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David swore was false to the note of throstles and all wholesome things. ‘You ask me to remember some one I knew at fourteen,” said Priscilla quietly. ‘It seems long ago to me.’ David went to smooth the flanks of the roan cow, who turned her head and licked his waistcoat tranquilly from the topmost to the lowest button. ‘I know him now,” growled the smith. ‘Garth has been well rid of him these five years, to my thinking. Pity he's come back.’ He glanced again at the other man, and was overtaken by an impulse to throw his adversary bodily out of the mistal-yard; so he pulled himself together, as one who was accustomed to follow kindly instincts only. ‘Well, I’ll be jogging, Priscilla, he said, making for the door. 'The cow is ailing naught so much, and 'tis time I got to smithywork again.” “So you've forgotten me too, David said the stranger airily, as Blake was pushing past him. Nay,” answered David, not seeing the proffered hand. ‘I remember you well, Gaunt of Marshlands—and I’ll bid you goodday, as I was ever glad to do.’


‘THAT’s a pleasant sort of welcome, eh?” said Reuben Gaunt, as he watched David's broad back disappear round the corner of the stables. Priscilla's interest was awakened already, and the smith had done an ill turn to his own cause by arousing her sympathy as well. ‘You’ll find pleasanter welcomes here in Garth,’ the girl answered, with that candour of thought and expression which in itself was dignity. “It was stupid of me to forget you, Mr. Gaunt, but I was so little, when you used to play big brother to me and show me all the wonders of the Dene.” ‘I think it must not be Mr. Gaunt. The folk who like me call me Reuben, as you did once.” Priscilla was vaguely disturbed. Softness of speech and manner she understood, for she had ever been a favourite with the landed gentlefolk of Strathgarth; and, because she understood them, she detected the false note in Gaunt's would-be correctness. Yet she pushed the distrust aside; for this man had been away from Garth for five long years, had seen the mysteries hidden in the beyond, and doubtless he could tell her of them. ‘We are older now,” she answered, a little smile belying her rebuke. “It must be Mr. Gaunt, or naught at all.” ‘Well, then, it must be Miss Priscilla, too ! ” ‘'Twould be fitting, I think. Five years are not bridged in a moment, and father tells me I’m a woman grown, though I feel a child when the spring comes in as it is coming now.’ An older and more constant playmate than Gaunt of Marshlands sang to her—sang blithe and high—through the mistal-door; but she scarcely heard the throstle, for Gaunt brought news from the beyond. ‘Where have you been these years past she asked, moving restlessly from foot to foot. “Everywhere, I fancy,” laughed the other. ‘I’ve seen the world, as I always meant to do; and a queer world I’ve found it.’ As a child wipes the school-day's sums from its slate, Priscilla lost the record of her working and her playtime hours. The grey serenity of Garth, the sweetness of its roadside gardens, the slow, rich gossip of its folk—these things went by her. She forgot the low, musical humming of the churn, the look of the butter as it lay, round and golden as a kingcup, on the stone tables of the dairy. She heard no longer the splash of milk into the foamy pail, the lowing of the kine as they gave their evensong of praise. Not restless now, she leaned against the stall, her eyes wandering now and then to Gaunt's, then returning to the mistal-yard and the croft beyond. She was listening to this man who had spent five years beyond the limits of Garth village, and his tales enthralled her. In an absent way she wondered that those wellknown fields, the familiar yard, had never seemed so small as now. Reuben Gaunt was talking well. The picture of the girl, her lissome outline framed by the oaken stall, her hands clasped above her head, the lights and shadows of the mistal playing constantly about her eager eyes—these might well have moved a duller wit than Gaunt's to make the most of itself. And, when he stopped, Priscilla was silent, her head thrown further back and her glance going out and out, over the grey field-walls of Langstroth, over its dingles and its hills—out to the borderland, and across into the unknown. ‘You have come back suddenly, she said at last. “None knew in Garth that you were coming home, or we must have heard of it.” ‘I chose to return unawares, and see what sort of welcome Garth would give me without preparation.—And, gad, I learned from David Blake quite soon enough,” he finished, with an easy laugh. ‘And shall you stay among us?” He had been watching her during that long silence. Faults in plenty the man had, but in his way he could understand the finer lines of beauty; and now, as he met Priscilla's eyes, he found her exquisite—something as faultless, and yet as natural, as a harebell swaying to the wind. ‘Yes, I shall stay,’ he answered. Her eyes fell, in answer, not to the words, but to the tone. And, because she had been wont to look all folk bravely in the eyes, she grew impatient of her shamefacedness. ‘I cannot idle all the morning through,” she said. “I’ll give you good-day, Mr. Gaunt, and get to my housework.’ David Blake, meanwhile, had turned aside before he reached his smithy, and had crossed, by the stile at the road-corner, into the field where Farmer Hirst was busy hedge-cutting with his men. “Hallo, David Followed me up, like, have ye?’ roared Hirst, as he chanced to turn his head while the smith was still half a field away. ‘Ay, I like the sound and the look of cutting a thorn-hedge,’ answered David, as he drew nearer. ‘Thought I’d come and set ye straight if ye were showing faulty hedge-craft.” The two farm men turned with their bill-hooks in their hands. They nodded at David and grinned at his simple pleasantry. Lithe, clean-built fellows they were, both of them, such as they breed within the boundaries of Strathgarth, and they were friends and, save in the matter of wage-earning, they were roughly the equals of their master. * Come ye, then,’ chuckled the farmer. “See what we’ve done a’ready, David See how trim and snug the whole line lies of it! Nay, not that way, lad!” he broke off, as one of the hands began to lay a stout hawthorn stem, sawn half-way through, all out of line with its fellow on the left. He bent the branch as he would have it lie, then stepped aside —for a heavy man, Farmer Hirst was oddly active in his movements—and set to work to pluck a root of dog-briar from its deep bed. Twist and turn the root in his hands as he might, it would not budge. ‘'Tis all these durned leather gloves,” he said, throwing his gauntlets off. “They keep the prickles out, David—or reckon to— but when a body wants his naked hands—well, let him wear them naked.” Again he tugged, but the old root would not give; so David grasped Priscilla's father by the middle, and ‘Yoick / he cried, and they pulled together. The root left its hold, more suddenly than they had counted on, and David, being the hinder of the two, bore the full brunt of the farmer's fall. David the smith got to his feet by and by, and coaxed the wind back into his lungs. Farmer Hirst was laughing till the tears ran down his ruddy face; the men were laughing, too; so David, soon as he found breath, fetched out that slow, deep body-merriment of his. “We got him out o' ground ! Oh, ay, we daunted yond old briar-root ' ' said he. Whereat the four laughed so heartily that a pair of curlews— just returned, like Reuben Gaunt, from sojourning God knew where —got up from the further side of the fence, and went crying toward the moor. * Briar-roots are the devil and all,” said Farmer Hirst, “when ye come to clean a hedge-bottom.’ ‘Bear bonnie roses all the same, when June comes in,’ ventured the blacksmith, not telling Farmer Hirst that wild roses reminded him, too often for his peace of mind, of Priscilla. “Pity to stump 'em up, say I, and pity came of my lending my hand to the job just now.’ He made pretence to rub himself, as if the farmer's bulk had raised painful sores on him. It is easy to laugh when the spring's a-coming in, and the four workers startled a black-faced ewe that was near to her first lambing season. “Get away wi' your jests, David,” answered Farmer Hirst. ‘D'ye think I want to have my lambs dropped hasty-like in the ditch down yonder 2' Yet by and by, when they had worked their fill at the hedgecutting, and it was dinner-time, David drew the farmer aside. He had not known till now what had brought him to the fields here, instead of to the smithy where he had urgent work to do. For the blacksmith's brain was like an eight-day clock that stands in the kitchen corner; it moved slowly—tick-tack, tick-tack, with sober repetition, but, when the moment came to strike the hour, there was never any doubt as to the time he had in mind. ‘John Hirst,” he said, “ne'er mind your dinner yet awhile. I’ve somewhat lies on my chest, as a body might say.” ‘Well, I ligged there not a long while since, a trifle sudden and a trifle hard,” laughed Hirst. * “Ah, now, will ye be quiet I’m like Billy the Fool, as Priscilla said just now, and ye think I’m jesting when I’m trying to talk sober sense.” “Dinner-time is sober sense, David, judging by my itch to get at cheese and bread and good brown ale. What then, lad 2 What ails ye * * ‘I’m slow of speech, unlike my smithy-bellows, went on the other doggedly. “I find the right word always the day after tomorrow, instead of the day's minute that I want it.” “I’ve a trick of the same kind myself, David. What then 2 Speech is speech, but trimming a thorn-hedge, or ploughing for your turnip-crop, is a sight better than hunting words, like badgers that only turn and maul the honest dogs of life. Tuts, David | Ye're yellow about the gills, and some trouble's sitting on ye, by that token.” ‘Ay, some trouble is,” said David. “Priscilla gave ye cake and ale 2 put in the other anxiously. “She forgot to offer it, and I forgot to lack it.’ David's eyes followed the neat line of the hedge, and he nodded gravely at it. “Wish men were more like thorn-bushes, John—wish you could lop their unruliness, and twist their ill-grown branches into shape, and make a clean, useful hedge at the end of all.” Farmer Hirst was thinking of his dinner with gaining tenderness. “What is in your mind, David, lad 2 he asked. ‘’Tis like watching the kettle boil, this getting at your meaning.’ ‘Reuben Gaunt is back again in Garth,’ the smith blurted out. ‘That's my meaning, John, and I tell you we could well have let him stay toother side of the world, and ne'er have missed him.’ The farmer's face clouded for a moment. “We could have spared him—ay. But what then Because a fool chooses to come home again, are we to go pulling fiddle-faces on a blithesome day like this? Hark ye, David, I’ll not bide a minute longer; there’s cheese and ale all waiting in the hedge-bottom yonder, and you’re going to share it with us.”

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