I was a shy, but not a giggling country miss. I knew I was an heiress; I knew I was somebody. I was not the least bit in the world conceited, but I think this knowledge helped to give me a certain sense of security and self-possession, which might have been mistaken for dignity or simplicity. I am sure I looked at him with a fearless enquiry, for he answered my thoughts.
’I do really assure you, Miss Ruthyn, I am quite serious; you have no idea how very much we have missed you.’
There was a little pause, and, like a fool, I lowered my eyes, and blushed.
’I—I was thinking of leaving today; I am so unfortunate—my leave is just out—it is so unlucky; but I don’t quite know whether my aunt Knollys will allow me to go.’
‘I?—certainly, my dear Charlie, I don’t want you at all,’ exclaimed a voice—Lady Knollys’s—briskly, from an open window close by; ’what could put that in your head, dear?’
And in went my cousin’s head, and the window shut down.
‘She is such an oddity, poor dear Aunt Knollys,’ murmured the young man, ever so little put out, and he laughed. ’I never know quite what she wishes, or how to please her; but she’s so good-natured; and when she goes to town for the season—she does not always, you know—her house is really very gay—you can’t think——’
Here again he was interrupted, for the door opened, and Lady Knollys entered. ‘And you know, Charles,’ she continued, ’it would not do to forget your visit to Snodhurst; you wrote, you know, and you have only to-night and to-morrow. You are thinking of nothing but that moor; I heard you talking to the gamekeeper; I know he is—is not he, Maud, the brown man with great whiskers, and leggings? I’m very sorry, you know, but I really must spoil your shooting, for they do expect you at Snodhurst, Charlie; and do not you think this window a little too much for Miss Ruthyn? Maud, my dear, the air is very sharp; shut it down, Charles, and you’d better tell them to get a fly for you from the town after luncheon. Come, dear,’ she said to me. ’Was not that the breakfast bell? Why does not your papa get a gong?—it is so hard to know one bell from another.’
I saw that Captain Oakley lingered for a last look, but I did not give it, and went out smiling with Cousin Knollys, and wondering why old ladies are so uniformly disagreeable.
In the lobby she said, with an odd, goodnatured look—
’Don’t allow any of his love-making, my dear. Charles Oakley has not a guinea, and an heiress would be very convenient. Of course he has his eyes about him. Charles is not by any means foolish; and I should not be at all sorry to see him well married, for I don’t think he will do much good any other way; but there are degrees, and his ideas are sometimes very impertinent.’