It was for the moment an inexpressible relief to Dolly, to recognise in the person who forced himself into the path so abruptly, and now stood directly in her way, Hugh of the Maypole, whose name she uttered in a tone of delighted surprise that came from her heart.
Was it you? she said, how glad I am to see you! and how could you terrify me so!
In answer to which, he said nothing at all, but stood quite still, looking at her.
Did you come to meet me? asked Dolly.
Hugh nodded, and muttered something to the effect that he had been waiting for her, and had expected her sooner.
I thought it likely they would send, said Dolly, greatly reassured by this.
Nobody sent me, was his sullen answer. I came of my own accord.
The rough bearing of this fellow, and his wild, uncouth appearance, had often filled the girl with a vague apprehension even when other people were by, and had occasioned her to shrink from him involuntarily. The having him for an unbidden companion in so solitary a place, with the darkness fast gathering about them, renewed and even increased the alarm she had felt at first.
If his manner had been merely dogged and passively fierce, as usual, she would have had no greater dislike to his company than she always feltperhaps, indeed, would have been rather glad to have had him at hand. But there was something of coarse bold admiration in his look, which terrified her very much. She glanced timidly towards him, uncertain whether to go forward or retreat, and he stood gazing at her like a handsome satyr; and so they remained for some short time without stirring or breaking silence. At length Dolly took courage, shot past him, and hurried on.
Why do you spend so much breath in avoiding me? said Hugh, accommodating his pace to hers, and keeping close at her side.
I wish to get back as quickly as I can, and you walk too near me, answered Dolly.
Too near! said Hugh, stooping over her so that she could feel his breath upon her forehead. Why too near? Youre always proud to me, mistress.
I am proud to no one. You mistake me, answered Dolly. Fall back, if you please, or go on.
Nay, mistress, he rejoined, endeavouring to draw her arm through his, Ill walk with you.
She released herself and clenching her little hand, struck him with right good will. At this, Maypole Hugh burst into a roar of laughter, and passing his arm about her waist, held her in his strong grasp as easily as if she had been a bird.
Ha ha ha! Well done, mistress! Strike again. You shall beat my face, and tear my hair, and pluck my beard up by the roots, and welcome, for the sake of your bright eyes. Strike again, mistress. Do. Ha ha ha! I like it.
Let me go, she cried, endeavouring with both her hands to push him off. Let me go this moment.
You had as good be kinder to me, Sweetlips, said Hugh. You had, indeed. Come. Tell me now. Why are you always so proud? I dont quarrel with you for it. I love you when youre proud. Ha ha ha! You cant hide your beauty from a poor fellow; thats a comfort!
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