She looked magnificent, thought Margaret, still standing with her hand on the door—too magnificent.
Her father made a movement, it seemed of relief, as his daughter came in; but Lady Torridon, very upright in her chair on this side, went on immediately.
—“With your opinions, Mistress Atherton, I mean. I suppose all that you consider sacred is being insulted, in your eyes.”
The tall girl glanced at Margaret with the amusement still in her face, and then answered with a deliberate incisiveness that equalled Lady Torridon’s own.
“Not so difficult,” she said, “as for those who have no opinions.”
There was a momentary pause; and then she added, as she stood up and Sir James came forward.
“I am very sorry for them, Mistress Torridon.”
Before Lady Torridon could answer, Sir James had broken in.
“This is my daughter Margaret, Mistress Atherton.”
The two ladies saluted one another.
Margaret watched Beatrice with growing excitement that evening, in which was mingled something of awe and some thing of attraction. She had never seen anyone so serenely self-possessed.
It became evident during supper, beyond the possibility of mistake, that Lady Torridon had planned war against the guest, who was a representative in her eyes of all that was narrow-minded and contemptible. Here was a girl, she seemed to tell herself, who had had every opportunity of emancipation, who had been singularly favoured in being noticed by Ralph, and who had audaciously thrown him over for the sake of some ridiculous scruples worthy only of idiots and nuns. Indeed to Chris it was fairly plain that his mother had consented so willingly to Beatrice’s visit with the express purpose of punishing her.
But Beatrice held her own triumphantly.
* * * * *
They had not sat down three minutes before Lady Torridon opened the assault, with grave downcast face and in her silkiest manner. She went abruptly back to the point where the conversation had been interrupted in the parlour by Margaret’s entrance.
“Mistress Atherton,” she observed, playing delicately with her spoon, “I think you said that to your mind the times were difficult for those who had no opinions.”
Beatrice looked at her pleasantly.
“Yes, Mistress Torridon; at least more difficult for those, than for the others who know their own mind.”
The other waited a moment, expecting the girl to justify herself, but she was forced to go on.
“Abbot Marshall knew his mind, but it was not easy for him.”
(The news had just arrived of the Abbot’s execution).
“Do you think not, mistress? I fear I still hold my opinion.”
“And what do you mean by that?”
“I mean that unless we have something to hold to, in these troublesome times, we shall drift. That is all.”