Lady Noggs, Peeress/Chapter 3
SIX RABBITS A WEEK
IT might have been an acute consciousness of virtue, in that she had been the instrument of the exposure of the adventurous Countess Karskovitch. It might have been that a whole day of peace in her bower had induced a passing restfulness of disposition. It might have been lack of opportunity. But for a long while, quite three weeks, the Lady Noggs suffered her elders to enjoy a grateful and unlooked-for peace. During all that time she only ruined two frocks, and that without a general upheaval of Stonorill life. The fact that her next exploit destroyed a pair of stockings as well as a frock, and narrowly missed compelling the dwellers in the castle to spend a sleepless night hunting for her, was the fault of Mr. Borrodaile.
When one morning she joined him after breakfast, as he was smoking a cigarette before dealing with the Prime Minister's correspondence, she had no thought of stirring out of the gardens that day. But since he and Miss Caldecott had been talking of the uneventful lives the neighbourhood had lived of late, the subject was in his mind, and he said idly, but with unpardonable carelessness, "Are you feeling quite all right, Noggs?"
The Lady Noggs considered the matter carefully for half a minute, and said, "Yes; thank you."
"You're sure?" said Mr. Borrodaile.
"Quite. Why?" said the Lady Noggs.
"Oh, you've been so quiet lately. I was wondering if you felt out of sorts."
The Lady Noggs seemed to plunge into deep thought; then she said, "Yes; I have been very quiet. But you ought to be very glad, Billy. It gives you and Violet such a lot of time to spoon."
Mr. Borrodaile flushed a little, and said with some warmth, "Don't talk nonsense!" Even a philosopher would not hear with indifference the natural and irrepressible manifestation of his impassioned devotion called spooning; and Mr. Borrodaile had not reached philosophic years.
"It isn't nonsense," said the Lady Noggs firmly. "You think I don't see but I do."
"I wonder where you got that vulgar word from—spooning. It does sound well in the mouth of an ornament of the peerage," said Mr. Bonodaile scornfully.
"I got it from you, Billy. It was you who said that Mr. Brampton was spooning in the conservatory with Miss Marjoribanks. And you said it in one of your nasty sneering ways. But that was before you began spooning yourself."
Mr. Borrodaile was aware that he had been severely defeated; but his political training stood him in good stead, and he said coldly, "I wonder why it is you always pick up some word like that from my conversation, when you have so many admirable words and phrases to choose from. Can there be some painful tendency towards the diction of the lower classes in your disposition? If so, check it, Noggs. Check it, I implore you."
The Lady Noggs made no direct reply to the suggestion. She walked quietly towards the house, and as she went she sang softly, but on a singularly taunting note, "Spoon! Spoon! Spoon!—Spoon! Spoon! Spoon!"
The suggestion that she had a tendency to acquire a vulgar diction gave the Lady Noggs no concern; but now that her attention had been so pointedly drawn to the quietness of the life she had been leading, her thoughts, naturally, turned to adventure. With that end in view no sooner had she finished lunch than she was off. There was generally in her day a few minutes' interregnum between her passing from the charge of Miss Caldecott to the charge of Mrs. Greenwood. Of this interval she now took advantage to put a comfortable distance between herself and both of them, and was in the heart of the Stonorill woods some time before her worthy nurse had quite grasped the fact that she had an afternoon's search before her.
The Lady Noggs had gone but a little way when her high, adventurous spirit was somewhat ruffled by a meeting with Morton, her uncle's head-keeper. His was a grudging soul; and he had a theory, not wholly baseless, that the Lady Noggs was more injurious to his gamekeeping, by disturbing the nesting birds on her explorations of the woods, than all the foxes, polecats, badgers, stoats, hawks, jays, and magpies who preyed on them or their eggs.
As they met, he said with gruff surliness, "Now, your ladyship, what are you a-doing of here? You know very well as how his lordship has forbid you trapsing about the woods in nesting time."
"I'm not in the woods. I'm on the drive," said the Lady Noggs, who was always so much more careful of the letter than of the spirit of any prohibition.
"And long you'll be on it! I shall just come along of you, and see as how you keep to the drive till you're through the wood," said Morton, and he turned and trudged along beside her.
The Lady Noggs was very angry indeed at the open display of an unfounded lack of confidence; and for a while she said nothing. Then, having recovered her temper, she said in her sweetest voice, "Has your nose always been like that, Morton?"
It chanced that Morton suffered from the sensitive delicacy of the unlucky in love about his personal appearance. No one had ever before urged anything against the prominent feature—or perhaps "feature" is too strong a word, "projection" would be more accurate—against the prominent projection in his face, so that hitherto he had never doubted it; but now his mind misgave him. He pondered the shape of his nose with a growing disquiet, and more and more strongly he wished that the Lady Noggs had been more explicit. The vagueness of the suggestion of lack of symmetry made it the more discomfiting. But the Lady Noggs had no intention of being more explicit, for that would have shown a lack of politeness; and she had, in truth, nothing against the nose, which was to the eye much as other rustic noses. She had, so to speak, shot an arrow in the air, by way of a just punishment for unfounded distrust, and her mind moved to other matters. But when she had climbed over the gate at the end of the wood, she turned and with painful thoughtfulness said, "I'm very sorry for you, Morton."
She went briskly along the footpath over the fields, and Morton watched her go. Then he turned back into the wood, and as he went he felt his nose, cautiously, many times.
The Lady Noggs came to the end of the fields and on to a waste common. She crossed it, and just as she was entering the copse on the further side of it, a magpie flew out of an ancient tree. Now she knew that a single magpie is the harbinger of ill luck; but instead of turning back, she went into the copse, and began to examine the tree from every side. Her sharp eyes presently discovered the magpie's nest. She had never seen a magpie's nest or a magpie's egg, and her lively curiosity was at once awakened. A minute after her curiosity was awakened she was climbing the ancient tree.
It was gnarled and well furnished with short stumps of broken branches: her skirt and one stocking were torn in the ascent; also she scratched her face. When she came into the top of the tree, the nest was still some fifteen feet above her, and at the height of another six feet she found herself on swaying, shaky boughs. She sought in vain for one to bear her weight, but found none: the magpies had known their business too well. She looked at the nest in disgusted disappointment for a while. Then she began to descend.
But it is one thing to climb up an ancient tree, and quite another to climb down it. At some forty feet from the ground she found herself stuck. She could not see how to compass the next eight feet without tumbling the next thirty to the ground. Twice she worked round the trunk without finding a way; then she essayed the least dangerous, found herself slipping, and lost a shoe in the frantic struggle which brought her back to safety. She seated herself in a fork, recovering her breath, and summing up the salient points of an unpleasant situation. With her scratched face, tousled hair, torn frock and stockings, and shoeless foot, she bore but little of her usual resemblance to a child after Sir Joshua Reynolds, but was very much more like one of the little girls who dance to the strains of a barrel-organ in the purlieus of Soho. In fact she only differed from such an one in the gloominess of her expression. It was not unnatural, for she faced the far from alluring prospect of spending a cheerless but airy night on her perch.
The copse was far from a road. There was little likelihood of any one coming that way; the search for her would begin before her bedtime, since her many truancies had accustomed the servants to look no sooner for her return. It would not become vigorous for an hour after that; and the searchers would scarcely spread so far out from the castle before the morrow. She was helpless; and after a vindictive glance at the magpie's nest, which had lured her up the tree and then proved inaccessible, she settled down to a gloomy musing.
She mused for a long while, rousing herself at intervals to look out with a searching but hopeless glance across the country. It was always empty. Then to her extreme surprise her eyes, returning from one of these glances, fell on a man standing in the copse itself not thirty yards from her. He must have slipped into it from the gorse on the common, and noiselessly. She was so surprised that she did not at once call out, and had time to gather that he was engaged in the time-honoured business of poaching: at least he dived into a bush, pulled a rabbit out of it, divested deftly its neck of a snare, and dropped it into his pocket.
"Hi!" cried the Lady Noggs.
The man jumped, and stared round him with a scared face; and the Lady Noggs recognized William Cotteril, a young labourer who had belied the promise of his bachelorhood by earning for himself as a married man the reputation of a ne'er-do-well.
"Don't stand there, stupid!" cried the Lady Noggs. "Come and help me out of this tree."
William Cotteril discovered whence the voice came, and drew near gingerly, opening his mouth to get a better view of the tree. He stared up and at last distinguished the face of the Lady Noggs. "Why drat me!" he said, "If it ain't her little ladyship!"
"Don't stand talking there, silly! Come and help me down!" cried the Lady Noggs, wildly impatient at the prospect of deliverance.
William Cotteril plunged into the tree, and, from the noise he made, seemed to be kicking himself heavenwards with very large boots. At last his round and shining face appeared at the bottom of the impracticable eight feet; and the Lady Noggs cried, "Stop there! Don't climb any higher, or you'll get stuck too! This is the bit I can't get down."
William Cotteril drew himself on to a bough and examined the bit with the eye of an expert: "It is a bit orkud," he said, scratching his head. "Do you think as 'ow if I stood up and 'eld on to the trunk, you could climb down me, your ladyship?"
"Of course I could," said the Lady Noggs with decision.
Accordingly, William Cotteril stood on his bough and embraced the trunk of the tree. The Lady Noggs lowered herself slowly till her feet rested firmly on his shoulders, scrambled down the rest of him, and stood on the broad bough beside him. "That's all right," she said with a sigh of relief.
The rest of the descent presented no difficulties to her, and she was at the bottom and putting on her fallen shoe by the time William reached the ground. "Well, you be a nimble kiddie, I mean young lady, begging your ladyship's pardon,'^ he said respectfully.
The Lady Noggs rose, stamped her foot firmly into her shoe, and said, with all the aggressive virtue of a person who has come safely out of wrongdoing, "You were poaching, William Cotteril."
"Now, don't go for to say that, your ladyship, just becos I 'appened to pick up a dead rabbit wot was bein' wasted lyin' there," said William with a very fair imitation of the virtuous man wrongfully accused.
"Yes, in a snare. I saw it," said the Lady Noggs; and she set out towards the castle.
William Cotteril walked beside her, and now and again he scratched his head to quicken the action of his brain. At last he said, "Begging your ladyship's pardon, but if so be as you wouldn't say nothing about that rabbit, I should take it kindly."
"I shan't say anything about the rabbit, because I never tell tales," said the Lady Noggs proudly.
"Thank you, your ladyship," said William with a grunt of relief.
"You've no business to poach, William," said the Lady Noggs, still aggressively virtuous. "It's very wrong. One of these days you'll get caught and go to prison. Why don't you do honest work?"
"Honest work?" cried William Cotteril, suddenly purple with the bursting forth of a grievance. "Why don't I do honest work? I can't get it, your ladyship! Morton 'e's gone an' give me a bad name; and I can't get no work. He's poisoned Mr. McNaghten agin me, and not a farmer about 'ere durstn't give me no work, not reg'lar work, only a job at 'arvesting or 'aymaking. They 'as to stand well with Mr. McNaghten, him bein' his lordship's agent, an' they know 'e wants me out o' the village. But I won't go! My feyther 'e lies in Stonorill churchyard, an 'is feyther, an 'is feyther afore 'im. They all lived in the cottage, an' as long as I pays my rent they can't turn me out of it. An' one way an' another I scrapes it together. An' it's all that there Morton's doing."
"What did he do it for?" said the Lady Noggs.
"Well, 'e was sweet on Liza afore I married 'er. An' now 'e's got a grudge agin us. Why I'd never took so much as a rabbit till 'e told Mr. McNaghten I was a poacher; but when I found as I'd got the name, I thought I'd do summut to earn it."
The Lady Noggs filled with sympathy for William. She was so often rightfully accused that to be wrongfully accused, as sometimes befell her, soured her naturally amiable disposition for a good half hour, and she understood William's feelings. Moreover he, too, was an enemy of Morton.
"An' after all," said the worthy William, "what is it I takes? A rabbit or two to make Liza a drop of broth till she's stronger."
"Is she ill?" said the Lady Noggs quickly.
"Yes; she's ailing, your ladyship. Nursing the little un it's pulled 'er down."
For a hundred yards the Lady Noggs said nothing; then she asked, "Would a rabbit a day be enough?"
"Lor' bless yer, your ladyship, 'eaps. Why I only 'ad two rabbits last week and three the week afore that."
"Well," said the Lady Noggs thoughtfully, "I'll give you a rabbit a day; that is all but Sundays. It's wrong to catch rabbits on Sundays."
"Thank you, your ladyship," said William doubtfully.
The Lady Noggs was too quick not to notice the doubt in his tone, and she said, "If I can't manage it, I'll let you know."
"Thank you, your ladyship," said William more cheerfully. "Six rabbits a week would pay the rent as well as make broth for Liza."
At the cross-roads they bade one another good-night; she took the way to the castle, he to the village.
The Lady Noggs went thoughtfully, and now and again she smiled. She could see her way, at any rate, to annoy the grumpy and inimical Morton. When she reached the castle, a brief consideration of her dilapidated appearance assured her that the moment she came under the eye of Miss Caldecott she would be sent supperless to bed. Therefore she slipped in at a side entrance, gained the kitchen, beguiled an omelette and three kinds of indigestible sweets from the cooks, and sat on a kitchen table to eat them. Thus fortified she confronted Miss Caldecott, who sent her to bed at sight.
The next day the Lady Noggs by no means assailed her uncle the Prime Minister at breakfast, when he had the leisure to discuss matters at length. She waited till after lunch, and rushed into the library just as that unfortunate statesman, having dealt with affairs of state till the afternoon post should come in, had settled down to the perusal of one of the obscure but German philosophers he loved. He greeted her entry with a sigh, for the Fates alone could determine how much of his scanty leisure she would waste.
The Lady Noggs flitted about the room looking like a charming and gorgeous butterfly, for to Miss Caldecott's extreme surprise she had for once delayed getting into a holland frock immediately after lunch. While she flitted, she discoursed amiably of trifles till she had heard her uncle sigh twice more. Then she said briskly, "Uncle, I want some rabbits, six rabbits a week."
"Six rabbits a week! Three hundred and twelve rabbits a year! Wherever will you keep them?" cried the Prime Minister.
"Oh, I don't want those silly, tame, lumpy ones," said the Lady Noggs. "I want wild rabbits—rabbits to eat."
"But you are never going to eat a rabbit a day!" cried the Prime Minister; and the perplexity deepened on his face.
"No; I don't want them for myself—I want them for a poor family. You might let me have them: there are hundreds in the park."
The Prime Minister was delighted at this sudden development of the instinct of benevolence in his niece, but painful experience of her many-sided mind had made him a trifle distrustful, and he said, "What poor family?"
"That's a secret,*' said the Lady Noggs firmly. "But do give them to me. If I change quick, I've time for a ride before tea."
The face of the Prime Minister shone with a sudden extreme brightness: "Certainly, certainly," he said quickly: "You can have them." And he turned joyfully to his book.
"I should like them in writing," said the Lady Noggs.
"Rabbits in writing?" said the Prime Minister in a fresh bewilderment.
"Yes; you might be away, and Morton make a fuss about it, and say they weren't mine. He's so disagreeable."
"Oh, I understand," said the Prime Minister. "You want me to make them over to you by a written document." And, greedy for another dose of German thoughtfulness, he wrote hastily,
"Lady Felicia has my permission to have six rabbits a week.
He smiled at the document as he gave it to the Lady Noggs; and she smiled, too, but quite differently. Then she blew him a kiss, and went.
Apparently she changed her mind about going for a ride, for she ran up to her room, put on a picture-hat, and went out into the park. There she contrived to come across Morton on his way to the woods. He passed her grumpily without a glance: the matter of his nose, which his mirror had left unsettled, was rankling. But she stopped, and said sweetly, "Morton, you forgot to touch your hat."
Morton mumbled something in his throat, and hit the brim of his hat with a spasmodic jerk that knocked it off.
"You should never forget little things, Morton," said the Lady Noggs, with a happy remembrance of the teaching of Miss Caldecott, and she added even more sweetly, "And, oh, I wish William Cotteril to have six rabbits a week. If you see him catching them, you needn't interfere with him."
Morton could only grunt.
"I thought I'd better tell you," said the Lady Noggs.
"I knows my dooty, and I does it," said Morton stormily, and passed on.
Later in the day the Lady Noggs went down to the village and called upon the Cotteril family. She showed a lively interest in the baby and talked to Mrs. Cotteril; then she informed William that she had arranged for him to have the six rabbits a week. Before she left them she gave Mrs. Cotteril half-a-crown out of her weekly five shillings pocket money, which even in that sparsely inhabited country district she contrived always to spend before the next Tuesday afternoon. In consequence of this charitable impulse she was that week very short of money; but this shortness was more than made up to her by the satisfying glow of hope which warmed her whenever she saw the unsuspecting Morton.
For two or three weeks the Cotteril family enjoyed a comparatively affluent prosperity: William had three or four days work and six rabbits a week. On every Saturday afternoon the Lady Noggs presented Mrs. Cotteril with half-a-crown. But in a small village such a change to affluence as that experienced by the Cotterils does not escape the neighbourly eye, or the smell of stewing the rabbit the neighbourly nose; and some warm-hearted friend of William informed Morton that it might be worth his while to keep an eye on him.
Then on a red-letter day when the Lady Noggs had behaved so well and torn her frock so little that she had been actually allowed to have her supper in the nursery, a maid came to tell her that Mrs. Cotteril wanted to speak to her, and was waiting in the servants' hall. The Lady Noggs made haste to finish her supper, and hurried down-stairs. She found Mrs. Cotteril with her baby in her arms, looking thinner and wanner than ever, and crying softly.
"Good-evening, Mrs. Cotteril," said the Lady Noggs. "What's the matter?"
"Good-evening, your ladyship, please your ladyship, John Lubbock, the constable, and Morton has taken William off to the lockup at Warlesden for snaring a rabbit; and he told me to come to you at once and tell you, and maybe you could help him," said Mrs. Cotteril; but she showed no hopefulness at all.
"Didn't he tell them that I had given him leave to have six rabbits a week?" said the Lady Noggs.
"Yes, he did, your ladyship, and they laughed."
The Lady Noggs flushed a little and her nostrils dilated. "They laughed, did they?" she said shortly. "Didn't they say anything about coming to me to ask if it was true?"
"No, your ladyship," said Mrs. Cotteril in a more hopeless tone than ever. "They only laughed. And William he'll be had up before the Bench to-morrow, and they'll send him to prison, and me and the baby will have to go to the Union, and we'll lose the cottage and have to leave the village. It'll break William's 'eart, I know it will!" She ended in a wail, and again sobbed bitterly.
The Lady Noggs was taken aback; she had expected Morton to come to her and ask if William's statement was true, so that she would have had the pleasure of showing him her uncle's letter and enjoying his discomfiture. It had never occurred to her that Morton would pay so little regard to her authority as not even to think it worth his while to inquire into the matter of the truth of William's story that she had given him the rabbits. For the while she could not see, though she cudgelled her brains her hardest, how to deal with this unexpected situation. However, Mrs. Cotteril's grief and fear had to be soothed. She patted her on the arm therefore, and said firmly, "Don't you cry, I'll see that William doesn't go to prison."
Mrs. Cotteril shook her head: "They won't pay any 'eed to your ladyship, you're so young," she sobbed.
Oh, yes, they will," said the Lady Noggs, "the magistrates know me so well; and that makes such a difference."
She went on with her encouragement and assurances, proffering them with confidence so catching that, after a while, she had Mrs. Cotteril almost comforted and hopeful, and eating supper sent from the kitchens with a show of appetite. Only when the poor woman had gone, and she herself was in bed, did the mind of the Lady Noggs grapple fairly with the crisis. She puzzled and puzzled over it, striving to find a way of dealing with it "all herself," and was awake for nearly an hour before she formed her plan.
After breakfast with her uncle next morning, she took advantage of his absorption in his newspaper to slip quickly out of the breakfast room, and said to a footman burnishing armour in the hall, "Will you please tell Sykes to put Phelim in the dog-cart as quickly as he can, Symons: and he needn't bring him round; he's to go in to Warlesden."
Thinking that she brought instructions straight from her uncle, Symons made haste, passed them on as coming from him; and when ten minutes later she climbed into the dog-cart, and bade the groom drive quickly to Warlesden, the groom took it that she had leave to go.
It was half past ten before they drew up in front of the offices of the Urban District Council of the sleepy little town, where the magistrates were sitting.
The Lady Noggs made no unseemly haste; she climbed down from the dog-cart, told the groom to wait for her, and entered the justice-room with the calm, deliberate air of a born ruler of men. William Cotteril stood between two policemen; and she gave him a nod and smile which brightened a little his gloomy face. Then she saw her enemy Colonel Stiffgate of Stiffgate, who believed as firmly as Morton that her explorations of his woods injured his game, sitting at the table; but, confident in the justice of her cause, the sight did not dismay her. Then she saw one of her greatest friends. Sir Hildebrand Wyse, sitting by Colonel Stiffgate's side, and she was assured of victory. She smiled a greeting to Sir Hildebrand; he rose, and, coming to her, shook hands, and asked her what fortunate errand brought her there.
"Oh," said the Lady Noggs, "I know all about William Cotteril's poaching, and I came to tell you."
"Well, we are just hearing about it," said Sir Hildebrand; and he set a chair for her at the table.
As she sat down, Colonel Stiffgate growled something about the court being no place for children.
The Lady Noggs, sure of the support of Sir Hildebrand, looked at him with infinite coldness; and Sir Hildebrand said carelessly, "It's all right, Stiffgate, Lady Grandison knows something about this poaching business; besides, as you ought to know, if she's made up her mind to hear our proceedings, she'll probably manage to hear them somehow, even if she had to climb up and look through the ventilator."
Colonel Stiffgate growled something about what would happen to her if she were a child of his, and sharply bade Morton get on with his evidence, which her coming had interrupted.
Morton, whom many poaching cases had made an excellent witness, told the story of his watching William Cotteril snare and carry off a rabbit, in an entirely convincing style.
"Monstrous! monstrous!" cried Colonel
Stiffgate, the bright warm, even red of his complexion deepening with all a game-preserver's fury. "What have you to say for yourself, prisoner? Monstrous! monstrous!"
"Her little ladyship there give me the rabbits," said William Cotteril, with the sullen air of a poor man exceedingly doubtful of getting justice from the great Unpaid.
"Little Lady Grandison! Gave you the rabbits! What do you mean? What cock-and-bull story is this?" cried Colonel Stiffgate.
"She give me the rabbits. Six rabbits a week she said I might have," said William Cotteril stubbornly.
"It's quite right. I gave them to him," said the Lady Noggs in her clear voice.
"But how could Lady Grandison give you the rabbits? They are Lord Errington's rabbits? It's nonsense—nonsense!" roared Colonel Stiffgate, ignoring the Lady Noggs.
"She give them to me," said William Cotteril with a touch of despair in his stubbornness.
"Do you know anything of this, Mr. McNaghten?" said Colonel Stiffgate to the agent, who sat in a corner watching the case. "Has little Lady Grandison any authority to dispose of Lord Errington's rabbits?"
"None that I am aware of," said Mr. McNaghten. "And she would hardly have been invested with such authority without my being informed of it."
"I thought not! I thought not! A cock-and-bull story! It only makes your offence worse, prisoner—an impudent plea!"
"They were my rabbits to do as I liked with!" broke in the Lady Noggs fiercely. "Uncle gave them to me!" And she gave a somewhat dirty and crumpled sheet of paper to Sir Hildebrand Wyse.
"I think her ladyship is making a mistake," said Mr. McNaghten suavely.
"Of course, of course. People don't give little girls rabbits—wild rabbits," said Colonel Stiffgate. "And you knew it, prisoner. You knew it as well as I. It aggravates your offence; and I shall make an example of—"
"Hold on, Stiffgate! hold on!" said Sir Hildebrand Wyse in a low sharp voice. "Lady Nogg—Grandison is quite right: the rabbits are hers. Look at this."
Colonel Stiffgate took the document, and read it slowly. The wrath of the game-preserver, balked of his poaching prey, swelled his heart; he looked round the room for some one to vent it on, and his eye fell on the luckless Morton, who was smirking at having at last ruined his rival.
"I wish," said the purple Stiffgate thickly, that you Stonorill people would show a spark of ordinary intelligence in the management of your affairs. What do you mean, keeper—" his voice rose to a sudden terrifying bellow—"by wasting the time of the Bench by a trumpery charge like this? Here is a letter from Lord Errington himself, giving Lady Grandison the rabbits!"
"I—I didn't know nothing about it," stammered Morton.
"You didn't know, you thick-headed lout of a fool!" bellowed the purple Stiffgate. "You ought to have known, you confounded numskull! It's your business to know, blockhead! Not to come wasting my time with trumpery charges like this! The prisoner is discharged! The next case!"
William Cotteril shuffled out of the court with a somewhat dazed air; Morton slunk out after him. The Lady Noggs lingered to tell Sir Hildebrand Wyse how that this was the upshot of William's marrying Morton's sweetheart.
She came out of the building between two groups. On the right hand was a group of Stonorill villagers who had cheerfully walked seven miles to see William sent to prison, and were now congratulating him in the half-hearted manner of the disappointed. On the left a group of far more joyful persons was repeating to Morton, in case it should not have impressed itself thoroughly on his mind, the tribute of the purple Stiffgate to his intelligence. As the Lady Noggs came out, she heard him say, "To think that that dratted brat should have made a fool o' me afore the Bench like that!"
The words "dratted brat" stuck in the Lady Noggs's mind, but she received the thanks of William Cotteril with a pretty graciousness, and told him to climb up on to the back seat of the dog-cart, that he might as quickly as possible bring home himself to his anxious wife the good news of his deliverance.
Then she climbed into the dog-cart, turned round, and said in a clear, dispassionate voice heard by every one, "Morton, I didn't make a fool of you. Nobody could. You grew so."
The Lady Noggs had the last word.