“Good-night, Comtesse,” and he walked to the door. “I shall be down at nine o’clock.”
And so we parted.
On the morrow it had cleared up and flashes of blue sky were appearing. Augustus and Mr. McCormack had both had too much to drink the night before, at dinner, and were looking, and no doubt feeling, mixed and ill-tempered.
The morning was long after the shooters had gone. It seemed as if one o’clock, when we were to start for the lunch, would never come.
Miss Springle had some passages-at-arms with Mrs. Dodd. They had all been down to breakfast but Lady Wakely and another woman, who were accustomed to the ways of the world.
I had never seen any shooting before. The whole thing was new to me. Augustus had insisted upon selecting what he considered a suitable costume for me. We had been up to London several times together to try it on, and, on the whole, though a little outre in its checks, it is not unbecoming.
“Do you shoot, yourself, Mrs. Gussie?” Mrs. Dodd asked, when we assembled in the hall, ready to start.
“No; do you?” I replied.
“Of course not! The idea! But, seeing your skirt so very short, I should have guessed you were a sportswoman and killed the birds yourself!” and she sniffed ominously.
“Do birds get killed with a skirt?” Miss Springle asked, pertly. She hates Mrs. Dodd. They were neighbors In Liverpool, originally. “I thought you had to shoot at them?”
Mrs. Dodd snorted.
“You will get awfully muddy, Mrs. Dodd, in your long cashmere,” Miss Springle continued. “And Mr. Dodd told me, when I met him coming from the bath this morning, to be sure not to wear any colors—they frighten the birds. I am certain he will object to that yellow paradise-plume in your hat.”
Mrs. Dodd looked ready to fight.
“Mr. Dodd had better talk to me about my hat!” she said, growing purple in the face. “I call all these modern sporting-costumes indecent, and when I was a girl I should have been whipped for coming out shooting in the things you have got on, Miss Springle!”
“Really! you don’t say so!” said Miss Springle, innocently, “Why, I never heard they shot birds in Liverpool, Mrs. Dodd.”
I interfered. The expression of my elder guest’s face was becoming apoplectic.
“Let us get into the brake,” I said.
Lady Wakely sat next me.
“Very unpleasant person, Mrs. Dodd,” she whispered, wheezily, as we drove off, “She is here every year. My dear, you are good-natured to put up with her.”
Lunch was laid out in the barn of one of the farm-houses. Augustus had given orders that it should be of the most sumptuous description, and the chef had done marvels.
The table looked like a wedding-breakfast when we got there, with flowers and printed menus.