The Collector frowned. “Mr. Josselin,” he answered, “I am offering you to take your granddaughter away and have her educated. What that will make of her I neither can tell you nor have I means of guessing; but this I will undertake, and give you my word of honour for it: in three years’ time she shall come back to you in all honesty, unharmed by me or by any one. By that time she will be a woman grown, able to decide as a woman; but she shall come to you, nevertheless.”
The old man fumbled with a finger, scraping together the flakes of touchwood in a tinder-box.
“D’ye hear, M’ria? His Honour wants our Ruth to go along with him.”
The Collector glanced at the girl’s face. Years after, and a hundred times, he recalled the look with which she turned towards her mother. At the same instant her mother faced about with a vacuous silly smile.
“To larn to be a lady,” Old Josselin explained, raising his voice as though she were deaf.
“That would be a fine thing,” she answered mincingly, and returned her gaze to the window and the line of shore.
RUTH SETS OUT.
Manasseh had wrapped Master Dicky up warm in a couple of rugs, and spread a third about his feet. In the ample state seat of the coach the child reclined as easily as in a bed. He began to doze while the vehicle yet jolted over the road crossing the headland; and when it gained the track, and the wheels rolled smoothly on the hard sand, the motion slid him deep into slumber.
He came out of it with a start and a catch of the breath, and for a full half-minute lay with all his senses numbed, not so much scared as bewildered. In his dreams he had been at home in Boston, and he searched his little brain, wondering why he was awake, and if he should call for Miss Quiney (who slept always within hail, in a small bedroom); and why, when the night-nursery window lay to the left of his bed, strange lights should be flashing on his right, where the picture of King William landing at Torbay hung over his washstand.
The lights moved to and fro, then they were quenched, and all was dark about him. But he heard Manasseh’s voice, some way off, in the darkness, and the sound of it brought him to his bearings. He was in the coach, he remembered; and realising this, he was instantly glad—for he was a plucky child—that he had not called out to summon Miss Quiney.
Had there been an accident? At any rate he was not hurt. His father had ridden on ahead, and would reach home many hours in advance. The boy had learnt this from Manasseh. He reasoned that, if an accident had happened, his father would not hear of it—would be riding forward, further and further into the night. He wondered how Manasseh and the grooms would manage without his father, who always gave the orders and was never at a loss.