Notwithstanding all this, the necessity for the decision made him sorry, for if he had no great sense of proportion, he was at least humane.
He was still smoking his pipe and staring at a sheet of paper covered with small figures when his wife entered. Though she had come to ask his advice on a very different subject, she saw at once that he was vexed, and said:
“What’s the matter, Geoff?”
Lord Valleys rose, went to the hearth, deliberately tapped out his pipe, then held out to her the sheet of paper.
“That quarry! Nothing for it—must go!”
Lady Valleys’ face changed.
“Oh, no! It will mean such dreadful distress.”
Lord Valleys stared at his nails. “It’s putting a drag on the whole estate,” he said.
“I know, but how could we face the people—I should never be able to go down there. And most of them have such enormous families.”
Since Lord Valleys continued to bend on his nails that slow, thought-forming stare, she went on earnestly:
“Rather than that I’d make sacrifices. I’d sooner Pendridny were let than throw all those people out of work. I suppose it would let.”
“Let? Best woodcock shooting in the world.”
Lady Valleys, pursuing her thoughts, went on:
“In time we might get the people drafted into other things. Have you consulted Miltoun?”
“No,” said Lord Valleys shortly, “and don’t mean to—he’s too unpractical.”
“He always seems to know what he wants very well.”
“I tell you,” repeated Lord Valleys, “Miltoun’s no good in a matter of this sort—he and his ideas throw back to the Middle Ages.”
Lady Valleys went closer, and took him by the lapels of his collar.
“Geoff-really, to please me; some other way!”
Lord Valleys frowned, staring at her for some time; and at last answered:
“To please you—I’ll leave it over another year.”
“You think that’s better than letting?”
“I don’t like the thought of some outsider there. Time enough to come to that if we must. Take it as my Christmas present.”
Lady Valleys, rather flushed, bent forward and kissed his ear.
It was at this moment that little Ann had entered.
When she was gone, and they had exchanged that dubious look, Lady Valleys said:
“I came about Babs. I don’t know what to make of her since we came up. She’s not putting her heart into things.”
Lord Valleys answered almost sulkily:
“It’s the heat probably—or Claud Harbinger.” In spite of his easy-going parentalism, he disliked the thought of losing the child whom he so affectionately admired.
“Ah!” said Lady Valleys slowly, “I’m not so sure.”
“How do you mean?”
“There’s something queer about her. I’m by no means certain she hasn’t got some sort of feeling for that Mr. Courtier.”