`Well, well,' said Bob, looking rather silly. `Go an' see after the taters, else Mr Tom 'ull have to wait for 'em.'

`I hope Mumps is friendly with Mrs Jakin, Bob,' said Maggie, smiling. `I remember you used to say, he wouldn't like your marrying.'

`Eh, Miss,' said Bob, grinning, `he made up his mind to' t when he see'd what a little un she was. He pretends not to see her mostly, or else to think as she isn't full-growed. But about Mr Tom, Miss,' said Bob, speaking lower and looking serious. `He's as close as a iron biler, he is; but I'm a 'cutish chap, an' when I've left off carrying my pack an' am at a loose end - I've got more brains nor I know what to do wi', an' I'm forced to busy myself wi' other folks's insides. An' it worrets me as Mr Tom 'ull sit by himself so glumpish, a- knittin' his brow an' a-lookin' at the fire of a night. He should be a bit livelier now - a fine young fellow like him. My wife says, when she goes in sometimes an' he takes no notice of her, he sits lookin' into the fire and frownin' as if he was watchin' folks at work in it.'

`He thinks so much about business,' said Maggie.

`Ay,' said Bob, speaking lower, `but do you think it's nothin' else, Miss? He's close, Mr Tom is, but I'm a 'cute chap, I am, an' I thought tow'rt last Christmas, as I'd found out a soft place in him. It was about a little black spaniel - a rare bit o' breed - as he made a fuss to get. But since then summat's come over him as he's set his teeth again' things more nor iver, for all he's had such good luck. An' I wanted to tell you, Miss, 'cause I thought you might work it out of him a bit, now you're come. He's a deal too lonely - an' doesn't go into company enough.'

`I'm afraid I have very little power over him, Bob,' said Maggie, a good deal moved by Bob's suggestion. It was a totally new idea to her mind, that Tom could have his love troubles. Poor fellow! - and in love with Lucy too! But it was perhaps a mere fancy of Bob's too officious brain. The present of the dog meant nothing more than cousinship and gratitude. But Bob and already said, `Here's Mr Tom,' and the outer door was opening.

`There's no time to spare, Tom,' said Maggie, as soon as Bob had left the room. `I must tell you at once what I came about, else I shall be hindering you from taking your dinner.'

Tom stood with his back against the chimney piece and Maggie was seated opposite the light. He noticed that she was tremulous, and he had a presentiment of the subject she was going to speak about. The presentiment made his voice colder and harder as he said, `What is it?'

This tone roused a spirit of resistance in Maggie and she put her request in quite a different form from the one she had predetermined on. She rose from her seat and looking straight at Tom, said,

`I want you to absolve me from my promise about Philip Wakem. Or rather, I promised you not to see him without telling you. I am come to tell you that I wish to see him.'

`Very well,' said Tom, still more coldly.

But Maggie had hardly finished speaking in that chill, defiant manner, before she repented and felt the dread of alienation from her brother.

`Not for myself, dear Tom. Don't be angry. I shouldn't have asked it, only that Philip, you know, is a friend of Lucy's, and she wishes him to come - has invited him to come this evening, and I told her I couldn't see him without telling you. I shall only see him in the presence of other people. There will never be anything secret between us again.'

Tom looked away from Maggie, knitting his brow more strongly for a little while. Then he turned to her and said slowly and emphatically--

  By PanEris using Melati.

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