At any rate, Slotman had opened the door by which she might re-enter. As he said, work would be very, very hard to get, and it was a bitter thing to have to starve.
“Perhaps,” she said to herself wearily as she lay down on her bed, “perhaps I shall go back. It does not seem to matter so very much after all what I do—and I thought it did.”
“The only possible thing”
For the first time since when, as a small, curly-headed boy, Hugh Alston had looked up at her ladyship with unclouded fearless eyes, that had appealed instantly to her, he and she were bad friends. Hugh had driven back to Hurst Dormer after a brief battle with her ladyship. He had seen Marjorie for a few moments, had soothed her, and told her not to worry, that it was not her fault. He had kissed her in brotherly fashion, and had wondered a little at himself for the slight feeling of impatience against her that came to him. He had never been impatient of her before, but her tears this afternoon unreasonably annoyed him.
“She’s a dear, sweet little soul, and over tender-hearted. Of course, she got me into this mess, and of course, bless her heart, she is worrying over it; but it can’t be helped. As for that other girl!” His lips tightened. It seemed to him that Miss Joan Meredyth had not shone any more than he had. She had taken the whole thing in bad part.
“No woman,” said Hugh to himself, “has any sense of humour!” In which he was wrong, besides which, it had nothing to do with the case.
“I am disappointed in Hugh,” Lady Linden said to her niece. “I don’t often admit myself wrong; in this matter I do. I regarded Hugh Alston as a man utterly and completely open and above board. I find him nothing of the kind. I am deeply disappointed. I am glad to feel that my plans with regard to Hugh Alston and yourself will come to nothing.”
“Hold your tongue! and don’t interrupt me when I am speaking. I have been considering the matter of you and Tom Arundel. Of course, your income is a small one, even if I released it, but—”
“Aunt—we—we wouldn’t mind, I could manage on so little. I should love to manage for him.” The girl clasped her hands, she looked with pleading eyes at the old lady.
“Well, well, we shall see!” her ladyship said indulgently. “I don’t say No, and I don’t say Yes. You are both young yet. By the way, write a letter to Tom and ask him to dine with us to-morrow.”
“Thank you, aunt!” Marjorie flushed to her eyes. “Oh, thank you so much!”
“My good girl, there’s nothing to get excited about. I don’t suppose that he will eat more than about half a crown’s worth.”
Meanwhile, Hugh Alston had retired to his house at Hurst Dormer in a none too happy frame of mind. He had rowed with Lady Linden, had practically told her to mind her own business, which was a thing everyone had been wishing she would do for the past ten years, and no one had ever dared tell her to.