`Not me!' said Bob. `I'd ha' gev three times the money, if they'll make up to you a bit for them as was sold away from you, Miss. For I'n niver forgot how you looked when you fretted about the books bein' gone - it's stuck by me as if it was a pictur hingin' before me. An' when I see'd the book open upo' the stall, wi' the lady lookin' out of it wi' eyes a bit life your'n when you was frettin' - you'll excuse my takin' the liberty, Miss - I thought I'd make free to buy it for you, an' then I bought the books full o' genelmen to match - an then' - here Bob took up the small stringed packet of books - `I thought you might like a bit more print as well as the picturs, an' I got these for a say-so - they're cram-full o' print, an' I thought they'd do no harm comin' along wi' these bettermost books. An' I hope you won't say me nay, an' tell me as you won't have 'em, like Mr Tom did wi' the suvreigns.'

`No, indeed, Bob,' said Maggie, `I'm very thankful to you for thinking of me, and being so good to me and Tom. I don't think any one ever did such a kind thing for me before. I haven't many friends who care for me.'

`Hev a dog, Miss - they're better friends nor any Christian,' said Bob, laying down his pack again, which he had taken up with the intention of hurrying away; for he felt considerable shyness in talking to a young lass like Maggie, though, as he usually said of himself, `his tongue overrun him' when he began to speak. `I can't give you Mumps, 'cause he'd break his heart to go away from me - Eh, Mumps, what do you say, you riff-raff?' - (Mumps declined to express himself more diffusely than by a single affirmative movement of his tail.) `But I'd get you a pup, Miss, an' welcome.'

`No, thank you, Bob. We have a yard dog, and I mayn't keep a dog of my own.'

`Eh, that's a pity: else there's a pup - if you didn't mind about it not bein' thorough bred - its mother acts in the Punch show - an uncommon sensable bitch - she means more sense wi' her bark nor half the chaps can put into their talk from breakfast to sundown. There's one chap carries pots, a poor low trade as any on the road - he says, "Why, Toby's nought but a mongrel - there's nought to look at in her." But I says to him, "Why, what are you yoursen but a mongrel? There wasn't much pickin' o' your feyther an' mother, to look at you." Not but what I like a bit o' breed myself, but I can't abide to see one cur grinnin' at another. I wish you good evenin', Miss,' added Bob, abruptly taking up his pack again, under the consciousness that his tongue was acting in an undisciplined manner.

`Won't you come in the evening some time, and see my brother, Bob?' said Maggie.

`Yes, Miss, thank you - another time. You'll give my duty to him, if you please. Eh, he's a fine growed chap, Mr Tom is; he took to growin' i' the legs, an I didn't.'

The pack was down again, now - the hook of the stick having somehow gone wrong.

`You don't call Mumps a cur, I suppose,' said Maggie, divining that any interest she showed in Mumps would be gratifying to his master.

`No, Miss, a fine way off that,' said Bob, with a pitying smile, `Mumps is as fine a cross as you'll see anywhere along the Floss, an' I'n been up it wi' the barge times enoo. Why, the gentry stops to look at him, but you won't catch Mumps a-looking at the gentry much - he minds his own business - he does.'

The expression of Mumps's face, which seemed to be tolerating the superfluous existence of objects in general, was strongly confirmatory of this high praise.

`He looks dreadfully surly,' said Maggie. `Would he let me pat him?'

`Ay, that would he, and thank you. He knows his company, Mumps does. He isn't a dog as 'ull be caught wi' gingerbread: he'd smell a thief a good deal stronger nor the gingerbread - he would. Lors, I talk to him by th' hour together, when I'm walking i'lone places, and if I'n done a bit o' mischief - I allays tell him - I'n got no secrets but what Mumps knows 'em. He knows about my big thumb, he does.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.