Mrs. Pendyce looked out of the window, but there was nothing to see save the ha-ha, the coverts, the village spire, the cottage roofs, which for so long had been her world.
“George won’t come down here,” she said.
“George will do what I tell him.”
Again Mrs. Pendyce shook her head, knowing by instinct that she was right.
Mr. Pendyce stopped putting on his waist-coat.
“George had better take care,” he said; “he’s entirely dependent on me.”
And as if with those words he had summed up the situation, the philosophy of a system vital to his son, he no longer frowned. On Mrs. Pendyce those words had a strange effect. They stirred within her terror. It was like seeing her son’s back bared to a lifted whip-lash; like seeing the door shut against him on a snowy night. But besides terror they stirred within her a more poignant feeling yet, as though someone had dared to show a whip to herself, had dared to defy that something more precious than life in her soul, that something which was of her blood, so utterly and secretly passed by the centuries into her fibre that no one had ever thought of defying it before. And there flashed before her with ridiculous concreteness the thought: ’I’ve got three hundred a year of my own!’ Then the whole feeling left her, just as in dreams a mordant sensation grips and passes, leaving a dull ache, whose cause is forgotten, behind.
“There’s the gong, Horace,” she said. “Cecil Tharp is here to dinner. I asked the Barters, but poor Rose didn’t feel up to it. Of course they are expecting it very soon now. They talk of the 15th of June.”
Mr. Pendyce took from his wife his coat, passing his arms down the satin sleeves.
“If I could get the cottagers to have families like that,” he said, “I shouldn’t have much trouble about labour. They’re a pig-headed lot—do nothing that they’re told. Give me some eau-de-Cologne, Margery.”
Mrs. Pendyce dabbed the wicker flask on her husband’s handkerchief.
“Your eyes look tired,” she said. “Have you a headache, dear?”
COUNCIL AT WORSTED SKEYNES
It was on the following evening—the evening on which he was expecting his son and Mr. Paramor that the Squire leaned forward over the dining-table and asked:
“What do you say, Barter? I’m speaking to you as a man of the world.”
The Rector bent over his glass of port and moistened his lower lip.
“There’s no excuse for that woman,” he answered. “I always thought she was a bad lot.”
Mr. Pendyce went on:
“We’ve never had a scandal in my family. I find the thought of it hard to bear, Barter—I find it hard to bear——”
The Rector emitted a low sound. He had come from long usage to have a feeling like affection for his Squire.