John Derringham reached Wendover—by the road and the lodge gates—in an impossible temper. He had left the orchard house coming as near to a quarrel with his old master as such a thing could be. He absolutely refused to let himself dwell upon the anger he had felt; and if Fate had given him a distinct and pointed chance to ask the fair Cecilia for her lily hand, when he knocked at her sitting-room door before dinner, he would no doubt have left the next day—summoned again to London by his Chief—an engaged man. But this turn of events was not in the calculations of Destiny for the moment, and he found no less a person than Mr. Hanbury-Green already ensconced by his hostess’s side. They were both smoking and looked very comfortable and at ease.
“I just came in to tell you I shall be obliged to tear myself away to-morrow,” John Derringham said, “and cannot have the pleasure of staying to the end of the week in this delightful place.”
Mrs. Cricklander got up from her reclining position among the cushions. This was a blow. She wished now she had not encouraged Mr. Hanbury-Green to come and sit with her; it might be a lost opportunity which it would be difficult to recapture again. But she had felt so very much annoyed at Mr. Derringham’s capriciousness, displayed the whole of the Monday, and then at his absenting himself to-day, having gone to see the Professor, of course—since he was out of the house at tea-time when she had sent to his room to enquire—that she had determined to see what a little jealousy would do for him. But if he were off on the morrow this might not be a safe moment to try it.
Mr. Hanbury-Green, however, had not the slightest intention of giving up his place, in spite of several well-directed hints, and sat on like one belonging to the spot.
So they all had to go off to dress without any longed-for word having been spoken. And Mrs. Cricklander was far too circumspect a hostess to attempt to arrange a tete-a-tete after dinner under the eye of an important social leader like Lady Maulevrier, whom she had only just succeeded in enticing to stay in her country house. So, with the usual semi-political chaff, the evening passed, and good-nights and good-bys were said, and early next day John Derringham left for London.
He would write—he decided—and all the way up in the train he buried himself in the engrossing letters and papers he had received from his Chief by the morning’s post.
And for the next six weeks he was in such a turmoil of hard work and deep and serious questions about a foreign State that he very seldom had time to go into society, and when at last he was a little more free, Mrs. Cricklander, he found, had not returned from Paris, whither she always went several times a year for her clothes.
But they had written to one another once or twice.