But when he waked next morning, he did not find himself in Virginia, but in Devonshire, where, to his unbounded embarrassment, a white housemaid was putting up his curtains and whispering something about his bath. And though he pretended profound slumber, he was well aware that people do not turn brick-red in their sleep. And the problem of what was the matter with the Sherwood family was still before him.
“They’re playing a game,” he told himself after a few days. “That is, Lady Sherwood and Gerald are—poor old Sir Charles can’t make much of a stab at it. The game is to make me think they are awfully glad to have me, when in reality there’s something about me, or something I do, that gets them on the raw.”
He almost decided to make some excuse and get away; but after all, that was not easy. In English novels, he remembered, they always had a wire calling them to London; but, darn it all! the Sherwoods knew mighty well there wasn’t any one in London who cared a hoot about him.
The thing that got his goat most, he told himself, was that they apparently didn’t like his friendship with Chev. Anyway they didn’t seem to want him to talk about him; and whenever he tried to express his warm appreciation for all that the older man had done for him, he was instantly aware of a wall of reserve on their part, a holding of themselves aloof from him. That puzzled and hurt him, and put him on his dignity. He concluded that they thought it was cheeky of a youngster like him to think that a man like Chev could be his friend; and if that was the way they felt, he reckoned he’d jolly well better shut up about it.
But whatever it was that they didn’t like about him, they most certainly did want him to have a good time. He and his pleasure appeared to be for the time being their chief consideration. And after the first day or so he began indeed to enjoy himself extremely. For one thing, he came to love the atmosphere of the old place and of the surrounding country, which he and Gerald explored together. He liked to think that ancestors of his own had been inheritors of these green lanes, and pleasant mellow stretches. Then, too, after the first few days, he could not help seeing that they really began to like him, which of course was reassuring, and tapped his own warm friendliness, which was always ready enough to be released. And besides, he got by accident what he took to be a hint as to the trouble. He was passing the half-open door of Lady Sherwood’s morning-room, when he heard Sir Charles’s voice break out, “Good God, Elizabeth, I don’t see how you stand it! When I see him so straight and fine-looking, and so untouched, beside our poor lad, and think—and think—”