The house party had been augmented during the day by the arrival of half a dozen men and women from, the city brain-fagged, listless, and smart. The big cottage now was full, the company complete for three weeks at least. She looked ahead, this fresh, vigorous young Englishwoman, and wondered how she was to endure the staleness of life.
There was some relief in the thought that the men would make love to the good-looking young married women—at least part of the time—and—but it depressed her in turn to think of the left-over husbands who would make love to her.
“Why is it that Evelyn doesn’t have real men here—like this Mr. Shaw?” she found herself wondering vaguely as the night wore on.
IN WHICH A DOG TRESPASSES
Penelope was a perverse and calculating young person. She was her own mistress and privileged to ride as often as she pleased, but it seemed rather odd—although splendidly decorous—that she did not venture upon Mr. Shaw’s estate for more than a week after her first encounter with the feudal baron. If she found a peculiarly feminine satisfaction in speculating on his disappointment, it is not to be wondered at. Womanly insight told her that Randolph Shaw rode forth each day and watched with hawk-like vigilance for the promised trespasser. In his imagination, she could almost hear him curse the luck that was helping her to evade the patrol.
One morning, after a rain, she rode with the duke to the spot where Shaw had drawn his line in the road. She felt a thrill of something she could not define on discovering that the wet soil on the opposite side of the line was disfigured by a mass of fresh hoof-prints. She rejoiced to find that his vigil was incessant and worthy of the respect it imposed. The desire to visit the haunted house was growing more and more irresistible, but she turned it aside with all the relentless perverseness of a woman who feels it worth while to procrastinate.
Truth to tell, Randolph Shaw was going hollow-eyed and faint in his ceaseless, racking watch for trespassers.
Penelope laughed aloud as she gazed upon the tangle of hoof-print. The duke looked as surprised as it was possible for him to look after the wear of the past night.
“Hang it all, Penelope,” he said. “I didn’t say anything, don’t you know.”
“I was just thinking,” she said hastily, “what fun it would be for us to explore the haunted house.”
“Oh, I say, Pen, that’s going out of the way for a little fun, isn’t it? My word, it’s a filthy old house with rats and mice and all that—no place for a ghost, much less a nice little human being like you. They’re all like that.”
“I think you are afraid to go,” said she.
“Afraid of ghosts? Pshaw!” sniffed the duke, sticking out his chest.
“Yes, Shaw! That’s whom you’re afraid of.”