“I kissed her—”
Mr Pennycuick snapped his thumb and finger derisively.
“That kind of kiss!—as good as asked for.”
“It was not as good as asked for. Your daughter is not that kind of woman.”
“I thought not, but she says she is.”
“Pay no heed to what she says. Her morbid conscientiousness runs away with her. I tell you the plain truth, as man to man, without any hysterics—I kissed her of my own free will—your daughter, sir. And I am here now to stand by my act. If she will forgive my—my tardiness—as you know, I was in no position then to aspire to marriage with a lady of this family; I am not now, but I am better off than I was—will you give your consent to our engagement?”
“No!” roared Mr Pennycuick, looking as if threatened with an apoplectic fit. “I’ll see her engaged to the devil first!”
Like Mary, he seemed to take the generous offer as a personal insult. Guthrie Carey, conscious of doing the duty of a gentleman at enormous cost, could not understand why.
Captain Carey, while leaving it to be understood that he held himself engaged to Mary Pennycuick until further orders, realised the welcome fact that in the meantime he was honourably free; and he excused himself from staying to dinner. But scarcely had he driven off in his hired buggy than that of Mr Goldsworthy clattered into the stableyard. It was the good man’s habit, when on his parochial visitations, to ‘make’ Redford at meal times, or at bed-time, whenever distances allowed; he called it, most appropriately, his second home, and walked into the house as if it really belonged to him two or three times a week.
The first person that he encountered on this occasion was Frances, who had waylaid Guthrie Carey on his departure, and whom he had left standing under the back porch, aglow with excitement. She was a picture in her pale blue frock—put on for his eyes—and with her mane of burnished gold falling about her sparkling blush-rose face; but the parson, accustomed to regard her as a child, was unaffected by the sight.
“Surely,” he exclaimed, with agitation, “that was young Mr Carey that I passed at the gate just now? He had his hat pulled over his eyes, and did not stop to speak to me; but the figure—” “Was his,” said Frances, bursting to be the first to say it. “Very much in the flesh still, isn’t he? And oh, to think he’s gone like this, just as we’d got him back—so big and handsome, and such a dear brother-in-law as he would have made!”
She stamped her foot. “What do you think, Mr Goldsworthy?—he came for her today, just as he promised, and then she turned round and wouldn’t have him! We thought he’d jilted her, and instead of that she’s jilted him. Oh, I could smack her! To have such a chance—she!—and after all the fuss she made about him—and throw it away! But I think he’ll come back before his ship sails—he said he would—and perhaps she’ll be less of an idiot by then; she’d better, unless she wants to die an old maid. Oh, if it was me—!”