With all this, there appeared sometimes at the surface of Elisabeth’s nature that fire and lightness and impulsiveness which she got from her father, Mr. Daniel Churchill. Whether she was wholly reserved and reasonable, or wholly warm and impulsive, I, long as I had known and loved her, never was quite sure. Something held me away, something called me forward; so that I was always baffled, and yet always eager, God wot. I suppose this is the way of women. At times I have been impatient with it, knowing my own mind well enough.
At least now, in my tight-strapped trousers and my long blue coat and my deep embroidered waistcoat and my high stock, my shining boots and my tall beaver, I made my way on my well-groomed horse up to the gates of old Elmhurst; and as I rode I pondered and I dreamed.
But Miss Elisabeth was not at home, it seemed. Her father, Mr. Daniel Churchill, rather portly and now just a trifle red of face, met me instead. It was not an encounter for which I devoutly wished, but one which I knew it was the right of both of us to expect ere long. Seeing the occasion propitious, I plunged at once in medias res. Part of the time explanatory, again apologetic, and yet again, I trust, assertive, although always blundering and red and awkward, I told the father of my intended of my own wishes, my prospects and my plans.
He listened to me gravely and, it seemed to me, with none of that enthusiasm which I would have welcomed. As to my family, he knew enough. As to my prospects, he questioned me. My record was not unfamiliar to him. So, gaining confidence at last under the insistence of what I knew were worthy motives, and which certainly were irresistible of themselves, so far as I was concerned, I asked him if we might not soon make an end of this, and, taking chances as they were, allow my wedding with Elisabeth to take place at no very distant date.
“Why, as to that, of course I do not know what my girl will say,” went on Mr. Daniel Churchill, pursing up his lips. He looked not wholly lovable to me, as he sat in his big chair. I wondered that he should be father of so fair a human being as Elisabeth.
“Oh, of course—that,” I answered; “Miss Elisabeth and I—”
“The skeesicks!” he exclaimed. “I thought she told me everything.”
“I think Miss Elisabeth tells no one quite everything,” I ventured. “I confess she has kept me almost as much in the dark as yourself, sir. But I only wanted to ask if, after I have seen her to-day, and if I should gain her consent to an early day, you would not waive any objections on your own part and allow the matter to go forward as soon as possible?”
In answer to this he arose from his chair and stood looking out of the window, his back turned to me. I could not call his reception of my suggestion enthusiastic; but at last he turned.
“I presume that our two families might send you young people a sack of meal or a side of bacon now and then, as far as that is concerned,” he said.