“No; I don’t mind a few people. Do you want to come and look for scarabs?”
“Scarabs? Do you imagine you’re in Egypt, my poor friend?”
Scott sniffed: “Didn’t you know we had a few living species around here? Regular scarabs. Kathleen and I found three the other day—one a regular beauty with two rhinoceros horns on the thorax and iridescent green and copper tinted wing-covers. Do you want to help me hunt for some more? You’ll have to put on overshoes, for they’re in the cow-yards.”
Rosalie, intensely bored, thanked him and declined. Later she opened a shrimp-pink sunshade and, followed by Grandcourt, began to saunter about the lawn in plain sight, as people do preliminary to effacing themselves without exciting comment.
But there was nobody to comment on what they did; Duane was reading a sporting-sheet, souvenir of the departed Bunbury; Sylvia sat pallid and preoccupied, cheek resting against her hand, looking out over the valley. Her brother, her only living relative, was supposed to have come up that morning to take her to the next house party on the string which linked the days of every summer for her. But Stuyvesant had not arrived; and the chances were that he would turn up within a day or two, if not too drunk to remember her.
So Sylvia, who was accustomed to waiting for her brother, sat very colourless and quiet by the terrace parapet, pale blue eyes resting on the remoter hills—not always, for at intervals she ventured a furtive look at Duane, and there was something of stealth and of fright in the stolen glance.
As for Scott, he sat on the parapet, legs swinging, fussing with a pair of binoculars and informing the two people behind him—who were not listening—that he could distinguish a black-billed cuckoo from a thrasher at six hundred yards.
Which edified neither Sylvia nor Duane, but the boy continued to impart information with unimpaired cheerfulness until Kathleen came out from the house.
“How’s Sis?” he inquired.
“I think she has a headache,” replied Kathleen, looking at Duane.
“Could I see her?” he asked.
Kathleen said gently that Geraldine did not feel like seeing anybody at that time. A moment later, in obedience to Scott’s persistent clamouring for scarabs, she went across the lawn with the young master of Roya-Neh, resigned to the inevitable in the shape of two-horned scarabs or black-billed cuckoos.
It had always been so with her; it would always be so. Long ago the Seagrave twins had demanded all she had to give; now, if Geraldine asked less, Scott exacted double. And she gave—how happily, only her Maker and her conscience knew.
Duane was still reading—or he had all the appearance of reading—when Sylvia lifted her head from her hand and turned around with an effort that cost her what colour had remained under the transparent skin of her oval face.