Two days later the Andrews drove up the glen to Etterick, taking with them the unwilling Mr. Wishart. Alice had escaped the ordeal with some feigned excuse, and the unfortunate Mr. Thompson, deeply grieving, had been summoned by telegram from cricket to law. The lady had chattered all the way up the winding moorland road, crying out banalities about the pretty landscape, or questioning her very ignorant companions about the dwellers in Etterick. She was full of praises for the house when it came in view; it was “quaint,” it was “charming,” it was everything inappropriate. But the amiable woman’s prattle deserted her when she found herself in the cold stone hall with the great portraits and the lack of all modern frippery. It was so plainly a man’s house, so clearly a place of tradition, that her pert modern speech seemed for one moment a fatuity.
It was an off-day for the shooters, and so for a miracle there were men in the drawing-room at tea-time. The hostess for the time was an aunt of Lewis’s, a certain Mrs. Alderson, whose husband (the famous big-game hunter) had but recently returned from the jaws of a Zambesi lion. George’s sister, Lady Clanroyden, a tall, handsome girl in a white frock, was arranging flowers in a bowl, and on the sill of the open window two men were basking in the sun. From the inner drawing-room there came an echo of voices and laughter. The whole scene was sunny and cheerful, youth and age, gay frocks and pleasant faces amid the old tapestry and mahogany of a moorland house.
Mr. Andrews sat down solemnly to talk of the weather with the two men, who found him a little dismal. One—he of the Zambesi lion episode—was grizzled, phlegmatic, and patient, and in no way critical of his company. So soon he was embarked on extracts from his own experience to which Mr. Andrews, who had shares in some company in the neighbourhood, listened with flattering attention. Mrs. Alderson set herself to entertain Mr. Wishart, and being a kindly, simple person, found the task easy. They were soon engaged in an earnest discussion of unsectarian charities.
Lady Clanroyden, with an unwilling sense of duty, devoted herself to Mrs. Andrews. That simpering matron fell into a vein of confidences and in five brief minutes had laid bare her heart. Then came the narrative of her recent visit to the Marshams, and the inevitable mention of the Hestons.
“Oh, you know the Hestons?” said Lady Clanroyden, brightening.
“Very well indeed.” The lady smiled, looking round to make sure that Lewis was not in the room.
“Julia is here, you know. Julia, come and speak to your friends.”
A dark girl in mourning came forward to meet the expansive smile of Mrs. Andrews. Earnestly the lady hoped that she remembered the single brief meeting on which she had built a fictitious acquaintance, and was reassured when the newcomer shook hands with her pleasantly. Truth to tell, Lady Julia had no remembrance of her face, but was too good-natured to be honest.