Albert’s eyes glowed softly, as might an acolyte’s at the sight of the censer.
“Mr. Widgeon down at the ’ome farm,” he murmured reverently, “he says, if I’m a good boy, ’e’ll let me watch ’im kill a pig Toosday.”
He gazed out over the water-lilies, his thoughts far away. Maud shuddered. She wondered if medieval pages were ever quite as earthy as this.
“Perhaps you had better go now, Albert. They may be needing you in the house.”
“Very good, m’lady.”
Albert rose, not unwilling to call it a day. He was conscious of the need for a quiet cigarette. He was fond of Maud, but a man can’t spend all his time with the women.
“Pigs squeal like billy-o, m’lady!” he observed by way of adding a parting treasure to Maud’s stock of general knowledge. “Oo! ’Ear ’em a mile orf, you can!”
Maud remained where she was, thinking, a wistful figure. Tennyson’s “Mariana” always made her wistful even when rendered by Albert. In the occasional moods of sentimental depression which came to vary her normal cheerfulness, it seemed to her that the poem might have been written with a prophetic eye to her special case, so nearly did it crystallize in magic words her own story.
“With blackest moss the
Were thickly crusted, one and all.”
Well, no, not that particular part, perhaps. If he had found so much as one flower-pot of his even thinly crusted with any foreign substance, Lord Marshmoreton would have gone through the place like an east wind, dismissing gardeners and under-gardeners with every breath. But—
“She only said ’My
life is dreary,
He cometh not,’ she said.
She said ’I am aweary, aweary.
I would that I were dead!”
How exactly—at these moments when she was not out on the links picking them off the turf with a midiron or engaged in one of those other healthful sports which tend to take the mind off its troubles—those words summed up her case.
Why didn’t Geoffrey come? Or at least write? She could not write to him. Letters from the castle left only by way of the castle post-bag, which Rogers, the chauffeur, took down to the village every evening. Impossible to entrust the kind of letter she wished to write to any mode of delivery so public—especially now, when her movements were watched. To open and read another’s letters is a low and dastardly act, but she believed that Lady Caroline would do it like a shot. She longed to pour out her heart to Geoffrey in a long, intimate letter, but she did not dare to take the risk of writing for a wider public. Things were bad enough as it was, after that disastrous sortie to London.
At this point a soothing vision came to her—the vision of George Bevan knocking off her brother Percy’s hat. It was the only pleasant thing that had happened almost as far back as she could remember. And then, for the first time, her mind condescended to dwell for a moment on the author of that act, George Bevan, the friend in need, whom she had met only the day before in the lane. What was George doing at Belpher? His presence there was significant, and his words even more so. He had stated explicitly that he wished to help her.