purchases were made. She leaned over the privet-hedge to intercept him as he passed.
"Aunt's an awful ole maid," she remarked apologetically; "I b'lieve she'd never let me say a word to enny one if she could help it."
"So you got home all right last night?" Willoughby inquired; "what did your aunt say to you?"
"Oh, she arst me where I'd been, and I tolder a lotter lies!" Then, with woman's intuition, perceiving that this speech jarred, Esther made haste to add, "She's so dreadful hard on me! I dursn't tell her I'd been with a gentleman or she'd never have let me out alone again."
"And at present I suppose you'll be found somewhere about that same stile every evening?" said Willoughby foolishly, for he really did not much care whether he met her again or not. Now he was actually in her company he was surprised at himself for having given her a whole morning's thought; yet the eagerness of her answer flattered him, too.
"To-night I can't come, worse luck! It's Thursday, and the shops here close of a Thursday at five. I'll havter keep aunt company. But to-morrer?—I can be there to-morrer. You'll come, say?"
"Esther!" cried a vexed voice, and the precise, right-minded aunt emerged through the row of raspberry-bushes; "whatever are you thinking about, delayin' the gentleman in this fashion?" She was full of rustic and official civility for "the gentleman," but indignant with her niece. "I don't want none of your London manners down here," Willoughby heard her say as she marched the girl off.
He himself was not sorry to be released from Esther's too friendly eyes, and he spent an agreeable evening over a book, and this time managed to forget her completely.