“’T is past belief, Miss Tabitha, except they want to save their skins by never fighting. ’T was Joe Bagby the bumpkins chose—a fellow I’ve knocked down without his resenting it. A cotswold lion, who works his way by jokes and by hand-shakes. He ’s the best friend of every one who ever lived, and I make no doubt, if a British regiment appears, he’ll say he loves the lobsters too much to lead the ‘Invincibles’ against them.”
“No doubt,” agreed Tibbie. “Canst tell me also who— who—how Clarion is?”
But this question was never answered, for the squire appeared at this point, and the sleigh was quickly speeding towards Greenwood. It was after dark when it drew up at its destination, for the spring thaw was beginning, and the roads soft and deep. Janice was so stiff with the long sitting and the cold that she needed help both in alighting and in climbing the porch steps. This the groom gave her, and when she was safely in front of the parlor fire, he assisted in the removing of her wraps, while Mrs. Meredith performed a like service for the squire in the hallway.
“Dost remember your question, Miss Janice,” asked Charles, “just as you drove away from Greenwood?”
“She was one of the three graces.”
“Was she very beautiful?”
“The ancients so held her, but they had never seen you, Miss Janice.”
The girl had turned away as she nonchalantly asked the last question, and so Charles could not see the charmingly demure smile that her face assumed, nor the curve of the lips, and perhaps it was fortunate for him that he did not. Yet all Miss Meredith said was,—
“Not that I cared to know, but I knew Tibbie would be curious.”
The spring thaw set in in earnest the day after the squire’s return to Greenwood, and housed the family for several days. No sooner, however, did the roads become something better than troughs of mud than the would-be Assemblyman set actively to work for his canvass of the county, daily riding forth to make personal calls on the free and enlightened electors, in accordance with the still universal British custom of personal solicitation. What he saw and heard did not tend to improve his temper, for the news that the Parliament was about to vote an extension to the whole country of the punitive measures hitherto directed against Massachusetts had lighted a flame from one end of the land to the other. The last election had been with difficulty carried by the squire, and now the prospect was far more gloomy.
When a realising sense of the conditions had duly dawned on the not over-quick mind of the master of Greenwood, he put pride in his pocket and himself astride of Joggles, and rode of an afternoon to Boxley, as the Hennions’ place was named. Without allusion to their last interview, he announced to the senior of the house that he wished to talk over the election.