“Everything’s fair in love and war,—proverbial, my boy. But I’m pretty sure you’ve a clear field, and I congratulate you both with all my heart. Come to think of it, she’s been as dull as a ditch since you went away”
“Fact! I was trying the other night to prove to her that she’d got influenza coming on, or hay-fever, or something of the kind. She’s as different as chalk from cheese since eleven o’clock to-day. It’s you, I’ll bet you a sovereign.”
Charles did not respond to the offer. He sat smoking quietly and let his thoughts run along brighter paths than they had done for days.
At breakfast next morning Graeme soberly suggested to Lady Elspeth that she should go conger-eeling with him that day. And the shrewd brown eyes looked into his, and twinkled in response to the deep blue and the brown ones opposite, and she said, “I mind I was just a wee bit feather-headed myself for a while after I was married. I caught congers before you were short-coated, my laddie, but I’m not going catching them now.”
“They are a bit rampageous when they’re grown up,” he admitted. “We got one the other day about as thick round as one’s leg, and it barked like a dog and tried to bite.”
“And does he make you go congering, my dear?” she asked Margaret.
“Make?” scoffed Graeme. “Make, forsooth? How little you know! I’d like to see the man who could make that young person do anything but just what she wishes. Why, she twists us all round her little finger and——”
“Ay, ay! Well, discipline is good for the young, and you’re just nothing but a laddie in some things.”
“I’m going to keep so all my life. So’s Meg! Well, suppose we say ormering then, if congering’s too lively. Hennie Penny’s an awful dab at ormering. If you’d seen her the other night when she came home! A tangle of vraic was an old lady’s best cap in comparison—”
“And how many did I get, and how many did you get?” retorted Miss Penny.
“I got six and you got seven—”
“Seventeen, and you stole four of your six from Meg.”
“Oh well, I found the mushrooms, coming home, and they were worth a pailful of ormers.”
“You didn’t beat them long enough. Ormers take a lot of beating,” she explained to Lady Elspeth.
“Thumping, she means. My mushrooms beat them hollow,—tender and delicate and fragrant”—and he sniffed appreciatively as though he could scent them still.—“Your ormers were like shoe-soles.”
“And as to the mushrooms,” continued Hennie Penny, “you’d never have found them if I hadn’t tumbled into them, and then you thought they were toadstools.”
“Oh well!—Who can’t take a hook out of a whiting’s mouth? Who was it screamed when the lobster looked at her?”
“It nearly took a piece out of me.”
“Who nearly upset the boat when a baby devilfish came up in the pot? And it wasn’t above that size!”