“Very well,” answered Edward, “that is if it suits Mrs. Quest. Perhaps she may object to carting me about the country.”
“I have not observed any such reluctance on her part,” said the lawyer dryly, “but we can easily settle the question. I must go home and get some plans before I attend the vestry meeting about that pinnacle. Will you step across with me and we can ask her?”
“Oh yes,” he answered. “I have nothing particular to do.”
And accordingly, so soon as Mr. Quest had made some small arrangements and given particular directions to his clerks as to his whereabouts for the day, they set off together for the lawyer’s private house.
Mr. Quest’s wife
Mr. Quest lived in one of those ugly but comfortably-built old red brick houses which abound in almost every country town, and which give us the clearest possible idea of the want of taste and love of material comfort that characterised the age in which they were built. This house looked out on to the market place, and had a charming old walled garden at the back, famous for its nectarines, which, together with the lawn tennis court, was, as Mrs. Quest would say, almost enough to console her for living in a town. The front door, however, was only separated by a little flight of steps from the pavement upon which the house abutted.
Entering a large, cool-looking hall, Mr. Quest paused and asked a servant who was passing there where her mistress was.
“In the drawing-room, sir,” said the girl; and, followed by Edward Cossey, he walked down a long panelled passage till he reached a door on the left. This he opened quickly and passed through into a charming, modern-looking room, handsomely and even luxuriously furnished, and lighted by French windows opening on to the walled garden.
A little lady dressed in some black material was standing at one of these windows, her arms crossed behind her back, and absently gazing out of it. At the sound of the opening door she turned swiftly, her whole delicate and lovely face lighting up like a flower in a ray of sunshine, the lips slightly parted, and a deep and happy light shining in her violet eyes. Then, all in an instant, it was instructive to observe how instantaneously, her glance fell upon her husband (for the lady was Mrs. Quest) and her entire expression changed to one of cold aversion, the light fading out of her face as it does from a November sky, and leaving it cold and hard.
Mr. Quest, who was a man who saw everything, saw this also, and smiled bitterly.
“Don’t be alarmed, Belle,” he said in a low voice; “I have brought Mr. Cossey with me.”
She flushed up to the eyes, a great wave of colour, and her breast heaved; but before she could answer, Edward Cossey, who had stopped behind to wipe some mud off his shoes, entered the room, and politely offered his hand to Mrs. Quest, who took it coldly enough.