It was not until he was actually in the room, his cold appraising eyes upon her, that the poor woman realized that her position towards him had changed. She could not summon up the nonchalant distant civility which, according to her ideas, was sufficient for her country neighbors in general, and the Pratts in particular.
Captain Pratt opined that the weather, though cold, was seasonable.
Lady Newhaven agreed.
Captain Pratt regretted the hard frost on account of the hunting. Four hunters eating their heads off, etc.
Lady Newhaven thought the thaw might come any day.
Captain Pratt had been skating yesterday on the parental
Flooded with fire-engine. Men out of work. Glad of employment, etc.
How kind of Captain Pratt to employ them.
Not at all. It was his father. Duties of the landed gentry, etc. He believed if the frost continued they would skate on Beaumere.
No; no one was allowed to skate on Beaumere. The springs rendered the ice treacherous.
Captain Pratt turned the gold knob of his stick slowly in his thick, white fingers. He looked carefully at Lady Newhaven, as a connoisseur with intent to buy looks at a piece of valuable china. She was accustomed to being looked at, but there was something in Captain Pratt’s prolonged scrutiny which filled her with vague alarm. She writhed under it. He observed her uneasiness, but he did not remove his eyes.
Were the boys well?
They were quite well, thanks. She was cowed.
Were they fond of skating?
Might he suggest that they should come over and skate at Warpington Towers to-morrow. He himself would be there, and would take charge of them.
He rose slowly, as one who has made up his mind. Lady Newhaven feared it would be troubling Captain Pratt too much.
It would be no trouble to Captain Pratt; on the contrary, a pleasure.
His hand was now extended. Lady Newhaven had to put hers into it.
Perhaps next week if the frost held. She tried to withdraw her hand. Oh, well, then, to-morrow; certainly, to-morrow.
“You may rely on me to take care of them,” said Captain Pratt, still holding her hand. He obliged her to look at him. His hard eyes met her frightened blue ones. “You may rely on my discretion entirely—in all matters,” he said, meaningly.
Lady Newhaven winced, and her hand trembled violently in his.
He pressed the shrinking little hand, let it go, and went away.
“Le temps apporte, emporte, mais ne rapporte pas.”
“May I come in?” said the Bishop, tapping at Hester’s door.
“Do come in.”
Hester was lying propped up by many cushions on a sofa in the little sitting-room leading out of her bedroom. She looked a mere shadow in the fire-light.