“It is over there by the copse,” she said shyly. “The lower branch fell last winter, and it makes a delightful seat. One is not obliged to climb into the tree now. See: Demetrius helped me to drag it close, and we nailed on these two arms,” and she pointed to a giant oak not far from them, which John Derringham pretended to recognize.
He tried his best to get her to talk to him, but some cloud of timid aloofness on her part seemed to hang between them, and very soon below the copse they came to the one vulnerable part in all the haw-haw’s length. She showed him how to take the bricks out and where to place his feet, and pointed out how secluded from any eye the place was. Then, as he climbed down and then up again, and looked across at her from Wendover lands, she said a sedate good-by, and turning, went on among the thickly growing saplings of the copse and, never looking back, was soon out of sight.
John Derringham watched her disappear with a strange feeling of ruffled disquietude in his heart.
It was so warm and charming an April day that Mrs. Cricklander and some of her friends were out of doors before luncheon, walking up and down the broad terrace walk that flanked Wendover’s southern side.
It was a Georgian house, spacious and comfortable, but not especially beautiful. Mrs. Cricklander was a woman of enormous ability—she had a perfect talent for discovering just the right people to work for her pleasure and benefit, while being without a single inspiration herself. If she engaged a professional adviser to furnish her house, and decorate it, you could be sure he was of the best and that his services had been measured and balanced beforehand, and that he had been generously paid whatever he had obtained by bargaining for it, and that the agreement was signed and every penny of the cost entered in a little book. It was so with everything that touched her life. She had a definite idea of what she wanted, although she did not always want the same thing for long; but while she did, she went about getting it in a sensible, practical way, secured it, paid for it,—and then often threw it away.
She had felt she wanted Vincent Cricklander because he belonged to one of the old families in New York and played polo well, and, being a great heiress though of no pretensions to birth, she wished to have an undisputed entry into the inner circle of her own country. He fulfilled her requirements for quite three years, and then she felt she was “through” with America, and wanted fresh fields for her efforts. Paris was too easy, Berlin doubtful, Vienna and Petersburg impossible to conquer, but London would hold out everything that she could wish for. Only, it must be the very best of London, not the part of its society that anyone can struggle and push and pay to get into, but the real thing. She was “quite finished” with Vincent Cricklander, too, at this period; to see him play polo no longer gave her any thrill. So one morning at their lunch, on a rare occasion when they chanced to be alone, she told him so, and asked him practically how much he would take to let her divorce him.