“If you touch me—”
Hugh laughed sharply. “If I touch you, what?”
“I shall call for help. I shall summon you. I—”
“Put your hands up.”
“Help! help! help!”
Down the road the tired chauffeur slumbered peacefully on the seat of the shabby car. He heard nothing, save some distant unintelligible sounds and the cooing of a wood-pigeon in an adjacent thicket.
And then presently there came down the road a flying figure, the figure of a man who sobbed as he ran, a man from whom the clothes hung in ribbons, a man with wild staring eyes, and panting, labouring chest. He stumbled as he ran, and picked himself up again, to fall again. So, running, stumbling, falling, he came at last to the car and shrieked at the driver to awaken.
“Is it the end?”
Lady Linden, wearing a lilac printed cotton sunbonnet, her skirts pinned up about her, was busy with a trowel, disordering certain flower-beds that presently the gardeners would come and put right.
“Idle women,” said her ladyship, “are my abomination. How a woman can moon about and do nothing is more than I can understand. Look at me, am I not always busy? From early morning to dewy eve I—Curtis!”
“Yes, my lady?”
“Come here at once,” said her ladyship. “I have dug up a worm. I dislike worms. Carry the creature away; don’t hurt it, Curtis. I dislike cruelty even to worms. Ugh! How you can touch the thing!”
Curtis, under-gardener, trudged away with a large healthy worm dangling from thumb and forefinger, a sheepish grin on his face.
“Those creatures have none of the finer feelings,” thought her ladyship. “Yet we are all brothers and sisters according to the Bible. I don’t agree with that at all. Curtis, come back; there is another worm.”
Marjorie stood at the window, watching her aunt’s operations, yet seeing none of them. Her face was set and white and resolute, the soft round chin seemed to be jutting out more obstinately than usual.
For Marjorie had made up her mind definitely, and she knew that she was about to hurt herself and to hurt someone else.
But it must be. It was only fair, it was only just. Silence, she believed, would be wicked.
The door behind her opened, and Tom Arundel came into the room. He was fresh from the stable, and smelled of straw.
“Why, darling, is there anything up? I got your note asking me to come here at once. Joe gave it to me just as we were going to take out the brute Lady Linden has bought. Of all the vicious beasts! I wish to goodness she wouldn’t buy a horse without a proper opinion, but it is useless talking to her. She said she liked the white star on its forehead—white star! black devil, I call it! But I’ll break him in if I break my neck—doing it. But—I am sorry. You want me?”