`Not changed!' said the old woman, with a look of eager malice.
`He changed!' returned the other. `What for? What has he suffered? There is change enough for twenty in me. Isn't that enough?'
`See where he goes!' muttered the old woman, watching her daughter with her red eyes; `so easy and so trim, a-horseback, while we are in the mud--'
`And of it,' said her daughter impatiently. `We are mud, underneath his horse's feet. What should we be?'
In the intentness with which she looked after him again, she made a hasty gesture with her hand when the old woman began to reply, as if her view could be obstructed by mere sound. Her mother watching her, and not him, remained silent; until her kindling glance subsided, and she drew a long breath, as if in the relief of his being gone.
`Deary!' said the old woman then. `Alice! Handsome gal!Ally!' She gently shook her sleeve to arouse her attention. `Will you let him go like that, when you can wring money from him? Why, it's a wickedness, my daughter.'
`Haven't I told you, that, I will not have money from him?' she returned. `And don't you yet believe me? Did I take his sister's money? Would I touch a penny, if I knew it, that had gone through his white hands-- unless it was, indeed, that I could poison it, and send it back to him? Peace, mother, and come away.'
`And him so rich?' murmured the old woman. `And us so poor!'
`Poor in not being able to pay him any of the harm we owe him,' returned her daughter. `Let him give me that sort of riches, and I'll take them from him, and use them. Come away. It's no good looking at his horse. Come away, mother!'
But the old woman, for whom the spectacle of Rob the Grinder returning down the street, leading the riderless horse, appeared to have some extraneous interest that it did not possess in itself, surveyed that young man with the utmost earnestness; and seeming to have whatever doubts she entertained, resolved as he drew nearer, glanced at her daughter with brightened eyes and with her finger on her lip, and emerging from the gateway at the moment of his passing, touched him on the shoulder.
`Why, where's my sprightly Rob been, all this time!' she said, as he turned round.
The sprightly Rob, whose sprightliness was very much diminished by the salutation, looked exceedingly dismayed, and said, with the water rising in his eyes:
`Oh! why can't you leave a poor cove alone, Misses Brown, when he's getting an honest livelihood and conducting himself respectable? What do you come and deprive a cove of his character for, by talking to him in the streets, when he's taking his master's horse to a honest stable--a horse you'd go and sell for cats' and dogs' meat if you had your way! Why, I thought,' said the Grinder, producing his concluding remark as if it were the climax of all his injuries, `that you was dead long ago!'
`This is the way,' cried the old woman, appealing to her daughter, `that he talks to me, who knew him weeks and months together, my deary, and have stood his friend many and many a time among the pigeon-fancying tramps and birdcatchers.'
`Let the birds be, will you, Misses Brown?' retorted Rob, in a tone of the acutest anguish. `I think a cove had better have to do with lions than them little creeturs, for they're always flying back in your face when you least except it. Well, how d'ye do and what do you want?' These polite inquiries the Grinder uttered, as it were under protest, and with great exasperation and vindictiveness.
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