Thus stimulated, Phil entered the garden, prepared to perform most valiant deeds. Unfortunately for him, however, the bondsman had been summoned by Janice to do the digging, and his presence materially altered the situation and necessitated a merely formal greeting.
Having given some directions to Charles for continuation of the work, Janice walked to another part of the garden, apparently quite heedless of Philemon. Her swain of course followed, and the moment they were well out of hearing of the servant, Janice turned upon him and demanded:—
“Art thou gentleman enough to keep thy word?”
“I hope as how I am, Miss Janice,” stuttered Phil, very much taken aback.
“Wilt give me your promise, if I tell thee something, to repeat it to no one?”
“Certain, Miss Janice, I’ll tell nothin’ you don’t want folks ter know.”
“Even dadda and mommy?”
“Cross my heart.”
“You see that man over there?”
“Yer mean Charles?”
“Yes. He is desperately in love with me,” announced the girl.
“Living jingo! He ‘s been a-troublin’ you?”
“No. He loves me too much to persecute me, and, besides, he’s a gentleman.”
“Now, Miss Janice, you know as how I—”
“Am trying to marry me against my will.”
“But the squire says you’ll be gladsome enough a month gone; that—”
“Now please don’t—”
“And what I am going to tell you and what you’ve given your word not to repeat is this: If you persist in trying to marry me, if you so much as try to—to—to be familiar, that moment I’ll run off with him—there!”
“You never would!”
“In an instant.”
“You ’d take a bondsman rather than me?”
The girl coloured, but replied, “Yes.”
“I’ll teach him ter have done with his cutty-eyed tricks,” roared Phil, doubling up his fists, and turning, “I’ll—”
“Mr. Hennion!” exclaimed the girl, her cheeks gone very white. “You gave me your word that—”
“I never gave no word ’bout not threshing the lick.”
“Most certainly you did, for you—you would have to tell him before—and if you do that, I’ll—”
“But, Miss Janice, you must n’t disgrace—Damn him! Then Bagby wasn’t lyin’ when he told me how there ’d been talk at the tavern of his bundlin’ with you.”
For a moment Janice stood speechless, everything about her suggesting the shame she was enduring. “He—he never said that!” she panted more than spoke, as if she had ceased to breathe.
“I told Bagby if he said that he was lyin’; but after—”
“Mr. Hennion, do you intend to insult me as well?”
“No, no, Miss Janice. I don’t believe it. ’T was a lie for certain, and I’m ashamed ter have spoke of it.”
With unshed tears of mortification in her eyes Janice turned to go, every other ill forgotten in this last grief.