Constance excused herself, but scarcely with decision. Her plans, she said, must depend upon her cousins. Falloden smiled and dropped the subject for the moment. Then, as they moved on together through the sinuous ways of the garden, flooded with the scent of hawthorns and lilacs, towards the open tent crowded with folk at the farther end, there leapt in both the same intoxicating sense of youth and strength, the same foreboding of passion, half restlessness, and half enchantment....
* * * * *
“I looked for you everywhere,” said Sorell, as he made his way to Constance through the crowd of departing guests in the college gateway. “Where did you hide yourself? The Lord Chancellor was sad not to say good-bye to you.”
Constance summoned an answering tone of regret.
“How good of him! I was only exploring the garden—with Mr. Falloden.”
At the name, there was a quick and stiffening change in Sorell’s face.
“You knew him before? Yes—he told me. A queer fellow—very able. They say he’ll get his First. Well—we shall meet at the Eights and then we’ll make plans. Goodnight.”
He smiled on her, and went his way, ruminating uncomfortably as he walked back to his college along the empty midnight streets. Falloden? It was to be hoped there was nothing in that! How Ella Risborough would have detested the type! But there was much that was not her mother in the daughter. He vowed to himself that he would do his small best to watch over Ella Risborough’s child.
There was little or no conversation in the four-wheeler that bore the Hooper party home. Mrs. Hooper and Alice were stiffly silent, while the Reader chaffed Constance a little about her successes of the evening. But he, too, was sleepy and tired, and the talk dropped. As they lighted their bedroom candles in the hall, Mrs. Hooper said to her niece, in her thin, high tone, mincing and coldly polite:
“I think it would have been better, Constance, if you had told us you knew Lord Glaramara. I don’t wish to find fault, but such—such concealments—are really very awkward!”
Constance opened her eyes. She could have defended herself easily. She had no idea that her aunt was unaware of the old friendship between her parents and Lord Glaramara, who was no more interesting to her personally than many others of their Roman habitues, of whom the world was full. But she was too preoccupied to spend any but the shortest words on such a silly thing.
“I’m sorry, Aunt Ellen. I really didn’t understand.”
And she went up to bed, thinking only of Falloden; while Alice followed her, her small face pinched and weary, her girlish mind full of pain.
On the day after the Vice-Chancellor’s party, Falloden, after a somewhat slack morning’s work, lunched in college with Meyrick. After hall, the quadrangle was filled with strolling men, hatless and smoking, discussing the chances of the Eights, the last debate at the Union, and the prospects of individual men in the schools.