Lady Lundie was ready with her answer.
“I was able to leave town earlier than I had anticipated. Don’t put out your cigar; and don’t move. I am not coming in.”
The quick interchange of question and answer went on; every word being audible in the perfect stillness of the place. Arnold was the next to speak.
“Have you seen Blanche?”
“Blanche is getting ready to go out with me. We mean to have a walk together. I have many things to say to her. Before we go, I have something to say to you.”
“Is it any thing very serious?”
“It is most serious.”
“About you. I know where you went on the evening of my lawn-party at Windygates—you went to Craig Fernie.”
“Good Heavens! how did you find out—?”
“I know whom you went to meet—Miss Silvester. I know what is said of you and of her—you are man and wife.”
“Hush! don’t speak so loud. Somebody may hear you!”
“What does it matter if they do? I am the only person whom you have kept out of the secret. You all of you know it here.”
“Nothing of the sort! Blanche doesn’t know it.”
“What! Neither you nor Sir Patrick has told Blanche of the situation you stand in at this moment?”
“Not yet. Sir Patrick leaves it to me. I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. Don’t say a word, I entreat you. I don’t know how Blanche may interpret it. Her friend is expected in London to-morrow. I want to wait till Sir Patrick can bring them together. Her friend will break it to her better than I can. It’s my notion. Sir Patrick thinks it a good one. Stop! you’re not going away already?”
“She will be here to look for me if I stay any longer.”
“One word! I want to know—”
“You shall know later in the day.”
Her ladyship appeared again round the angle of the wall. The next words that passed were words spoken in a whisper.
“Are you satisfied now, Blanche?”
“Have you mercy enough left, Lady Lundie, to take me away from this house?”
“My dear child! Why else did I look at the time-table in the hall?”
ARNOLD’S mind was far from easy when he was left by himself again in the smoking-room.
After wasting some time in vainly trying to guess at the source from which Lady Lundie had derived her information, he put on his hat, and took the direction which led to Blanche’s favorite walk at Ham Farm. Without absolutely distrusting her ladyship’s discretion, the idea had occurred to him that he would do well to join his wife and her step-mother. By making a third at the interview between them, he might prevent the conversation from assuming a perilously confidential turn.
The search for the ladies proved useless. They had not taken the direction in which he supposed them to have gone.