Page images
PDF
EPUB

the moment I came into possession, by stopping the right of way to a wood which hangs upon the hill on the other side of the brook, and is the boundary of my property

. In old Mrs. Derwent's life-time, the people and carts from Maydwell passed freely. There is nothing so difficult as to convince countrymen that they may not use a road to which they have been accustomed; and a waggoner in my employment persisted in taking his team across Roger Pemberton's land. I shall never forget what a rage I was in, when the man came and told me that the big brute at Languard had stopped and beaten him severely, forcing him to go

back the way he came."

Sir Frederick stole a glance at his niece, who was looking very grave, and then continued :

“I do not exactly know what you will think of me, Laura. Perhaps, if I had taken longer to consider about it, I should not have played such a mad prank; but I borrowed the

[ocr errors]

man's smock-frock, and carter's whip, and drove the team the next day myself. When I came to the cut through Pemberton's fields, I saw big Roger looking out for me. He had a labourer with him whom he told to stop the horses; and then he tried to pull me down off my seat, and bade me turn their heads homewards. I gave the bully such a thrashing as he deserved, for daring to strike a person in my employment; and though he threatened to take the law upon me, he shrank from making himself the laughing-stock of the county. As you may suppose, however, Roger Pemberton and I have not been on very friendly terms since. I confess I ought to be ashamed of the exploit; but it is a wonderful satisfaction to me to think, whatever our future destinies may be, I had the upper hand over my heir presumptive, on that occasion, decidedly !”

Clarice laughed merrily. Sir Frederick looked very much pleased at the lively girl's being more amused than shocked with the narrative,

118

SIR FREDERICK DERWENT.

which he told with considerable vivacity, of the somewhat rough practical joke played off upon his ill-tempered neighbour. It was very difficult to be angry with him long, and Laura could not be indifferent to his goodnatured wish of rousing her, by a laugh even at his own expense, from the dejection of spirits into which she frequently sank.

She tried, indeed, to awaken him to a better sense of his own dignity than such mad pranks evinced; and he candidly confessed that he felt he had lowered himself by a personal conflict with a man whom he thoroughly despised. Roger Pemberton was so much disliked in the neighbourhood, that no one was sorry for his rude insolence having met with summary chastisement.

Sir Frederick was quite repaid for the exertions he had made to entertain his fair guests, and reconciled to the quiet domestic evenings he seemed destined to spend with them, when he saw Laura's countenance brighten as he talked to her, detailing various particulars concerning the neighbouring families and the places of interest which, when she was equal to exertion, he meant to take her and Miss Le Sage to visit. Though it was late before they retired, she felt less fatigued than at the beginning of the evening, and bade Sir Frederick good-night with an affectionate smile upon her lips.

!

3

CHAPTER VI.

It was hardly nine o'clock when Sir Frederick knocked at his niece's door, on the following morning, and, in spite of her prohibition, partially opened it, to throw in a number of letters for herself and Miss Le Sage. He took the opportunity of telling her that he was going out on business, but should be at home to dinner. Dixon had reminded him that he had promised to attend the meeting of the commissioners of the roads, or he should certainly have forgotten all about it. He was very sorry to leave them, but trusted they would be able to make themselves comfortable during his absence.

He was off like a shot, the moment he had communicated his intention, and received her

A prodigious bustle went on in the

answer.

« PreviousContinue »