* * * * *
Miss Roberta had, unfortunately, a bad attack of rheumatism on Easter Sunday, augmented by a cold, and Halcyone stayed at home to rub her poor knee with hot oil, so she did not see the Wendover party, several of whom came to church. Miss La Sarthe occupied the family pew alone, and was the source of much amusement and delight to the smart inhabitants of the outer world.
“Isn’t she just too sweet, Cis?” whispered Miss Lutworth into Mrs. Cricklander’s ear. “Can’t we get Mr. Derringham to take us over there this afternoon?”
But when the subject was broached later at luncheon by his hostess, John Derringham threw cold water upon the idea. He had stayed behind for a few minutes to renew his acquaintance with the ancient lady, and had given her his arm down the short church path, and placed her with extreme deference in the Shetland pony shay, to the absolute enchantment of Miss Lutworth, who, with Lord Freynault, stood upon the mound of an old forgotten grave, the better to see. It was in the earlier days of motor-cars, and Mrs. Cricklander’s fine open Charron created the greatest excitement as it waited by the lych-gate. The two Shetlands cocked their ears and showed various signs of nervous interest, and William had all he could do to hold the minute creatures. But Miss La Sarthe behaved with unimpaired dignity, never once glancing in the direction of the great green monster. She got in, assisted by the respectful churchwarden, and allowed John Derringham to wrap the rug round her knees, and then carefully adjusted the ring of her turquoise-studded whip handle.
“Good day, Goddard,” she said with benign condescension to the churchwarden. “And see that Betsy Hodges’ child with the whooping-cough gets some of Hester’s syrup and is not brought to church again next Sunday.” And she nodded a gracious dismissal. Then, turning to John Derringham, she gave him two fingers, while she said with some show of haughty friendliness: “My sister and I will be very pleased to see you if you are staying in this neighborhood, Mr. Derringham, and care to take tea with us one day.”
“I shall be more than delighted,” he replied, as he bowed with homage and stood aside, because William’s face betrayed his anxiety over the fidgety ponies.
Miss La Sarthe turned her head with its pork-pie hat and floating veil, and said with superb tranquillity, “You may drive on now, William.” And they rolled off between a lane of respectful, curtseying rustics.
Mrs. Cricklander and Lady Maulevrier had already entered the motor and were surveying the scene with amused interest, while Miss Lutworth and Lord Freynault, chaperoned by Arabella Clinker, were preparing to walk. It was not more than a mile across the park, and it was a glorious day. John Derringham joined them.
“I think I will come with you, too,” he said. “You take my place, Sir Tedbury. It is only fair you should drive one way.”