’I can’t see that you are so frank, sir, as you describe; you have just played a shabby trick to bring about this absurd and most disagreeable interview.’
‘And supposin’ I did send that fool, Milly, out o’ the way, to talk a bit wi’ you here, where’s the harm? Dang it, lass, ye mustn’t be too hard. Didn’t I say I’d do whatever ye wished?’
‘And you won’t,’ said I.
‘Ye mean to get along out o’ this? Well, now, I will. There! No use, of course, askin’ you to kiss and be friends, before I go, as cousins should. Well, don’t be riled, lass, I’m not askin’ it; only mind, I do like you awful, and ’appen I’ll find ye in better humour another time. Good-bye, Maud; I’ll make ye like me at last.’
And with these words, to my comfort, he addressed himself to his horse and pipe, and was soon honestly on his way to the moor.
All the time that Dudley chose to persecute me with his odious society, I continued to walk at a brisk pace toward home, so that I had nearly reached the house when Milly met me, with a note which had arrived for me by the post, in her hand.
’Here, Milly, are more verses. He is a very persevering poet, whoever he is.’ So I broke the seal; but this time it was prose. And the first words were ‘Captain Oakley!’
I confess to an odd sensation as these remarkable words met my eye. It might possibly be a proposal. I did not wait to speculate, however, but read these sentences traced in the identical handwriting which had copied the lines with which I had been twice favoured.
’Captain Oakley presents his compliments to Miss Ruthyn, and trusts she will excuse his venturing to ask whether, during his short stay in Feltram, he might be permitted to pay his respects at Bartram-Haugh. He has been making a short visit to his aunt, and could not find himself so near without at least attempting to renew an acquaintance which he has never ceased to cherish in memory. If Miss Ruthyn would be so very good as to favour him with ever so short a reply to the question he ventures most respectfully to ask, her decision would reach him at the Hall Hotel, Feltram.’
’Well, he’s a roundabout fellah, anyhow. Couldn’t he come up and see you if he wanted to? They poeters, they do love writing long yarns—don’t they?’ And with this reflection, Milly took the note and read it through again.
‘It’s jolly polite anyhow, isn’t it Maud?’ said Milly, who had conned it over, and accepted it as a model composition.
I must have been, I think, naturally a rather shrewd girl; and considering how very little I had seen of the world—nothing in fact—I often wonder now at the sage conclusions at which I arrived.