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home—any rusticity or obliviousness of what another squire would have done without a thought, did not come into prominence, or merely peeped out with a species of propriety in the relaxation of the hay-making. The sort of fettered air which haunted him at other times, with a depressing effect, had largely disappeared on this occasion. In his tweed suit and straw hat he looked the comely, stalwart young fellow he was ; he moved about almost freely, almost lightly.
Iris's vexation and nervous oppressionwhen they were not at once confirmed by Sir William's conduct — did not remain proof against the fresh open-air attractiveness of the scene, with its touches of sentiment and fantasticalness. She had visions of Madame de Sévigné at Les Rochers; and Madame Delany at some of the innumerable country houses of her innumerable friends, from the dear Duchess' downwards; of Lady Sarah Lennox on the lawn before Holland House, when Kensington was a village and a king rode by; of a picture which hung up yonder in the drawing-room at Whitehills. It represented a Lady Thwaite whom Sir Joshua had painted as a shepherdess, and neither her husband nor
anybody else had resented the masquerade, though the very next generation had punished, with life-long expulsion from the family, a son of the house who took a gamekeeper's daughter for his bride.
The light returned to Iris's eyes, and the colour to her cheek. Sir William had not so much as spoken to her, except in a general welcome to Lady Fermor's party. He did not come near her. Was a great deliverance granted to her? Had he got his lesson so that he would not affront her again by confounding common charity with full sympathy and warm regard? In that case her grandmother could do nothing, and he would soon forget his baulked expectations. She, Iris, did not think she could ever again slumber in such sweet security and lightness of heart, as she had allowed herself to feel, but at least she might be happy to-day in the sunshine in the meadow, among friendly young people, her contemporaries.
Iris and Lucy and Ludovic Acton, with Lady Thwaite's niece Janie, flung about the future hay for a quarter of an hour in an orderly professional manner. Then Lucy, backed with half-shy glee by Janie, turned
upon the naval lieutenant. They showered the contents of their rakes upon him till he was stuck all over, from the crown of his hat to the soles of his boots, with seeded grass. Iris looked on and laughed with maidenly coyness. Five or six years ago she would have been forward in the game, for which she still felt a secret inclination, but she was too grown up and decorous to engage in sisterly or schoolgirl romping. He did not mind it, though there were stray specimens of the seeds in his sandy beard and moustache for the next hour. His sister was constantly imploring him, in vain, to let her pick them out. He said they did not bother him, and would not at all interfere with his flute-playing. He had brought his second-best flute in his pocket, as he felt certain Lady Thwaite and Sir William must have made some provision for drawing-room music. For anything farther, the seeds ought to stay where they were, as a punishment to Lucy for her unsisterly behaviour. He did not mean any reflection on Miss Janie, who could do as she pleased, and was not to be considered accountable for his acquiring the look of having slept last night in a hayfield, like any tramp or vagabond. It
was a me
was a member of his own family, his sister Lucy, the prop of the Sunday-school, who had set herself to draw down on him the slanderous inference. It was too dreadful, almost more than could be borne with manly fortitude.
The wit was of the mildest description, but the girls laughed at it as if it had been Attic salt. They laughed, too, when Ludovic was the first to complain of an ache in his strong back, and to propose a saunter round the meadows, where the saunterers gathered all that was left of the queen of the meadow and ragged robin.
Iris suggested that they should sit down, when Mr. Acton might convert himself into a Corydon or an Orpheus, on the spot, by piping to them on his reed—toot-tootling on his flute she meant—if he had not broken it when he had disobeyed Lucy and everybody else, and got his boots in a mess of clay, in spite of the dry weather, by burrowing in the side of the ditch after a harmless hedgehog. But Lucy forbade him, insisting that the hay-makers would consider the piping an invitation to leave off working and take to dancing—not such dances as came naturally to Arcadian shepherds and shepherdesses.
Among the bona fide workers was a woman, who raked and spread the grass slightly apart from her neighbours. She had come on Sir William's express invitation, but she was not well received by the other field-workers. They had little to say against her. It was nothing to them that old Abe Smith had a doubtful reputation as an under-keeper, and only retained his post till he should cross the seas to his son, by a cross whim of old Sir John's, which he seemed to have left as a legacy to the present baronet. It was even little to the lasses and wives and mothers that Honor was not like other young women. She was masculine and wild in her ways. Instead of staying in the cottage at Hawley Scrub and attending to her housewifery, as they stayed at home and scoured and washed and plied their needles when they were not at field-work, she lived in the woods, summer and winter, like her father. She was said to aid and abet him in his nefarious doings, if so be he had nefarious doings. . She was not a relation of the common country people's, old Abe being come of a nearly extinct race of settlers, while Honor's mother had belonged to the quarry-folk who dwelt hard upon Mistley Downs, and were, next to