Red Pottage, by Mary Cholmondeley

Chapter VIII

A square-set man and honest.

TENNYSON.

DICK,” said Lord Newhaven, laying hold of that gentleman as he was leaving Tattersall’s, “what mischief have you been up to for the last ten days?”

“I lay low till I got my clothes,” said Dick, “and then I went to the Duke of —. I’ve just been looking at a hack for him. He says he does not want one that takes a lot of sitting on. I met him the first night I landed. In fact, I stepped out of the train on to his royal toe travelling incog. I was just going to advise him to draw in his feelers a bit, and give the Colonies a chance, when he turned round and I saw who it was. I knew him when I was A.D.C. at Melbourne before I took to the drink. He said he thought he’d know my foot anywhere, and asked me down for — races.

“And you enjoyed it? ”

“Rather. I did not know what to call the family at first, so I asked him if he had any preference and what was the right thing, and he told me how I must hop up whenever he came in, and all that sort of child’s play. There was a large party and some uncommonly pretty women. And I won a tenner off his Royal Highness, and here I am.”

“And what are you going to do now? ”

“Go down to the city and see what Darnell’s cellars are like before I store my wine in them. It won’t take long. Er! — I Say, Cack — Newhaven?”

“Well?”

“Ought I to — how about my calling on Miss —. I never caught her name?”

“Miss West, the heiress?”

“Yes. Little attention on my part.”

“Did she ask you to call?”

“No, but I think it was an oversight. I expect she would like it.”

“Well, then, go and be — snubbed.”

“I don’t want snubbing. A little thing like me wants encouragement.”

“A good many other people are on the look out for encouragement in that quarter.”

“That settles it,” said Dick, “I’ll go at once. I’ve got to call on Lady Susan Gresley, and I’ll take Miss —”

“West. West. West.”

“Miss West on the way.”

“My dear fellow, Miss West does not live on the way to Woking. Lady Susan Gresley died six months ago.”

“Great Scot! I never heard of it. And what has become of Hester? She is a kind of cousin of mine.”

“Miss Gresley has gone to live in the country a few miles from us, with her clergyman brother.”

“James Gresley. I remember him. He’s a bad egg.”

“Now, Dick, are you in earnest, or are you talking nonsense about Miss West?”

“I’m in earnest.” He looked it.

“Then, for heaven’s sake, don’t put your foot in it by calling. My wife has taken a violent fancy to Miss West. I don’t think it is returned, but that is a detail. If you want to give her a chance leave it to me.”

“I know what that means. You married men are mere sieves. You’ll run straight home with your tongue out and tell Lady Newhaven that I want to marry Miss — I can’t clinch her name, and then she’ll tell her when they are combing their back hair. And then if I find, later on, I don’t like her and step off the grass I shall have behaved like a perfect brute, and all that sort of thing. A man I knew out in Melbourne told me that by the time he’d taken a little notice of a likely girl he’d gone too far to go back and he had to marry her.”

“You need not be so coy. I don’t intend to mention the subject to my wife. Besides, I don’t suppose Miss West will look at you. You’re a wretched match for her. With her money she might marry a brewery or a peerage.”

“I’ll put myself in focus anyhow,” said Dick. “Hang it all. If you could get a woman to marry you, there is hope for everybody. I don’t expect it will be as easy as falling off a log. But if she is what I take her to be I shall go for all I’m worth.”

Some one else was going for all he was worth. Lord Newhaven rode early, and he had frequently seen Rachel and Hugh riding together at foot’s pace. Possibly his offer to help Dick was partly prompted by an unconscious desire to put a spoke in Hugh’s wheel.

Dick, whose worst enemy could not accuse him of diffidence, proved a solid spoke but for a few days only. Rachel suddenly broke all her engagements and left London.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37