Partridges are not General Parker’s strong point, and the few he ever had his nephew has already shot. Roger must, therefore, for one day abstain from the turnip-ridges. To amuse us, however, and keep us all sociably together, and bridge the yawning gulf between breakfast and dinner, we are to be sent on an expedition. Not only an expedition, but a picnic. This is perhaps a little risky in such a climate as ours, and in a month so doubtfully hovering on the borders of winter as September; but the sun is shining, and we therefore make up our minds, contrary to all precedent, that he must necessarily go on shining.
Some ten miles away there is a spot whence one can see seven counties, not to speak of the sea, a mountain or two, and some other trifles; and thither Mr. Parker is kindly going to bowl us down on his coach.
A drive on a coach is always to me a most doubtful joy; the ascent, labor; the drive itself, long anxiety and peril; the descent, agony, and sometimes shame. However, that is neither here nor there. I am going. It is still half an hour till the time appointed for our departure, and I am sitting alone in my room when Roger enters.
“Nancy,” he says, coming quickly toward me, “have you any idea what sort of a whip that boy is?”
“Not the slightest!” reply I, shortly.
I feel as hard as a flint to-day. Algy’s words last night seem to have confirmed and given a solider reality to my worst fears. He has walked to the window and is looking out.
“Are you nervous?” say I, with a slightly sarcastic smile.
He does not appear to notice the sarcasm.
“Yes,” he says, “that is just what I am. He is a mad sort of fellow, and a coach is not a thing to play tricks with!”
“No,” say I, indifferently. It seems to me of infinitely little consequence whether we are upset or not.
“That is what I came to speak to you about!” he says, still looking out of the window.
“Is nervous, too?” ask I, smiling disagreeably. “What a curious coincidence!”
“I do not know whether she is nervous or not!” he answers, quickly; “I never asked her, but it seems that Huntley never would let her go on a drag; he had seen some bad accident, and it had given him a fright—”
“And so you and she are going to stay at home?” say I, coldly, but breathing a little heavily, and whitening.
“Stay at home!” he echoes, impatiently, “of course not; why should we? The fact is” (beginning to speak quickly in clear and eager explanation) “that I heard them talking of this plan yesterday, and so I thought I would be on the safe side, and send over to Tempest for the pony-carriage, and it is here now, and—”
“And you are going to drive her in it?” I say, still speaking quietly, and smiling. “I see! nothing could be nicer!”