Agatha, who was still staying at Valleys House with little Ann, waiting to travel up to Scotland with her mother, was out, and there was no one at lunch except Lady Valleys and Barbara herself. Conversation flagged; for the young people were extremely silent, Lady Valleys was considering the draft of a report which had to be settled before she left, and Lord Valleys himself was rather carefully watching his daughter. The news that Lord Miltoun was in the study came as a surprise, and somewhat of a relief to all. To an exhortation to luring him in to lunch; the servant replied that Lord Miltoun had lunched, and would wait.
“Does he know there’s no one here?”
“Yes, my lady.”
Lady Valleys pushed back her plate, and rose:
“Oh, well!” she said, “I’ve finished.”
Lord Valleys also got up, and they went out together, leaving Barbara, who had risen, looking doubtfully at the door.
Lord Valleys had recently been told of the nursing episode, and had received the news with the dubious air of one hearing something about an eccentric person, which, heard about anyone else, could have had but one significance. If Eustace had been a normal young man his father would have shrugged his shoulder’s, and thought: “Oh, well! There it is!” As it was, he had literally not known what to think.
And now, crossing the saloon which intervened between the dining-room and the study, he said to his wife uneasily:
“Is it this woman again, Gertrude—or what?”
Lady Valleys answered with a shrug:
“Goodness knows, my dear.”
Miltoun was standing in the embrasure of a window above the terrace. He looked well, and his greeting was the same as usual.
“Well, my dear fellow,” said Lord Valleys, “you’re all right again evidently—what’s the news?”
“Only that I’ve decided to resign my seat.”
Lord Valleys stared.
“What on earth for?”
But Lady Valleys, with the greater quickness of women, divining already something of the reason, had flushed a deep pink.
“Nonsense, my dear,” she said; “it can’t possibly be necessary, even if——” Recovering herself, she added dryly:
“Give us some reason.”
“The reason is simply that I’ve joined my life to Mrs. Noel’s, and I can’t go on as I am, living a lie. If it were known I should obviously have to resign at once.”