‘Not a brass farthing, if she came not of her own good will,’ murmured Richard, turning towards his mare. ’But come, mistress Rees, you know you couldn’t do it, even if you were the black witch the neighbours would have you—though I, for my part, will not hear a word against you—never since you set my poor old dog upon his legs again—though to be sure he will die one of these days, and that no one can help—dogs have such short lives, poor fools!’
’Thou knows not what old mother Rees can do. Tell me, young master, did she ever say and not do—eh, now?’
‘You said you would cure my dog, and you did,’ answered Richard.
’And I say now, if thou will, I will set thee and her together by the old dial to-morrow night, and it shall be a warm and moonlit night on purpose for ye, an ye will.’
’It were to no good purpose, mistress Rees, for we parted this day—and that for ever, I much fear me,’ said Richard with a deep sigh, but getting some little comfort even out of a witch’s sympathy.
‘Tut, tut, tut! Lovers’ quarrels! Who knows not what they mean? Crying and kissing—crying and kissing—that’s what they mean. Come now—what did thou and she quarrel about?’
The old woman, if not a witch, at least looked very like one, with her two hands resting on the wide round ledge of her farthingale, her head thrown back, and from under her peaked hat that pointed away behind, her two greenish eyes peering with a half-coaxing, yet sharp and probing gaze into those of the youth.
But how could he make a confidante of one like her? What could she understand of such questions as had raised the wall of partition betwixt him and Dorothy? Unwilling to offend her, however, he hesitated to give her offer a plain refusal, and turning away in silence, affected to have caught sight of something suspicious about his mare’s near hock.
‘I see, I see!’ said the old woman grimly, but not ill-naturedly, and nodded her head, so that her hat described great arcs across the sky; ’thou art ashamed to confess that thou lovest thy father’s whims more than thy lady’s favours. Well, well! Such lovers are hardly for my trouble!’
But here came the voice of Mr. Heywood, calling his groom. She started, glanced around her as if seeking a covert, then peered from the door, and glided noiselessly out.
Great was the merriment in Raglan Castle over the discomfiture of the bumpkins, and many were the compliments Tom received in parlour, nursery, kitchen, guard-room, everywhere, on the success of his hastily-formed scheme for the chastisement of their presumption. The household had looked for a merry time on the occasion of the wedding, but had not expected such a full cup of delight as had been pressed out for them betwixt the self-importance of the overweening yokels and