Man and Wife
THE doubt was practically decided before Anne had determined what to do. She was still
at the window when the sitting-room door was thrown open, and Sir Patrick appeared,
obsequiously shown in by Mr. Bishopriggs.
"Ye're kindly welcome, Sir Paitrick. Hech, Sirs! the sight of you is gude for sair eyne."
Sir Patrick turned and looked at Mr. Bishopriggs--as he might have looked at some
troublesome insect which he had driven out of the window, and which had returned on
"What, you scoundrel! have you drifted into an honest employment at last?"
Mr. Bishopriggs rubbed his hands cheerfully, and took his tone from his superior, with
"Ye're always in the right of it, Sir Paitrick! Wut, raal wut in that aboot the honest
employment, and me drifting into it. Lord's sake, Sir, hoo well ye wear!"
Dismissing Mr. Bishopriggs by a sign, Sir Patrick advanced to Anne.
"I am committing an intrusion, madam which must, I am afraid, appear unpardonable in
your eyes," he said. "May I hope you will excuse me when I have made you acquainted
with my motive?"
He spoke with scrupulous politeness. His knowledge of Anne was of the slightest
possible kind. Like other men, he had felt the attraction of her unaffected grace and
gentleness on the few occasions when he had been in her company--and that was all. If he
had belonged to the present generation he would, under the circumstances, have fallen
into one of the besetting sins of England in these days--the tendency (to borrow an
illustration from the stage) to "strike an attitude" in the presence of a social emergency. A
man of the present period, in Sir Patrick's position, would have struck an attitude of (what
is called) chivalrous respect; and would have addressed Anne in a tone of ready-made
sympathy, which it was simply impossible for a stranger really to feel. Sir Patrick
affected nothing of the sort. One of the besetting sins of his time was the habitual
concealment of our better selves--upon the whole, a far less dangerous national error than
the habitual advertisement of our better selves, which has become the practice, public and
privately, of society in this age. Sir Patrick assumed, if anything, less sympathy on this
occasion than he really felt. Courteous to all women, he was as courteous as usual to
Anne--and no more.
"I am quite at a loss, Sir, to know what brings you to this place. The servant here informs
me that you are one of a party of gentlemen who have just passed by the inn, and who
have all gone on except yourself." In those guarded terms Anne opened the interview
with the unwelcome visitor, on her side.
Sir Patrick admitted the fact, without betraying the slightest embarrassment.
"The servant is quite right," he said. "I am one of the party. And I have purposely allowed
them to go on to the keeper's cottage without me. Having admitted this, may I count on
receiving your permission to explain the motive of my visit?"