“What was that noise, Clifton?”
“A posse of Socialists, my lady, on their way to Putney to hold a demonstration; the people are hooting them. They’ve got blocked just outside the gates.”
“Are they making speeches?”
“They are talking some kind of rant, my lady.”
“I’ll go and hear them. Give me my black stick.”
Above the velvet-dark, flat-toughed cedar trees, which rose like pagodas of ebony on either side of the drive, the sky hung lowering in one great purple cloud, endowed with sinister life by a single white beam striking up into it from the horizon. Beneath this canopy of cloud a small phalanx of dusty, dishevelled-looking men and women were drawn up in the road, guarding, and encouraging with cheers, a tall, black-coated orator. Before and behind this phalanx, a little mob of men and boys kept up an accompaniment of groans and jeering.
Lady Casterley and her ‘major-domo’ stood six paces inside the scrolled iron gates, and watched. The slight, steel-coloured figure with steel-coloured hair, was more arresting in its immobility than all the vociferations and gestures of the mob. Her eyes alone moved under their half-drooped lids; her right hand clutched tightly the handle of her stick. The speaker’s voice rose in shrill protest against the exploitation of ‘the people’; it sank in ironical comment on Christianity; it demanded passionately to be free from the continuous burden of ‘this insensate militarist taxation’; it threatened that the people would take things info their own hands.
Lady Casterley turned her head:
“He is talking nonsense, Clifton. It is going to rain. I shall go in.”
Under the stone porch she paused. The purple cloud had broken; a blind fury of rain was deluging the fast-scattering crowd. A faint smile came on Lady Casterley’s lips.
“It will do them good to have their ardour damped a little. You will get wet, Clifton—hurry! I expect Lord Valleys to dinner. Have a room got ready for him to dress. He’s motoring from Monkland.”
In a very high, white-panelled room, with but little furniture, Lord Valleys greeted his mother-in-law respectfully.
“Motored up in nine hours, Ma’am—not bad going.”
“I am glad you came. When is Miltoun’s election?”
“On the twenty-ninth.”
“Pity! He should be away from Monkland, with that—anonymous woman living there.”
“Ah! yes; you’ve heard of her!”
Lady Casterley replied sharply:
“You’re too easy-going, Geoffrey.”
Lord Valleys smiled.
“These war scares,” he said, “are getting a bore. Can’t quite make out what the feeling of the country is about them.”
Lady Casterley rose:
“It has none. When war comes, the feeling will be all right. It always is. Give me your arm. Are you hungry?"...