“I thought as much!” cried the squire, heartily, when Janice paused. “Where the syrup is, there’ll find ye the flies. But we’ll have no horse-fly buzzing about ye. My fine gentleman shall be taught where he belongs, if it takes the whip to do it.”
“No, dadda,” exclaimed Janice. “He spoke but to warn me of danger to you. He says there ’s preparation to tar and feather you unless you—you do something.”
“Foo!” sniffed the squire. “Let them snarl. I’ll show them I’m not a man to be driven by tag, long tail, and bobby.”
“But Charles—” began the girl.
“Ay, Charles,” interrupted Mr. Meredith. “I’ve no doubt he’s one of ’em. ’T is always the latest importations take the hottest part against the gentry.”
“Nay, dadda, I think he—”
“Mark me, that’s what takes the tyke to the village so often.”
“He said ’t was to drill he went.”
“To drill?” questioned the squire. “What meant he by that?”
“I asked him, and he said ’t was quadrille. Dost think he meant dancing or cards?”
“’T is in keeping that he should be a dancing master or a card-sharper,” asserted Mr. Meredith. “No wonder ’t is a disordered land when ’t is used as a catchall for every man not wanted in England. We’ll soon put a finish to his night-walking.”
“I don’t think he’s a villain, dadda, and he certainly meant kindly in warning us.”
“To make favour by tale-bearing, no doubt.”
“I’m sure he’d not a thought of it,” declared Janice, with an unconscious eagerness which made the squire knit his brows.
“Ye speak warmly, child,” he said. “I trust your mother be not justified in her suspicion.”
The girl, who meanwhile had sprung off the bed, drew herself up proudly. “Mommy is altogether wrong,” she replied. “I’d never descend so low.”
“I said as much,” responded the squire, gleefully.
“A likely idea, indeed!” exclaimed Janice. “As if I’d have aught to do with a groom! No, I never could shame the family by that.”
“Wilt give me your word to that, Jan?” asked the squire.
“Yes,” cried the girl, and then roguishly added, “Why, dadda, I’d as soon, yes, sooner, marry old Belza, who at least is a prince in his own country, than see a Byllynge marry a bond-servant.”
For some weeks following the pledge of Janice, the life at Greenwood became as healthily monotonous as of yore. Both Mr. and Mrs. Meredith spoke so sharply to both Sukey and Charles of his loitering about the kitchen that his visits, save at meal times, entirely ceased. The squire went further and ordered him to put an end to his trips to the village, but the man took this command in sullen silence, and was often absent.