“Of course, we quite understand,” said Cora, quickly, touched at once by this simple speech. “But we should so love you to come over to us.”
“Alas!” said Halcyone, “it is indeed the Styx.”
And here they arrived at the boarded-up gate, where further view was impossible, and from which onwards the lands ceased to join.
“Good-by!” they called to one another, even Arabella Clinker joining in the chorus, while Cora Lutworth ran back to say:
“Some day we’ll meet—outside the Styx. Let us get Mr. Derringham to manage it!”
And Halcyone cried a glad “Oh, yes!”
“What a darling! What a perfect darling!” Miss Lutworth said enthusiastically, taking Arabella’s arm as they struck rapidly inward and up a knoll. “Did you ever see anything look so like a lady in that impossible old dress? Tell us about her, Mr. Derringham. Does she live with those prehistoric ladies all alone in that haunted house? Could anything be so mysterious and romantic? Please tell us all you know.”
“Yes, she does, I believe,” John Derringham said. “My old master tells me she never sees or speaks to anyone from one year’s end to another. I have only met her very rarely myself.”
“Does it not seem too awful?” returned Cora, aghast, thinking of her own merry, enjoyable life, with every whim gratified. “To be so young and attractive and actually buried alive! Don’t you think she is a dream, Arabella?”
“I was greatly impressed with her distinction and charm,” Miss Clinker said. “I wish we could do something for her to make things brighter.”
“Let us ask Cis—” and then Miss Lutworth paused, returning to her first thought—she knew her hostess well. No, it could not bring any pleasure into the life of this slender, lithe English lady with the wonderful Greek name, to be made acquainted with Cecilia Cricklander, who would tear her to pieces without compunction the moment she understood in what direction John Derringham’s eyes would probably be cast. He saw Cora’s hesitation and understood, and was grateful.
“I believe this girl is trumps. I don’t think she will even mention our meeting,” he said to himself.
Now for a few steps Miss Lutworth drew Arabella Clinker on ahead.
“Arabella, you dear,” she whispered, “I don’t want to say a word against Cis—who, of course, is all right—but I have a feeling we won’t tell her we’ve met this dryad of a Halcyone La Sarthe. Have you got that instinct, too?”
“Quite strongly,” said Arabella, who never wasted words. “I was going to mention to you the same idea myself.”
“Then that is understood!” and she laughed her happy laugh. “I’ll see that Freynie doesn’t peach!”
Thus it was that four demure and healthful-looking beings joined the party on the terrace of Wendover, and described their pleasant walk, without one word spoken of their rencontre with the youngest Miss La Sarthe. And once or twice Cora Lutworth’s mischievous eyes met those of John Derringham, and they both laughed.