We must return to the unfortunate Lucinda, whom we last saw struggling with her steed in the black waters of the brook which she attempted to jump. A couple of men were soon in after her, and she was rescued and brought back to the side from which she had been taken off without any great difficulty. She was neither hurt nor frightened, but she was wet through; and for a while she was very unhappy, because it was not found quite easy to extricate her horse. During the ten minutes of her agony, while the poor brute was floundering in the mud, she had been quite disregardful of herself, and had almost seemed to think that Sir Griffin, who was with her, should go into the water after her steed. But there were already two men in the water and three on the bank, and Sir Griffin thought that duty required him to stay by the young lady’s side. “I don’t care a bit about myself,” said Lucinda, “but if anything can be done for poor Warrior?” Sir Griffin assured her that “poor Warrior” was receiving the very best attention; and then he pressed upon her the dangerous condition in which she herself was standing, quite wet through, covered as to her feet and legs with mud, growing colder and colder every minute. She touched her lips with a little brandy that somebody gave her, and then declared again that she cared for nothing but poor Warrior. At last poor Warrior was on his legs, with the water dripping from his black flanks, with his nose stained with mud, with one of his legs a little cut, and alas! with the saddle wet through. Nevertheless, there was nothing to be done better than to ride into Kilmarnock. The whole party must return to Kilmarnock, and, perhaps, if they hurried, she might be able to get her clothes dry before they would start by the train. Sir Griffin, of course, accompanied her, and they two rode into the town alone. Mrs. Carbuncle did hear of the accident soon after the occurrence, but had not seen her niece; nor when she heard of it, could she have joined Lucinda.
If anything would make a girl talk to a man, such a ducking as Lucinda had had would do so. Such sudden events, when they come in the shape of misfortune, or the reverse, generally have the effect of abolishing shyness for the time. Let a girl be upset with you in a railway train, and she will talk like a Rosalind, though before the accident she was as mute as death. But with Lucinda Roanoke the accustomed change did not seem to take place. When Sir Griffin had placed her on her sad lie, she would have trotted all — the way into Kilmarnock without a word if he would have allowed her. But he, at least, understood that such a joint misfortune should create confidence, for he, too, had lost the run, and he did not intend to lose his opportunity also. “I am so glad that I was near you,” he said.
“Oh, thank you, yes; it would have been bad to be alone.”
“I mean that I am glad that it was I,” said Sir Griffin. “It’s very hard even to get a moment to speak to you.” They were now trotting along on the road, and there was still three miles before them.
“I don’t know,” said she. “I’m always with the other people.”
“Just so.” And then he paused. “But I want to find you when you’re not with the other people. Perhaps, however, you don’t like me.”
As he paused for a reply, she felt herself bound to say something. “Oh, yes, I do,” she said, “as well as anybody else.”
“And is that all?”
“I suppose so.”
After that he rode on for the best part of another mile before he spoke to her again. He had made up his mind that he would do it. He hardly knew why it was that he wanted her. He had not determined that he was desirous of the charms or comfort of domestic life. He had not even thought where he would live were he married. He had not suggested to himself that Lucinda was a desirable companion, that her temper would suit his, that her ways and his were sympathetic, or that she would be a good mother to the future Sir Griffin Tewett. He had seen that she was a very handsome girl, and therefore he had thought that he would like to possess her. Had she fallen like a ripe plum into his mouth, or shown herself ready so to fall, he would probably have closed his lips and backed out of the affair. But the difficulty no doubt added something to the desire. “I had hoped,” he said, “that after knowing each other so long there might have been more than that.”
She was again driven to speak because he paused. “I don’t know that that makes much difference.”
“Miss Roanoke, you can’t but understand what I mean.”
“I’m sure I don’t,” said she.
“Then I’ll speak plainer.”
“Not now, Sir Griffin, because I’m so wet.”
“You can listen to me even if you will not answer me. I am sure that you know that I love you better than all the world. Will you be mine?” Then he moved on a little forward so that he might look back into her face. “Will you allow me to think of you as my future wife?”
Miss Roanoke was able to ride at a stone wall or at a river, and to ride at either the second time when her horse balked the first. Her heart was big enough to enable her to give Sir Griffin an answer. Perhaps it was that, in regard to the river and the stone wall, she knew what she wanted; but that, as to Sir Griffin, she did not. “I don’t think this is a proper time to ask,” she said.
“Because I am wet through and cold. It is taking an unfair advantage.”
“I didn’t mean to take any unfair advantage,” said Sir Griffin scowling; “I thought we were alone ——”
“Oh, Sir Griffin, I am so tired!” As they were now entering Kilmarnock, it was quite clear that he could press her no further. They clattered up, therefore, to the hotel, and he busied himself in getting a bedroom fire lighted, and in obtaining the services of the landlady. A cup of tea was ordered, and toast, and in two minutes Lucinda Roanoke was relieved from the presence of the baronet.
“It’s a kind of thing a fellow doesn’t quite understand,” said Sir Griffin to himself. “Of course she means it, and why the devil can’t she say so?” He had no idea of giving up the chase, but he thought that perhaps he would take it out of her when she became Lady Tewett.
They were an hour at the inn before Mrs. Carbuncle and Lady Eustace arrived, and during that hour Sir Griffin did not see Miss Roanoke. For this there was, of course, ample reason. Under the custody of the landlady, Miss Roanoke was being made dry and clean, and was by no means in a condition to receive a lover’s vows. The baronet sent up half a dozen messages as he sauntered about the yard of the inn, but he got no message in return. Lucinda, as she sat drinking her tea and drying her clothes, did no doubt think about him, but she thought about him as little as she could. Of course he would come again, and she could make up her mind then. It was no doubt necessary that she should do something. Her fortune, such as it was, would soon be spent in the adventure of finding a husband. She also had her ideas about love, and had enough of sincerity about her to love a man thoroughly; but it had seemed to her that all the men who came near her were men whom she could not fail to dislike. She was hurried here and hurried there, and knew nothing of real social intimacies. As she told her aunt in her wickedness, she would almost have preferred a shoemaker, if she could have become acquainted with a shoemaker in a manner that should be unforced and genuine. There was a savageness of antipathy in her to the mode of life which her circumstances had produced for her. It was that very savageness which made her ride so hard, and which forbade her to smile and be pleasant to people whom she could not like. And yet she knew that something must be done. She could not afford to wait as other girls might do. Why not Sir Griffin as well as any other fool? It may be doubted whether she knew how obstinate, how hard, how cruel to a woman a fool can be.
Her stockings had been washed and dried, and her boots and trousers were nearly dry, when Mrs. Carbuncle, followed by Lizzie, rushed into the room. “Oh, my darling, how are you?” said the aunt, seizing her niece in her arms.
“I’m only dirty now,” said Lucinda.
“We’ve got off the biggest of the muck, my lady,” said the landlady.
“Oh, Miss Roanoke,” said Lizzie, “I hope you don’t think I behaved badly in going on.”
“Everybody always goes on, of course,” said Lucinda.
“I did so pray Lord George to let me try and jump back to you. We were over, you know, before it happened. But he said it was quite impossible. We did wait till we saw you were out.”
“It didn’t signify at all, Lady Eustace.”
“And I was so sorry when I went through the wall at the corner of the wood before you. But I was so excited I hardly knew what I was doing.” Lucinda, who was quite used to these affairs in the hunting-field, simply nodded her acceptance of this apology. “But it was a glorious run, wasn’t it?”
“Pretty well,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Oh, it was glorious; but then I got over the river. And, oh, if you had been there afterwards. There was such an adventure between a man in a gig and my cousin Frank.” Then they all went to the train, and were carried home to Portray.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01