“You’re right there,” he said; “and here’s a good Derbyshire lass for you,” once more administering a sounding caress upon his sleek favourite.
The horse turned its head and whinnied softly at the attention; and it was evident it loved the very sound of Mr. Flower’s voice.
“Have you ever been to Derbyshire?” asked Mr. Flower, presently, and Henry immediately scented an idealism in the question.
“No,” he answered; “but I believe it’s a beautiful county.”
“Beautiful’s no name for it,” said Mr. Flower; “it’s just a garden.”
And as Henry caught a glance of his eyes, he realised that Derbyshire was Mr. Flower’s poetry,—the poetry of a countryman imprisoned in the town,—and that when he died he just hoped to go to Derbyshire.
“Ah, there are places there,—places like Miller’s Dale, for instance,—I’d rather take my hat off to than any bishop,”—and Henry eagerly scented something of a thinker; “for God made them for sure, and bishops—well—” and Mr. Flower wisely left the rest unsaid.
Thus they made the tour of the stables; and though Henry’s remarks on the subject of slapped horse-flesh had been anything but those of an expert, it was tacitly agreed that Mr. Flower and he had taken to each other. Nor, as he presently found, were Mr. Flower’s interests limited to horses.
“You’re a reader, I see,” he said, presently, when they had returned to the office. “Well, I don’t get much time to read nowadays; but there’s nothing I enjoy better, when I’ve got a pipe lit of an evening, than to sit and listen to my little daughter reading Thackeray or George Eliot.”
Of course Henry was interested.
“Now there was a woman who knew country life,” Mr. Flower continued. “‘Silas Marner,’ or ‘Adam Bede.’ How wonderfully she gets at the very heart of the people! And not only that, but the very smell of country air.”
And Mr. Flower drew a long breath of longing for Miller’s Dale.
Henry mentally furbished up his George Eliot to reply.
“And ’The Mill on the Floss’?” he said.
“And ‘Scenes from Clerical Life,’” said Mr. Flower. “There are some rare strokes of nature there.”
And so they went on comparing notes, till a little blue-eyed girl of about seventeen appeared, carrying a dainty lunch for Henry, and telling Mr. Flower that his own lunch was ready.
“This is my daughter of whom I spoke,” said Mr. Flower.
“She who reads Thackeray and George Eliot to you?” said the Man in Possession; and, when they had gone, he said to himself “What a bright little face!”
LITTLE MISS FLOWER
Little Miss Flower continued to bring Henry his lunch with great punctuality each day; and each day he found himself more and more interested in its arrival, though when it had come he ate it with no special haste. Indeed, sometimes it almost seemed that it had served its purpose in merely having been brought, judging by the moments of reverie in which Henry seemed to have forgotten it, and to be thinking of something else.