“He hated women, and—the roof fell in on him.”
“Why did he hate women?”
“He was a crank.”
“What is a crank?”
“Ask Mr. Courtier.”
Under this girl’s calm quizzical glance, Courtier endeavoured to find an answer to that question.
“A crank,” he said slowly, “is a man like me.”
He heard a little laugh, and became acutely conscious of Ann’s dispassionate examining eyes.
“Is Uncle Eustace a crank?”
“You know now, Mr. Courtier, what Ann thinks of you. You think a good deal of Uncle Eustace, don’t you, Ann?”
“Yes,” said Ann, and fixed her eyes before her. But Courtier gazed sideways—over her hatless head.
His exhilaration was increasing every moment. This girl reminded him of a two-year-old filly he had once seen, stepping out of Ascot paddock for her first race, with the sun glistening on her satin chestnut skin, her neck held high, her eyes all fire—as sure to win, as that grass was green. It was difficult to believe her Miltoun’s sister. It was difficult to believe any of those four young Caradocs related. The grave ascetic Miltoun, wrapped in the garment of his spirit; mild, domestic, strait-laced Agatha; Bertie, muffled, shrewd, and steely; and this frank, joyful conquering Barbara—the range was wide.
But the car had left the moor, and, down a steep hill, was passing the small villas and little grey workmen’s houses outside the town of Bucklandbury.
“Ann and I have to go on to Miltoun’s headquarters. Shall I drop you at the enemy’s, Mr. Courtier? Stop, please, Frith.”
And before Courtier could assent, they had pulled up at a house on which was inscribed with extraordinary vigour: “Chilcox for Bucklandbury.”
Hobbling into the Committee-room of Mr. Humphrey Chilcox, which smelled of paint, Courtier took with him the scented memory of youth, and ambergris, and Harris tweed.
In that room three men were assembled round a table; the eldest of whom, endowed with little grey eyes, a stubbly beard, and that mysterious something only found in those who have been mayors, rose at once and came towards him.
“Mr. Courtier, I believe,” he said bluffly. “Glad to see you, sir. Most distressed to hear of this outrage. Though in a way, it’s done us good. Yes, really. Grossly against fair play. Shouldn’t be surprised if it turned a couple of hundred votes. You carry the effects of it about with you, I see.”
A thin, refined man, with wiry hair, also came up, holding a newspaper in his hand.
“It has had one rather embarrassing effect,” he said. “Read this
“’Outrageon A distinguished visitor.
“‘LordMiltoun’s evening adventure.’”
Courtier read a paragraph.
The man with the little eyes broke the ominous silence which ensued.