In a few moments Arabella replied in a curiously low, hungry tone of latent sensuousness: "I've got him to care for me: yes! But I want him to more than care for me; I want him to have me — to marry me! I must have him. I can't do without him. He's the sort of man I long for. I shall go mad if I can't give myself to him altogether! I felt I should when I first saw him!"
"As he is a romancing, straightfor'ard, honest chap, he's to be had, and as a husband, if you set about catching him in the right way."
Arabella remained thinking awhile. "What med be the right way?" she asked.
"Oh you don't know — you don't!" said Sarah, the third girl.
"On my word I don't! — No further, that is, than by plain courting, and taking care he don't go too far!"
The third girl looked at the second. "She DON'T know!"
"'Tis clear she don't!" said Anny.
"And having lived in a town, too, as one may say! Well, we can teach 'ee som'at then, as well as you us."
"Yes. And how do you mean — a sure way to gain a man? Take me for an innocent, and have done wi' it!"
"As a husband."
"As a husband."
"A countryman that's honourable and serious-minded such as he; God forbid that I should say a sojer, or sailor, or commercial gent from the towns, or any of them that be slippery with poor women! I'd do no friend that harm!"
"Well, such as he, of course!"
Arabella's companions looked at each other, and turning up their eyes in drollery began smirking. Then one went up close to Arabella, and, although nobody was near, imparted some information in a low tone, the other observing curiously the effect upon Arabella.
"Ah!" said the last-named slowly. "I own I didn't think of that way! ... But suppose he ISN'T honourable? A woman had better not have tried it!"
"Nothing venture nothing have! Besides, you make sure that he's honourable before you begin. You'd be safe enough with yours. I wish I had the chance! Lots of girls do it; or do you think they'd get married at all?"
Arabella pursued her way in silent thought. "I'll try it!" she whispered; but not to them.