“Oh, is it? I very much doubt if Jean will look at me. I sometimes think she rather avoids me. She keeps out of my way, and hardly ever addresses a remark to me.”
“She has never mentioned you to me,” said Pamela, “and that’s a good sign. I don’t say you won’t have to wait. I’m pretty certain she won’t accept you when you ask her. Even if she cares—and I don’t think she realises yet that she does—her sense of duty to the boys, and other things, will hold her back, and your title and possessions will tell against you. Jean is the least mercenary of creatures Ask her before you leave, and if she refuses you appear to accept her refusal. Don’t say you will try again and that sort of thing: it gives a girl a caged feeling. Go away for a while and make no sign. I know what I’m talking about, Biddy ... and she is worth waiting for.”
“I would serve for her as Jacob served for Rachel, and not grudge one minute of the time, but the nuisance is I’m twelve years older than she is. I can’t afford to wait. I’m afraid she will think me too old.”
“Nonsense, a boy would never do for Jean. Although she looks such a child, she is a woman, and a woman with a brain. Otherwise she would never do for you. You would tire of a doll in a week, no matter how curly the hair or flawless the complexion.... You realise, of course, that Jean is an uncompromising little Puritan? Mercy is as plain as bread and honour is as hard as stone to Jean—but she has a wide tolerance for sinners. I can imagine it won’t always be easy to be Jean’s husband. She is so full of compassion that she will want to help every unfortunate, and fill the house with the broken and the unsuccessful. But she won’t be a wearisome wife. She won’t pall. She will always be full of surprises, and an infinite variety, and find such numbers of things to laugh about.... You know how she mothers those boys—can’t you see Jean with babies of her own?... To me she is like a well of spring-water a continual refreshment for weary souls.”
Pamela stopped. “Am I making too much of an ordinary little country girl, Biddy?”
Her brother smiled and shook his head, and after a minute he said:
“A garden enclosed is my love.”
“What’s to be
said to him, lady? He is fortified against any
The day before Pamela and her brother left Priorsford for their visit to Champertoun was a typical December day, short and dark and dirty.
There was a party at Hopetoun in honour of David’s home-coming, and Pamela and her brother were invited, along with the entire family from The Rigs.
They all set off together in the early darkening, and presently Pamela and the three boys got ahead, and Jean found herself alone with Lord Bidborough.
Weather had little or no effect on Jean’s spirits, and to-day, happy in having David at home, she cared nothing for the depressing mist that shrouded the hills, or the dank drip from the trees on the carpet of sodden leaves, or the sullen swirl of Tweed coming down big with spate, foaming against the supports of the bridge.