Janet betook herself to the squire. Her prattle of our marriage in days to come was excuseable. It was the squire’s notion. He used to remark generally that he liked to see things look safe and fast, and he had, as my aunt confided to me, arranged with Lady Ilchester, in the girl’s hearing, that we should make a match. My grandfather pledged his word to Janet that he would restore us to an amicable footing. He thought it a light task. Invitations were sent out to a large party at Riversley, and Janet came with all my gifts on her dress or in her pockets. The squire led the company to the gates of his stables; the gates opened, and a beautiful pony, with a side-saddle on, was trotted forth, amid cries of admiration. Then the squire put the bridle-reins in my hands, bidding me present it myself. I asked the name of the person. He pointed at Janet. I presented the pony to Janet, and said, ‘It’s from the squire.’
She forgot, in her delight, our being at variance.
’No, no, you stupid Harry, I’m to thank you. He’s a darling pony. I want to kiss you.’
I retired promptly, but the squire had heard her.
‘Back, sir!’ he shouted, swearing by this and that. ’You slink from a kiss, and you’re Beltham blood?
Back to her, lad. Take it. Up with her in your arms or down on your knees. Take it manfully, somehow. See there, she ’s got it ready for you.’
’I’ve got a letter ready for you, Harry, to say—oh! so sorry for offending you,’ Janet whispered, when I reached the pony’s head; ’and if you’d rather not be kissed before people, then by-and-by, but do shake hands.’
‘Pull the pony’s mane,’ said I; ’that will do as well. Observe—I pull, and now you pull.’
Janet mechanically followed my actions. She grimaced, and whimpered, ’I could pull the pony’s mane right out.’
‘Don’t treat animals like your dolls,’ said I.
She ran to the squire, and refused the pony. The squire’s face changed from merry to black.
‘Young man,’ he addressed me, ’don’t show that worse half of yours in genteel society, or, by the Lord! you won’t carry Beltham buttons for long. This young lady, mind you, is a lady by birth both sides.’
‘She thinks she is marriageable,’ said I; and walked away, leaving loud laughter behind me.
But laughter did not console me for the public aspersion of him I loved. I walked off the grounds, and thought to myself it was quite time I should be moving. Wherever I stayed for any length of time I was certain to hear abuse of my father. Why not wander over the country with Kiomi, go to sea, mount the Andes, enlist in a Prussian regiment, and hear the soldiers tell tales of Frederick the Great? I walked over Kiomi’s heath till dark, when one of our grooms on horseback overtook me, saying that the squire begged me to jump on the horse and ride home as quick as possible. Two other lads and the coachman were