abel was far from pleasant. But he controlled his voice to its ordinary drawl (always a little slower and more simple sounding, when he specially meant mischief).
“So ’twould, Abel. So ’twould. What a vool I be, to be sure! But give it to I now. We’ll look at it another time, Abel.”
“I be very sorry, Gearge,” said Abel, who had a consciousness that the miller’s man was ill-pleased in spite of his civility. “It be so long since I was at school, and it be such a queer word. Do ’ee think she can have spelt un wrong, Gearge?”