“Then let me repeat my question,” Sir Timothy went on, “have I the right to any consideration at all?”
“Yes,” Francis replied. “Short of keeping us apart, you have the ordinary rights of a parent.”
“Then I ask you to delay the announcement of your engagement, or taking any further steps concerning it, for fourteen days,” Sir Timothy said. “I place no restrictions on your movements during that time. Such hospitality as you, Mr. Ledsam, care to accept at my hands, is at your disposal. I am Bohemian enough, indeed, to find nothing to complain of in such little celebrations as you are at present indulging in—most excellent pate, that. But I request that no announcement of your engagement be made, or any further arrangements made concerning it, for that fourteen days.”
“I am quite willing, father,” Margaret acquiesced.
“And I, sir,” Francis echoed.
“In which case,” Sir Timothy concluded, rising to his feet, lighting a cigarette and taking up his hat and gloves, “I shall go peaceably away. You will admit, I trust,” he added, with that peculiar smile at the corner of his lips, “that I have not in any way tried to come the heavy father? I can even command a certain amount of respect, Margaret, for a young man who is able to inaugurate his engagement by an impromptu meal of such perfection. I wish you both good morning. Any invitation which Margaret extends, Ledsam, please consider as confirmed by me.”
He closed the door softly. They heard his footsteps descending the stairs. Francis leaned once more over Margaret. She seemed still dazed, confused with new thoughts. She responded, however, readily to his touch, yielded to his caress with an almost pathetic eagerness.
“Francis,” she murmured, as his arms closed around her, “I want to forget.”
There followed a brief period of time, the most wonderful of his life, the happiest of hers. They took advantage of Sir Timothy’s absolute license, and spent long days at The Sanctuary, ideal lovers’ days, with their punt moored at night amongst the lilies, where her kisses seemed to come to him with an aroma and wonder born of the spot. Then there came a morning when he found a cloud on her face. She was looking at the great wall, and away at the minaret beyond. They had heard from the butler that Sir Timothy had spent the night at the villa, and that preparations were on hand for another of his wonderful parties. Francis, who was swift to read her thoughts, led her away into the rose garden where once she had failed him.
“You have been looking over the wall, Margaret,” he said reproachfully.
She looked at him with a little twitch at the corners of her lips.
“Francis dear,” she confessed, “I am afraid you are right. I cannot even look towards The Walled House without wondering why it was built—or catch a glimpse of that dome without stupid guesses as to what may go on underneath.”