‘You’re a fiery young fellow, I suspect,’ he said, when he had recovered his natural temper. ’I like you for it; pluck’s Beltham. Have a will of your own. Sweat out the bad blood. Here, drink my health, Harry. You’re three parts Beltham, at least, and it’ll go hard if you’re not all Beltham before I die. Old blood always wins that race, I swear. We ’re the oldest in the county.
Damn the mixing. My father never let any of his daughters marry, if he could help it, nor’ll I, bar rascals.
Here’s to you, young Squire Beltham. Harry Lepel Beltham—does that suit ye? Anon, anon, as they say in the play. Take my name, and drop the Richmond no, drop the subject: we’ll talk of it by-and-by.’
So he wrestled to express his hatred of my father without offending me; and I studied him coldly, thinking that the sight of my father in beggar’s clothes, raising a hand for me to follow his steps, would draw me forth, though Riversley should beseech me to remain clad in wealth.
AN EVENING WITH CAPTAIN BULSTED
A dream that my father lay like a wax figure in a bed gave me thoughts of dying. I was ill and did not know it, and imagined that my despair at the foot of the stairs of ever reaching my room to lie down peacefully was the sign of death. My aunt Dorothy nursed me for a week: none but she and my dogs entered the room. I had only two faint wishes left in me: one that the squire should be kept out of my sight, the other that she would speak to me of my mother’s love for my father. She happened to say, musing, ‘Harry, you have your mother’s heart.’
I said, ‘No, my father’s.’
From that we opened a conversation, the sweetest I had ever had away from him, though she spoke shyly and told me very little. It was enough for me in the narrow world of my dogs’ faces, and the red-leaved creeper at the window, the fir-trees on the distant heath, and her hand clasping mine. My father had many faults, she said, but he had been cruelly used, or deceived, and he bore a grievous burden; and then she said, ‘Yes,’ and ‘Yes,’ and ‘Yes,’ in the voice one supposes of a ghost retiring, to my questions of his merits. I was refreshed and satisfied, like the parched earth with dews when it gets no rain, and I was soon well.