“But really, Dorise——!” he cried, advancing towards her.
“I mean exactly what I say. Let me get back. When I go fishing I prefer to go alone,” the girl said.
“But what am I to say to Lady Ranscomb?”
“Tell her that I love Hugh,” laughed the girl defiantly. “Tell her that I intend to defeat all her clever intrigues and sly devices!”
His countenance now showed that he was angry. He and Lady Ranscomb thoroughly understood each other. He admired the girl, and her mother had assured him her affection for Hugh Henfrey was but a passing fancy. This stubborn outburst was to him a complete revelation.
“I have no knowledge of any intrigue, Dorise,” he said in that bland, superior manner which always irritated her. She knew that a dozen mothers with eligible feminine encumbrances were trying to angle him, and that Lady Ranscomb was greatly envied by them. But to be the wife of the self-conscious ass—well, as she has already bluntly told him, she would die rather than become Mrs. George Sherrard.
“Intrigue!” the girl retorted. “Why, from first to last the whole thing is a plot between my mother and yourself. Please give me credit for just a little intelligence. First, I despise you as a coward. During the war you crept into a little clerkship in the Home Office in order to save your precious skin, while Hugh went to the front and risked his life flying a ‘bomber’ over the enemy’s lines. You were a miserable stay-at-home, hiding in your little bolt-hole in Whitehall when the Zepps came over, while Hugh Henfrey fought for his King and for Britain. Now I am quite frank, Mr. Sherrard. That’s why I despise you!” and the girl’s pale face showed two pink spots in the centre of her cheeks.
“Really,” he said in that same superior tone which he so constantly assumed. “I must say that you are the reverse of polite, Miss Dorise,” and his colour heightened.
“I am! And I intend to be so!” she cried in a frenzy, for all her affection for Hugh had in those moments been redoubled. Her lover was accused and had no chance of self-defence. “Go back to my mother,” she went on. “Tell her every word I have said and embroider it as much as you like. Then you can both put your wits together a little further. But, remember, I shall exert my own woman’s wits against yours. And as soon as you feel it practicable, I hope you will leave Blairglas. And further, if you have not left by noon to-morrow, I will tell my maid, Duncan, the whole story of this sinister plot to part me from Hugh. She will spread it, I assure you. Maids gossip—and to a purpose when their mistresses will it so.”
“Enough! Mr. Sherrard. I prefer to walk up to the Castle by myself. Murray will bring up the rods. Please tell my mother what I say when you get back,” she added. “The night train from Perth to London leaves at nine-forty to-night,” she said with biting sarcasm.