He was silent and reserved with the Miss Minetts at supper; and retired early to his own room to prepare a sermon.
BROTHER AND SISTER
Upon the Sunday morning following, Damaris went to the eleven o’clock service alone. Miss Felicia Verity attended church at an earlier hour to-day, partly in the interests of private devotion, partly in those of a person she had warmly befriended in the past, and wanted to befriend in the present—but with delicacy, with tact and due consideration for the susceptibilities of others. She wished earnestly to effect a reconciliation; but not to force it. To force it was to endanger its sincerity and permanence. It should seem to come about lightly, naturally. Therefore did she go out early to perfect her plans—of which more hereafter—as well as to perform her religious duties. Sir Charles Verity was from home, staying with Colonel Carteret for partridge shooting, over the Norfolk stubble-fields. The habit of this annual visit had, for the last two seasons, been in abeyance; but now, with his return to The Hard, was pleasantly revived, although this autumn, owing to business connected with the publication of his book, the visit took place a few weeks later than usual.
Hence did Damaris—arrayed in a russet-red serge gown, black velvet collar and cuffs to its jacket of somewhat manly cut, and a russet-red upstanding plume in her close-fitting black velvet hat—set forth alone to church. This, after redirecting such letters as had arrived for her father by the morning post. One of them bore the embossed arms of the India Office, and signature of the, then, Secretary of State for that department in the corner of the envelope. She looked at it with a measure of respect and curiosity, wondering as to the purport of its contents. She studied the envelope, turning it about in the hope of gleaning enlightenment from its external aspect. Still wondering, slightly oppressed even by a persuasion—of which she could not rid herself—that it held matters of no common moment closely affecting her father, she went out of the house, down the sheltered drive, and through the entrance gates. Here, as she turned inland, the verve of the clear autumn morning rushed on her, along with a wild flurry of falling leaves dancing to the breath of the crisp northerly breeze.
A couple of fine days, with a hint of frost in the valley by night, after a spell of soft mists and wet, sent the leaves down in fluttering multitudes, so that now all trees, save the oaks only, were bare. These—by which the road is, just here, overhung—still solidly clothed in copper, amber and—matching our maiden’s gown—in russet-red, offered sturdy defiance to the weather. The sound of them, a dry crowded rustling, had a certain note of courage and faithfulness in it which caused Damaris to wait awhile and listen; yet a wistfulness also, since to her hearing a shudder stirred beneath its bravery, preluding the coming rigours of winter.