“Again, Mr. Brooks,” he said, “I must address a suggestion to you which might seem to require an apology. You have adopted methods and expressed views with regard to your scheme which are in themselves scarcely reconcilable with the point of view with which we churchmen are bound to regard the same question. But if you thought it worth while before finally arranging your Board to discuss the whole subject with me, it would give me the greatest pleasure to have you visit me at the palace at any time convenient to yourself.”
“I shall consider it a great privilege,” Brooks answered, promptly, “and I shall not hesitate to avail myself of it.”
The little party broke up soon afterwards, but Lady Caroom touched Brooks upon his shoulder.
“Come into my room for a few minutes,” she said. “I want to talk with you.”
FATHER AND SON
“Do you know,” Lady Caroom said, motioning Brooks to a seat by her side, “that I feel very middle-class and elderly and interfering. For I am going to talk to you about Sybil.”
Brooks was a little paler than usual. This was one of those rare occasions when he found his emotions very hard to subdue. And it had come so suddenly.
“After we left Enton,” Lady Caroom said, thoughtfully, “I noticed a distinct change in her. The first evidences of it were in her treatment of Sydney Molyneux. I am quite sure that she purposely precipitated matters, and when he proposed refused him definitely.”
“I do not think,” Brooks found voice to say, “that she would ever have married Sydney Molyneux.”
“Perhaps not,” Lady Caroom admitted, “but at any rate before our visit to Enton she was quite content to have him around—she was by no means eager to make up her mind definitely. After we left she seemed to deliberately plan to dispose of him finally. Since then—I am talking in confidence, Kingston-she has refused t e Duke of Atherstone.”
Brooks was silent. His self-control was being severely tested. His heart was beating like a sledgehammer—he was very anxious to avoid Lady Caroom’s eyes.
“Atherstone,” she said, slowly, “is quite the most eligible bachelor in England, and he is, as you know, a very nice, unaffected boy. There is only one possible inference for me, as Sybil’s mother, to draw, and that is that she cares, or is beginning to think that she cares, for some one else.”
“Some one else? Do you know whom?” Brooks asked.
“If you do not know,” Lady Caroom answered, “I do not.”
Brooks threw aside all attempt at disguise. He looked across at Lady Caroom, and his eyes were very bright.
“I have never believed,” he said, “that Sybil would be likely to care for me. I can scarcely believe it now.”
Lady Caroom hesitated.
“In any case,” she said, “could you ask her to marry you? You must see that as things are it would be impossible!”