“I should like to have been able to take the park of the next place, La Sarthe Chase, too—that impassable haw-haw and the boarded-up gate irritate me. The boards have been put since I came to look over everything last autumn. I did instruct the agent, Martin, in Applewood to offer a large price for it, but he assured me it would be quite useless; it belongs, it appears, to the most ridiculous old ladies, who are almost starving, but would rather die than be sensible.”
Suddenly John Derringham was conscious that his sympathies had shifted to the Misses La Sarthe, and he could not imagine why.
“You told me, I think,” she went on, “that you knew this neighborhood. Do you happen to be aware of any bait I could hold out to them?”
“No, I do not,” he said. “That sort of pride is foolish, if you like; but there it is—part of an inheritance of the spirit which in the past has made England great. They are wonderful old ladies. I dined with them once long ago.”
“I must really go over and see them one day. Perhaps I could persuade them to my view.”
The flicker of a smile came into the eyes of John Derringham, and she noticed it at once. It angered her, and deepened the pretty pink in her fresh cheeks.
“You think they would not be pleased to see me?” she flashed.
“They are ridiculously old-fashioned,” he said. “Not your type at all.”
“But I love curiosities,” she returned, smiling now. “I am not absolutely set upon any type. All human beings are a delightful study. If you know them, you must bring them to see me then some day.”
But at this John Derringham laughed outright.
“If you could picture them, you would laugh, too,” he said. “There is someone, though, whom I do want you to know, who lives close here—my old Oxford professor of Greek, Arnold Carlyon. He is a study who will repay you. The most whimsical cynic, as well as one of the greatest scholars I have ever come across in my life. I promised him to-day that I would persuade you to let me take you to see him.”
“How enchanting,” she replied with enthusiasm. “And we must make him come here. When shall we go? To-morrow?”
“No, I said Monday or Tuesday—with your permission,” and he bent over her with caressing homage.
“Of course—when you will. That, then, is where you were this morning. But how did you get back through the park?” she asked. “There is no opening at that side whatever. It is all blocked by the wicked La Sarthe Chase.”
“I came round the edge,” he said, and felt annoyed—he hated lying—“and then turned upwards. I wanted to see the boundaries.”
“I hate boundaries,” she laughed. “I always want to overstep them.”
“There is the chance of being caught in snares.”
“Which adds to the excitement,” and she allowed her radiant eyes to seek his with a challenge.
He was not slow to take it up.