He dropped into a chair and regarded his companion with half-closed eyes.
“Well, John. Dished, eh? Most infernal heat I ever endured! I can’t stand it, you know. I’ll have to go away.”
“Think,” said the other, “think that at this moment somewhere in the country there are great, cool, deep woods and lakes and waterfalls, and we might be sitting in flannels instead of being clothed in these garments of sin.”
“Think,” said George, “of nothing of the kind. Think of high upland glens and full brown rivers, and hillsides where there is always wind. Why do I tantalize myself and talk to a vexatious idiot like you?”
This young man had a deep voice, a most emphatic manner of speech, and a trick of cheerfully abusing his friends which they rather liked than otherwise.
“And why should I sit opposite six feet of foolishness which can give me no comfort? Whew! But I think I am getting cool at last. I have sworn to make use of my first half-hour of reasonable temperature and consequent clearness of mind to plan flight from this place.”
“May I come with you, my pretty maid? I am hideously sick of July in town. I know Mabel will never forgive me, but I must risk it.”
Mabel was the young man’s sister, and the friendship between the two was a perpetual joke. As a small girl she had been wont to con eagerly her brother’s cricketing achievements, for George had been a famous cricketer, and annually went crazy with excitement at the Eton and Harrow match. She exercised a maternal care over him, and he stood in wholesome fear of her and ordered his doings more or less at her judgment. Now she was married, but she still supervised her tall brother, and the victim made no secret of the yoke.
Suddenly Arthur jumped to his feet. “I say, what about Lewis Haystoun? He is home now, somewhere in Scotland. Have you heard a word about him?”
“He has never written,” groaned George, but he took out a pocket-book and shook therefrom certain newspaper cuttings. “The people I employ sent me these about him to-day.” And he laid them out on his knee.
The first of them was long, and consisted of a belated review of Mr. Haystoun’s book. George, who never read such things, handed it to Arthur, who glanced over the lines and returned it. The second explained in correct journalese that the Manorwater family had returned to Glenavelin for the summer and autumn, and that Mr. Lewis Haystoun was expected at Etterick shortly. The third recorded the opening of a bazaar in the town of Gledsmuir which Mr. Haystoun had patronised, “looking,” said the fatuous cutting, “very brown and distinguished after his experiences in the East.”—“Whew!” said George. “Poor beggar, to have such stuff written about him!”—The fourth discussed the possible retirement of Sir Robert Merkland, the member for Gledsmuir, and his possible successor. Mr. Haystoun’s name was mentioned, “though indeed,” said the wiseacre, “that gentleman has never shown any decided leanings to practical politics. We understand that the seat will be contested in the Radical interest by Mr. Albert Stocks, the well-known writer and lecturer.”