Sir Robert watched her go.
“What a woman!” he said meditatively, “what a woman—to have lost. Well she has set the stakes and we will play out the game. The cards all seem to be in my hands, but it would not in the least surprise me if she won the rubber, for the element that I call Chance and she would call something else, may come in. Still, I never refused a challenge yet and we will play the game out without pity to the loser.”
That night the first trick was played. When he got back to The Court Sir Robert ordered his motorcar and departed on urgent business, either to his own place, Old Hall, or to London, saying only that he had been summoned away by telegram. As the 70-horse-power Mercedes glided out of the gates a pencilled note was put into Mr. Haswell’s hand.
It ran: “I have tried and failed—for the present. By ill-luck A.V. had been before me, only this morning. If I had not missed my chance last night owing to your illness, it would have been different. I do not, however, in the least abandon my plan, in which of course I rely on and expect your support. Keep V. in the office or let him go as you like. Perhaps it would be better if you could prevail upon him to stop there until after the flotation. But whatever you say at the moment, I trust to you to absolutely veto any engagement between him and your niece, and to that end to use all your powers and authority as her guardian. Burn this note.
MR. HASWELL LOSES HIS TEMPER
Alan and Barbara sat in Mr. Champers-Haswell’s private sitting-room with the awful decorations, and before them by the fire Mr. Champers-Haswell reclined upon his couch. Alan in a few, brief, soldier-like words had just informed him of his engagement to Barbara. During the recital of this interesting fact Barbara said nothing, but Mr. Haswell had whistled several times. Now at length he spoke, in that tone of forced geniality which he generally adopted towards his cousin.