“The best we can. We have made the bargain, you know, and taken possession now.”
“You are laughing. I declare I think you are glad it has turned out what it is!”
“I am not sorry,” he avowed. “You’ll let me cater for you another time, Maude.”
She put up her face to be kissed. “Don’t be angry with me. It is our home-coming.”
“Angry!” he repeated. “I have never shown anger to you yet, Maude. Never a woman had a more indulgent husband than you shall have in me.”
“You don’t say a loving one, Val!”
“And a loving one also: if you will only let me be so.”
“What do you mean?”
“Love requires love in return. We shall be happy, I am sure, if you so will it. Only let us pull together; one mind, one interest. Here’s your maid. I wonder where my dressing room is?”
And thus they entered on what remained of the London season. The newspapers announced the arrival of Lord and Lady Hartledon, and Maude read it aloud to her husband. She might have retained peace longer, however, had that announcement not gone forth to the four corners of the land.
“Only let us pull together!” A very few days indeed sufficed to dissipate that illusion. Lady Hartledon plunged madly into all the gaieties of the dying season, as though to make up for lost time; Lord Hartledon never felt less inclined to plunge into anything, unless it was the waters of oblivion. He held back from some places, but she did not appear to care, going her way in a very positive, off-hand manner, according to her own will, and paying not the slightest deference to his.
THE STRANGER AGAIN.
On a burning day at the end of June, Lord Hartledon was walking towards the Temple. He had not yet sought out his friend Thomas Carr; a sense of shame held him back; but he was on his way to do so now.
Turning down Essex Street and so to the left, he traversed the courts and windings, and mounted the stairs to the barrister’s rooms. Many a merry hour had he passed in those three small rooms, dignified with the name of “Mr. Carr’s chambers,” but which were in fact also Mr. Carr’s dwelling-place—and some sad ones.
Lord Hartledon knocked at the outer door with his stick—a somewhat faint, doubtful knock; not with the free hand of one at ease with himself and the world. For one thing, he was uncertain as to the reception he should meet with.
Mr. Carr came to the door himself; his clerk was out. When he saw who was his visitor he stood in comic surprise. Val stepped in, extending his hand; and it was heartily taken.
“You are not offended with me, then, Carr?”
“Nay,” said Mr. Carr, “I have no reason to be offended. Your sin was not against me.”
“That’s a strong word, ‘sin.’”
“It is spoken,” was the answer; “but I need not speak it again. I don’t intend to quarrel with you. I was not, I repeat, the injured party.”