Jenny had wit, and Oliver hoped she would know what to do when he got her home. For himself he hadn't a notion, and the silence of this small dauntless thing through the long tiring journey was unnerving. Not that he expected her to tell him anything of her feelings. He believed that Jenny never did tell them—except possibly to Mab, who was the worst mentor any living being could have.
"Here we are," he said, helping her out of the carriage which William had sent to meet the coach at Trienna. "And I hope …" She flashed a bright inquiring glance at him, and he ended lamely, "I hope you're not very cold." Incredibly the little Jenny had actually floored him. Egad! There would be wigs on the green between her and Madam.
He followed her into the bright hall with its lit candles and smiling welcomes. But Jenny was not taking her kisses and pettings until she had got her news off her chest. She loosed the huge heavy cloak and stepped out of it like a blithe young soldier going into battle.
"Grandma … Papa," she said in that sweet caressing voice of hers. "I've come back. And I am not going to marry Mr. Paige."
"Port Arthur is hardly a sedative to us Comyns," said Oliver, jestingly, knowing that he looked older and more anxious.page 226
Heaven knew that the Comyn coffers were in no condition to reject such a gold nugget as Paige, who was no worse than falls to the lot of most women.
"Oh, dear!" This was Susan's toot. "But your trousseau, Jenny!"
Now Bill had waked to it. He pushed Oliver aside, staring out of his pale whiskers. "What is this, miss? Of course you will marry him. I gave my word."
"I have given him back mine."
She stood like a small Dresden-china doll, looking at Madam, who leaned on her gold-headed stick and said nothing. Madam was meeting this in her own secret way before she swooped, and it was old Bill who rose to the occasion like a true patriarch. He said much more than was necessary, while the others stood waiting. Every one knew that the real battle was between Jenny and Madam. Every one, that is, except Bill, who ended majestically: "You will go to your room and remain there on bread and water until I have decided what to do with you." Madam moved, and Bill amended hurriedly, "Until we have decided, I mean."
Madam furled the turkey-feather fan that hung from her waist, stepped forward, and lightly struck Jenny across the shoulders. "Ingrate!" she said, and turned her back and walked off to the salon. Oliver expected to hear the harp, but apparently this was beyond harps.
The Captain, much troubled, took Jenny up in a big hug. "Never mind, sweetheart…. She don't mean it," he said.
"Dear Grandpa," said Jenny. She patted his rosy cheeks, kissed him, and went up the stair, not looking back. Oliver wondered if those behind shared his uncomfortable feeling that the little baggage, going to her punishment, had somehow got the best of them all—and knew it. But no one spoke except Susan, who was lamenting that Jenny's trousseau would be too small for Charlotte.