Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 128.djvu/815

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



From Blackwood's Magazine.



Next morning there was an unwonted excitement manifest throughout the household. Even the fat butler was up when Yorke came down-stairs; Mr. Peevor was going about in a fidget from room to room, although the expected hero was not due for another hour, giving repeated injunctions to the housekeeper to be sure and keep up a good fire in Mr. Frederic's room — he might want to take some rest after his long journey; while numerous apologies were made to Yorke for breakfast's being put off on Fred's account. When, however, Fred did arrive, himself in the brougham and his luggage in the tax-cart, it was pleasant to witness the unfeigned pleasure caused by his arrival; but in fact there was no doubt about the general amiability of the whole family. Every one went pretty much his or her own way, but no one ever seemed out of temper; and there were none of those little bickerings sometimes observable in even the most affectionate circles — sparks of snappishness elicited by domestic friction. Fred was very like his sister Cathy, rather under middle height, with a slight figure, pale complexion, light hair and small moustache, and bearing the unmistakable appearance of the British light dragoon. He accepted the welcome lavished upon him with easy composure, was civil to his step-mother, affectionate to his sisters, and properly deferential to the guest, as became Yorke's reputation and position in the service.

"Well, Frederic," said his father, as they sat over the breakfast-table, "how is your colonel? quite well, I hope, and all the rest of the officers? Is there any chance of the colonel's coming to England this winter? if so, we shall be very pleased if he will do us the honour to pay us a short visit."

The colonel was coming over, Fred believed, for a few weeks' hunting, but that would be with friends in Leicestershire.

"I suppose so," replied his father; "the colonel's company is very much sought after, naturally; the —th is one of the most fashionable regiments in the service," he added by way of explanation to Yorke; "but wouldn't you like to invite Lord Albert Custance, or Sir Charles Allingham, or any of your other brother officers, to come over for a few days hunting with the Southbywestershire? I should be extremely pleased to see them. There is plenty of room for as many as you like to bring, and plenty of stabling, and corn too for all, and we would try our best to make them comfortable. This house is as much yours as mine, you I know, Frederic, so I hope you won't hesitate to do just as you like."

"Very kind of you, sir, I'm sure," replied his son; "but I don't think any of our fellows are likely to be coming this way just now."

"Well then, at any other time, Fred, you must bring some of them, you know — Lord Albert Custance, or Sir Charles Allingham, or any others. I daresay we shall be able to put them up pretty comfortably. We will give them the best of what we have, at any rate."

"Very good of you, sir, I'm sure," again answered the son, and then turned the conversation in a way which implied that Lord Albert Custance and Sir Charles Allingham and the rest of his brother officers would certainly not receive the invitation.

"Do you know the —th, colonel?" said Mr. Peevor, turning to Yorke. "I am sure they would be very pleased to make your acquaintance."

Yorke replied that he knew them very well when the regiment was in India, a few years ago, but that the old set had almost all sold out or exchanged since they came home.

"It is one of the most fashionable regiments in the service," observed Mr. Peevor — "expensive, of course, but I am able to give my son a comfortable allowance."

"Rather too expensive for some of us, sir, I am afraid," said the young man, laughing; "we haven't all of us got such good-natured governors as some one who could be named; but it keeps promotion going."

Great was the consternation in the household when it became known that Fred's visit was to last only three days, and that he was going to spend the remainder of his leave with some friends at Leamington. This only came out by degrees, for the young man was reserved in manner — in this, as in many other respects, a contrast to his father. It was towards the end of his short visit, when he had come to know Yorke better, that he made a partial confidant of the house guest. "I like coming home, and all that, of course," said the young man, as the two were lounging about the stables together smoking their cigars, "but I can't stand the way in which the governor goes