Not but what it was tough going. Even she admitted that. Albert’s soul did not soar readily. It refused to leap from the earth. His reception of the poem she was reading could scarcely have been called encouraging. Maud finished it in a hushed voice, and looked pensively across the dappled water of the pool. A gentle breeze stirred the water-lilies, so that they seemed to sigh.
“Isn’t that beautiful, Albert?” she said.
Albert’s blue eyes lit up. His lips parted eagerly,
“That’s the first hornet I seen this year,” he said pointing.
Maud felt a little damped.
“Haven’t you been listening, Albert?”
“Oh, yes, m’lady! Ain’t he a wopper, too?”
“Never mind the hornet, Albert.”
“Very good, m’lady.”
“I wish you wouldn’t say ‘Very good, m’lady’. It’s like—like—” She paused. She had been about to say that it was like a butler, but, she reflected regretfully, it was probably Albert’s dearest ambition to be like a butler. “It doesn’t sound right. Just say ’Yes’.”
Maud was not enthusiastic about the ‘M’lady’, but she let it go. After all, she had not quite settled in her own mind what exactly she wished Albert’s attitude towards herself to be. Broadly speaking, she wanted him to be as like as he could to a medieval page, one of those silk-and-satined little treasures she had read about in the Ingoldsby Legends. And, of course, they presumably said ‘my lady’. And yet—she felt—not for the first time—that it is not easy, to revive the Middle Ages in these curious days. Pages like other things, seem to have changed since then.
“That poem was written by a very clever man who married one of my ancestresses. He ran away with her from this very castle in the seventeenth century.”
“Lor’”, said Albert as a concession, but he was still interested n the hornet.
“He was far below her in the eyes of the world, but she knew what a wonderful man he was, so she didn’t mind what people said about her marrying beneath her.”
“Like Susan when she married the pleeceman.”
“Who was Susan?”
“Red-’eaded gel that used to be cook ’ere. Mr. Keggs says to ’er, ’e says, ‘You’re marrying beneath you, Susan’, ’e says. I ’eard ‘im. I was listenin’ at the door. And she says to ’im, she says, ’Oh, go and boil your fat ‘ead’, she says.”