Summoned thus unexpectedly, Barbara, her lips very firmly pressed together, took her stand, coolly enough, by her father’s writing-table.
Seeing her suddenly appear, Lord Valleys instinctively relaxed his frown; his experience of men and things, his thousands of diplomatic hours, served to give him an air of coolness and detachment which he was very far from feeling. In truth he would rather have faced a hostile mob than his favourite daughter in such circumstances. His tanned face with its crisp grey moustache, his whole head indeed, took on, unconsciously, a more than ordinarily soldier-like appearance. His eyelids drooped a little, his brows rose slightly.
She was wearing a blue wrap over her evening frock, and he seized instinctively on that indifferent trifle to begin this talk.
“Ah! Babs, have you been out?”
Alive to her very finger-nails, with every nerve tingling, but showing no sign, Barbara answered:
“No; on the roof of the tower.”
It gave her a real malicious pleasure to feel the perplexity beneath her father’s dignified exterior. And detecting that covert mockery, Lord Valleys said dryly:
Then, with that sudden resolution peculiar to him, as though he were bored with having to delay and temporize, he added:
“Do you know, I doubt whether it’s wise to make appointments in confectioner’s shops when Ann is in London.”
The dangerous little gleam in Barbara’s eyes escaped his vision but not that of Lady Valleys, who said at once:
“No doubt you had the best of reasons, my dear.”
Barbara curled her lip. Had it not been for the scene they had been through that day with Miltoun, and for their very real anxiety, both would have seen, then, that while their daughter was in this mood, least said was soonest mended. But their nerves were not quite within control; and with more than a touch of impatience Lord Valleys ejaculated:
“It doesn’t appear to you, I suppose, to require any explanation?”