The next day Harry called again.
"Master 'aint countermanded the order, Doctor. He 'aint at home--not a bit of it. He 'aint been out of the house since that night."
"Well, is Miss Cathcart at home?"
"She's said nothing to the contrairy, sir. I believe she is at home. I know she's out in the garding--on the terridge."
And old Beeves held the door wide open, as if to say--"Don't stop to ask any questions, but step into the garden." Which Harry did.
There was a high gravel terrace along one end of it, always dry and sunny when there was any sun going; and there she was, over-looked by the windows of her papa's room.
Now I do not know anything that passed upon that terrace. How should I know? Neither of them was likely to tell old Smith. And I wonder at the clumsiness of novelists in pretending to reveal all that he said, and all that she answered. But if I were such a clumsy novelist, I should like to invent it all, and see if I couldn't make you believe every word of it.
This is what I would invent.
The moment Adela caught sight of Harry, she cast one frightened glance up to her father's windows, and stood waiting. He lifted his hat; and held out his hand. She took it. Neither spoke. They turned together and walked along the terrace.
"I am very sorry," said Harry at last.
"Are you? What for?"
"Because I got you into a scrape."
"Oh! I don't care."
"No; not a bit."
"I didn't mean it."
"What didn't you mean?"
"It did look like it, I know."
"Look like what?"
"Adela, you'll drive me crazy. It was all your fault."
"So I told papa, and he was angrier than ever."
"You angel! It wasn't your fault. It was your eyes. I couldn't help it. Adela, I love you dreadfully."
"I'm so glad."
She gave a sigh as of relief.
"Because I wished you would. But I don't deserve it. A great clever man like you love a useless girl like me! I am so glad!"
"But your papa?"
"I'm so happy, I can't think about him steadily just yet."
"Adela, I love you--so dearly! Only I am too old for you."
"Old! how old are you?"
"And I'm only one-and-twenty. You're worth one and a half of me--yes twenty of me."
And so their lips played with the ripples of love, while their hearts were heaving with the ground swell of its tempest.
Now what I do know about is this:
The colonel came down-stairs in his dressing-gown and slippers, and found Beeves flattening his nose against the glass of the garden-door.
"Beeves!" said the colonel.
"Sir!" said Beeves, darting around and confronting his master with a face purple and pale from the sense of utter unpreparedness.
"Beeves, where is your mistress?"
"My mistress, sir? I beg your pardon, sir, I'm sure, sir! How should I know, sir? I 'aint let her out. Shall I run up-stairs and see if she is in her room?"
"Open the door."
Beeves laid violent hold upon the handle of the door, and pulled and twisted, but always took care to pull before he twisted.
"I declare if that stupid Ann 'aint been and locked it. It aint nice in the garden to-day, sir--leastways without goloshes," added he, looking down at his master's slippers.
Now the colonel understood Beeves, and Beeves knew that he understood him. But Beeves knew likewise that the colonel would not give in to the possibility of his servant's taking such liberties with him.
"Never mind," said the colonel; "I will go the other way."
The moment he was out of sight, Beeves opened the garden-door, and began gesticulating like a madman, fully persuaded that the doctor would make his escape. But so far from being prepared to run away, Harry had come there with the express intention of forcing a conference. So that when the colonel made his appearance on the terrace, the culprits walked slowly towards him. He went to meet them with long military strides, and was the first to speak.
"Mr. Armstrong, to what am I to attribute this intrusion?"
"Chiefly to the desire of seeing you, Colonel Cathcart."
"And I find you with my daughter!--Adela, go in-doors,"
Adela withdrew at once.
"You denied yourself, and I inquired for Miss Cathcart."
"You will oblige me by not calling again."
"Surely I have committed no fault beyond forgiveness."
"You have taken advantage of your admission into my family to entrap the affections of my daughter."
"Colonel Cathcart, as far as my conscience tells me, I have not behaved unworthily."
"Sir, is it not unworthy of a gentleman to use such professional advantages to gain the favour of one who--you will excuse me for reminding you of what you will not allow me to forget--is as much above him in social position, as inferior to him in years and experience."
"Is it always unworthy in a gentleman to aspire to a lady above him in social position, Colonel Cathcart?"
The honesty of the colonel checked all reply to this home-thrust.
"At least I am able to maintain my wife in what may be considered comfort."
"Your wife!" exclaimed the colonel, his anger blazing out at the word. "If you use that expression with any prospective reference to Miss Cathcart, I am master enough in my own family to insure you full possession of the presumption. I wish you good morning."
The angry man of war turned on his slippered heel, and was striding away.
"One word, I beg," said Harry.
The colonel had too much courtesy in his nature not to stop and turn half towards the speaker.
"I beg to assure you," said Harry, "that I shall continue to cherish the hope that after-thoughts will present my conduct, as well as myself, in a more favourable light to Colonel Cathcart."
And he lifted his hat, and walked away by the gate.
"By Jove!" said the colonel, to himself, notwithstanding the rage he was in, "the fellow can express himself like a gentleman, anyhow."
And so he went back to his room, where I heard him pacing about for hours. I believe he found that his better self was not to be so easily put down as he had supposed; and that that better self sided with Adela and Harry.