“You need not be so coy. I don’t intend to mention the subject to my wife. Besides, I don’t suppose Miss West will look at you. You’re a wretched match for her. With her money she might marry a brewery or a peerage.”
“I’ll put myself in focus anyhow,” said Dick. “Hang it all! if you could get a woman to marry you, there is hope for everybody. I don’t expect it will be as easy as falling off a log. But if she is what I take her to be I shall go for all I’m worth.”
Some one else was going for all he was worth. Lord Newhaven rode early, and he had frequently seen Rachel and Hugh riding together at foot’s pace. Possibly his offer to help Dick was partly prompted by an unconscious desire to put a spoke in Hugh’s wheel.
Dick, whose worst enemy could not accuse him of diffidence, proved a solid spoke but for a few days only. Rachel suddenly broke all her engagements and left London.
“Pour vivre tranquille il faut vivre loin des gens d’eglise.”
There is a little stream which flows through Middleshire which seems to reflect the spirit of that quiet county, so slow is its course, so narrow is its width. Even the roads don’t take the trouble to bridge it. They merely hump themselves slightly when they feel it tickling underneath them, and go on, vouchsafing no further notice of its existence. Yet the Drone is a local celebrity in Middleshire, and, like most local celebrities, is unknown elsewhere. The squire’s sons have lost immense trout in the Drone as it saunters through their lands, and most of them have duly earned thereby the distinction (in Middleshire) of being the best trout-rod in England. Middleshire bristles with the “best shots in England” and the “best preachers in England” and the cleverest men in England. The apathetic mother-country knows, according to Middleshire, “but little of her greatest men.” At present she associates her loyal county with a breed of small black pigs.
Through this favored locality the Drone winds, and turns and turns again, as if loath to leave the rich, low meadow-lands and clustering villages upon its way. After skirting the little town of Westhope and the gardens of Westhope Abbey, the Drone lays itself out in comfortable curves and twists innumerable through the length and breadth of the green country till it reaches Warpington, whose church is so near the stream that in time of flood the water hitches all kinds of things it has no further use for among the grave-stones of the little church-yard. On one occasion, after repeated prayers for rain, it even overflowed the lower part of the vicar’s garden, and vindictively carried away his bee-hives. But that was before he built the little wall at the bottom of the garden.
Slightly raised above the church, on ground held together by old elms, the white vicarage of Warpington stands, blinking ever through its trees at the church like a fond wife at her husband. Indeed, so like had she become to him that she had even developed a tiny bell-tower near the kitchen chimney, with a single bell in it, feebly rung by a female servant on saints’ days and G.F.S. gatherings.