She replied, ’I would not deprive you of a moment of happiness. Bring good sense with you when you do come.’
The General asked eagerly, ’I have your ladyship’s permission to come early?’
‘Consult your happiness,’ she answered; and if to his mind she seemed returning to the state of enigma, it was on the whole deliciously. She restored him his youth. He told Elizabeth that night; he really must begin to think of marrying her to some worthy young fellow. ‘Though,’ said he, with an air of frank intoxication, ’my opinion is, the young ones are not so lively as the old in these days, or I should have been besieged before now.’
The exact substance of the interview he forbore to relate to his inquisitive daughter, with a very honourable discretion.
Elizabeth came riding home to breakfast from a gallop round the park, and passing Lady Camper’s gates, received the salutation of her parasol. Lady Camper talked with her through the bars. There was not a sign to tell of a change or twist in her neighbourly affability. She remarked simply enough, that it was her nephew’s habit to take early gallops, and possibly Elizabeth might have seen him, for his quarters were proximate; but she did not demand an answer. She had passed a rather restless night, she said. ‘How is the General?’
’Papa must have slept soundly, for he usually calls to me through his door when he hears I am up,’ said Elizabeth.
Lady Camper nodded kindly and walked on.
Early in the morning General Ople was ready for battle. His forces were, the anticipation of victory, a carefully arranged toilet, and an unaccustomed spirit of enterprise in the realms of speech; for he was no longer in such awe of Lady Camper.
‘You have slept well?’ she inquired.
’Excellently, my lady:
’Yes, your daughter tells me she heard you, as she went by your door in the morning for a ride to meet my nephew. You are, I shall assume, prepared for business.’
‘Elizabeth? . . . to meet . . .?’ General Ople’s impression of anything extraneous to his emotion was feeble and passed instantly. ‘Prepared! Oh, certainly’; and he struck in a compliment on her ladyship’s fresh morning bloom.
‘It can hardly be visible,’ she responded; ‘I have not painted yet.’
‘Does your ladyship proceed to your painting in the very early morning?’
‘Rouge. I rouge.’
‘Dear me! I should not have supposed it.’
’You have speculated on it very openly, General. I remember your trying to see a freckle through the rouge; but the truth is, I am of a supernatural paleness if I do not rouge, so I do. You understand, therefore, I have a false complexion. Now to business.’
’If your ladyship insists on calling it business. I have little to offer—myself !’