The Battle of Baden.
Lord Rickmansworth was enjoying himself. Over and above the particular pleasures for whose sake he had come to Baden, he relished intensely the new attitude in which he found himself standing toward Ayre. Throughout their previous acquaintance it had been Rickmansworth who was eager and excited, Ayre who applied the cold water. Now the parts were reversed, and the younger man found great solace in jocosely rallying his senior on his unwonted zeal and activity. Ayre accepted his friend’s jocosity and his own excitement with equal placidity. Reproaches had never stirred him to exertion; ridicule would not stop him now. He took leave to add himself to the materials for slightly contemptuous amusement that the world had hitherto afforded him, and he found his own absurd actions a very sensible addition to his resources. He realized why people who never act on impulse and never do uncalled-for things are not only dull to others, but suffer boredom themselves. However the Millstead love-affairs affected the principal actors, there can be no question that they relieved Sir Roderick Ayre from ennui for a considerable number of months and exercised a very wholesome effect on a man who had come to take pride in his own miserable incapacity for honest emotion.
He rose the next morning as nearly with the lark as could reasonably be expected; more nearly with the lark than the domestic staff of the Badischerhof at all approved of. Was not Kate Bernard in the habit of taking the waters at half-past seven? And in solitude? For Haddington’s devotion was not allowed by him to interfere with that early ride which is so often a mark of legislators, and an assertion, I suppose, of the strain on their minds that might be ignored or doubted if not backed up by some such evidence. The strain, of course, followed Haddington to Baden; it was among his most precious appurtenances; and Ayre, relying upon it, had little doubt that he could succeed in finding Kate alone and unprotected.
He was not deceived. He found Kate just disposing of her draught, and an offer of his company for a stroll was accepted with tolerable graciousness. Kate distrusted him, but she thought there was use in keeping on outwardly good terms; and she had no suspicion of his shameless conduct the night before. Ayre directed their walk to the very same seat on which she and Haddington had sat. As they passed, either romance or laziness suggested to Kate that they should sit down. Ayre accepted her proposal without demur, asked and obtained leave for a cigarette, and sat for a few moments in apparent ease and vacancy of mind. He was thinking how to begin.
“Ought one ever to do evil that good may come?” he did begin, a long way off.
“Dear me, Sir Roderick, what a curious question! I suppose not.”
“I’m sorry; because I did evil last night, and I want to confess.”