God's Good Man (Chapter 8, page 1 of 15)

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Chapter 8

The one-horse fly, going at a one-horse fly pace, had made its way with comfortable jaunting slowness from Riversford to St. Rest, its stout, heavy-faced driver being altogether unconscious that his fare was no less a personage than Miss Vancourt, the lady of the Manor. When a small, girlish person, clad in a plain, close-fitting garb of navy-blue serge, and wearing a simple yet coquettish dark straw hat to match, accosted him at the Riversford railway station with a brief, 'Cab, please,' and sprang into his vehicle, he was a trifle sulky at being engaged in such a haphazard fashion by an apparently insignificant young female who had no luggage, not so much as a handbag.

"Wheer be you a-goin'?" he demanded, turning his bull neck slowly round--"I baint pertikler for a far journey."

"Aren't you?" and the young lady smiled. "You must drive me to St. Rest,--Abbot's Manor, please!"

The heavy-faced driver paused, considering. Should he perform the journey, or should he not? Perhaps it would be wisest to undertake the job,--there was the 'Mother Huff' at the end of the journey, and Roger Buggins was a friend of his. Yes,--he would take the risk of conveying the humbly-clad female up to the Manor; he had heard rumours that the old place was once again to be inhabited, and that the mistress of it was daily expected;--this person in the blue serge was probably one of her messengers or retainers.

"My fare's ten shillings," he observed, still peering round distrustfully; "It's a good seven mile up hill and down dale."

"All right!" responded the young woman, cheerfully; "You shall have ten shillings. Only please begin to go, won't you?"

This request was accompanied by an arch smile, and a flash of blue eyes from under the dark straw hat brim. Whereat the cumbrous Jehu was faintly moved to a responsive grin.

"She ain't bad-looking, neither!" he muttered to himself,--and he was in a somewhat better humour when at last he ondescended to start. His vehicle was a closed one, and though be fully expected his passenger would put her head out of the window, when the horse was labouring up-hill, and entreat him to go faster,--which habit he had found by experience was customary to woman in a one-horse fly,- -nothing of the kind happened on this occasion. The person in the blue serge was evidently both patient and undemonstrative. Whether the horse crawled or slouched, or trotted,--whether the fly dragged, or bumped, or jolted, she made no sign. When St. Rest was reached at last, and the driver whipped his steed into a semblance of spirit, and drove through the little village with a clatter, two or three people came to the doors of their cottages and looked at the vehicle scrutinisingly, wondering whether its occupant was, or was not Miss Vancourt. But a meaning wink from the sage on the box intimated that they need not trouble themselves,--the 'fare' was no one of the least importance.

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