From the Common he emerged on the road near the gates of Ravensham; turning in there, he found his way to the kitchen garden, and sat down on a bench close to the raspberry bushes. They were protected from thieves, but at Miltoun’s approach two blackbirds flustered out through the netting and flew away.
His long figure resting so motionless impressed itself on the eyes of a gardener, who caused a report to be circulated that his young lordship was in the fruit garden. It reached the ears of Clifton, who himself came out to see what this might mean. The old man took his stand in front of Miltoun very quietly.
“You have come to breakfast, my lord?”
“If my grandmother will have me, Clifton.”
“I understood your lordship was speaking last night.”
“You find the House of Commons satisfactory, I hope.”
“Fairly, thank you, Clifton.”
“They are not what they were in the great days of your grandfather, I believe. He had a very good opinion of them. They vary, no doubt.”
“That is so. I find quite anew spirit towards public affairs. The ha’penny Press; one takes it in, but one hardly approves. I shall be anxious to read your speech. They say a first speech is a great strain.”
“It is rather.”
“But you had no reason to be anxious. I’m sure it was beautiful.”
Miltoun saw that the old man’s thin sallow cheeks had flushed to a deep orange between his snow-white whiskers.
“I have looked forward to this day,” he stammered, “ever since I knew your lordship—twenty-eight years. It is the beginning.”
“Or the end, Clifton.”
The old man’s face fell in a look of deep and concerned astonishment.
“No, no,” he said; “with your antecedents, never.”
Miltoun took his hand.
“Sorry, Clifton—didn’t mean to shock you.”
And for a minute neither spoke, looking at their clasped hands as if surprised.
“Would your lordship like a bath—breakfast is still at eight. I can procure you a razor.”
When Miltoun entered the breakfast room, his grandmother, with a copy of the Times in her hands, was seated before a grape fruit, which, with a shredded wheat biscuit, constituted her first meal. Her appearance hardly warranted Barbara’s description of ‘terribly well’; in truth she looked a little white, as if she had been feeling the heat. But there was no lack of animation in her little steel-grey eyes, nor of decision in her manner.
“I see,” she said, “that you’ve taken a line of your own, Eustace. I’ve nothing to say against that; in fact, quite the contrary. But remember this, my dear, however you may change you mustn’t wobble. Only one thing counts in that place, hitting the same nail on the head with the same hammer all the time. You aren’t looking at all well.”