I found, on my arrival at the shop in Brown's Square, that the old gentleman had returned that very evening, impatient, it seems, of remaining a night out of the guardianship of the domestic Lares. Having this information from James, whose brow wore rather an anxious look on the occasion, I dispatched a Highland chairman to the livery stable with my Bucephalus, and slunk, with as little noise as might be, into my own den, where I began to mumble certain half-gnawed and not half-digested doctrines of our municipal code. I was not long seated, when my father's visage was thrust, in a peering sort of way, through the half-opened door; and withdrawn, on seeing my occupation, with a half-articulated HUMPH! which seemed to convey a doubt of the seriousness of my application. If it were so, I cannot condemn him; for recollection of thee occupied me so entirely during an hour's reading, that although Stair lay before me, and notwithstanding that I turned over three or four pages, the sense of his lordship's clear and perspicuous style so far escaped me, that I had the mortification to find my labour was utterly in vain.
Ere I had brought up my lee-way, James appeared with his summons to our frugal supper--radishes, cheese, and a bottle of the old ale-only two plates though--and no chair set for Mr. Darsie, by the attentive James Wilkinson. Said James, with his long face, lank hair, and very long pig-tail in its leathern strap, was placed, as usual, at the back of my father's chair, upright as a wooden sentinel at the door of a puppet-show. 'You may go down, James,' said my father; and exit Wilkinson.--What is to come next? thought I; for the weather is not clear on the paternal brow.
My boots encountered his first glance of displeasure, and he asked me, with a sneer, which way I had been riding. He expected me to answer, 'Nowhere,' and would then have been at me with his usual sarcasm, touching the humour of walking in shoes at twenty shillings a pair. But I answered with composure, that I had ridden out to dinner as far as Noble House. He started (you know his way) as if I had said that I had dined at Jericho; and as I did not choose to seem to observe his surprise, but continued munching my radishes in tranquillity, he broke forth in ire.
'To Noble House, sir! and what had you to do at Noble House, sir? Do you remember you are studying law, sir?--that your Scots law trials are coming on, sir?--that every moment of your time just now is worth hours at another time?--and have you leisure to go to Noble House, sir?--and to throw your books behind you for so many hours?--Had it been a turn in the meadows, or even a game at golf--but Noble House, sir!'
'I went so far with Darsie Latimer, sir, to see him begin his journey.'
'Darsie Latimer?' he replied in a softened tone--'Humph!--Well, I do not blame you for being kind to Darsie Latimer; but it would have done as much good if you had walked with him as far as the toll-bar, and then made your farewells--it would have saved horse-hire--and your reckoning, too, at dinner.'
'Latimer paid that, sir,' I replied, thinking to soften the matter; but I had much better have left it unspoken.
'The reckoning, sir!' replied my father. 'And did you sponge upon any man for a reckoning? Sir, no man should enter the door of a public-house without paying his lawing.'