“You adorn it. . . . Dear, do not misunderstand me. All the offering I can bring is too little for my love.”
“I know,” she murmured, looking up at him with moist eyes. “I know; and yet—”
“I meant only that you are not used to handling money or calculating it—as why should you be?”
“If my lord will only try me!”
“Of what use is a wife if she may not contrive for her husband’s good—take thought for his household? Ah, my dear, these cares are half a woman’s happiness! . . . I might make mistakes. Nay, ’tis certain. I would the house were smaller: in a sense I would that your wealth were smaller—it would frighten me less. But something tells me that, though frightened, I should not fail you.”
He stared down at her, pulling his lip moodily. “I was thinking,” said he, “to ask Langton to be my steward. Would you really choose to be cumbered with all this business?”
She held her breath for a moment; for his question meant that he had no design to take her with him. Her face paled a little, but she answered steadily.
“It will at least fill my empty hours. . . . Better, dear—it will keep you before me in all the day’s duties; since, though I miss you, all day long I shall be learning to be a good wife.”
As she said it her hand went up to her side beneath her left breast, as something fluttered there, soft as a bird’s wing stirring. It fluttered for a moment under her palm, then ceased. The room had grown strangely still. . . . Yet he was speaking.
He was saying—“I’ll teach these good people who’s Head of the Family!”
Ah, yes—“the Family!” Should she tell him? . . . She bethought her of Mrs. Harry’s sudden giddiness in the waggon. Mrs. Harry was now the mother of a lusty boy—Sir Oliver’s heir, and the Family’s prospective Head. . . . Should she tell him? . . .
He stooped and kissed her. “Love, you are pale. I have broken this news too roughly.”
She faltered. “When must you start?”
“In three days. That’s as soon as the Maryland can take in the rest of her cargo and clear the customs.”
“They will be busy days for you.”
“Yet you must spare me a part of one, and teach me to keep accounts,” said she, and smiled bravely albeit her face was wan.
Mr. Langton sat in his private apartment by Boston Quay trying the balance of a malacca cane.
Sir Oliver had sailed a week ago. Mr. Langton had walked down to the ship with him and taken his farewell instructions.
“By the way,” said Sir Oliver, “I want you to make occasion to visit Eagles now and again, and pay your respects. I shall write to you as well as to her; and the pair of you can exchange news from your letters. She likes you.”