The afternoon of the day on which Lord Hollingford had called, Roger was going upstairs, three steps at a time, when, at a turn on the landing, he encountered his father. It was the first time he had seen him since their conversation about the Towers’ invitation to dinner. The squire stopped his son by standing right in the middle of the passage.
‘Thou’rt going to meet the mounseer, my lad?’ said he, half as affirmation, half as question.
’No, sir; I sent off James almost immediately with a note declining it. I don’t care about it—that’s to say, not to signify.’
‘Why did you take me up so sharp, Roger?’ said his father pettishly. ’You all take me up so hastily now-a-days. I think it’s hard when a man mustn’t be allowed a bit of crossness when he’s tired and heavy at heart—that I do.’
’But, father, I should never like to go to a house where they had slighted you.’
‘Nay, nay, lad,’ said the squire, brightening up a little; ’I think I slighted them. They asked me to dinner after my lord was made lieutenant time after time, but I never would go near ’em. I call that my slighting them.’
And no more was said at the time; but the next day the squire again stopped Roger.
’I’ve been making Jem try on his livery-coat that he hasn’t worn this three or four years,—he’s got too stout for it now.’
’Well, he needn’t wear it, need he? and Morgan’s lad will be glad enough of it,—he’s sadly in want of clothes.’
’Ay, ay; but who’s to go with you when you call at the Towers? It’s but polite to call after Lord What’s-his-name has taken the trouble to come here; and I shouldn’t like you to go without a groom.’
’My dear father! I shouldn’t know what to do with a man riding at my back. I can find my way to the stable-yard for myself, or there’ll be some man about to take my horse. Don’t trouble yourself about that.’
’Well, you’re not Osborne, to be sure. Perhaps it won’t strike ’em as strange for you. But you must look up, and hold your own, and remember you’re one of the Hamleys, who’ve been on the same land for hundreds of years, while they’re but trumpery Whig folk who only came into the county in Queen Anne’s time.’
For some days after the ball Cynthia seemed languid, and was very silent. Molly, who had promised herself fully as much enjoyment in talking over the past gaiety with Cynthia as in the evening itself, was disappointed when she found that all conversation on the subject was rather evaded than encouraged. Mrs. Gibson, it is true, was ready to go over the ground as many times as any one liked; but her words were always like ready-made clothes, and never fitted individual thoughts. Anybody might have used them, and, with a change of proper names, they might have served to describe any ball. She repeatedly used the same language in speaking about it, till Molly knew the sentences and their sequence even to irritation.