Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works eBook

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had to go up again; the London season too would be over.  The lawyers reassured her, an interval of six months was necessary—­after that the earlier the better.  People were now beginning to come in, and they parted—­Soames to the city, Bellby to his chambers, Winifred in a hansom to Park Lane to let her mother know how she had fared.  The issue had been so satisfactory on the whole that it was considered advisable to tell James, who never failed to say day after day that he didn’t know about Winifred’s affair, he couldn’t tell.  As his sands ran out; the importance of mundane matters became increasingly grave to him, as if he were feeling:  ’I must make the most of it, and worry well; I shall soon have nothing to worry about.’

He received the report grudgingly.  It was a new-fangled way of going about things, and he didn’t know!  But he gave Winifred a cheque, saying: 

“I expect you’ll have a lot of expense.  That’s a new hat you’ve got on.  Why doesn’t Val come and see us?”

Winifred promised to bring him to dinner soon.  And, going home, she sought her bedroom where she could be alone.  Now that her husband had been ordered back into her custody with a view to putting him away from her for ever, she would try once more to find out from her sore and lonely heart what she really wanted.

CHAPTER VIII

THE CHALLENGE

The morning had been misty, verging on frost, but the sun came out while Val was jogging towards the Roehampton Gate, whence he would canter on to the usual tryst.  His spirits were rising rapidly.  There had been nothing so very terrible in the morning’s proceedings beyond the general disgrace of violated privacy.  ‘If we were engaged!’ he thought, ’what happens wouldn’t matter.’  He felt, indeed, like human society, which kicks and clamours at the results of matrimony, and hastens to get married.  And he galloped over the winter-dried grass of Richmond Park, fearing to be late.  But again he was alone at the trysting spot, and this second defection on the part of Holly upset him dreadfully.  He could not go back without seeing her to-day!  Emerging from the Park, he proceeded towards Robin Hill.  He could not make up his mind for whom to ask.  Suppose her father were back, or her sister or brother were in!  He decided to gamble, and ask for them all first, so that if he were in luck and they were not there, it would be quite natural in the end to ask for Holly; while if any of them were in—­an ‘excuse for a ride’ must be his saving grace.

“Only Miss Holly is in, sir.”

“Oh! thanks.  Might I take my horse round to the stables?  And would you say—­her cousin, Mr. Val Dartie.”

When he returned she was in the hall, very flushed and shy.  She led him to the far end, and they sat down on a wide window-seat.

“I’ve been awfully anxious,” said Val in a low voice.  “What’s the matter?”

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