On their journey back to Portray, the ladies were almost too tired for talking, and Sir Griffin was sulky. Sir Griffin had as yet heard nothing about Greystock’s adventure, and did not care to be told. But when once they were at the castle, and had taken warm baths and glasses of sherry, and got themselves dressed and had come down to dinner, they were all very happy. To Lizzie it had certainly been the most triumphant day of her life. Her marriage with Sir Florian had been triumphant, but that was only a step to something good that was to come after. She then had at her own disposal her little wits and her prettiness, and a world before her in which, as it then seemed to her, there was a deal of pleasure if she could only reach it. Up to this period of her career she had hardly reached any pleasure; but this day had been very pleasant. Lord George de Bruce Carruthers had in truth been her Corsair, and she had found the thing which she liked to do, and would soon know how to do. How glorious it was to jump over that black, yawning stream, and then to see Lucinda fall into it! And she could remember every jump, and her feeling of ecstasy as she landed on the right side. And she had by heart every kind word that Lord George had said to her — and she loved the sweet, pleasant, Corsair — like intimacy that had sprung up between them. She wondered whether Frank was at all jealous. It wouldn’t be amiss that he should be a little jealous. And then somebody had brought home in his pocket the fox’s brush, which the master of the hounds had told the huntsman to give her. It was all delightful; and so much more delightful because Mrs. Carbuncle had not gone quite so well as she liked to go, and because Lucinda had fallen into the water.
They did not dine till past eight, and the ladies and gentlemen all left the room together. Coffee and liqueurs were to be brought into the drawing-room, and they were all to be intimate, comfortable, and at their ease; all except Sir Griffin Tewett, who was still very sulky.
“Did he say anything?” Mrs. Carbuncle had asked.
“He proposed; but of course I could not answer him when I was wet through.” There had been but a moment, and in that moment this was all that Lucinda would say.
“Now I don’t mean to stir again,” said Lizzie, throwing herself into a corner of a sofa, “till somebody carries me to bed. I never was so tired in all my life.” She was tired, but there is a fatigue which is delightful as long as all the surroundings are pleasant and comfortable.
“I didn’t call it a very hard day,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“You only killed one fox,” said Mr. Mealyus, pretending a delightfully clerical ignorance, “and on Monday you killed four. Why should you be tired?”
“I suppose it was nearly twenty miles,” said Frank, who was also ignorant.
“About ten, perhaps,” said Lord George. “It was an hour and forty minutes, and there was a good bit of slow hunting after we had come back over the river.”
“I’m sure it was thirty,” said Lizzie, forgetting her fatigue in her energy.
“Ten is always better than twenty,” said Lord George, “and five generally better than ten.”
“It was just whatever is best,” said Lizzie. “I know Frank’s friend, Mr. Nappie, said it was twenty. By-the-by, oughtn’t we to have asked Mr. Nappie home to dinner?”
“I thought so,” said Frank; “but I couldn’t take the liberty myself.”
“I really think poor Mr. Nappie was very badly used,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Of course he was,” said Lord George; “no man ever worse since hunting was invented. He was entitled to a dozen dinners and no end of patronage; but you see he took it out in calling your cousin Mr. Greystockings.”
“I felt that blow,” said Frank.
“I shall always call you Cousin Greystockings,” said Lizzie.
“It was hard,” continued Lord George, “and I understood it all so well when he got into a mess in his wrath about booking the horse to Kilmarnock. If the horse had been on the roadside, he or his men could have protected him. He is put under the protection of a whole railway company, and the company gives him up to the first fellow that comes and asks for him.”
“It was cruel,” said Frank.
“If it had happened to me, I should have been very angry,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“But Frank wouldn’t have had a horse at all,” said Lizzie, “unless he had taken Mr. Nappie’s.”
Lord George still continued his plea for Mr. Nappie. “There’s something in that certainly; but, still, I agree with Mrs. Carbuncle. If it had happened to me, I should — just have committed murder and suicide. I can’t conceive anything so terrible. It’s all very well for your noble master to talk of being civil, and hoping that the horse had carried him well, and all that. There are circumstances in which a man can’t be civil. And then everybody laughed at him! It’s the way of the world. The lower you fall, the more you’re kicked.”
“What can I do for him?” asked Frank.
“Put him down at your club and order thirty dozen of gray shirtings from Nappie & Co., without naming the price.”
“He’d send you gray stockings instead,” said Lizzie.
But though Lizzie was in heaven, it behooved her to be careful. The Corsair was a very fine specimen of the Corsair breed, about the best Corsair she had ever seen, and had been devoted to her for the day. But these Corsairs are known to be dangerous, and it would not be wise that she should sacrifice any future prospect of importance on behalf of a feeling, which, no doubt, was founded on poetry, but which might too probably have no possible beneficial result. As far as she knew, the Corsair had not even an island of his own in the Aegean Sea. And, if he had, might not the island too probably have a Medora or two of its own? In a ride across the country the Corsair was all that a Corsair should be; but knowing, as she did, but very little of the Corsair, she could not afford to throw over her cousin for his sake. As she was leaving the drawing-room she managed to say one word to her cousin. “You were not angry with me because I got Lord George to ride with me instead of you?”
“Angry with you?”
“I knew I should only be a hindrance to you.”
“It was a matter of course. He knows all about it, and I know nothing. I am very glad that you liked it so much.”
“I did like it; and so did you. I was so glad you got that poor man’s horse. You were not angry then?” They had now passed across the hall, and were on the bottom stair.
“And you are not angry for what happened before?” She did not look into his face as she asked this question, but stood with her eyes fixed on the stair-carpet.
“Good night, Frank.”
“Good night, Lizzie.” Then she went, and he returned to a room below which had been prepared for purposes of tobacco and soda-water and brandy.
“Why, Griff, you’re rather out of sorts to-night,” said Lord George to his friend, before Frank had joined them.
“So would you be out of sorts if you’d lost your run and had to pick a young woman out of the water. I don’t like young women when they’re damp and smell of mud.”
“You mean to marry her, I suppose.”
“How would you like me to ask you questions? Do you mean to marry the widow? And, if you do, what’ll Mrs. Carbuncle say? And if you don’t, what do you mean to do; and all the rest of it?”
“As for marrying the widow, I should like to know the facts first. As to Mrs. C., she wouldn’t object in the least. I generally have my horses so bitted that they can’t very well object. And as to the other question, I mean to stay here for the next fortnight, and I advise you to make it square with Miss Roanoke. Here’s my lady’s cousin; for a man who doesn’t ride often, he went very well today.”
“I wonder if he’d take a twenty-pound note if I sent it to him,” said Frank, when they broke up for the night. “I don’t like the idea of riding such a fellow’s horse for nothing.”
“He’ll bring an action against the railway, and then you can offer to pay if you like.” Mr. Nappie did bring an action against the railway, claiming exorbitant damages; but with what result, we need not trouble ourselves to inquire.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14