Then I suggested, ’A pocket-knife for the hunting-field is a very good thing.’
‘Do you think so?’ was Temple’s rejoinder, and I saw he was dreadfully afraid of my speaking the person’s name for whom it would be such a very good thing.
’You can get one for thirty shillings. We’ll get one when we’re in London. They’re just as useful for women as they are for us, you know.’
‘Why, of course they are, if they hunt,’ said Temple.
‘And we mustn’t lose time,’ I drew him to the point I had at heart, ’for hunting ’ll soon be over. It ‘s February, mind!’
‘Oh, lots of time!’ Temple cried out, and on every occasion when I tried to make him understand that I was bursting to visit London, he kept evading me, simply because he hated saying good-bye to Janet Ilchester. His dulness of apprehension in not perceiving that I could not commit a breach of hospitality by begging him downright to start, struck me as extraordinary. And I was so acute. I saw every single idea in his head, every shift of, his mind, and how he half knew that he profited by my shunning to say flatly I desired to set out upon the discovery of the Bench. He took the benefit of my shamefacedness, for which I daily punished his. I really felt that I was justified in giving my irritability an airing by curious allusions to Janet; yet, though I made him wince, it was impossible to touch his conscience. He admitted to having repeatedly spoken of London’s charms, and ’Oh, yes! you and I’ll go back together, Richie,’ and saying that satisfied him: he doubled our engagements with Janet that afternoon, and it was a riding party, a dancing-party, and a drawing of a pond for carp, and we over to Janet, and Janet over to us, until I grew so sick of her I was incapable of summoning a spark of jealousy in order the better to torture Temple.
Now, he was a quick-witted boy. Well, I one day heard Janet address my big dog, Ajax, in the style she usually employed to inform her hearers, and especially the proprietor, that she coveted a thing: ’Oh, you own dear precious pet darling beauty! if I might only feed you every day of my life I should be happy! I curtsey to him every time I see him. If I were his master, the men should all off hats, and the women all curtsey, to Emperor Ajax, my dog! my own! my great, dear irresistible love! Then she nodded at me, ‘I would make them, though.’ And then at Temple, ’You see if I wouldn’t.’
Ajax was a source of pride to me. However, I heard Temple murmur, in a tone totally unlike himself, ‘He would be a great protection to you’; and I said to him, ’You know, Temple, I shall be going to London to-morrow or the next day, not later: I don’t know when I shall be back. I wish you would dispose of the dog just as you like: get him a kind master or mistress, that’s all.’