“Lawn-tennis!” said Mr. Sandys from the other side of the room. “There’s a good game, Howard! I am not much of a hand at it myself, but I enjoy playing. I don’t mind making a spectacle of myself. One misses many good things by being afraid of looking a fool. What does it matter, I say to myself, as long as one doesn’t feel a fool? You will come and play at the vicarage, I hope. Indeed, I want you to go and come just as you like. We are relations, you know, in a sort of way—at least connections. I don’t know if you go in for genealogy—it’s rather a hobby of mine; it fills up little bits of time, you know. I could reel you off quite a list of names, but Mrs. Graves doesn’t care for genealogy, I know.”
“Oh, not that!” said Mrs. Graves. “I think it is very interesting. But I rather agree with the minister who advised his flock to pray for good ancestors.”
“Ha! ha!” said Mr. Sandys, “excellent, that; but it is really very curious you know, that the further one goes back the more one’s ancestors increase. Talk of over-population; why if one goes back thirty or forty generations, the world would be over-populated with the ancestors of any one of us. I remember posing a very clever mathematician with that once; but, as a fact, it’s quite the reverse, one finds. Are you interested in neolithic men, Howard? There are graves of them all over the down—it is not certain if they were neolithic, but they had very curious burial customs. Knees up to the chin, you know. Well, well, it’s all very fascinating, and I should like to drive you over to Dorchester to look at the museum there—there are some questions I should like to ask you. But we must be off. A delightful evening, cousin Anne; a delightful evening, Howard. I feel quite rejuvenated—such a lot to ponder over.”
Howard went to the door to see them off, and was rewarded by a parting smile from Maud, which made him feel curiously elated. He went back to the drawing-room with that faint feeling of flatness which comes of parting with lively guests; and yet it somehow gave him a pleasant sense of being at home.
“Well,” said Mrs. Graves, “so now you have seen the Sandys interior. Dear Frank, how he does chatter, to be sure! but he is all alive too in his own way, and that is what matters. What did you think of Maud? I want you to like her—she is a great friend of mine, and really a fine creature. Not very happy just now, perhaps. But while dear old Frank never sees past the outside of things— what a lot of things he does see!—she sees inside, I think. But I am tired to death. I always feel after talking to Frank as if I had been driving in a dog-cart over a ploughed field!”