There is a movement among the guests, the first detachment are bidding good-night, the rest speedily do the like. Father follows his favorite miss into the hall, cloaks her with gallant care, and through the door I hear him playfully firing off parting jests at her as she drives away,
Then he returns to the drawing-room. Sir Roger has gone to put on his smoking-coat, I suppose. Father is alone with his wife and his two lovely daughters. We make a faint movement toward effacing ourselves, but our steps are speedily checked.
“Yes, father” (in a couple of very small voices).
“May I ask what induced you to keep my guests waiting half an hour for their dinner to-night?”
No manner of answer. How hooked his nose looks! how fearfully like a hawk he has grown all in a minute!
“When you have houses of your own,” he continues with iced politeness, “you may of course treat your visitors to what vagaries you please, but as long as you deign, to honor my roof with your presence, you will be good enough to behave to my guests with decent civility, do you hear?”
“Well, Roger, how is the glass? up or down? What is it doing? Are we to have a fine day to-morrow?”
For Roger apparently has got quickly into his smoking-coat: at least he is here: he has heard all. Barbara and I crawl away with no more spring or backbone in us than a couple of torpid, wintery flies.
Five minutes later, “Do you wonder that we hate him?” cry I, with flaming cheeks, holding a japanned candlestick in one hand, and Sir Roger’s right hand in the other.
“I do not care if he does hear me!—yes, I do, though” (giving a great jump as a door bangs close to me).
Sir Roger is looking down at me with an expression of most thorough discomfiture and silent pain in his face.
“He did not mean it, Nancy!” he says, hesitatingly, and with a sort of look of shamed wonder in his friendly eyes.
“Did not he?” (ironically).
A little pause, the position of the japanned candlestick and of Sir Roger’s hand still remaining the same. “How I wish that you were my father instead!” I say with a sort of sob. He does not, as I fully expect, say, “So do I!” and I go to bed, feeling rather small, as one who has gushed, and whose gush has not been welcome to the recipient.
A fortnight has passed. Two Sundays, two Mondays, two Tuesdays, etc. Fourteen times have I sleepily laid head on pillow. Fourteen times have I yawningly raised it from my pillow. Fourteen times have I hungrily eaten my dinner, since the night when I stood in the hall with Sir Roger’s hand in mine, raging against my parent. And Sir Roger is here still. After all, there is nothing like the tenacity of boyish friendship, is there?