The Master managed to keep a straight face when Dick absently intimated that he was afraid there was no harm done as yet.
“It would make Betty miserable to go against my wishes, I think,” continued the Master, “and I don’t want her to be made miserable. That’s why I’m talking to you now. She could not possibly become engaged, except against my very strongest wishes, to a man who had never earned his own living or done any work at all in the world. And that—well, that—”
“That’s me, of course,” said the rueful Dick, cutting at his gaiters with a crop.
“Well, so far it does rather seem to fit, doesn’t it?” continued the Master. “But, mind you, Dick, don’t you run away with the idea that I have any down on you or want to put any obstacles in your way. Not a bit of it. God knows I’m no Puritan, neither have I any quarrel with a man’s love of sport and animals; not much. But there’s got to be something else in a real man’s life, you know, Dick. Beer and skittles are all very well—an excellent institution, especially combined with the sort of admirable knowledge of horses and dogs, and the sort of seat in the saddle that you have, my friend. But over and above all that, you know, I want something else from the man who is to marry our Betty. I don’t ask you to become an F.R.S., but, begad! Dick, I do ask you to prove that you can play a man’s part in the world, outside sport as well as in it; and that, if you’re put to it, you can earn your own living and enough to give a wife bread and butter. And if you’ll just think of it for a minute, I believe you’ll see that it’s not too much to ask, either. It’s what I’d ask of a man before I’d trust him to carry out a piece of business for me; and Betty—well, she’s more than any other piece of business I can think of to me.”
Dick Vaughan saw it all very clearly. He quite frankly admitted the justification for the Master’s remarks.
“And so,” he added, rather despondently—“so this is my notice to quit, eh?”
“If you took it as that, and acted on it permanently, I should think I had greatly overrated you, my friend,” replied the Master, with warmth. “No; but, as between men, it’s my notice to you that I appeal to your sense of honor to say nothing to Betty, to go no farther in the matter, until—until you’ve proved yourself as well in other ways as you’ve already proved yourself over the hurdles.”
“Oh, that! But, of course, I love riding, and—”
“You’ll find you’ll love some other things, too, once you’ve mastered them, as you have horses and dogs. I can tell you there’s just as much fun in mastering men as there is in handling horses. I used to think the only thing I could do, besides breeding wolfhounds, was to write. And I suppose I didn’t do the writing very well. Anyway, it didn’t bring in money enough for the wolfhounds and—and some other matters. So I went out to Australia and did something else. Now I can do the writing when I like, and—well, old Finn there is in no danger of being sold to pay the butcher.”