“Oh, dear! Oh! dear!” Then, turning away to a bookcase, she began to cry.
This ebullition of feeling, surpassing even their own, came as a real shock to Lady and Lord Valleys, ignorant of how strung-up she had been before she entered the room. They had not seen Barbara cry since she was a tiny girl. And in face of her emotion any animus they might have shown her for having thrown Miltoun into Mrs. Noel’s arms, now melted away. Lord Valleys, especially moved, went up to his daughter, and stood with her in that dark corner, saying nothing, but gently stroking her hand. Lady Valleys, who herself felt very much inclined to cry, went out of sight into the embrasure of the window.
Barbara’s sobbing was soon subdued.
“It’s his face,” she said: “And why? Why? It’s so unnecessary!”
Lord Valleys, continually twisting his moustache, muttered:
“Exactly! He makes things for himself!”
“Yes,” murmured Lady Valleys from the window, “he was always uncomfortable, like that. I remember him as a baby. Bertie never was.”
And then the silence was only broken by the little angry sounds of Barbara blowing her nose.
“I shall go and see mother,” said Lady Valleys, suddenly: “The boy’s whole life may be ruined if we can’t stop this. Are you coming, child?”
But Barbara refused.
She went to her room, instead. This crisis in Miltoun’s life had strangely shaken her. It was as if Fate had suddenly revealed all that any step out of the beaten path might lead to, had brought her sharply up against herself. To wing out into the blue! See what it meant! If Miltoun kept to his resolve, and gave up public life, he was lost! And she herself! The fascination of Courtier’s chivalrous manner, of a sort of innate gallantry, suggesting the quest of everlasting danger—was it not rather absurd? And—was she fascinated? Was it not simply that she liked the feeling of fascinating him? Through the maze of these thoughts, darted the memory of Harbinger’s face close to her own, his clenched hands, the swift revelation of his dangerous masculinity. It was all a nightmare of scaring queer sensations, of things that could never be settled. She was stirred for once out of all her normal conquering philosophy. Her thoughts flew back to Miltoun. That which she had seen in their faces, then, had come to pass! And picturing Agatha’s horror, when she came to hear of it, Barbara could not help a smile. Poor Eustace! Why did he take things so hardly? If he really carried out his resolve—and he never changed his mind—it would be tragic! It would mean the end of everything for him!