“You’d better take a mackintosh with you, my dear,” he said. “Remember what he told Tompkins and James.”
“He will not throw me into the river. It might be different if you went. Therefore I think—”
“Throw me in, would he?” and Bazelhurst laughed loudly. “I’m no groom, my dear. You forget that it is possible for Mr. Shaw to be soused.”
“He was good enough to souse himself this morning,” volunteered Penelope. “I rather like him.”
“By Jove, Cecil, you’re not afraid to meet him, are you?” asked the duke with tantalizing coolness. “You know, if you are, I’ll go over and talk to the fellow.”
“Afraid? Now, hang it all, Barminster, that’s rather a shabby thing to suggest. You forget India.”
“I’m trying to. Demmed miserable time I had out there. But this fellow fights. That’s more than the beastly natives did when we were out there. Marching isn’t fighting, you know.”
“Confound it, you forget the time—”
“Mon Dieu, are we to compare ze Hindoo harem wiz ze American feest slugger?” cried the count, with a wry face.
“What’s that?” demanded two noblemen in one voice. The count apologized for his English.
“No one but a coward would permit this disagreeable Shaw creature to run affairs in such a high-handed way,” said her ladyship. “Of course Cecil is not a coward.”
“Thank you, my dear. Never fear, ladies and gentlemen; I shall attend to this person. He won’t soon forget what I have to say to him,” promised Lord Bazelhurst, mentally estimating the number of brandies and soda it would require in preparation.
“This afternoon?” asked his wife, with cruel insistence.
“Yes, Evelyn—if I can find him.”
And so it was that shortly after four o’clock, Lord Bazelhurst, unattended at his own request, rode forth like a Lochinvar, his steed headed bravely toward Shaw’s domain, his back facing his own home with a military indifference that won applause from the assembled house party.
“I’ll face him alone,” he had said, a trifle thickly, for some unknown reason, when the duke offered to accompany him. It also might have been noticed as he cantered down the drive that his legs did not stick out so stiffly, nor did his person bob so exactingly as on previous but peaceful expeditions.
In fact, he seemed a bit limp. But his face was set determinedly for the border line and Shaw.
IN WHICH A YOUNG WOMAN TRESPASSES
Mr. Shaw was a tall young man of thirty or thereabouts, smooth-faced, good-looking and athletic. It was quite true that he wore a red coat when tramping through his woods and vales, not because it was fashionable, but because he had a vague horror of being shot at by some near-sighted nimrod from Manhattan. A crowd of old college friends had just left him alone in the hills after spending several weeks at his place, and his sole occupation these days, aside from directing the affair’s about the house and grounds, lay in the efforts to commune with nature by means of a shotgun and a fishing-rod. His most constant companion was a pipe, his most loyal follower a dog.