“His’n: the late lord’s.”
“Why does he fancy that?” came the question, after a perceptible pause.
Old Ripper shook his head. It was beyond his ken, he said. “There be only two things he’s afeared of in life,” continued the man, who, though generally called old Ripper, was not above five-and-thirty. “The one’s that wild man Pike; t’other’s the shadder. He’d run ten mile sooner than see either.”
“Does Pike annoy the boy?”
“Never spoke to him, as I knows on, my lord. Afore that drowning of his lordship last year, Davy was the boldest rip going,” added the man, who had long since fallen into the epithet popularly applied to his son. “Since then he don’t dare say his soul’s his own. We had him laid up before the winter, and I know ’twas nothing but fear.”
Lord Hartledon could not make much of the story, and had no time to linger. Administering a word of general encouragement, he continued his way, his thoughts going back to the interview with Anne Ashton, a line or two of Longfellow’s “Fire of Driftwood” rising up in his mind—
“Of what had been and might have
And who was changed, and who was dead.”
A TETE-A-TETE BREAKFAST.
The Dowager-Countess of Kirton stood in the sunny breakfast-room at Hartledon, surveying the well-spread table with complacency; for it appeared to be rather more elaborately set out than usual, and no one loved good cheer better than she. When she saw two cups and saucers on the cloth instead of one, it occurred to her that Maude must, by caprice, be coming down, which she had not done of late. The dowager had arrived at midnight from Garchester, in consequence of having missed the earlier train, and found nearly all the house in retirement. She was in a furious humour, and no one had told her of the arrival of her son-in-law; no one ever did tell her any more than they were obliged to do; for she was not held in estimation at Hartledon.
“Potted tongue,” she exclaimed, dodging round the table, and lifting various covers. “Raised pie; I wonder what’s in it? And what’s that stuff in jelly? It looks delicious. This is the result of the blowing-up I gave Hedges the other day; nothing like finding fault. Hot dishes too. I suppose Maude gave out that she should be down this morning. All rubbish, fancying herself ill: she’s as well as I am, but gives way like a sim—A-a-a-ah!”
The exclamation was caused by the unexpected vision of Lord Hartledon.
“How are you, Lady Kirton?”
“Where on earth did you spring from?”
“From my room.”
“What’s the good of your appearing before people like a ghost, Hartledon? When did you arrive?”
“And time you did, I think, with your poor wife fretting herself to death about you. How is she this morning?”