“Reggie didn’t seem to think so.”
“Unromantic, I mean. . . . Prosaic.”
“You would supply the romance.”
“Of course, one ought to be sensible. It is just the same as a regular wedding.”
“In effects, absolutely.”
They moved up the terrace together. On the gravel drive by the steps they paused.
“I’ll do it!” said Maud.
George had to make an effort before he could reply. For all his sane and convincing arguments, he could not check a pang at this definite acceptance of them. He had begun to appreciate now the strain under which he had been speaking.
“You must,” he said. “Well . . . good-bye.”
There was light on the drive. He could see her face. Her eyes were troubled.
“What will you do?” she asked.
“I mean, are you going to stay on in your cottage?”
“No, I hardly think I could do that. I shall go back to London tomorrow, and stay at the Carlton for a few days. Then I shall sail for America. There are a couple of pieces I’ve got to do for the Fall. I ought to be starting on them.”
Maud looked away.
“You’ve got your work,” she said almost inaudibly.
George understood her.
“Yes, I’ve got my work.”
She held out her hand.
“You’ve been very wonderful... Right
from the beginning . . .
You’ve been . . . oh, what’s the use of me saying anything?”
“I’ve had my reward. I’ve known you. We’re friends, aren’t we?”
“My best friend.”
They shook hands.
“I was never so upset in my life!” said Lady Caroline.
She had been saying the same thing and many other things for the past five minutes. Until the departure of the last guest she had kept an icy command of herself and shown an unruffled front to the world. She had even contrived to smile. But now, with the final automobile whirring homewards, she had thrown off the mask. The very furniture of Lord Marshmoreton’s study seemed to shrink, seared by the flame of her wrath. As for Lord Marshmoreton himself, he looked quite shrivelled.
It had not been an easy matter to bring her erring brother to bay. The hunt had been in progress full ten minutes before she and Lord Belpher finally cornered the poor wretch. His plea, through the keyhole of the locked door, that he was working on the family history and could not be disturbed, was ignored; and now he was face to face with the avengers.
“I cannot understand it,” continued Lady Caroline. “You know that for months we have all been straining every nerve to break off this horrible entanglement, and, just as we had begun to hope that something might be done, you announce the engagement in the most public manner. I think you must be out of your mind. I can hardly believe even now that this appalling thing has happened. I am hoping that I shall wake up and find it is all a nightmare. How you can have done such a thing, I cannot understand.”