“Who said anything about present conditions?” demanded Bertie, almost angrily; and then in an altered voice: “Old man, I didn’t mean that, and you know it. I only meant that you will always be wanted wherever you are. God doesn’t turn out a good thing like you every day.”
“Oh, shucks!” said Lucas Errol softly.
When Mrs. Errol remarked in her deep voice, that yet compassed the incomparable Yankee twang, that she guessed she wasn’t afraid of any man that breathed, none of those who heard the bold assertion ventured to contradict her.
Lucas Errol was entertaining a large house-party, and the great hall was full of guests, most of whom had just returned from the day’s sport. The hubbub of voices was considerable, but Mrs. Errol’s remark was too weighty to be missed, and nearly everyone left off talking to hear its sequel.
Mrs. Errol, who was the soul of hospitality, but who, nevertheless, believed firmly in leaving people to amuse themselves in their own way, had only returned a few minutes before from paying a round of calls. She was wrapped in furs from head to foot, and her large, kindly face shone out of them like a November sun emerging from a mass of cloud.
There was a general scramble to wait upon her, and three cups of tea were offered her simultaneously, all of which she accepted with a nod of thanks and a gurgle of laughter.
“Put it down! I’ll drink it presently. Where do you think I’ve just come from? And what do you think I’ve been doing? I’ll wager my last dollar no one can guess.”
“Done!” said Nap coolly, as he pulled forward a chair to the blaze. “You’ve been bearding the lion in his den, and not unsuccessfully, to judge by appearances. In other words, you’ve been to the Manor and have drunk tea with the lord thereof.”
Mrs. Errol subsided into the chair and looked round upon her interested audience. “Well,” she said, “you’re right there, Nap Errol, but I shan’t part with my last dollar to you, so don’t you worry any about that. Yes, I’ve been to the Manor. I’ve had tea with Anne Carfax. And I’ve talked to the squire as straight as a mother. He was pretty mad at first, I can assure you, but I kept on hammering it into him till even he began to get tired. And after that I made my points. Oh, I was mighty kind on the whole. But I guess he isn’t under any misapprehension as to what I think of him. And I’m going over to-morrow to fetch dear Anne over here to lunch.”
With which cheerful announcement Mrs. Errol took up one of her cups of tea and drank it with a triumphant air.
“I told him,” she resumed, “he’d better watch his reputation, for he was beginning to be regarded as the local Bluebeard. Oh, I was as frank as George Washington. And I told him also that there isn’t a man inside the U.S.A. that would treat a black as he treats his wife. I think that surprised him some, for he began to stutter, and then of course I had the advantage. And I used it.”