While I was in this bewildered frame of mind, sorely needing a little quiet time by
myself to put me right again, my daughter Penelope got in my way (just as her
late mother used to get in my way on the stairs), and instantly summoned me to
tell her all that had passed at the conference between Mr. Franklin and me.
Under present circumstances, the one thing to be done was to clap the
extinguisher upon Penelope's curiosity on the spot. I accordingly replied that Mr.
Franklin and I had both talked of foreign politics, till we could talk no longer, and
had then mutually fallen asleep in the heat of the sun. Try that sort of answer
when your wife or your daughter next worries you with an awkward question at
an awkward time, and depend on the natural sweetness of women for kissing
and making it up again at the next opportunity.
The afternoon wore on, and my lady and Miss Rachel came back.
Needless to say how astonished they were, when they heard that Mr. Franklin
Blake had arrived, and had gone off again on horseback. Needless also to say,
that THEY asked awkward questions directly, and that the "foreign politics" and
the "falling asleep in the sun" wouldn't serve a second time over with THEM.
Being at the end of my invention, I said Mr. Franklin's arrival by the early train
was entirely attributable to one of Mr. Franklin's freaks. Being asked, upon that,
whether his galloping off again on horseback was another of Mr. Franklin's
freaks, I said, "Yes, it was;" and slipped out of it--I think very cleverly-- in that
Having got over my difficulties with the ladies, I found more difficulties waiting for
me when I went back to my own room. In came Penelope--with the natural
sweetness of women-- to kiss and make it up again; and--with the natural
curiosity of women--to ask another question. This time she only wanted me to tell
her what was the matter with our second housemaid, Rosanna Spearman.
After leaving Mr. Franklin and me at the Shivering Sand, Rosanna, it appeared,
had returned to the house in a very unaccountable state of mind. She had turned
(if Penelope was to be believed) all the colours of the rainbow. She had been
merry without reason, and sad without reason. In one breath she asked hundreds
of questions about Mr. Franklin Blake, and in another breath she had been angry
with Penelope for presuming to suppose that a strange gentleman could possess
any interest for her. She had been surprised, smiling, and scribbling Mr.
Franklin's name inside her workbox. She had been surprised again, crying and
looking at her deformed shoulder in the glass. Had she and Mr. Franklin known
anything of each other before to-day? Quite impossible! Had they heard anything
of each other? Impossible again! I could speak to Mr. Franklin's astonishment as
genuine, when he saw how the girl stared at him. Penelope could speak to the
girl's inquisitiveness as genuine, when she asked questions about Mr. Franklin.
The conference between us, conducted in this way, was tiresome enough, until