A young man, also in evening dress, had followed her out on to the terrace; it was Denis Wilde; he had arrived from town by the afternoon train. Why he should have thrown over several very good invitations to country houses in Norfolk and Suffolk, where there were large and cheerful parties gathered together, and partridge shooting to make a man dream of, in order to come down to the poor sport of Kynaston and the insipid society of a newly married couple, with whom he was not on very intimate terms, is a problem which Mr. Wilde alone could have satisfactorily solved. Being here, he was naturally disposed to make himself extremely agreeable to his hostess.
“You can’t think how anxious I am to inspect the elite of Meadowshire!” he said, laughing. “My life is an incomplete thing without a sight of it.”
“You will witness the last token of mental aberration in a decently-brought up young woman in the person of Beatrice Miller. You know her. Well, she has actually engaged herself to a barrister whom nobody knows anything about, and who—bien entendu—has no briefs—they never have any. He was staying here for a couple of days; a slow, heavy young man, who quoted Blackstone. Maurice took a fancy to him abroad; however, he was clever enough to save Beatrice’s life by stopping a run-away horse. Some people say the accident was the invention of the lovers’ own imaginations; however, the parents believed in it, and it turned the scales in his favour; but he has taken himself off, I am thankful to say, and is staying at Lutterton with her uncle. Beatrice might have married well, but girls are such fools. Hallo, Topsy, what are you barking at?”
Mrs. Kynaston’s pug had come tearing out of the house with a whole chorus of noisy yappings. The peacocks, deeply wounded in their tenderest feelings, instantly took wing, and went sailing away majestically over the crimson and gold parterre of flowers below.
“What can possess her to bark at the peacocks?” said Helen. “Be quiet, Topsy.”
But Topsy refused to be tranquillized.
“She is barking at something below the terrace; perhaps there is a cat there,” said Denis.
“If so, it would be Dutch courage, indeed,” answered Helen, laughing. They went to the edge of the stone parapet and looked over; there stood Tommy Daintree below them, among the hollyhocks.
“Why, little boy, who are you, and what do you want? Why, are you not Mr. Daintree’s little boy?”
“Then what are you waiting for?”
“I want to give a note to Captain Kynaston,” said Tommy, crimson with confusion. “Is he ever coming in?”
“He is in now; give me the note.”
“I was to give it to himself, to nobody else.”
“Who told you?”
“Oh!” There was a whole volume of meaning in the simple exclamation. Mrs. Kynaston held out her hand. “You can give it to me, I am Captain Kynaston’s wife, you know. Give it to me, Tommy. Your name is Tommy, isn’t it? Yes, I thought so. Mr. Wilde, will you be so kind as to fetch Tommy a peach off the dinner-table? Give the note to me, my dear, and you can tell your aunt that it shall be given to Captain Kynaston directly.”