“You do not say so!” cry I, in some astonishment.
“If I had come here seven years ago,” he says, taking both my pale yellow hands in his light gray ones, and looking at me with eyes which seem darker and deeper than usual under the shade of the brim of his tall hat—“by-the by, you would have been a little girl then—as little as Tou Tou—”
“Yes,” interrupt I, breaking in hastily; “but, indeed, I never was a bit like her, never. I never had such legs—ask the boys if I had!”
“I did not suppose that you had,” he answers, bursting into a hearty and most unfeigned laugh! “but” (growing grave again), “Nancy, suppose that I had come here then! I should have had no shooting to offer the boys— no horses to mount Algy—no house worth asking Barbara to—”
“No more you would!” say I, too much impressed with surprise at this new light on Sir Roger’s past life to notice the sort of wistfulness and inquiry that lurks in his last words; then, after a second, perceiving it: “And you think,” say I, loosing my hands from his, and growing as pink as the delicate China rose-bud that is peeping round the corner of the trellis in at the window, “that there would not have been as much inducement then for me to propose to you, as there was in the present state of things!”
I am laughing awkwardly as I speak; then, eagerly changing the conversation, and rushing into another subject: “By-the-by, I had something to say to you—something quite important—before we digressed.”
“O general!” taking hold of the lapel of his coat, and looking up at him with appealing earnestness, “do you know that I have made up my mind to give him the bag to-day! it is no use putting off the evil day—it must come, after supper—they all say after supper!”
“Well, I want you to talk to him all day, and get him into a good-humor by then, if you can, that is all!”
“That is all!” repeats my husband, with the slightest possible ironical accent. Then we go to church. It is too near to drive, so we all walk. The church-yard elms are out in fullest leaf above our heads. There are so many leaves, and they are so close together, that they hide the great brown rooks’ nests. They do not hide the rooks themselves. It would take a good deal to do that. Dear pleasant-spoken rooks, talking so loudly and irreverently about their own secular themes—out-cawing the church-bells, as we pace by, devout and smart, to our prayers.
Last time I walked up this path, it was hidden with red cloth, and flowers were tumbling under my feet. Ah! red cloth comes but once in a lifetime. It is only the queen who lives in an atmosphere of red cloth and cut flowers.