An angry look came into the man’s eyes as he faced his master. “Come and take it, then,” he challenged savagely, moving a step forward,—an action which for some reason impelled the squire to take a step backward.
“Oh, dadda, don’t,” cried Janice, anxiously. “Charles, you would n’t!”
Fownes turned to her, with the threat gone from his face and attitude. “There’s my devil’s temper again, Miss Janice,” said he, in explanation and apology.
“Please go away,” implored the girl, and the man went to the door. As he turned to close it, Janice said, “’T was very pretty, and—and—thank you, just the same.”
The formalism of bygone generations was no doubt conducive to respectful manners, but not to confidential relations, and her parents knew so little of their daughter’s nature as never to dream that they had occasioned the first suggestion of tenderness for the opposite sex the young girl’s heart had ever felt. And love’s flame is superior to physical law in that, the less ventilation it has, the more fiercely it burns.
The next ripple in the Greenwood life was due to more material circumstances, being inaugurated by the receipt of the Governor’s writ, convening the Assembly of New Jersey. A trivial movement of a petty pawn on the chess-board of general politics, it nevertheless was of distinct importance in several respects to the Meredith family. Apparently the call meant only a few weeks’ attendance of the squire’s at Burlington, in the performance of legislative duties, and Janice’s going with him to make a return visit to the Drinkers at Trenton. These, however, were the simplest aspects of the summons, and action by the citizens of Middlesex County quickly injected a more serious element into the programme.
The earliest evidence of this was the summoning by the Committee of Observation and Correspondence of a gathering to “instruct” the county representatives how they should vote on the question as to indorsing or disapproving the measures of the recent Congress. The notice of the meeting was read aloud by the Rev. Mr. McClave before his morning sermon one Sunday, and then he preached long and warmly from 2 Timothy, ii. 25,—“Instructing those that oppose themselves,” —the purport of his argument being the duty of the whole community to join hands in resisting the enemies of the land. The preacher knew he was directly antagonising the views of his wealthiest parishioner and the father of his would-be wife, but that fact only served to make him speak the more forcefully and fervently. However hard and stern the old Presbyterian faith was, its upholders had the merit of knowing what they believed, and of stating that belief without flinch or waver.
[Illustration: “It flatters thee.”]
As he sat and listened, not a little of the squire’s old Madeira found its way into his face, and no sooner were the family seated in the sleigh than the wine seemed to find expression in his tongue as well.