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Lord Farquhar Gives Moya A Hint








From: The Highgrader

Verinder's man, Biggs, who had been a fascinated spectator of the Wild
West sports at Gunnison, was describing them to Fisher, maid to Lady
Farquhar and general buttoner-up-the-back to the entire feminine
contingent of the party.

"What do you mean when you say a horse bucks?" she wanted to know.

"'E throws down 'is 'ead and 'e throws up 'is 'eels and you cawn't
remain," he explained, without entire originality.

"Fancy now!"

"Consequence is the rider lands himpromptu on terra firma, so to
hexpress it."

"Dear me. But doesn't it make him dusty, Mr. Biggs?"

"A bit."

"Couldn't Captain Kilmeny ride one of the bronchos?"

"I've 'eard that the captain is a crack rider, none better in the harmy,
Miss Fisher. 'E could ride the blawsted brute if it wouldn't 'ide its
bloomin' 'ead between its legs."

Moya, patrolling the willow walk in front of the Lodge, took this in
with a chuckle.

It was a still night, save only for the rushing waters of the river. The
lamps of the sky had all been lit and were gleaming coldly millions of
miles away. The shadowed moonlight in the trees offered a stage set to
lowered lights.

The thoughts of the girl had drifted to speculation about the
transplanted countryman of hers whose personality had come to interest
her so greatly. He had challenged her trust in him and she had responded
with a pledge. He had not explained a single one of the suspicious
circumstances against him. He had not taken her into his confidence, nor
had he in so many words declared his innocence. She was glad he had told
her nothing, had demanded her faith as a matter of course. It was part
of her pride in him that she could believe without evidence. All the
world would know he was not guilty after he had shown his proofs. It
would be no test of friendship to stand by him then.

A step sounded on the gravel behind her and an arm opened to let her
hand slip round the elbow.

"May I stroll out this dance with you, Miss Dwight?" Lord Farquhar asked
formally, dropping into step with her.

Moya and her guardian were kindred spirits. They never needed to
explain themselves to each other. Both knew how to make-believe.

"If you're not afraid of a scandal at being alone with me so far from a
chaperone," the girl answered lightly.

He burlesqued a sigh. "I'm only afraid there won't be any. It's the
penalty of age, my dear. I can claim all sorts of privileges without
making Verinder jealous."

"Oh, Verinder," she scoffed.

"Should I have said Kilmeny?" he asked.

"I'll tell you a secret, guardy," whispered Moya gayly. "You're a
hundred years younger than either of them."

"I wish my glass told me so."

"Fiddlesticks! Youth is in the heart. Mr. Verinder has never been young
and Captain Kilmeny has forgotten how to be."

"I fancy Ned would be willing to learn how again if he had the proper
teacher."

She gave his arm a little squeeze. "You dear old matchmaker."

"Heaven forbid! I'm merely inquiring, my dear."

"Oh, I see--your in-loco-parentis duty."

"Exactly. So it isn't going to be Ned?"

She looked across the turbid moonlit river before she answered. "I don't
think so."

"Nor Verinder?"

"Goodness, no!" A little ripple of laughter flowed from her lips before
she added: "He's changed his mind. It's Joyce he wants now."

Farquhar selected a cigar from the case. "Hm! Sure you didn't change it
for him?"

A dimple flashed into her cheeks. "I may have helped a little, but not
half as much as Joyce."

"That young woman is a born flirt," Lord Farquhar announced, his beard
and the lower part of his face in the sudden glow of the lighted match.
"Upon my word, I saw her making eyes at your highwayman the night we had
him here."

There was a moment's silence before she answered. "Anybody could see
that he was interested in her."

"It doesn't matter to me who interests him, but I can't have any of my
wards being romantic over a Dick Turpin," he replied lightly.

She was standing in the shadow, so that he could not see the dye sweep
into her cheeks.

"I'm afraid he is going to disappoint you. He's not a highwayman at
all."

"Did he tell you so?"

"No. But I know it."

"Looks to me as if he might make a good one. The fellow is cool as a
cucumber and afraid of nothing on two legs or four."

"You forget he is India's cousin."

"No, I'm remembering that. His father had a devil of a temper and his
mother was as wild as an unbroken colt when I met her."

"They weren't thieves, were they?" she flashed.

He gave her his frank smile. "You like this young man, Moya?"

"Yes. Why shouldn't I?"

"Why not--if you don't like him too well?"

"So that's why you came out here--sent by Lady Farquhar to scold me--and
I thought you had come because you like to be with me."

"One reason doesn't preclude the other."

"I've known for several days she had it on her mind--ever since we saw
Mr. Kilmeny on Sunbeam Creek."

"Come; let us reason together," he invited cheerfully. "We'll sit on the
end of the wharf and dangle our legs while your guardian finishes his
cigar and does his duty by you."

They compromised on a wire-woven seat under a cottonwood. Across the
river two fishermen could be seen working down stream close to the
opposite shore. The two were Verinder and Captain Kilmeny, though at
that distance they were not recognizable.

Lord Farquhar seemed in no hurry to begin, nor did Moya attempt to
hasten him. His cigar glowed and ashed and glowed again before he spoke.

"Odd how things work out, my dear. There across the river are two men
who would like to marry you. Both are good matches. One is by way of
being a bit of a bounder perhaps, but the other is as fine a fellow as
any girl could look for--not brilliant, but no fool either, and as
steady as a clock."

A breath of wind lifted the edge of her white skirt. She followed the
woman's instinct to tuck it safely under her before making demure
answer. "Captain Kilmeny is his own certificate of merit. Any praise is
surplusage."

He shrugged. "That's the perversity of it. You see all his merits and
they don't touch you."

With a vivacious little turn that was wholly charming she turned merrily
upon him. "Are you by any chance proposing for him, Lord Farquhar?"

"Hasn't he proposed for himself?" her guardian asked bluntly.

"I believe he has."

"And you--didn't see it?"

"I couldn't."

"Sorry." He looked at the tip of his cigar and brushed away the ash.
"Because he's a no end good sort."

"You don't know that any better than I do. Don't think I can't see all
the advantages of it. I do. I want to say 'Yes,' but--well, I can't.
That's all."

"On account of the other man?" he questioned gently.

"I haven't mentioned any other man," she cried, her face in a flame.

"No, I mentioned him. Devilish impudent of me, if you want to take it
that way, Moya. But, then, as you've said, I'm in loco. Got to grub
around and find out how you feel."

"Lady Jim has been poking you up and telling you it's your duty," she
told him in derision.

"I daresay. I'm a lazy beggar. Always shirking when I can."

"Lady Jim isn't lazy."

"Di does her duty even when it isn't pleasant. Pity more of us don't."

"Meaning that it is my unpleasant duty to marry Mr. Verinder's money?"

"Hang Verinder and his money. I'm no end glad you can't stand him. Fact
is, we didn't quite know how bad he was when we asked him to join us."

"What then?"

"Well, sure your money isn't on the wrong horse, Moya? Mind, I don't say
it is. I ask."

"If you mean Mr. Kilmeny, there hasn't been a word between us you
couldn't have heard yourself," the girl told him stiffly.

"If my memory serves it didn't use to be so much a matter of words. What
about your feelings? Di fancies----"

"Of course she does. She's always fancying. That's the business of a
chaperone. It's perfectly absurd," Moya flung back hotly.

"Glad you see it that way. It wouldn't do, of course."

She looked directly at him, a challenge in her stormy eyes. "The whole
thing is ridiculous. The man hasn't given me a second thought. If you're
going to warn anyone, it ought to be Joyce."

Lord Farquhar looked straight at her. "Joyce has her eyes wide open. She
can look out for herself."

"And I can't?"

"No, you can't--not when your feelings are involved. You're too
impulsive, too generous."

"It's all a storm in a teacup. I've only met him three times to talk
with. He's been friendly--no more. But if he and I wanted to--not that
there's the ghost of a chance of it, but if we did--I don't see why it
wouldn't do."

"Any number of reasons why it wouldn't. Marriage nowadays isn't entirely
a matter of sentiment. You're an Englishwoman. He's an American, and
will be to the end of the chapter."

"I'm not English; I'm Irish--and the Irish make the best Americans," she
told him sturdily.

Farquhar ignored her protest. "His ways of thinking are foreign to
yours, so are his habits of life. You're a delightful rebel, my dear,
but you've got to come to heel in the end. All girls do. It's a rule of
the game, and you'll have to accept it. No matter how captivating your
highwayman may be--and upon my word I admire him tremendously--he is not
your kind. He makes his own laws, and yours are made for you."

"You're making one for me now, aren't you?" she demanded rebelliously.

"Let's not put it so strong as that. I'm trying to persuade you to
something of which you are fully persuaded already."

"I'm not--not in the least. It's absurd to talk about it because the man
hasn't the least idea of making love to me. But suppose he wanted to.
Why shouldn't I listen to him? You tell me he doesn't have the same
little conventions as we do. Thank heaven he hasn't. His mind is free.
If that condemns him----"

She broke off from sheer passionate inadequacy to express herself.

"Those conventions are a part of your life, little girl. Can you imagine
yourself sitting opposite him at breakfast for the rest of your natural
days?"

"You mean because he is a workingman, I suppose."

"If you like. You would miss all the things to which you were used. Love
in a cottage isn't practicable for young women brought up as you have
been."

"Then I've been brought up wrong. If I were fond enough of the man--but
that's absurd. We're discussing an impossible case. I'll just say this,
though. I've never met a man who would be as little likely to bore one."

"Does his cousin bore you?"

"No. Captain Kilmeny is interesting in his way too, but----"

"Well?"

"His thoughts are all well regulated ones. He keeps to the proper beaten
track." She flung up a hand impatiently. "Oh, I know he's perfect. I've
never been allowed to forget that. He's too perfect. He would let me do
anything I wanted to do. I would want a husband--if I ever have one--who
would be strong enough to make me want to do whatever he said."

Farquhar smiled as he flung his cigar into the river. "That works out
better in theory than in practice, my dear. It's the little things that
count in married life. What we need is a love well under control and
friction eliminated."

"That's not what I want. Give me my great moments, even if I have to pay
for them."

He understood perfectly her eager desire for the best life has to offer.
What he was proposing for her was a tame second best. But it was safe,
and the first rule of the modern marriage mart is to play the game safe.
Yet he had a boyish errant impulse to tell her to cut loose and win
happiness if she could. What restrained him, in addition to what he
owed Lady Jim in the matter, was his doubt as to this young man's
character.

"There would be another thing to consider. Kilmeny is under a cloud--a
pretty serious one. All the evidence connects him with this robbery.
Grant that you believe him innocent. Still, a nice girl can't let her
name be connected with that of a man suspected of a crime."

"I'm sure he isn't guilty. I don't care what the evidence is."

"'Fraid that's sentiment. It has a bad look for him."

"Do we desert our friends when things have a bad look for them?"

"Hm! Friends!"

"I used that word," she told him stanchly.

"But you've only talked with the man three times," he answered with a
gleam of friendly malice in his eyes.

"I've talked with Mr. Verinder forty times and I'm less his friend after
each talk," she returned with energy.

"Well, I daresay I've exaggerated the whole matter, my dear. I was just
to give you a hint--no more."

"You've done it, then."

"Strikes me that I've done my duty in the matter."

"You have--admirably," she scoffed.

"It's up to Di now--if you should take a fancy for entertaining your
highwayman again while you're fishing."

"It's not likely that I'll ever see him again."

"I daresay not." He rose and looked across the rushing water. "There's
just one thing I stick out for. Regardless of your interest in him--no
matter what might happen--you wouldn't let things get on another footing
until he has proved his innocence--absolutely and beyond question."

"Isn't that rather an unnecessary condition? I'm not in the habit of
throwing myself at the heads of strangers who are merely casually polite
to me."

He took in her sweet supple slimness, the fine throat line beneath the
piquant lifted chin which mocked his caution, the little imps of
raillery that flashed from the dark live eyes. In spite of a passionate
craving for the adventure of life she had a good deal of reticence and
an abundant self-respect. He felt that he had said more than enough
already.

"Quite right, my dear. I withdraw my condition."

"It's one I would insist upon myself--if there were any likelihood of
any need of it--which there isn't."

An easy-going man, he did not cross bridges till he came to them. His
wife had persuaded him that Moya needed a talking to, but he was glad
to be through with it.

"Hang the scamp, anyhow!" he laughed. "Maybe he'll break his neck on one
of those outlaw bronchos he's so fond of riding. Maybe they'll put him
safely away in prison, where there is neither marrying nor giving in
marriage. Maybe, as you say, he'll have the bad taste to prefer Joyce to
my little Irish wild rose, in which case he'll be put in his place at
the proper time."

"It's even possible," she added with a murmur of half-embarrassed
laughter, "that if he honored one with an offer--which it has never
entered his head to do--one might regretfully decline with thanks."

"Amen! In the meantime God lead your grace by the hand, as old Bacon
says." He brought his heels together, bowed over her fingers, and kissed
them with exaggerated old-fashioned gallantry.

"Who's being romantic now?" she wanted to know gayly.





Next: Moya's Highwayman

Previous: I'm Here Neighbor



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