“You look very well, I must say,” he said. “You have a touch of the landed personage about you which becomes you. I should like you to come back here for our sakes, but I shan’t press it. And how is Madam? I hope you have got rid of your first illusions? No? Well you must make haste and be reasonable. I am not learned in the vagaries of feminine temperament, but I imagine that the fair sex like to be dominated, and you will do that. You have a light hand on the reins—I always said that you rode the boys on the snaffle, but the curb is there! and in matrimony—well, well, I am an old bachelor of course, and I have a suspicion of all nooses. Never mind my nonsense, Kennedy—what I like about you, if I may say so, is that you have authority without pretensions. People will do as you wish, just to please you; now I have always to be cracking the whip. These fellows here are very worthy men, but they are not men of the world! They are honest and sober—indeed one can hardly get one of them to join one in a glass of port—but they are limited, very limited. Now if only you could have kept clear of matrimony— no disrespect to Madam—what a comfortable time we might have had here! Man appoints and God disappoints—I suppose it is all for the best.”
“Well,” said Howard, “I think you will me see back here in October— my wife is quite ready to come, and there isn’t really much for me to do at Windlow. I believe I am to be on the bench shortly; but if I live there in the vacations, that will be enough; and I don’t feel that I have finished with Beaufort yet.”
“Excellent!” said Mr. Redmayne. “I commend Madam’s good sense and discretion. Pray give her my regards, and say that we shall welcome her at Cambridge. We will make the best of it—and I confess that in your place—well, if all women were like Madam, I could view marriage with comparative equanimity—though of course, I make the statement without prejudice.”
When Howard came back from Cambridge he had a long talk with Maud over the future; it seemed almost tacitly agreed that he should return to his work there, at all events for a time.
“I feel very selfish and pompous about all this,” said Howard; “My work, my sphere—what nonsense it all is! Why should I come down to Windlow, take possession, and having picked the sweetest flower in the garden, stick it in my buttonhole and march away?”
Maud laughed and said, “Oh, no, it isn’t that—it is quite a simple matter. You have learnt a trade, a difficult trade; why should you give it up? We don’t happen to need the money, but that doesn’t matter. My business is to take off your shoulders, if I can, all the trouble entailed on you by marrying me—it’s simply a division of labour. You can’t just settle down in the country as a small squire, with nothing much to do. People must do the work they can do, and I should be miserable if I thought I had pulled you out of your place in the world.”