“A porcelain vase!” interpreted Sir Willoughby.
“China!” Mrs. Mountstuart faintly shrieked.
One of the pieces was handed to her inspection.
She held it close, she held it distant. She sighed horribly.
“The man had better have hanged himself,” said she.
Flitch bestirred his misfortune-sodden features and members for a continuation of the doleful narrative.
“How did this occur?” Sir Willoughby peremptorily asked him.
Flitch appealed to his former master for testimony that he was a good and a careful driver.
Sir Willoughby thundered: “I tell you to tell me how this occurred.”
“Not a drop, my lady! not since my supper last night, if there’s any truth in me!” Flitch implored succour of Mrs Mountstuart.
“Drive straight,” she said, and braced him.
His narrative was then direct.
Near Piper’s mill, where the Wicker brook crossed the Rebdon road, one of Hoppner’s wagons, overloaded as usual, was forcing the horses uphill, when Flitch drove down at an easy pace, and saw himself between Hoppner’s cart come to a stand and a young lady advancing: and just then the carter smacks his whip, the horses pull half mad. The young lady starts behind the cart, and up jumps the colonel, and, to save the young lady, Flitch dashed ahead and did save her, he thanked Heaven for it, and more when he came to see who the young lady was.
“She was alone?” said Sir Willoughby in tragic amazement, staring at Flitch.
“Very well, you saved her, and you upset the fly,” Mountstuart jogged him on.
“Bardett, our old head-keeper, was a witness, my lady, had to drive half up the bank, and it’s true—over the fly did go; and the vaws it shoots out against the twelfth mile-stone, just as though there was the chance for it! for nobody else was injured, and knocked against anything else, it never would have flown all to pieces, so that it took Bardett and me ten minutes to collect every one, down to the smallest piece there was; and he said, and I can’t help thinking myself, there was a Providence in it, for we all come together so as you might say we was made to do as we did.”
“So then Horace adopted the prudent course of walking on with the ladies instead of trusting his limbs again to this capsizing fly,” Sir Willoughby said to Mrs. Mountstuart; and she rejoined: “Lucky that no one was hurt.”
Both of them eyed the nose of poor Flitch, and simultaneously they delivered a verdict in “Humph!”
Mrs. Mountstuart handed the wretch a half-crown from her purse. Sir Willoughby directed the footman in attendance to unload the fly and gather up the fragments of porcelain carefully, bidding Flitch be quick in his departing.
“The colonel’s wedding-present! I shall call to-morrow.” Mrs. Mountstuart waved her adieu.
“Come every day!—Yes, I suppose we may guess the destination of the vase.” He bowed her off, and she cried: