The family sat down to table, and a frugal meal of cold viands was deposited before them. Angel looked round for Mrs Crick’s black-puddings, which he had directed to be nicely grilled as they did them at the dairy, and of which he wished his father and mother to appreciate the marvellous herbal savours as highly as he did himself.
“Ah! you are looking for the black-puddings, my dear boy,” observed Clare’s mother. “But I am sure you will not mind doing without them as I am sure your father and I shall not, when you know the reason. I suggested to him that we should take Mrs Crick’s kind present to the children of the man who can earn nothing just now because of his attacks of delirium tremens; and he agreed that it would be a great pleasure to them; so we did.”
“Of course,” said Angel cheerfully, looking round for the mead.
“I found the mead so extremely alcoholic,” continued his mother, “that it was quite unfit for use as a beverage, but as valuable as rum or brandy in an emergency; so I have put it in my medicine-closet.”
“We never drink spirits at this table, on principle,” added his father.
“But what shall I tell the dairyman’s wife?” said Angel.
“The truth, of course,” said his father.
“I rather wanted to say we enjoyed the mead and the black-puddings very much. She is a kind, jolly sort of body, and is sure to ask me directly I return.”
“You cannot, if we did not,” Mr Clare answered lucidly.
“Ah—no; though that mead was a drop of pretty tipple.”
“A what?” said Cuthbert and Felix both.
“Oh—’tis an expression they use down at Talbothays,” replied Angel, blushing. He felt that his parents were right in their practice if wrong in their want of sentiment, and said no more.
It was not till the evening, after family prayers, that Angel found opportunity of broaching to his father one or two subjects near his heart. He had strung himself up to the purpose while kneeling behind his brothers on the carpet, studying the little nails in the heels of their walking boots. When the service was over they went out of the room with their mother, and Mr Clare and himself were left alone.
The young man first discussed with the elder his plans for the attainment of his position as a farmer on an extensive scale—either in England or in the Colonies. His father then told him that, as he had not been put to the expense of sending Angel up to Cambridge, he had felt it his duty to set by a sum of money every year towards the purchase or lease of land for him some day, that he might not feel himself unduly slighted.
“As far as worldly wealth goes,” continued his father, “you will no doubt stand far superior to your brothers in a few years.”
This considerateness on old Mr Clare’s part led Angel onward to the other and dearer subject. He observed to his father that he was then six-and-twenty, and that when he should start in the farming business he would require eyes in the back of his head to see to all matters—some one would be necessary to superintend the domestic labours of his establishment whilst he was afield. Would it not be well, therefore, for him to marry?