THE ARRIVAL AT LEWES
Ralph relented as the month drew on, and was among those who wished Chris good-bye on the afternoon of the July day on which he was to present himself at Lewes. The servants were all drawn up at the back of the terrace against the hall, watching Ralph, even more than his departing brother, with the fascinated interest that the discreet and dignified friend of Cromwell always commanded. Ralph was at his best on such occasions, genial and natural, and showed a pleasing interest in the girths of the two horses, and the exact strapping of the couple of bags that Chris was to take with him. His own man, too, Mr. Morris, who had been with him ever since he had come to London, was to ride with Chris, at his master’s express wish; stay with him in the guest-house that night, and return with the two horses and a precise report the next morning.
“You have the hares for my Lord Prior,” he said impressively, looking at the game that was hanging head downwards from the servant’s saddle. “Tell him that they were killed on Tuesday.”
Sir James and his younger son were walking together a few yards away in deep talk; and Lady Torridon had caused a chair to be set for her at the top of the terrace steps where she could at once do her duty as a mother, and be moderately comfortable at the same time. She hardly spoke at all, but looked gravely with her enigmatic black eyes at the horses’ legs and the luggage, and once held up her hand to silence a small dog that had begun to yelp with excitement.
“They must be going,” said Ralph, when all was ready; and at the same moment Chris and his father came up, Sir James’s arm thrown over his son’s shoulders.
The farewells were very short; it was impossible to indulge in sentiment in the genial business-atmosphere generated by Ralph, and a minute later Chris was mounted. Sir James said no more, but stood a little apart looking at his son. Lady Torridon smiled rather pleasantly and nodded her head two or three times, and Ralph, with Mr. Carleton, stood on the gravel below, his hand on Chris’s crupper, smiling up at him.
“Good-bye, Chris,” he said, and added with an unusual piety, “God keep you!”
As the two horses passed through the gatehouse, Chris turned once again with swimming eyes, and saw the group a little re-arranged. Sir James and Ralph were standing together, Ralph’s arm thrust through his father’s; Mr. Carleton was still on the gravel, and Lady Torridon was walking very deliberately back to the house.