“I’ll find it out!” she repeated to herself, as she went storming through the garden-gate; “I’ll find it out. And as to that poacher, he’d better bring his black face near mine again!”
THE WAGER BOATS.
Tuesday morning rose, bright and propitious: a contrast to the two previous days arranged for the boat-race. All was pleasure, bustle, excitement at Hartledon: but the coolness that had arisen between the brothers was noticed by some of the guests. Neither of them was disposed to take the first step towards reconciliation: and, indeed, a little incident that occurred that morning led to another ill word between them. An account that had been standing for more than two years was sent in to Lord Hartledon’s steward; it was for some harness, a saddle, a silver-mounted whip, and a few trifles of that sort, supplied by a small tradesman in the village. Lord Hartledon protested there was nothing of the sort owing; but upon inquiry the debtor proved to be Mr. Percival Elster. Lord Hartledon, vexed that any one in the neighbourhood should have waited so long for his money, said a sharp word on the score to Percival; and the latter retorted as sharply that it was no business of his. Again Val was angry with himself, and thus gave vent to his temper. The fact was, he had completely forgotten the trifling debt, and was as vexed as Hartledon that it should have been allowed to remain unpaid: but the man had not sent him any reminder whilst he was away.
“Pay it to-day, Marris,” cried Lord Hartledon to his steward. “I won’t have this sort of thing at Calne.”
His tone was one of irritation—or it sounded so to the ears of his conscious brother, and Val bit his lips. After that, throughout the morning, they maintained a studied silence towards each other; and this was observed, but was not commented on. Val was unusually quiet altogether: he was saying to himself that he was sullen.
The starting-hour for the race was three o’clock; but long before that time the scene was sufficiently animated, not to say exciting. It was a most lovely afternoon. Not a trace remained of the previous day’s rain; and the river—wide just there, as it took the sweeping curve of the point—was dotted with these little wager boats. Their owners for the time being, in their white boating-costume, each displaying his colours, were in highest spirits; and the fair gazers gathered on the banks were anxious as to the result. The favourite was Lord Hartledon—by long odds, as Mr. Shute grumbled. Had his lordship been known not to possess the smallest chance, nine of those fair girls out of ten would, nevertheless, have betted upon him. Some of them were hoping to play for a deeper stake than a pair of gloves. A staff, from which fluttered a gay little flag, had been driven into the ground, exactly opposite the house; it was the starting and the winning point. At a certain distance up the river, near to the mill, a boat was moored in mid-stream: this they would row round, and come back again.