Not many youths occurred, for nearly all it was the Monday of Eights Week were down by the river, cheering the crews. There did, however, come spurring by, on a polo-pony, a very splendid youth. His straw hat was encircled with a riband of blue and white, and he raised it to the Warden. "That," said the Warden, "is the Duke of Dorset, a member of my College. He dines at my table to-night."
So I told him that Nina would not be in Oxford for more than two or three days, and that I did not know her plans, which was true enough as far as it went, and must have been enough for him to understand what I meant. Although I was useless in a boat, I was always most vigorously excited during Eights' week. Three years before I went to Oxford St.
The whole town came to look at us, and the carters stopped their teams on the road to look on one day particularly when one of our cousins, Maurice de Bunsen, was staying with us. He skated beautifully, doing all sorts of figures, and his double eights and initials astounded the simple country folk. For some time after they spoke of "l'Anglais" who did such wonderful things on the ice.
The haze of heat and twilight blurred shapes and colours, but the fine old houses of the historic "Mall," the tower of the church, and the tall elms and taller chimneys of the breweries, which divide with torpedo boats the credit of being the staple industries of Chiswick, stood out all black against the evening sky; the clashing of the rivetters had ceased in the shipyard, but the river was cheerfully noisy; many eights were practising between the island and the Surrey bank, coaches were shouting at them, a tug was taking a couple of deal-loaded barges to a woodwharf with much puffing and whistling, and bathers, sheltered by the eyot willows, were keeping up loud and breathless conversations.
"I should think you had better go and see Learoyd," Foster said, "he can't be in a bigger hole than you are." He got up to go, and I said that I should wire to my people in the morning and tell them he had got his blue, but he told me that they knew already, and asked me if I had heard that Nina was coming up during the next week to see the last nights of the eights.
On the day after the Vice-Chancellor's party, Falloden, after a somewhat slack morning's work, lunched in college with Meyrick. After hall, the quadrangle was filled with strolling men, hatless and smoking, discussing the chances of the Eights, the last debate at the Union, and the prospects of individual men in the schools.
Both youths were slightly acquainted with him; but he was not used to being spoken to by those whom he had not first addressed. Moreover, he was loth to be thus disturbed in his sombre reverie. His manner was not encouraging. "Isn't it a lovely day for the Eights?" faltered the spokesman. "I conceive," the Duke said, "that you hold back some other question." The spokesman smiled weakly.
"But you must understand," he said, colouring again, "how painful all this has been for me " "Not seeing me?" she interpolated innocently. "The the whole thing," he stammered. "Yes, parents are tiresome," she said sympathetically. He came nearer the music-stool. "Are they not? They came down every year for the Eights." "Is that at Oxford?" "Yes."
Many times we have listened to ravings about the beauty of the heroine, and when she has appeared there has been a giggle in the house on account of her lack of beauty. We have frequently heard references to the tiny feet of a healthy young woman who would hardly have got three of her toes into the glass slipper, or to the dainty hands of a lady who would split a pair of eights.
The others pressed forward to wring his hand in silence. "We are ready, Lieutenant Casimir, advance your men," cried Sutphen. "Columns of eights. First section to the right, second section to the left. March. Trot. Gallop," rang out the commands, as, with their last cheer for Krovitch, the troopers dashed into the highway to clear the space for Trusia.