And so it was arranged, not altogether to the satisfaction of the hostess, who would have preferred to have walked also. However, there was nothing to be done, and so they were whizzed off, while with the tail of her eye Cecilia Cricklander perceived that Lord Freynault had been displaced from Cora’s side and was now stalking behind the other pair, beside Arabella Clinker.
“What an extraordinary sight that was,” she said to Sir Tedbury Delvine as they went along. “I thought no villagers curtsied any more now in England. That very funny-looking old lady might have been a royalty!”
“It is because she has never had a doubt but that she is—or something higher—complete owner of all these souls,” he returned, “that they have not yet begun to doubt it either. They and their forebears have bobbed to the La Sarthe for hundreds of years, and they will go on doing it if this holder of the name lives to be ninety-nine. They would never do so to any new-comer, though, I expect.”
“But I am told they have not a penny left, and have sold every acre of the land except the park. Is it not wonderful, Kitty?” Mrs. Cricklander went on, turning to Lady Maulevrier. “I am dying to know them. I hope they will call.”
But Sir Tedbury had already chanced to have talked the matter over with John Derringham, because he himself was most anxious to see La Sarthe Chase, which was of deep historical interest, and had incidentally been made aware by that gentleman of the old ladies’ views, so he hastily turned the conversation, rather awkwardly, to other things. And a wonder grew in Mrs. Cricklander’s mind.
That anyone should not be enchanted to receive her beautiful and sought-after self could not enter her brain, but there was evidently some bar between the acquaintance of herself and her nearest neighbors, and Arabella should be set to find out of what it consisted.
“Do let us go around by the boundary,” Miss Lutworth said when they got through the Wendover gates. “I long to see even the park of that exquisite old lady; it must look quite different to anybody else’s, and I feel I want an adventure!”
So they struck in towards the haw-haw—the four walking almost abreast.
When they came to beyond the copse, after it touched the Professor’s garden, they paused and took in the view. It was unspeakably beautiful from there, rolling away towards the splendid old house, which could only just be distinguished through the giant trees, not yet in leaf. And suddenly, hardly twenty yards from them across the gulf, coming from the gap in Mr. Carlyon’s hedge, they saw a tall and very slender mouse-colored figure, as Halcyone emerged on her homeward way—she had run down to see Cheiron when her duties with Miss Roberta were over, and was now going back to lunch.
“Good morning!” called John Derringham, and the four advanced to the very edge of their side, and Halcyone turned and also bordered hers, while she bowed serenely.