Harry called early, and was informed that the colonel was not at home.
"Something's the matter, Mr. Armstrong," said Beeves. "Master's not at home to you to-day, he says, nor any other day till he countermands the order--that was the word, sir. I'm sure I am very sorry, sir."
"So am I," said Harry. "How's your mistress?"
"Haven't seen her to-day, sir. Emma says she's poorly. But she is down. Emma looks as if she knew something and wouldn't tell it. I'll get it out of her though, sir. We'll be having that old Wade coming about the house again, I'm afeard, sir. He's no good."
"At all events you will let your master know that I have called," said Harry, as he turned disconsolately, to take his departure.
"That I will, sir. And I'll be sure he hears me. He's rather deaf, sometimes, you know, sir."
"Thank you, Beeves. Good morning."
Now what could have been Harry's intention in calling upon the colonel? Why, as he had said himself, to make an apology. But what kind of apology could he make? Clearly there was only one that would satisfy all parties-- and that must be in the form of a request to be allowed to pay his addresses--(that used to be the phrase in my time--I don't know the young ladies' slang for it now-a-days)--to Adela. Did I say--satisfy all parties? This was just the one form affairs might take, which would least of all satisfy the colonel. I believe, with all his rigid proprieties, he would have preferred the confession that the doctor had so far forgotten himself as to attempt to snatch a kiss--a theft of which I cannot imagine a gentleman guilty, least of all a doctor from his patient; which relation no doubt the colonel persisted in regarding as the sole possible and everlastingly permanent one between Adela and Harry. The former was, however, the only apology Harry could make; and evidently the colonel expected it when he refused to see him.
But why should he refuse to see him?--The doctor was not on an equality with the colonel. Well, to borrow a form from the Shorter Catechism: wherein consisted the difference between the colonel and the doctor?--The difference between the colonel and the doctor consisted chiefly in this, that whereas the colonel lived by the wits of his ancestors, Harry lived by his own, and therefore was not so respectable as the colonel. Or in other words: the colonel inherited a good estate, with the ordinary quantity of brains; while Harry inherited a good education and an extraordinary quantity of brains. So of course it was very presumptuous in Harry to aspire to the hand of Miss Cathcart.
In the forenoon the curate called upon me, and was shown into the library where I was.
"What's that scapegrace brother of mine been doing, Smith?" he asked, the moment he entered.
"Wanting to marry Adela," I replied.
"What has he done?"
"Called this morning."
"And seen Colonel Cathcart?"
"Not at home?"
"In a social sense, not at home; in a moral sense, very far from at home; in a natural sense, seated in his own arm-chair, with his own work on the Peninsular War open on the table before him."
"Wouldn't see him?"
"What's he to do then?"
"I think we had better leave that to him. Harry is not the man I take him for if he doesn't know his own way better than you or I can tell him."
"You're right, Smith. How's Miss Cathcart?"
"I have never seen her so well. Certainly she did not come down to breakfast, but I believe that was merely from shyness. She appeared in the dining-room directly after, and although it was evident she had been crying, her step was as light and her colour as fresh as her lover even could wish to see them."
"Then she is not without hope in the matter?"
"If she loves him, and I think she does, she is not without hope. But I do not think the fact of her looking well would be sufficient to prove that. For some mental troubles will favour the return of bodily health. They will at least give one an interest in life."
"Then you think her father has given in a little about it?"
"I don't believe it.--If her illness and she were both of an ordinary kind, she would gain her point now by taking to her bed. But from what I know of Adela she would scorn and resist that."
"Well, we must let matters take their course. Harry is worthy of the best wife in Christendom."
"I believe it. And more, if Adela will make that best wife, I think he will have the best wife. But we must have patience."
Next morning, a letter arrived from Harry to the colonel. I have seen it, and it was to this effect:
"My dear Sir,--As you will not see me, I am forced to write to you. Let my earnest entreaty to be allowed to address your daughter, cover, if it cannot make up for, my inadvertence of the other evening. I am very sorry I have offended you. If you will receive me, I trust you will not find it hard to forget. Yours, &c."
To this the colonel replied:
"Sir,--It is at least useless, if not worse, to apply for an ex post facto permission. What I might have answered, had the courtesies of society been observed, it may be easy for me to determine, but it is useless now to repeat. Allow me to say that I consider such behaviour of a medical practitioner towards a young lady, his patient, altogether unworthy of a gentleman, as every member of a learned profession is supposed to be. I have the honour, &c."
I returned the curate's call, and while we were sitting in his study, in walked Harry with a rather rueful countenance.
"What do you say to that, Ralph?" said he, handing his brother the letter.
"Cool," replied Ralph. "But Harry, my boy, you have given him quite the upper hand of you. How could you be so foolish as kiss the girl there and then?"
"I didn't," said Harry.
"But you did just as bad. You were going to do it."
"I don't think I was. But somehow those great eyes of hers kept pulling and pulling my head, so that I don't know what I was going to do. I remember nothing but her eyes. Suddenly a scared look in them startled me, and I saw it all. Mr. Smith, was it so very dishonourable of me?"
"You are the best judge of that yourself, Harry," I answered. "Just let me look at the note."
I read it, folded it up carefully, and returning it, said:
"He's given you a good hold of him there. It is really too bad of Cathcart, being a downright good fellow, to forget that he ran away with Miss Selby, old Sir George, the baronet's daughter. Neither of them ever repented it; though he was only Captain Cathcart then, in a regiment of foot, too, and was not even next heir to the property he has now."
"Hurrah!" cried Harry.
"Stop, stop. That doesn't make it a bit better," said his brother. "I suppose you mean to argue with him on that ground, do you?"
"No, I don't. I'm not such a fool. But if I should be forced to run away with her, he can't complain, you know."
"No, no, Harry, my boy," said I. "That won't do. It would break the old man's heart. You must have patience for a while."
"Yes, yes. I know what I mean to do."
"When I've made up my mind, I never ask advice. It only bewilders a fellow."
"Quite right, Hal," said his brother. "Only don't do anything foolish."
"I won't do anything she doesn't like."
"No, nor anything you won't like yourself afterwards," I ventured to say.
"I hope not," returned he, gravely, as he walked out, too much absorbed to bid either of us good morning.
It was now more than time that I should return to town; but I could not leave affairs in this unsatisfactory state. I therefore lingered on to see what would come next.