Catching at the word honour, Lady Valleys cried suddenly:
“Eustace, promise me, before you do anything, to consult your Uncle Dennis.”
“This becomes comic,” he said.
At that word, which indeed seemed to them quite wanton, Lord and Lady Valleys turned on their son, and the three stood staring, perfectly silent. A little noise from the doorway interrupted them.
Left by her father and mother to the further entertainment of Harbinger, Barbara had said:
“Let’s have coffee in here,” and passed into the withdrawing room.
Except for that one evening, when together by the sea wall they stood contemplating the populace, she had not been alone with him since he kissed her under the shelter of the box hedge. And now, after the first moment, she looked at him calmly, though in her breast there was a fluttering, as if an imprisoned bird were struggling ever so feebly against that soft and solid cage. Her last jangled talk with Courtier had left an ache in her heart. Besides, did she not know all that Harbinger could give her?
Like a nymph pursued by a faun who held dominion over the groves, she, fugitive, kept looking back. There was nothing in that fair wood of his with which she was not familiar, no thicket she had not travelled, no stream she had not crossed, no kiss she could not return. His was a discovered land, in which, as of right, she would reign. She had nothing to hope from him but power, and solid pleasure. Her eyes said: How am I to know whether I shall not want more than you; feel suffocated in your arms; be surfeited by all that you will bring me? Have I not already got all that?
She knew, from his downcast gloomy face, how cruel she seemed, and was sorry. She wanted to be good to him, and said almost shyly:
“Are you angry with me, Claud?”
Harbinger looked up.
“What makes you so cruel?”
“I am not cruel.”
“You are. Where is your heart?”
“Here!” said Barbara, touching her breast.
“Ah!” muttered Harbinger; “I’m not joking.”
She said gently:’
“Is it as bad as that, my dear?”
But the softness of her voice seemed to fan the smouldering fires in him.
“There’s something behind all this,” he stammered, “you’ve no right to make a fool of me!”
“And what is the something, please?”
“That’s for you to say. But I’m not blind. What about this fellow Courtier?”
At that moment there was revealed to Barbara a new acquaintance—the male proper. No, to live with him would not be quite lacking in adventure!
His face had darkened; his eyes were dilated, his whole figure seemed to have grown. She suddenly noticed the hair which covered his clenched fists. All his suavity had left him. He came very close.