Sir Oliver had written of his approaching marriage. “Well, dear,” was Mrs. Harry’s comment, “’twas always certain he would marry. As for Ruth Josselin, she is an amazingly beautiful girl and I believe her to be good. So there’s no more to be said but to wish ’em joy.”
Captain Harry kissed his wife. “Glad you take it so, Sally. I was half afraid—for of course there was the chance, you know—”
“I’m not a goose, I hope, to cry for the moon!”
“Is that the way of geese?” he asked, and they both laughed.
A second letter had come to them from Eagles, telling them of his happiness, and franking a note in which Ruth prettily acknowledged Mrs. Harry’s congratulations.
A third had been despatched; a hurried one, announcing his departure for England. Before this reached Carolina, however, the Venus had sailed, and Dicky rushed home to find his father gone.
But a message came down to Boston Quay, with the great coach for Mrs. Vyell, and the baggage and saddle-horses for the gentlemen. There were three saddle-horses, for Ruth added an invitation for Mr. Hanmer, “if the discipline of the ship would allow.”
“She always was the thoughtfullest!” cried Dicky. “Why, sir, to be sure you must come too. . . . We’ll go shooting. Is it too late for partridge? . . . One forgets the time of year, down in the islands.”
Strangely enough Mr. Hanmer, so shy by habit, offered but a slight resistance.
It was Dicky who, as Ruth sped to him with a happy little cry, hung on his heel a moment and blushed violently. She took him in her arms, exclaiming at his growth.
“Why—look, Tatty—’tis a man! And is that what he means?—Ah, Dicky, don’t say you’re too tall to kiss your old playmate.”
Then, holding him a little away and still observing his confusion, she remembered his absurd boyish love for her and how he had confessed it. Well, she must put him at his ease. . . . She turned laughingly to welcome the others, and now for a moment she too flushed rosy-red as she shook hands with Mr. Hanmer. She could not have told why; but perhaps it was that instead of returning her smile, his eyes rested on her face gravely, intently, as though unable to drag themselves away.
Captain Harry and his wife marvelled, as well they might, at the house and its wonders. Sir Oliver had chosen to take his meals French fashion and at French hours; and Ruth apologised for having kept up the custom. Captain Harry, after protesting against so ungodly a practice, admitted that his ride had hungered him, and at dejeuner proved it not only upon the courses but upon the cold meats on the side-table.
“You must have a jewel of a housekeeper, my dear!” Mrs. Harry had been taking in every detail of the ordered service. “‘Housekeeper,’ do I say? ’Major-domo’—you’ll forgive me—”
Ruth swept her a bow. “I take the compliment.”