I was assured by Mr. Bannerbridge that my father’s health and appetite were excellent; he gave me a number of unsatisfying messages, all the rest concerning his interview he whispered to his daughter and his sister, Miss Bannerbridge, who said they hoped they would have news from Hampshire very early, so that the poor child might be taken away by the friends of his infancy. I could understand that my father was disapproved of by them, and that I was a kind of shuttlecock flying between two battledores; but why they pitied me I could not understand. There was a great battle about me when Mrs. Waddy appeared punctual to her appointed hour. The victory was hers, and I, her prize, passed a whole day in different conveyances, the last of which landed us miles away from London, at the gates of an old drooping, mossed and streaked farmhouse, that was like a wall-flower in colour.
In rain or in sunshine this old farmhouse had a constant resemblance to a wall-flower; and it had the same moist earthy smell, except in the kitchen, where John and Martha Thresher lived, apart from their furniture. All the fresh eggs, and the butter stamped, with three bees, and the pots of honey, the fowls, and the hare lifted out of the hamper by his hind legs, and the country loaves smelling heavenly, which used to come to Mrs. Waddy’s address in London, and appear on my father’s table, were products of Dipwell farm, and presents from her sister, Martha Thresher. On receiving this information I felt at home in a moment, and asked right off, ’How long am I to stay here?—Am I going away tomorrow?—What’s going to be done with me?’ The women found these questions of a youthful wanderer touching. Between kissings and promises of hens to feed, and eggs that were to come of it, I settled into contentment. A strong impression was made on me by Mrs. Waddy’s saying, ’Here, Master Harry, your own papa will come for you; and you may be sure he will, for I have his word he will, and he’s not one to break it, unless his country’s against him; and for his darling boy he’d march against cannons. So here you’ll sit and wait for him, won’t you?’ I sat down immediately, looking up. Mrs. Waddy and Mrs. Thresher raised their hands. I had given them some extraordinary proof of my love for my father. The impression I received was, that sitting was the thing to conjure him to me.
‘Where his heart’s not concerned,’ Mrs. Waddy remarked of me flatteringly, ‘he’s shrewd as a little schoolmaster.’
‘He’ve a bird’s-nesting eye,’ said Mrs. Thresher, whose face I was studying.
John Thresher wagered I would be a man before either of them reached that goal. But whenever he spoke he suffered correction on account of his English.