Chapter XXXIV.

Farmer Merton received a line from Meadows telling him he had gone into Lancashire on important business, and did not expect to be back for three months, except perhaps for a day at a time. Merton handed the letter to Susan.

"We shall miss him," was her remark.

"That we shall. He is capital company."

"And a worthy man into the bargain," said Susan warmly, "spite of what little-minded folk say and think. What do you think that Will Fielding did only yesterday?"

"I don't know."

"Well, he followed me into--there, it is not worth while having an open quarrel, but I shall hate the sight of his very face. I can't think how such a fool can be George's brother. No wonder George and he could not agree. Poor Mr. Meadows--to be affronted in his own house, just for treating me with respect and civility. So that is a crime now."

"What are you saying, girl? That young pauper affront my friend Meadows, the warmest man for fifty miles round. If he has, he shall never come on my premises again. You may take your oath of that."

Susan looked aghast. This was more than she had bargained for. She was the last in the world to set two people by the ears.

"Now don't you be so peppery, father," said she. "There is nothing to make a quarrel about."

"Yes there is, though, if that ignorant beggar insulted my friend."

"No! no! no!"

"Why, what did you say?"

"I say--that here is Mr. Clinton coming to the door."

"Let him in, girl, let him in. And you needn't stay. We are going to talk business."