“I beg your pardon. I ought not to have said that. But it is hard—there, I am offending you again!”
“Yes, you must not talk like that. It’s wrong; it would be wrong even if you meant it.”
“Do you think I don’t mean it?”
“That would be very discreditable—but not so bad.”
“You know I mean it,” he said, in a low voice. “God knows I would have said nothing if—”
“I shall offend you more than ever. But how can I stand by and see that?” and Haddington pointed with fine scorn to the neglected book.
Kate was not agitated. She seldom was. In a tone of grave rebuke, she said:
“You must never speak like this again. I thought I saw something of it. ["Good!” thought Haddington.] But whatever may be my lot, I am now bound to it. Pledges are not to be broken.”
“Are they not being virtually broken?” he asked, growing bolder as he saw she listened to him.
“You are not angry?”
“I cannot be angry if it is as you say. But please understand I cannot listen. It is not honorable. No—don’t say anything else. But you must go away.”
Haddington made no further effort to step her. He was well content. When a lady hears you hint that her betrothed is less devoted than you would be in his place, and merely says the giving of such a hint is wrong, it may be taken that her sole objection to it is on the score of morality; and it is to be feared that objections based on this ground are not the most efficacious in checking forward lovers. Perhaps Miss Bernard thought they were. Haddington didn’t believe she did.
“Go away?” he said to himself. “Hardly! The play is just beginning. Little Lady Claudia wasn’t far out.”
It is very possible she was not far out in her estimation of Mr. Haddington’s character, as well as in her forecast of his prospects. But the fruits of her shrewdness on this point were happily hid from the gentleman concerned.
Sir Roderick Ayre Inspects Mr. Morewood’s Masterpiece.
About a fortnight later than the last recorded incident two men were smoking on the lawn at Millstead Manor. One was Morewood; the other had arrived only the day before and was the Sir Roderick Ayre to whom reference has been made.
“Upon my word, Morewood,” said Sir Roderick, as the painter sat down by him, “one can’t go anywhere without meeting you!”
“That’s since you took to intellectual company,” said Morewood, grinning.
“I haven’t taken to intellectual company,” said Sir Roderick, with languid indignation.
“In the general upheaval, intellectual company has risen in the scale.”
“And so has at last come up to your pinnacle?”
“And so has reached me, where I have been for centuries.”