‘So he shall, the dear!’ Julia caressed him. ’We’ll all have a tournament in the wet-weather shed.’
Janet whispered to me, ‘Was it—the Returning Thanks?’
‘The what?’ said I, with the dread at my heart of something worse than I had heard.
She hailed Julia to run and fetch the battledores, and then told me she had been obliged to confiscate the newspapers that morning and cast the burden on post-office negligence. ’They reach grandada’s hands by afternoon post, Harry, and he finds objectionable passages blotted or cut out; and as long as the scissors don’t touch the business columns and the debates, he never asks me what I have been doing. He thinks I keep a scrap-book. I haven’t often time in the morning to run an eye all over the paper. This morning it was the first thing I saw.’
What had she seen? She led me out of view of the windows and showed me.
My father was accused of having stood up at a public dinner and returned thanks on behalf of an Estate of the Realm: it read monstrously. I ceased to think of the suffering inflicted on me by my grandfather.
Janet and I, side by side with the captain and Julia, carried on the game of battledore and shuttlecock, in a match to see whether the unmarried could keep the shuttle flying as long as the married, with varying fortunes. She gazed on me, to give me the comfort of her sympathy, too much, and I was too intent on the vision of my father either persecuted by lies or guilty of hideous follies, to allow the match to be a fair one. So Julia could inform the squire that she and William had given the unmarried pair a handsome beating, when he appeared peeping round one of the shed-pillars.
’Of course you beat ’em,’ said the squire. ’It ‘s not my girl’s fault.’ He said more, to the old tune, which drove Janet away.
I remembered, when back in the London vortex, the curious soft beauty she won from casting up her eyes to watch the descending feathers, and the brilliant direct beam of those thick-browed, firm, clear eyes, with her frown, and her set lips and brave figure, when she was in the act of striking to keep up a regular quick fusilade. I had need of calm memories. The town was astir, and humming with one name.
THE MARQUIS OF EDBURY AND HIS PUPPET
I passed from man to man, hearing hints and hesitations, alarming half-remarks, presumed to be addressed to one who could supply the remainder, and deduce consequences. There was a clearer atmosphere in the street of Clubs. Jennings was the first of my father’s more intimate acquaintances to meet me frankly. He spoke, though not with great seriousness, of the rumour of a possible prosecution. Sir Weeton Slater tripped up to us with a mixed air of solicitude and restraint, asked whether I was well, and whether I had seen the newspapers that morning; and on my informing him that I had just come up from Riversley, on account of certain rumours, advised me to remain in town strictly for the present. He also hinted at rumours of prosecutions. ‘The fact is——’ he began several times, rendered discreet, I suppose, by my juvenility, fierte, and reputed wealth.