“Eh?” He started.
“What does this mean? You don’t mean to tell me, Hugh, that all my efforts have gone for nothing?”
Lady Linden had sailed into the room; she was angry, she quivered with rage.
“I take an immense amount of trouble to bring two foolish young people together again, and—and this is the result!”
“What’s the result?”
“She has gone!”
“Did you know she had gone?”
“No, I knew nothing at all about her.”
“Well, she has. She left the house twenty minutes ago. I’ve sent Chepstow after her in the car; he is to ask her to return.”
“I don’t suppose she will,” Hugh said, remembering the very firm look about Miss Joan Meredyth’s mouth.
“And I planned the reconciliation, I made sure that once you came face to face it would be all right. Hugh, there is more behind all this than meets the eye!”
“That’s it,” he said, “a great deal more! No third person can interfere with any hope of success.”
“And you,” she said, “can let a girl like that, your own wife, go out of your life and make no effort to detain her!”
“For two pins,” said Lady Linden, “I would box your ears, Hugh Alston.”
“Perhaps I shall go back”
Perhaps she was over-sensitive and a little unreasonable, but she would not admit it. She had been insulted by a man who had used her name lightly, who had proclaimed that he was her husband, a man who was a complete stranger to her. She had heard of him before from Marjorie Linden, when they were at school together.
Marjorie had spoken of this man in effusive admiration. Joan’s lips curled with scorn. She did not question her own anger. She did not ask herself, was it reasonable? Had not the man some right to defend himself, to explain? If he had wanted to explain, he had had ample opportunity, and he had not taken advantage of it. No, it was a joke—a cruel, cowardly joke at her expense.
Poor and alone in the world, with none to defend her, she had been subjected to the odious attentions of Slotman. She was ready to regard all men as creatures of the same type. She had allowed poverty to narrow her views and warp her mind, and now—
“I beg your pardon, ma’am—”
She was walking along the road to the station. She turned, a man had pulled up in a small car; he touched his hat.
“My lady sent me after you, Mrs. Alston.”
Joan gripped her hands tightly. She looked with blazing eyes at the man—“Mrs. Alston...” Even the servant!
“My lady begs that you will return with me. She would be very much hurt, ma’am, if you left the house like this, her ladyship begs me to say.”
“Who was your message for?”
“For you, ma’am, of course,” said the man.