She flushed and laughed and looked adorable, and held out her hand, which he enclosed in his great left fist.
“And you’ll come to my wedding, Sergeant?”
“I will, Miss,” said he. “With considerable pleasure.”
When I want to shew how independent I am of everybody, I drive abroad in my donkey carriage. I am rather proud of my donkey, a lithe-limbed pathetically eager little beast, deep bay with white tips to his ears. Marigold bought him for me last spring, from some gipsies, when his predecessor, Dan, who had served me faithfully for some years, struck work and insisted on an old-age pension. He is called Hosea, a name bestowed on him, by way of clerical joke, and I am sure with a profane reminiscence of Jorrocks, by the Vicar, because he “came after Daniel.” At first I thought it rather silly; but when I tried to pull him up I found that “Whoa-Ho-sea!” came in rather pat; so Hosea he has remained. He has quite a fast, stylish little trot, and I can square my elbows and cock my head on one side as I did in the days of my youth when the brief ownership of a tandem and a couple of thoroughbreds would have landed me in the bankruptcy court, had it not mercifully first landed me in the hospital.
The afternoon after Betty’s visit, I took Hosea to Wellings Park. The Fenimores shewed me a letter they had received from Oswald’s Colonel, full of praise of the gallant boy, and after discussing it, which they did with brave eyes and voices, Sir Anthony said:—
“I want your advice, Duncan, on a matter that has been worrying us both. Briefly it is this. When Oswald came of age I promised to allow him a thousand a year till I should be wiped out and he should come in. Now I’m only fifty-five and as strong as a horse. I can reasonably expect to live, say, another twenty years. If Oswald were alive I should owe him, in prospectu, twenty thousand pounds. He has given his life for his country. His country, therefore, is his heir, comes in for his assets, his twenty years’ allowance—”
“And the whole of your estate at your death?” I interposed.
“No. Not at all,” said he. “At my death, it would have been his to dispose of as he pleased. Up to my death, he would have had no more claim to deal with it than you have. Look at things from my point of view, and don’t be idiotic. I am considering my debt to Oswald, and therefore, logically, my debt to the country. It is twenty thousand pounds. I’m going to pay it. The only question is —and the question has kept Edith and myself awake the last two nights—is what’s the best thing to do with it? Of course I could give it to some fund,—or several funds,—but it’s a lot of money and I should like it to be used to the best advantage. Now what do you say?”
“I say,” said I, “that you Croesuses make a half-pay Major of Artillery’s head reel. If I were like you, I should go into a shop and buy a super-dreadnought, and stick a card on it with a drawing pin, and send it to the Admiralty with my compliments.”