Daisy glanced up momentarily. “And now,” she said, “he is never out of my thoughts.”
“Really!” Hunt-Goring said again. He looked at her very attentively for a few seconds before he relaxed again with eyes half-closed. “That is tres convenant for you both,” he observed. “I enjoy the unusual spectacle of a wife who is happy as well as virtuous.”
Daisy stitched on in silence. Privately she wondered how she had ever come to be on intimate terms with the man, and condemned afresh the follies of her youth.
“Have you been Home since I had the pleasure of your society at Mahalaleshwar I will not say how many years ago?” asked Hunt-Goring, after a pause.
“I went Home the following year,” said Daisy. “We thought—we hoped—it would make our baby boy more robust to have a summer in England.”
“Oh, have you a boy?” said Hunt-Goring, without much interest.
“He died,” said Daisy briefly.
Hunt-Goring looked bored, and the conversation languished.
Into the silence came Peggy, fairy-footed, gay of mien. She flung impulsive arms around her mother’s neck and pressed a soft cheek coaxingly to hers.
“Mummy, Noel is comin’ to teach me to ride this morning. I may go, mayn’t I?”
“My darling!” said Daisy, in consternation. “He never said anything to me about it.”
Peggy laughed, nodding her fair head with saucy assurance. “He promised, Mummy.”
“But, dearie,” protested Daisy, “you can’t ride Noel’s horse. You’d be frightened, and so would Mummy.”
Peggy laughed again, the triumphant laugh of one who possesses private information. “Noel wouldn’t let me be frightened,” she said, with confidence.
“Who is Noel?” asked Hunt-Goring.
Peggy looked at him. She was not quite sure that she liked this friend of her mother’s, and her look said as much. “Noel is an officer,” she said proudly. “He’s the pwettiest officer in the Regiment, and I love him.”
“Ha!” Hunt-Goring laughed. “You inherit your mother’s tastes, my child.” He looked across at Daisy. “She always preferred the pretty ones.”
“I know better now,” said Daisy, without returning his look.
He laughed again and stretched himself. “What became of that handsome cousin of yours who paid you a visit in the old M’war days?”
“Do you mean Blake Grange?” Daisy’s voice suddenly sounded so remote and cold that Peggy turned and regarded her in round-eyed astonishment.
“Yes, that was the fellow. He got trapped at Wara along with General Roscoe and Nick Ratcliffe. What happened to him? Was he killed?”
“No, not then.” Slowly Daisy lifted her eyes; slowly she spoke. “He gave his life in England the following year to save some shipwrecked sailors.”
“Did he, though? Quite a hero!” Hunt-Goring’s eyes met hers and insolently held them. “Were you present at the sacrifice?”