He turned towards the table. “You must have some too. And then, when you’re ready, I will drive you home.”
“Oh, but that will waste your time still more,” she protested. “I’m sure I can walk.”
“I’m sure you won’t try,” he rejoined with blunt deliberation. “I hope you don’t mind eating in the kitchen, Miss Elliot. I would have had a fire in the parlour if I had expected you.”
“But, of course, I don’t mind,” she said. “And it’s quite the finest old kitchen I’ve ever seen.”
He turned to the old woman who still hovered in the background. “All right, Granny. Sit down and have your own.”
“I’ll wait on the lady first, Master Jeff,” she returned, smiling upon him.
“No. I’m going to wait on the lady,” said Jeff. “You sit down.”
He had his way. It occurred to Doris that he usually did so. And presently he was waiting upon her as she lay against the cushions, as though she had been a princess in distress.
Their intimacy progressed steadily during the meal, and very soon Doris’s shyness had wholly worn away. She could not quite decide if Jeff were shy or not. He was obviously quiet by nature. But his grimness certainly disappeared, and more than once she found herself wondering at his consideration and thought for her.
He went out after breakfast to put in the horse, and at once his old housekeeper expanded into ardent praise of him.
“He works as hard as ten men,” she said. “That’s how it is he gets on. I often think to myself that he works harder than he ought. It’s all work and no play with him. But there, it’s no good my talking. He only laughs at me, though I brought him up from his cradle. And a fine baby he was to be sure. His poor mother—she came of gentlefolk, ran away from home she did to marry Farmer Ironside—she died three days after he was born, which was a pity, for the old master was just wrapped up in her, and was never the same again. Well, as I was saying, his poor mother, she’d set her heart on his being given the education of a gentleman; which he was, but he always clung to the land did Master Jeff. He was sent to Fordstead Grammar School along with the gentry, and a fine figure he cut there. But then his father died, and he had to settle down to farming at seventeen, and he’s been farming ever since. He’s very well-to-do is Master Jeff, thanks to his own energy and perseverance; for farming isn’t what it was. But it’s time he took a rest and looked about him. He’s thirty come Michaelmas, and he ought to be settling down. As I say to him: ’Granny Grimshaw won’t be here for always, and you won’t like any other kind of housekeeper save and unless she’s a wife as well.’ He always laughs at me,” said Granny Grimshaw, shaking her head. “But it’s true as the sun’s above us. Master Jeff ought to be stirring himself to find a wife. But he’ll go to the gentry for one, same as his father did before him. He won’t be satisfied with any of them saucy country lasses. He don’t ever mix with them. He’ll look high will Master Jeff if the time ever comes that he looks at all. He’s a gentleman himself right through to the backbone, and he’ll marry a lady.”