“I wish to Heaven that you would not take the words out of my mouth,” he cries, losing his temper a little; while his brows contract into a slight and most unwonted frown. “What I wish to know is, will you drive her?”
“Yes, you; I know—” (speaking with a sort of hurried deprecation) “I know that you are not fond of her; she is not a woman that other women are apt to get on with; but it would not be for long! I tell you candidly” (with a look of sincere anxiety) “I do not half like trusting you to Parker!—I think you are as likely as not to come to grief.”
“To come to grief!” repeat I, with a harsh, dry laugh; “ha! ha! perhaps I have done that already!”
“But will you?” he asks, eagerly; not heeding my sorry mirth, and taking my hand. “I would drive you myself, if I could, and if—” (almost humbly) “if it would not bore you; but you see—” (rather slowly) “about the carriage, she—she asked me, and one does not like to say ‘No’ to such an old friend!”
Old friend! At the phrase, Algy’s sneering white face rises before my mind’s eye.
“Will you?” he repeats, looking pleadingly at me, with the gray darkness of his eyes.
“No, I will not!” I reply, resolutely, and still with that unmirthful mirth; “what ever else I may be, I will not be a spoil-sport!”
“A spoil-sport!” he echoes, passionately, while his face darkens, and hardens with impatient anger; “good God! will you never understand?”
Then he hastily leaves the room. And so it comes to pass that, half an hour later, I am crawling up with a sick heart to the box-seat, piteously calling on all around me to hold down my garments during my ascent. The grooms have let go the horses’ heads, and have climbed up in dapper lightness at the back: we are through the first gate! Bah! that was a near shave of the post; yes, we are off, off for a long day’s pleasuring! The very thought is enough to put any one in low spirits, is not it?
Barbara and Musgrave are behind us; and at the back, our old host and Algy. The two latter are, I think, specially likely to enjoy themselves; as the raw morning air has got down the old gentleman’s throat, and he is coughing like a wheezy old squirrel; and Algy is in a dumb frenzy. I am no great judge of coachmanship, but we have not gone a quarter of a mile, before it is borne in on my mind that Mr. Parker has about as much idea of driving as a tomcat. The team do what is good in their eyes; we must throw ourselves on their clemency and discretion, for clearly our only hope is in them. He has not an idea of keeping them together; they are all over the place; the wheelers’ reins are all loose on their backs. We seem to have an irresistible tendency toward bordering to the right which keeps us hovering over the ditch. However, fortunately, the road is very broad—one of the old coach-roads—and the vehicles we meet are few and anxious to get out of our way. Such as they are, I will do ourselves the justice to say that we try our best to run down each and all of them.