“Not good to eat, Biddy.”
At those words, one after the other, cautiously, the three little Trysts smiled. Finding that Tod smiled too, they broadened, and Billy burst into chuckles. Then, clustering in the doorway, grasping the edibles and the sixpence, and consulting with each other, they looked long after his big figure passing down the road.
Still later, that same morning, Derek and Sheila moved slowly up the Mallorings’ well-swept drive. Their lips were set, as though they had spoken the last word before battle, and an old cock pheasant, running into the bushes close by, rose with a whir and skimmed out toward his covert, scared, perhaps, by something uncompromising in the footsteps of those two.
Only when actually under the shelter of the porch, which some folk thought enhanced the old Greek-temple effect of the Mallorings’ house, Derek broke through that taciturnity:
“What if they won’t?”
“Wait and see; and don’t lose your head, Derek.” The man who stood there when the door opened was tall, grave, wore his hair in powder, and waited without speech.
“Will you ask Sir Gerald and Lady Malloring if Miss Freeland and Mr. Derek Freeland could see them, please; and will you say the matter is urgent?”
The man bowed, left them, and soon came back.
“My lady will see you, miss; Sir Gerald is not in. This way.”
Past the statuary, flowers, and antlers of the hall, they traversed a long, cool corridor, and through a white door entered a white room, not very large, and very pretty. Two children got up as they came in and flapped out past them like young partridges, and Lady Malloring rose from her writing-table and came forward, holding out her hand. The two young Freelands took it gravely. For all their hostility they could not withstand the feeling that she would think them terrible young prigs if they simply bowed. And they looked steadily at one with whom they had never before been at quite such close quarters. Lady Malloring, who had originally been the Honorable Mildred Killory, a daughter of Viscount Silport, was tall, slender, and not very striking, with very fair hair going rather gray; her expression in repose was pleasant, a little anxious; only by her eyes was the suspicion awakened that she was a woman of some character. They had that peculiar look of belonging to two worlds, so often to be met with in English eyes, a look of self-denying aspiration, tinctured with the suggestion that denial might not be confined to self.
In a quite friendly voice she said:
“Can I do anything for you?” And while she waited for an answer her glance travelled from face to face of the two young people, with a certain curiosity. After a silence of several seconds, Sheila answered:
“Not for us, thank you; for others, you can.”