“Ah!” said Lord Valleys: “I see. An explanation can be had no doubt from the gentleman whose sense of proportion was such as to cause him to suggest such a thing.”
“He did not suggest it. I did.”
Lord Valleys’ eyebrows rose still higher.
“Indeed!” he said.
“Geoffrey!” murmured Lady Valleys, “I thought I was to talk to Babs.”
“It would no doubt be wiser.”
In Barbara, thus for the first time in her life seriously reprimanded, there was at work the most peculiar sensation she had ever felt, as if something were scraping her very skin—a sick, and at the same time devilish, feeling. At that moment she could have struck her father dead. But she showed nothing, having lowered the lids of her eyes.
“Anything else?” she said.
Lord Valleys’ jaw had become suddenly more prominent.
“As a sequel to your share in Miltoun’s business, it is peculiarly entrancing.”
“My dear,” broke in Lady Valleys very suddenly, “Babs will tell me. It’s nothing, of course.”
Barbara’s calm voice said again:
The repetition of this phrase in that maddening, cool voice almost broke down her father’s sorely tried control.
“Nothing from you,” he said with deadly coldness. “I shall have the honour of telling this gentleman what I think of him.”
At those words Barbara drew herself together, and turned her eyes from one face to the other.
Under that gaze, which for all its cool hardness, was so furiously alive, neither Lord nor Lady Valleys could keep quite still. It was as if she had stripped from them the well-bred mask of those whose spirits, by long unquestioning acceptance of themselves, have become inelastic, inexpansive, commoner than they knew. In fact a rather awful moment! Then Barbara said:
“If there’s nothing else, I’m going to bed. Goodnight!”
And as calmly as she had come in, she went out.
When she had regained her room, she locked the door, threw off her cloak, and looked at herself in the glass. With pleasure she saw how firmly her teeth were clenched, how her breast was heaving, and how her eyes seemed to be stabbing herself. And all the time she thought:
“Very well! My dears! Very well!”
In that mood of rebellious mortification she fell asleep. And, curiously enough, dreamed not of him whom she had in mind been so furiously defending, but of Harbinger. She fancied herself in prison, lying in a cell fashioned like the drawing-room at Sea house; and in the next cell, into which she could somehow look, Harbinger was digging at the wall with his nails. She could distinctly see the hair on the back of his hands, and hear him breathing. The hole he was making grew larger and larger. Her heart began to beat furiously; she awoke.