Lady Eustace could make nothing of Miss Macnulty in the way of sympathy, and could not bear her disappointment with patience. It was hardly to be expected that she should do so. She paid a great deal for Miss Macnulty. In a moment of rash generosity, and at a time when she hardly knew what money meant, she had promised Miss Macnulty seventy pounds for the first year and seventy for the second, should the arrangement last longer than a twelvemonth. The second year had been now commenced, and Lady Eustace was beginning to think that seventy pounds was a great deal of money when so very little was given in return. Lady Linlithgow had paid her dependent no fixed salary. And then there was the lady’s “keep” and first-class travelling when they went up and down to Scotland, and cab-fares in London when it was desirable that Miss Macnulty should absent herself. Lizzie, reckoning all up, and thinking that for so much her friend ought to be ready to discuss Ianthe’s soul, or any other kindred subject, at a moment’s warning, would become angry and would tell herself that she was being swindled out of her money. She knew how necessary it was that she should have some companion at the present emergency of her life, and therefore could not at once send Miss Macnulty away; but she would sometimes become very cross and would tell poor Macnulty that she was — a fool. Upon the whole, however, to be called a fool was less objectionable to Miss Macnulty than were demands for sympathy which she did not know how to give.
Those first ten days of August went very slowly with Lady Eustace. “Queen Mab” got itself poked away, and was heard of no more. But there were other books. A huge box full of novels had come down, and Miss Macnulty was a great devourer of novels. If Lady Eustace would talk to her about the sorrows of the poorest heroine that ever saw her lover murdered before her eyes, and then come to life again with ten thousand pounds a year, for a period of three weeks — or till another heroine, who had herself been murdered, obliterated the former horrors from her plastic mind — Miss Macnulty could discuss the catastrophe with the keenest interest. And Lizzie, finding herself to be, as she told herself, unstrung, fell also into novel-reading. She had intended during this vacant time to master the “Faery Queen”; but the “Faery Queen” fared even worse than “Queen Mab”; and the studies of Portray Castle were confined to novels. For poor Macnulty, if she could only be left alone, this was well enough. To have her meals, and her daily walk, and her fill of novels, and to be left alone, was all that she asked of the gods. But it was not so with Lady Eustace, She asked much more than that, and was now thoroughly discontented with her own idleness. She was sure that she could have read Spenser from sunrise to sundown, with no other break than an hour or two given to Shelley, if only there had been some one to sympathise with her in her readings. But there was no one, and she was very cross. Then there came a letter to her from her cousin, which for that morning brought some life back to the castle. “I have seen Lord Fawn,” said the letter, “and I have also seen Mr. Camperdown. As it would be very hard to explain what took place at these interviews by letter, and as I shall be at Portray Castle on the 20th, I will not make the attempt. We shall go down by the night train, and I will get over to you as soon as I have dressed and had my breakfast. I suppose I can find some kind of a pony for the journey. The ‘we’ consists of myself and my friend Mr. Herriot, a man whom I think you will like, if you will condescend to see him, though he is a barrister like myself. You need express no immediate condescension in his favour, as I shall of course come over alone on Wednesday morning. Yours always affectionately, F. G.”
The letter she received on the Sunday morning, and as the Wednesday named for Frank’s coming was the next Wednesday, and was close at hand, she was in rather a better humour than she had displayed since the poets had failed her. “What a blessing it will be,” she said, “to have somebody to speak to.”
This was not complimentary, but Miss Macnulty did not want compliments. “Yes, indeed,” she said. “Of course you will be glad to see your cousin.”
“I shall be glad to see anything in the shape of a man. I declare I have felt almost inclined to ask the minister from Craigie to elope with me.”
“He has got seven children,” said Miss Macnulty.
“Yes, poor man, and a wife, and not more than enough to live upon. I daresay he would have come. By the by, I wonder whether there’s a pony about the place.”
“A pony!” Miss Macnulty of course supposed that it was needed for the purpose of the suggested elopement.
“Yes; I suppose you know what a pony is? Of course there ought to be a shooting pony at the cottage for these men. My poor head has so many things to work upon that I had forgotten it; and you’re never any good at thinking of things.”
“I didn’t know that gentlemen wanted ponies for shooting.”
“I wonder what you do know? Of course there must be a pony.”
“I suppose you’ll want two?”
“No, I sha’n’t. You don’t suppose that men always go riding about. But I want one. What had I better do?” Miss Macnulty suggested that Gowran should be consulted. Now Gowran was the steward, and bailiff, and manager, and factotum about the place, who bought a cow or sold one if occasion required, and saw that nobody stole anything, and who knew the boundaries of the farms, and all about the tenants, and looked after the pipes when frost came, and was an honest, domineering, hard-working, intelligent Scotchman, who had been brought up to love the Eustaces, and who hated his present mistress with all his heart. He did not leave her service, having an idea in his mind that it was now the great duty of his life to save Portray from her ravages. Lizzie fully returned the compliment of the hatred, and was determined to rid herself of Andy Gowran’s services as soon as possible. He had been called Andy by the late Sir Florian, and, though every one else about the place called him Mr. Gowran, Lady Eustace thought it became her, as the man’s mistress, to treat him as he had been treated by the late master. So she called him Andy. But she was resolved to get rid of him, as soon as she should dare. There were things which it was essential that somebody about the place should know, and no one knew them but Mr. Gowran. Every servant in the castle might rob her, were it not for the protection afforded by Mr. Gowran. In that affair of the garden it was Mr. Gowran who had enabled her to conquer the horticultural Leviathan who had oppressed her, and who, in point of wages, had been a much bigger man than Mr. Gowran himself. She trusted Mr. Gowran and hated him, whereas Mr. Gowran hated her, and did not trust her.
“I believe you think that nothing can be done at Portray except by that man,” said Lady Eustace.
“He’ll know how much you ought to pay for the pony.”
“Yes, and get some brute not fit for my cousin to ride, on purpose, perhaps, to break his neck.”
“Then I should ask Mr. Macallum, the postmaster of Troon, for I have seen three or four very quiet-looking ponies standing in the carts at his door.”
“Macnulty, if there ever was an idiot you are one,” said Lady Eustace, throwing up her hands. “To think that I should get a pony for my cousin Frank out of one of the mail carts.”
“I daresay I am an idiot,” said Miss Macnulty, resuming her novel.
Lady Eustace was, of course, obliged to have recourse to Gowran, to whom she applied on the Monday morning. Not even Lizzie Eustace, on behalf of her cousin Frank, would have dared to disturb Mr. Gowran with considerations respecting a pony on the Sabbath. On the Monday morning she found Mr. Gowran superintending four boys and three old women, who were making a bit of her ladyship’s hay on the ground above the castle. The ground about the castle was poor and exposed, and her ladyship’s hay was apt to be late.
“Andy,” she said, “I shall want to get a pony for the gentlemen who are coming to the cottage. It must be there by Tuesday evening.”
“A pownie, my leddie?”
“Yes; a pony. I suppose a pony may be purchased in Ayrshire, though of all places in the world it seems to have the fewest of the comforts of life.”
“Them as find it like that, my leddie, needn’t bide there.”
“Never mind. You will have the kindness to have a pony purchased and put into the stables of the cottage on Tuesday afternoon. There are stables, no doubt.”
“Oh, ay, there’s shelter, nae doot, for mair pownies than they’s ride. When the cottage was biggit, my leddie, there was nae cause for sparing nowt.” Andy Gowran was continually throwing her comparative poverty in poor Lizzie’s teeth, and there was nothing he could do which displeased her more.
“And I needn’t spare my cousin the use of a pony,” she said grandiloquently, but feeling as she did so that she was exposing herself before the man. “You’ll have the goodness to procure one for him on Tuesday.”
“But there ain’t aits nor yet fother, nor nowt for bedding down. And wha’s to tent the pownie? There’s mair in keeping a pownie than your leddyship thinks. It’ll be a matter of auchten and saxpence a week, will a pownie.” Mr. Gowran, as he expressed his prudential scruples, put a very strong emphasis indeed on the sixpence.
“Very well. Let it be so.”
“And there’ll be the beastie to buy, my leddie. He’ll be — a lump of money, my leddie. Pownies ain’t to be had for nowt in Ayrshire, as was ance, my leddie.”
“Of course, I must pay for him.”
“He’ll be a matter of — ten pound, my leddie.”
“Or may be twal; just as likely.” And Mr. Gowran shook his head at his mistress in a most uncomfortable way. It was not strange that she should hate him.
“You must give the proper price — of course.”
“There ain’t no proper prices for pownies — as there is for jew’ls and sich like.” If this was intended for sarcasm upon Lady Eustace in regard to her diamonds, Mr. Gowran ought to have been dismissed on the spot. In such a case no English jury would have given him his current wages. “And he’ll be to sell again, my leddie?”
“We shall see about that afterwards.”
“Ye’ll never let him eat his head off there a’ the winter! He’ll be to sell. And the gentles’ll ride him, may be, ance across the hillside, out and back. As to the grouse, they can’t cotch them with the pownie, for there ain’t none to cotch.” There had been two keepers on the mountains — men who were paid five or six shillings a week to look after the game in addition to their other callings, and one of these had been sent away, actually in obedience to Gowran’s advice; so that this blow was cruel and unmanly. He made it, too, as severe as he could by another shake of his head.
“Do you mean to tell me that my cousin cannot be supplied with an animal to ride upon?”
“My leddie, I’ve said nowt o’ the kind. There ain’t no useful animal as I kens the name and nature of as he can’t have in Ayrshire — for paying for it, my leddie; horse, pownie, or ass, just whichever you please, my leddie. But there’ll be a seddle —”
There can be no doubt that Gowran purposely slurred the word so that his mistress should not understand him. “Seddles don’t come for nowt, my leddie, though it be Ayrshire.”
“I don’t understand what it is that you say, Andy.”
“A seddle, my leddie,” said he, shouting the word at her at the top of his voice —“and a briddle. I suppose as your leddy-ship’s cousin don’t ride bareback up in Lunnon?”
“Of course there must be the necessary horse-furniture,” said Lady Eustace, retiring to the castle. Andy Gowran had certainly ill-used her, and she swore that she would have revenge. Nor when, she was informed on the Tuesday that an adequate pony had been hired for eighteen pence a day, saddle, bridle, groom, and all included, was her heart at all softened towards Mr. Gowran.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14