In the meanwhile, the car sped on up the valley until it reached an ancient house built on to a great square tower, where Bland was welcomed by a lady of high importance in the district. Afterward he was familiarly greeted by several of her guests, which Sylvia, who had strong ambitions, duly noticed; these people occupied a different station from the one in which she had hitherto moved. When Bland was called away from her, she was shown to a place at some distance from Mrs. Kettering’s party, and she sat down and looked about with interest. From the smooth lawn and still glowing borders before the old gray house, a meadow ran down to the river that wandered, gleaming, through the valley, and beyond it the brown moors cut against the clear blue sky. In the meadow, a large, oval space was lined with groups of smartly-dressed people, and in its midst rose trim pavilions outside which grooms stood holding beautiful glossy horses. Everything was prettily arranged; the scene, with its air of gayety, appealed to Sylvia, and she enjoyed it keenly, though she was now and then conscious of her somber attire.
Then the entertainment began, and she admitted that Bland, finely-mounted, was admirable. He took his part in several competitions, and through them all displayed a genial good-humor and easy physical grace. He had for the most part younger men as antagonists, but Sylvia thought that none of them could compare with him in manner or bearing.
After a while Sylvia noticed with a start of surprise and annoyance that Herbert Lansing was strolling toward her. He took an unoccupied chair at her side.
“What brought you here?” she asked.
“That,” he said, “is easily explained. I got a kind of circular of invitation, and as I’ve had dealings with one or two of these people, I thought it advisable to make an appearance and pay my half-guinea. Then there’s a man I want a talk with, and I find that the atmosphere of an office has often a deterrent effect on those unused to it. But I didn’t expect to find you here.”
“Susan and some of the others have come; I’ve no doubt you’ll meet her.”
The explanation appeared adequate on the face of it, but a moment later Herbert glanced at Bland, who was dexterously controlling his restive horse.
“The man looks well in the saddle, doesn’t he?” he said.
“Yes,” assented Sylvia in an indifferent tone, though she was slightly disturbed. Herbert was keen-witted, and she would rather not have had him take an interest in her affairs.
“I’m inclined to think it’s fortunate I didn’t bring Muriel,” he resumed with a smile. “She’s rather conventional, and has stricter views than seem to be general nowadays.”
“I can’t see why I should remain in complete seclusion; it’s an irrational idea. But I’ve no intention of concealing anything I think fit to do.”
“Of course not. Are you going to mention that you attended this entertainment when you write to Muriel?”