“I tried, and I succeeded!” she said, as she rose. “You found out that rudeness to my friends didn’t answer! Shall we go and get some lemonade? Wasn’t that why you brought me here? I think I see the tent.”
They walked on together. She seemed to see—exultantly—that she had both angered and excited him.
“I am never rude,” he declared. “I am only honest! Only nobody, in this mealy-mouthed world, allows you to be honest; to say and do exactly what represents you. But I shall not be rude to anybody under your wing. Promise me to come to tea, and I will appear to call on your aunt and behave like any sucking dove.”
Constance considered it.
“Lady Laura must write to Aunt Ellen.”
“Of course. Any other commands?”
“Not at present.”
“Then let me offer some humble counsels in return. I beg you not to make friends with that red-haired poseur I saw you talking to in the hall.”
“Mr. Radowitz!—the musician? I thought him delightful! He is coming to play to me to-morrow.”
“Ah, I thought so!” said Falloden wrathfully. “He is an impossible person. He wears a frilled shirt, scents himself, and recites his own poems when he hasn’t been asked. And he curries favour—abominably—with the dons. He is a smug—of the first water. There is a movement going on in college to suppress him. I warn you I may not be able to keep out of it.”
“He is an artist!” cried Constance. “You have only to look at him, to talk to him, to see it. And artists are always persecuted by stupid people. But you are not stupid!”
“Yes, I am, where poseurs are concerned,” said Falloden coldly. “I prefer to be. Never mind. We won’t excite ourselves. He is not worth it. Perhaps he’ll improve—in time. But there is another man I warn you against—Mr. Herbert Pryce.”
“A great friend of my cousins’,” said Constance mockingly.
“I know. He is always flirting with the eldest girl. It is a shame; for he will never marry her. He wants money and position, and he is so clever he will get them. He is not a gentleman, and he rarely tells the truth. But he is sure to make up to you. I thought I had better tell you beforehand.”
“My best thanks! You breathe charity!”
“No—only prudence. And after my schools I throw my books to the dogs, and I shall have a fortnight more of term with nothing to do except—are you going to ride?” he asked her abruptly. “You said at Cannes that you meant to ride when you came to Oxford.”
“My aunt doesn’t approve.”
“As if that would stop you! I can tell you where you can get a horse—a mare that would just suit you. I know all the stables in Oxford. Wait till we meet on Thursday. Would you care to ride in Lathom Woods? (He named a famous estate near Oxford.) I have a permit, and could get you one. They are relations of mine.”