“As servants?” interrupted Fownes, hotly, as if her words stung him.
“I’m afraid, Charles,” reproved Janice, assuming again a severe manner, “that you have a very bad temper.”
Perhaps the man might have retorted, but instead he let the anger die from his face, as he fixed his eyes on the floor. “I have, Miss Janice,” he acknowledged sadly, after a moment’s pause, “and ’t is the curse of my life.”
“You should discipline it,” advised Miss Meredith, sagely. “When I lose my temper, I always read a chapter in the Bible,” she added, with a decidedly “holier than thou” in her manner.
“How many times hast thou read the good book through, Miss Janice?” asked Fownes, smiling, and Miss Meredith’s virtuous pose became suddenly an uncomfortable one to the young lady.
“You were to tell me something about Mr. Meredith,” she said stiffly.
“After burning the Pope and the bill, ’t was suggested by some to empty the pot of tar on the fire. But objection was made, because
“Because?” questioned Janice.
“Someone said ’t would be needed shortly to properly season green wood, and therefore must not be wasted.”
“You don’t think they—?” cried Janice, in alarm.
The servant nodded his head. “The feeling against the squire is far deeper than you suspect. ’T will find vent in some violence, I fear, unless he yield to public sentiment.”
“He’ll never truckle to the country licks and clouted shoons of Brunswick,” asserted Janice, proudly.
“’T will fare the worse for him. ’T is as sensible to run counter to public opinion as ’t is to cut roads over mountains.”
“’T is worse still to be a coward,” cried Janice, contemptuously. “I fear, Charles, you are very mean-spirited.”
Fownes shrugged his shoulders. “As a servant should be,” he muttered bitterly.
“Even a servant can do what is right,” answered the girl.
“’T is not a question of right, ’t is one of expediency,” replied the bondsman. “A year at court, Miss Janice, would teach you that in this world ’t is of monstrous importance to know when to bow.”
“What do you know of court?” exclaimed Janice.
“Very little,” confessed the man. “But I know it teaches one good lesson in life,—that of submission,—and an important thing ’t is to learn.”
“I only bow to those whom I know to be my superiors,” said Janice, with her head held very erect.
“’T is an easy way for you to avoid bowing,” asserted the groom, smiling.
Again Janice sought a change of subject by saying, “Think you that is why we are being spied upon?”
“Spied?” questioned the bondsman.
“Last week dadda thought he saw a face one evening at the parlour window, and two nights ago I looked up suddenly and saw—Well, mommy said ’t was only vapours, but I know I saw something.”
The servant turned his face away from Janice, and coughed. Then he replied, “Perhaps ’t was some one watching you. Didst make no attempt to find him?”