Sir Oliver related this appreciatively; and it had, in fact, been one of those small courtesies which, among men of English stock, give a grace to public life and help to keep the fighting clean. But in fact also (Ruth gathered) the two men did not love one another. Shirley—able and ruse statesman—had some sense of colonial independence, colonial ambition, colonial self-respect. Sir Oliver had none; he was a Whig patrician, and the colonies existed for the use and patronage of England. More than a year before, when Massachusetts raised a militia and went forth to capture Louisbourg—which it did, to the astonishment of the world—the Governor, whose heart was set on the expedition, had approached Captain Vyell and privately begged him to command it. He was answered that, having once borne the King’s commission, Captain Vyell did not find a colonial uniform to his taste.
He called again, next morning. He came on horseback, followed by a groom. The groom led a light chestnut mare, delicate of step us a dancer, and carrying a side-saddle.
Ruth’s ear had caught the sound of hoofs. She looked forth at her open window as Sir Oliver reined up and hailed, frank as a schoolboy.
“Your first riding lesson!” he announced.
“But I have no riding-skirt,” she objected, her eyes opening wide with delight as they looked down and scanned the mare.
“You shall have one to-morrow.” He swung himself out of saddle and gave over his own horse to the groom. “To-day you have only to learn how to sit and hold the reins and ride at a walk.”
She caught up a hat and ran downstairs, blithe as a girl should be blithe.
He taught her to set her foot in his hand and lifted her into place.
“But are you not riding also?” she asked as he took the leading-rein.
“No. I shall walk beside you to-day . . . Now take up the reins—so; in both hands, please. That will help you to sit square and keep the right shoulder back, which with a woman is half the secret of a good seat. Where a man uses grip, she uses balance. . . . For the same reason you must not draw the feet back; it throws your body forward and off its true poise on the hips.”
She began to learn at once and intelligently; for, unlike her other tutors, he started with simple principles and taught her nothing without giving its reason. He led her twice around the open gravelled space before the house, and so aside and along a grassy pathway that curved between the elms to the right. The pathway was broad and allowed him to walk somewhat wide of the mare, yet not so wide as to tauten the leading-rein, which he held (as she learned afterwards) merely to give her confidence; for the mare was docile and would follow him at a word.
“I am telling you the why-and-how of it all,” he said, “because after this week you will be teaching yourself. This week I shall come every morning for an hour; but on Wednesday you start for Sweetwater Farm.”