The man shrugged his shoulders. “’T is not mine, nor is it aught to me,” he said, and passing the girl, walked to the house.
At the evening meal the farm hands and negro house-servants remarked in Fownes not merely his customary unsocial silence, but an abstraction more obvious than usual. A gird or two from the rougher of his fellow-labourers was wholly unnoted by him, and though he ate heartily, it was with such entire unconsciousness of what he was eating as to make the cook, Sukey, who was inclined to favour him, question if after all he deserved special consideration at her hands.
The meal despatched, Charles took his way to the stable, but some motive caused him to stop at the horse trough, lean over it, and examine the reflection of his face. Evidently what he saw was not gratifying, for he vainly tried to smooth down his short hair, and then passed his hand over the scrub of his beard. “’T is said clothes make the gentleman,” he muttered, “but methinks ’t is really the barber. How many of the belles of the Pump Room and the Crescent would take me for other than a clodhopper? ’T was not Charles Lor—Charles what? —to whom they curtesied and ogled and smirked, ’t was to a becoming wig and a smooth chin.” Snapping his fingers contemptuously, he went in and began to saddle the horse.
A half-hour later, the man rode up the village street of Brunswick. Hitching Joggles to a post in front of the King George tavern, he walked to the board on the side of the Town Hall and Court House. Here, over a three months’ old proclamation, he posted the anonymous note recently received by the squire, which had been wafered to a sheet of pro patria paper, and below which the squire had written—
This is to give notice that I despise too much the
cowardly villain who wrote and nailed this on my door
to pay any attention to him. A Reward of two
pounds will be given for any information leading to
the discovery of said cowardly villain.
For a moment the servant stood with a slight smile on his face at the contradiction; then, with a shrug of his shoulders, he entered the public room of the tavern. Within the air was so thick with pipes in full blast, and the light of the two dips was so feeble, that he halted in order to distinguish the dozen figures of the occupants, all of whom gave him instant attention.
“Ar want landlord,” he said, after a pause.
“Here I be,” responded a man sitting at a small table in the corner, with two half-emptied glasses and a bowl of arrack punch before him. Opposite to mine host was a thick-set man of about forty, attired in a brown suit and heavy top-boots, both of which bore the signs of recent travel.
The servant skirted the group at the large table in the centre of the room, and taking from his pocket a guinea, laid it on the table. “Canst ’e give change for thiccy?” he asked.