Elizabeth cried herself to sleep. No comforting sprite whispered to her that she had won the first round in an arduous campaign. On the contrary, she fully expected dismissal on the morrow.
It was a misty but warm October day, and a pleasant veiled light lay on the pillared front of Chetworth House, designed in the best taste of a fastidious school. The surroundings of the house, too, were as perfect as those of Mannering were slatternly and neglected. All the young men had long since gone from the gardens, but the old labourers and the girls in overalls who had taken their places, under the eye of a white-haired gardener, had been wonderfully efficient so far. Sir Henry supposed he ought to have let the lawns stand for hay, and the hedges go unclipped; but as a matter of fact the lawns had never been smoother, or the creepers and yew hedges more beautifully in order, so that even the greatest patriot fails somewhere.
Beryl Chicksands was walking along a stone-flagged path under a yew hedge, from which she commanded the drive and a bit of the road outside. Every now and then she stopped to peer into the sunlit haze that marked the lower slopes of the park, and the delicate hand that shaded her eyes shook a little.
Aubrey was coming—and she was going seriously to offer to give him up—to try to persuade him indeed to break it off. Since her first agitated letter to him begging him not to think of her, but to decide only what was best for his own future, she had received a few words from him.
’DEAREST BERYL—Nothing has happened to interfere with what we promised each other last summer—nothing at all! My poor father seems to be half out of his mind under the stress of war. If he does what he threatens, it will matter very little to me; but of course you must consider it carefully, for I shall have uncommonly little in the worldly way to offer you. Your father has written very kindly, and your dear little note is just like you. But you must consider.
’I sometimes doubt
whether my father will do what he
threatens, but we should have to take the risk. Anyway we shall
meet directly, and I am always, and unalterably, your devoted
That had been followed by a boyish note from Desmond—dear, jolly fellow!
’My father’s clean daft! Don’t bother, my dear Beryl. If he tries to leave me this funny old place, instead of Aubrey, well, there are two can play at that game. I wouldn’t touch it with a barge-pole. You and A. have only got to stick it a little, and it’ll be all right.
him a bit of my mind about the park and the farm.
He stands it from me and only chaffs. That’s because he always
treats me like a baby.