Arthur was about to answer, with more sharpness than discretion, but Mrs. Carr interposed.
“Well, Lord Minster, we have to thank you for a very cynical and lucid explanation of the objects of your party, if they really are its objects. Will you give me some wine?”
After dinner Mrs. Carr devoted herself almost exclusively to Lord Minster, leaving Arthur to talk to Lady Florence. Lord Minster was not slow to avail himself of the opportunity.
“I have been thinking of your remark to me in London about the crossing-sweeper,” he began.
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake don’t drag that wretched man out of his grave, Lord Minster. I really have forgotten what I said about him.”
“I hope, Mrs. Carr, that you have forgotten a good deal you said that day. I may as well take this opportunity——”
“No, please don’t, Lord Minster,” she answered, knowing very well what was coming; “I am so tired to-night.”
“Oh, in that case I can easily postpone my statement. I have a whole fortnight before me.”
Mrs. Carr secretly determined that it should remain as much as possible at his own exclusive disposal, but she did not say so.
Shortly after this, Arthur took his leave, after shaking hands very coldly with her. Nor did he come to the Quinta next day, as he had conceived too great a detestation of Lord Minster to risk meeting him, a detestation which he attributed solely to that rising member of the Government’s political principles, which jarred very much with his own.
“Better and better,” said Mrs. Carr to herself, as she took off her dress, “but Lord Minster is really odious, I cannot stand him for long.”
“Why, Arthur, I had almost forgotten what you are like,” said Mildred, when that young gentleman at last put in an appearance at the Quinta. “Where have you been to all this time?”
“I—oh, I have been writing letters,” said Arthur.
“Then they must have been very long ones. Don’t tell fibs, Arthur; you have not stopped away from here for a day and a half in order to write letters. What is the matter with you?”
“Well, if you must know, Mildred, I detest your friend Lord Minster, the mere sight of him sets my teeth on edge, and I did not want to meet him. I only came here to-day because Lady Florence told me that they were going up to the Convent this afternoon.”
“So you have been to see Lady Florence?”
“No, I met her buying fruit yesterday, and went for a walk with her.”
“In the intervals of the letter-writing?”
“Well, do you know I detest Lady Florence?”
“That is very unkind of you. She is charming.”
“From your point of view, perhaps, as her brother is from mine.”
“Do you mean to tell me that you think that horrid fellow charming?” asked Arthur in disgust.