“Mr. Hope,” said she, in a resolute sort of way.
“My dear,” said he, eagerly.
“YOU LOVE ME BETTER THAN PAPA DOES, THAT’S ALL.”
And having administered this information as a dry fact that might be worth looking into at leisure, she passed thoughtfully into the house.
Hope paid a visit to his native place in Derbyshire, and his poor relations shared his prosperity, and blessed him, and Mr. Bartley upon his report; for Hope was one of those choice spirits who praise the bridge that carries them safe over the stream of adversity.
He returned to Sussex with all the news, and, amongst the rest, that Colonel Clifford had a farm coming vacant. Walter Clifford had insisted on a higher rent at the conclusion of the term, but the tenant had demurred.
Bartley paid little attention at the time; but by-and-by he said, “Did you not see signs of coal on Colonel Clifford’s property?”
“That I did, and on this very farm, and told him so. But he is behind the age. I have no patience with him. Take one of those old iron ramrods that used to load the old musket, and cover that ramrod with prejudices a foot and a half deep, and there you have Colonel Clifford.”
“Well, but a tenant would not be bound by his prejudices.”
“A tenant! A tenant takes no right to mine, under a farm lease; he would have to propose a special contract, or to ask leave, and Colonel Clifford would never grant it.”
There the conversation dropped. But the matter rankled in Bartley’s mind. Without saying any more to Hope, he consulted a sharp attorney.
The result was that he took Mary Bartley with him into Derbyshire.
He put up at a little inn, and called at Clifford Hall.
He found Colonel Clifford at home, and was received stiffly, but graciously. He gave Colonel Clifford to understand that he had left business.
“All the better,” said Colonel Clifford, sharply.
“And taken to farming.”
“Ugh!” said the other, with his favorite snort.
At this moment, who should walk into the room but Walter Clifford.
Bartley started and stared. Walter started and stared.
“Mr. Bolton,” said Bartley, scarcely above a whisper.
But Colonel Clifford heard it, and said, brusquely: “Bolton! No. Why, this is Walter Clifford, my son, and my man of business.—Walter, this is Mr. Bartley.”
“Proud to make your acquaintance, sir,” said the astute Bartley, ignoring the past.
Walter was glad he took this line before Colonel Clifford: not that he forgave Mr. Bartley that old affront the reader knows of.
The judicious Bartley read his face, and, as a first step toward propitiation, introduced him to his daughter. Walter was amazed at her beauty and grace, coming from such a stock. He welcomed her courteously, but shyly. She replied with rare affability, and that entire absence of mock-modesty which was already a feature in her character. To be sure, she was little more than fifteen, though she was full grown, and looked nearer twenty.