“You and I, Mr. Courtier, must have a good fight some day!”
She went towards her husband conscious of the rather pleasurable sensation which combat always roused in her.
These two were very good comrades. Theirs had been a love match, and making due allowance for human nature beset by opportunity, had remained, throughout, a solid and efficient alliance. Taking, as they both did, such prominent parts in public and social matters, the time they spent together was limited, but productive of mutual benefit and reinforcement. They had not yet had an opportunity of discussing their son’s affair; and, slipping her hand through his arm, Lady Valleys drew him away from the house.
“I want to talk to you about Miltoun, Geoff.”
“H’m!” said Lord Valleys; “yes. The boy’s looking worn. Good thing when this election’s over.”
“If he’s beaten and hasn’t something new and serious to concentrate himself on, he’ll fret his heart out over that woman.”
Lord Valleys meditated a little before replying.
“I don’t think that, Gertrude. He’s got plenty of spirit.”
“Of course! But it’s a real passion. And, you know, he’s not like most boys, who’ll take what they can.”
She said this rather wistfully.
“I’m sorry for the woman,” mused Lord Valleys; “I really am.”
“They say this rumour’s done a lot of harm.”
“Our influence is strong enough to survive that.”
“It’ll be a squeak; I wish I knew what he was going to do. Will you ask him?”
“You’re clearly the person to speak to him,” replied Lord Valleys. “I’m no hand at that sort of thing.”
But Lady Valleys, with genuine discomfort, murmured:
“My dear, I’m so nervous with Eustace. When he puts on that smile of his I’m done for, at once.”
“This is obviously a woman’s business; nobody like a mother.”
“If it were only one of the others,” muttered Lady Valleys: “Eustace has that queer way of making you feel lumpy.”
Lord Valleys looked at her askance. He had that kind of critical fastidiousness which a word will rouse into activity. Was she lumpy? The idea had never struck him.
“Well, I’ll do it, if I must,” sighed Lady Valleys.
When after breakfast she entered Miltoun’s ‘den,’ he was buckling on his spurs preparatory, to riding out to some of the remoter villages. Under the mask of the Apache chief, Bertie was standing, more inscrutable and neat than ever, in a perfectly tied cravatte, perfectly cut riding breeches, and boots worn and polished till a sooty glow shone through their natural russet. Not specially dandified in his usual dress, Bertie Caradoc would almost sooner have died than disgrace a horse. His eyes, the sharper because they had only half the space of the ordinary eye to glance from, at once took in the fact that his mother wished to be alone with ‘old Miltoun,’ and he discreetly left the room.