“Perhaps because they are more catholic and charitable,” I suggested, “or perhaps because they like those who like them.”
She laughed in her charming way, and said,
“However these remarks do not apply to you and me, for as I think I told you once before in that cedar wood in Kendah Land where you feared lest I should catch a chill, or become—odd again, it is another you with whom something in me seems to be so intimate.”
“That’s fortunate for your sake,” I muttered, still staring at and pointing to the silver plate.
Again she laughed. “Do you remember the Taduki herb?” she asked. “I have plenty of it safe upstairs, and not long ago I took a whiff of it, only a whiff because you know it had to be saved.”
“And what did you see?”
“Never mind. The question is what shall we both see?”
“Nothing,” I said firmly. “No earthly power will make me breathe that unholy drug again.”
“Except me,” she murmured with sweet decision. “No, don’t think about leaving the house. You can’t, there are no Sunday trains. Besides you won’t if I ask you not.”
“‘In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird,’” I replied, firm as a mountain.
“Is it? Then why are so many caught?”
At that moment the Bull of Bashan—I mean Smith, began to bellow something at his hostess from the other end of the table and our conversation came to an end.
“I say, old chap,” whispered Scroope in my ear when we stood up to see the ladies out. “I suppose you are thinking of marrying again. Well, you might do worse,” and he glanced at the glittering form of Lady Ragnall vanishing through the doorway behind her guests.
“Shut up, you idiot!” I replied indignantly.
“Why?” he asked with innocence. “Marriage is an honourable estate, especially when there is lots of the latter. I remember saying something of the sort to you years ago and at this table, when as it happened you also took in her ladyship. Only there was George in the wind then; now it has carried him away.”
Without deigning any reply I seized my glass and went to sit down between the canon and the Bull of Bashan.
ALLAN GIVES HIS WORD
Mr. Atterby-Smith proved on acquaintance to be even worse than unfond fancy painted him. He was a gentleman in a way and of good family whereof the real name was Atterby, the Smith having been added to secure a moderate fortune left to him on that condition. His connection with Lord Ragnall was not close and through the mother’s side. For the rest he lived in some south-coast watering-place and fancied himself a sportsman because he had on various occasions hired a Scottish moor or deer forest. Evidently he had never done anything nor earned a shilling during all his life and was bringing his family up to follow