“I’ll tell you,” said Mary, resolutely. “You must speak to him at once, and win him over to our side. Tell him Julia is going to marry Percy Fitzroy on the first of next month, then tell him all that Mr. Hope said you were to tell the lawyer, and then tell him what you have made me believe, that you love me better than your life, and that I love you better still; and that no power can part us. If you can soften him, Mr. Hope shall soften papa.”
“But if he is too headstrong to be softened?” faltered Walter.
“Then,” said Mary, “you must defy my papa, and I shall defy yours.”
After a moment’s thought she said: “Walter, I shall stay here till he sees me and you together; then he won’t be able to run off about his mines, and his lawsuits, and such rubbishy things. His attention will be attracted to our love, and so you will have it out with him, whilst I retire a little way—not far—and meditate upon Mr. Hope’s strange words, and ponder over many things that have happened within my recollection.”
True to this policy, the spirited girl waited till Colonel Clifford came on the green, and then made Walter as perfect a courtesy as ever graced a minuet at the court of Louis le Grand.
Walter took off his hat to her with chivalric grace and respect. Colonel Clifford drew up in a stiff military attitude, which flavored rather of the parade or the field of battle than the court either of the great monarch or of little Cupid.
THE SECRET IN DANGER.
“Hum!” said the Colonel, dryly; “a petticoat!”
“Et cetera,” suggested Walter, meekly; and we think he was right, for a petticoat has never in our day been the only garment worn by females, nor even the most characteristic: fishermen wear petticoats, and don’t wear bonnets.
“Who is she, sir?” asked the grim Colonel.
“Your niece, father,” said Walter, mellifluously, “and the most beautiful girl in Derbyshire.”
The Colonel snorted, but didn’t condescend to go into the question of beauty.
“Why did my niece retire at sight of me?” was his insidious inquiry.
“Well,” said Walter, meekly, “the truth is, some mischief-making fool has been telling her that you have lost all natural affection for your dead sister’s child.”
The stout Colonel staggered for a moment, snorted, and turned it off. “You and she are very often together, it seems.”
“All the better for me,” said Walter, stoutly.
“And all the worse for me,” retorted the Colonel. And as men gravitate toward their leading grievance, he went off at a tangent, “What do you think my feelings must be, to see my son, my only son, spooning the daughter of my only enemy; of a knave who got on my land on pretense of farming it, but instead of that he burrowed under the soil like a mole, sir; and now the place is defiled with coal dust, the roads are black, the sheep are black, the daisies and buttercups are turning black. There’s a smut on your nose, Walter. I forbid you to spoon his daughter, upon pain of a father’s curse. My real niece, Julia, is a lady and an heiress, and the beauty of the county. She is the girl for you.”