I went, and I repressed the idea, on my way, that Janet had manoeuvred by sending me off to get rid of me, but I felt myself a living testimony to her heartlessness: for no girl of any heart, acting the part of friend, would have allowed me to go without a leave-taking of her I loved few would have been so cruel as to declare it a duty to go at all, especially when the chances were that I might return to find the princess wafted away. Ottilia’s condescension had done her no good. ’Turn to the right, that’s your path; on.’ She seemed to speak in this style, much as she made her touch of the reins understood by her ponies. ’I ’ll take every care of the princess,’ she said. Her conceit was unbounded. I revelled in contemptuous laughter at her assumption of the post of leader with Ottilia. However, it was as well that I should go: there was no trusting my father.
WHICH FORESHADOWS A GENERAL GATHERING
At our Riversley station I observed the squire, in company with Captain Bulsted, jump into a neighbouring carriage. I joined them, and was called upon to answer various inquiries. The squire gave me one of his short tight grasps of the hand, in which there was warmth and shyness, our English mixture. The captain whispered in my ear: ’He oughtn’t to be alone.’
‘How’s the great-grandmother of the tribe?’ said I.
Captain Bulsted nodded, as if he understood, but was at sea until I mentioned the bottle of rum and the remarkable length of that old lady’s measurement.
‘Ay, to be sure! a grand old soul,’ he said. ’You know that scum of old, Harry.’
I laughed, and so did he, at which I laughed the louder.
‘He laughs, I suppose, because his party’s got a majority in the House,’ said the squire.
‘We gave you a handsome surplus this year, sir.’
‘Sweated out of the country’s skin and bone, ay!’
‘You were complimented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer!’
’Yes, that fellow’s compliments are like a cabman’s, and cry fool:—he never thanks you but when he’s overpaid.’
Captain Bulsted applauded the sarcasm.
‘Why did you keep out of knowledge all this time, Hal?’ my grandfather asked.
I referred him to the captain.
‘Hang it,’ cried Captain Bulsted, ’do you think I’d have been doing duty for you if I’d known where to lay hold of you.’
‘Well, if you didn’t shake hands with me, you touched my toes,’ said I, and thanked him with all my heart for his kindness to an old woman on the point of the grave. I had some fun to flavour melancholy with.