So, this late afternoon, aided by the scents and colors and propinquity, he did his very best to make gradual love to her, and for some unaccountable hideously annoying reason felt every moment more aloof. It almost seemed at last as if he were guarding something of fine and free that was being assailed. His dual self was fighting within his soul.
Mrs. Cricklander was experiencing all the exciting emotions which presumably the knights of old enjoyed when engaged in a tournament. She was not even disturbed when the dressing-gong rang and she had not yet won. It was only a postponement of one of the most entrancing games she had ever played in her successful life. And Mr. Hanbury-Green was going to sit upon her left hand at dinner and would afford new flint for her steel. He was a recent acquisition, and of undoubted coming value. His views were in reality nearer her heart politically than those of John Derringham. Deep down in her being was a strong class hatred—undreamed of, and which would have been vigorously denied. She remembered the burning rage and the vows of vengeance which had convulsed her as a girl, because the refined and gently bred women of her own New York’s inner circle would have none of her, and how it had been her glory to trample upon as many of them as she could, when Vincent Cricklander had placed her as head of his fine mansion in Fifty-ninth Street, having moved from the old family home in Washington Square. And there, underneath, was the feeling still for those of any country who, instinct told her, had inherited from evolution something which none of her money, and none of her talent, and none of her indomitable will, could buy. But of course Mr. Hanbury-Green was not to be considered, except as a foil for her wit—a pawn in the game for the securing of John Derringham.
Thus it was that she was able to walk in her stately way with trailing velvets down the broad stairs of her newly acquired home with a sense of exaltation and complacency which was unimpaired.
John Derringham, on the contrary, was rather abrupt with his valet and spoilt two white ties, and swore at himself because his old Eton hand had lost its cunning. But finally he too went down the shallow steps, and, joining his hostess at the door, sailed in with her to the George I saloon, his fine eyes shining and his bearing more arrogant than before.
After dinner there was a brisk passage of arms between the two men of opposite party in the group by the fire, and Mrs. Cricklander incited them to further exertions. It had arisen because Mr. Derringham had launched forth the abominable and preposterous theory that the only thing the Radicals would bring England to would be the necessity of returning to barbarism and importing slaves—then their schemes applied to the present inhabitants of the country might all work. The denizens in the casual wards, having a vote and a competence provided by the State, would have time to become of the leisured classes and apply themselves to culture, and so every free citizen being equal, a company of philosophers and an aristocracy of intellect would arise and all would be well!