He bent nearer to her and answered softly: “They are indeed fine words,” and there was no mockery whatever in his eyes as he looked at her—and took in every detail of her pure childish face. “You wonderful, strange little girl—soon I too am going like Perseus to fight the Gorgons, and I shall remember this night and what you have said.”
But at that moment Mr. Miller’s high, cackling laugh was heard in an explosion of mirth. Mr. Carlyon had made some delightfully obvious joke for his delectation and amidst a smiling company Miss La Sarthe rose with dignity to leave the gentlemen alone with their wine.
Next morning, John Derringham sat at a late breakfast with his whilom master of Greek and discussed things in general over his bacon and tea.
It was three years since he had left Oxford, and life held out many interesting aspects for him. He was standing for the southern division of his county in the following spring when the present member was going to retire, and he was vehement in his views and clear as to the course he meant to take. He was so eloquent in his discourse and so full of that divine spark of enthusiasm, that he was always listened to, no matter how unpalatably Tory the basic principles of his utterances were. He never posed as anything but an aristocrat, and while he whimsically admitted that in the present day to be one was an enormous disadvantage for a man who wished to get on, he endeavored to palliate the misfortune by lucid explanation of what the duties of such a status were, and of the logical advantages which an appreciation of the truths of cause and effect might bring to mankind. Down in his own country he was considered the coming man. He thundered at the people and had facts and figures at his finger tips. His sublime belief in himself never wavered and like any inspired view, right or wrong, it had its strong effect.
Mr. Carlyon thought highly of him, for a number of reasons.
“If women do not make a stumbling-block for you, John, you will go far,” he said as he buttered his toast.
“Women!” quoth John Derringham, and he laughed incredulously. “They matter no more to me than the flowers in the garden—enchanting in the summer time, a mere pleasure for sight and touch, but to make or mar a man’s life!—not even to be considered as factors in the scheme of things.”
“I am glad to hear you say so,” said Mr. Carlyon dryly. “And I hope that jade, Fate, won’t play you any tricks.”
John Derringham smiled.
“I admit that a woman with money may be useful to me by and by,” he said, “because, as you know, I am always hard up, and presently when I want to occupy a larger sphere I shall require money for my ends, but for the time being they serve to divert me as a relaxation; that is all.”
“You are contracting no ties, dear lad?” asked the Professor with one eyebrow raised, while he shook back his silvery hair. “I had heard vaguely about your attention to Lady Durrend, but I understand she has had many preliminary canters and knows the ropes.”