but awkward. She was a bold, plump girl, fond
of male society. Heriot enraptured her.
I believed at the time she would have appointed a year
to marry him in, had he put the question. But
too many women were in love with Heriot. He and
I met Kiomi on the road to the race-course on the
Southdowns; the prettiest racecourse in England, shut
against gipsies. A bare-footed swarthy girl ran
beside our carriage and tossed us flowers. He
and a friend of his, young Lord Destrier, son of the
Marquis of Edbury, who knew my father well, talked
and laughed with her, and thought her so very handsome
that I likewise began to stare, and I suddenly called
‘Kiomi!’ She bounded back into the hedge.
This was our second meeting. It would have been
a pleasant one had not Heriot and Destrier pretended
all sorts of things about our previous acquaintance.
Neither of us, they said, had made a bad choice, but
why had we separated? She snatched her hand out
of mine with a grin of anger like puss in a fury.
We had wonderful fun with her. They took her to
a great house near the race-course, and there, assisted
by one of the young ladies, dressed her in flowing
silks, and so passed her through the gate of the enclosure
interdicted to bare feet. There they led her to
groups of fashionable ladies, and got themselves into
pretty scrapes. They said she was an Indian.
Heriot lost his wagers and called her a witch.
She replied, ‘You’ll find I’m one,
young man,’ and that was the only true thing
she spoke of the days to come. Owing to the hubbub
around the two who were guilty of this unmeasured
joke upon consequential ladies, I had to conduct her
to the gate. Instantly, and without a good-bye,
she scrambled up her skirts and ran at strides across
the road and through the wood, out of sight.
She won her dress and a piece of jewelry.
With Heriot I went on a sad expedition, the same I
had set out upon with Temple. This time I saw
my father behind those high red walls, once so mysterious
and terrible to me. Heriot made light of prisons
for debt. He insisted, for my consolation, that
they had but a temporary dishonourable signification;
very estimable gentlemen, as well as scamps, inhabited
them, he said. The impression produced by my visit—the
feasting among ruined men who believed in good luck
the more the lower they fell from it, and their fearful
admiration of my imprisoned father—was as
if I had drunk a stupefying liquor. I was unable
clearly to reflect on it. Daily afterwards, until
I released him, I made journeys to usurers to get a
loan on the faith of the reversion of my mother’s
estate. Heriot, like the real friend he was,
helped me with his name to the bond. When my
father stood free, I had the proudest heart alive;
and as soon as we had parted, the most amazed.
For a long while, for years, the thought of him was
haunted by racketballs and bearded men in their shirtsleeves;
a scene sickening to one’s pride. Yet it
had grown impossible for me to think of him without