Mrs. Belgrove was disagreeable in her turn. “Going to the Abbot’s Wood?”
“How clever of you to guess,” Miss Greeby smiled and nodded. “Yes, I’m going to look up Lambert”; she always spoke of her male friends in this hearty fashion. “He ought to be here enjoying himself instead of living like a hermit in the wilds.”
“He’s painting pictures,” put in Lady Garvington. “Do hermits paint?”
“No. Only society women do that,” said Miss Greeby cheerfully, and Mrs. Belgrove’s faded eyes flashed. She knew that the remark was meant for her, and snapped back. “Are you going to have your fortune told by the gypsies, dear?” she inquired amiably. “They might tell you about your marriage.”
“Oh, I daresay, and if you ask they will prophesy your funeral.”
“I am in perfect health, Miss Greeby.”
“So I should think, since your cheeks are so red.”
Lady Garvington hastily intervened to prevent the further exchange of compliments. “Will you be back to luncheon, or join the men at the coverts?”
“Neither. I’ll drop on Lambert for a feed. Where are you going?”
“I’m sure I don’t know,” said the hostess vaguely. “There’s lots to do. I shall know what’s to be done, when I think of it,” and she drifted along the terrace and into the house like a cloud blown any way by the wind. Miss Greeby looked after her limp figure with a contemptuous grin, then she nodded casually to Mrs. Belgrove, and walked whistling down the terrace steps.
“Cat, indeed!” commented Mrs. Belgrove to herself when she saw Miss Greeby’s broad back disappear behind the laurels. “Nothing half so pretty. She’s like a great Flanders mare. And I wish Henry VIII was alive to marry her,” she added the epithet suggesting that king, “if only to cut her head off.”
In the wood.
Miss Greeby swung along towards her destination with a masculine stride and in as great a hurry as though she had entered herself for a Marathon race. It was a warm, misty day, and the pale August sunshine radiated faintly through the smoky atmosphere. Nothing was clear-cut and nothing was distinct, so hazy was the outlook. The hedges were losing their greenery and had blossomed forth into myriad bunches of ruddy hips and haws, and the usually hard road was soft underfoot because of the penetrating quality of the moist air. There was no wind to clear away the misty greyness, but yellow leaves without its aid dropped from the disconsolate trees. The lately-reaped fields, stretching on either side of the lane down which the lady was walking, presented a stubbled expanse of brown and dim gold, uneven and distressful to the eye. The dying world was in ruins and Nature had reduced herself to that necessary chaos, out of which, when the coming snow completed its task, she would build a new heaven and a new earth.