‘Heriot does not know you as I do,’ she said, strangling a whimper. ’I was sure it was serious, though one’s accustomed to associate princesses with young men’s dreams. I fear, Harry, it will half break our dear old grandada’s heart. He is rough, and you have often been against him, for one unfortunate reason. If you knew him as I do you would pity him sincerely. He hardly grumbled at all at your terribly long absence. Poor old man! he hopes on.’
‘He’s incurably unjust to my father.’
‘Your father has been with you all the time, Harry? I guessed it.’
’It generally bodes no good to the Grange.
Do pardon me for saying that.
I know nothing of him; I know only that the squire is generous, and that
I stand for with all my might. Forgive me for what I said.’
’Forgive you—with all my heart. I like you all the better. You ’re a brave partisan. I don’t expect women to be philosophers.’
‘Well, Harry, I would take your side as firmly as anybody’s.’
‘Do, then; tell the squire how I am situated.’
‘Ah!’ she half sighed, ‘I knew this was coming.’
’How could it other than come? You can do what you like with the squire. I’m dependent on him, and I am betrothed to the Princess Ottilia. God knows how much she has to trample down on her part. She casts off—to speak plainly, she puts herself out of the line of succession, and for whom? for me. In her father’s lifetime she will hardly yield me her hand; but I must immediately be in a position to offer mine. She may: who can tell? she is above all women in power and firmness. You talk of generosity; could there be a higher example of it?’
‘I daresay; I know nothing of princesses,’ Janet murmured. ’I don’t quite comprehend what she has done. The point is, what am I to do?’
’Prepare him for it. Soothe him in advance. Why, dear Janet, you can reconcile him to anything in a minute.’
‘Lie to him downright?’
’Now what on earth is the meaning of that, and why can’t you speak mildly?’
’I suppose I speak as I feel. I’m a plain speaker, a plain person. You don’t give me an easy task, friend Harry.’
’If you believe in his generosity, Janet, should you be afraid to put it to proof?’
’Grandada’s generosity, Harry? I do believe in it as I believe in my own life. It happens to be the very thing I must keep myself from rousing in him, to be of any service to you. Look at the old house!’ She changed her tone. ’Looking on old Riversley with the eyes of my head even, I think I’m looking at something far away in the memory. Perhaps the deep red brick causes it. There never was a house with so many beautiful creepers. Bright as they are, you notice the roses on the wall. There’s a face for me forever from every window; and good-bye, Riversley! Harry, I’ll obey your wishes.’
So saying, she headed me, trotting down the heath-track.