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and look at the Sir Joshuas with Lucy, and speculate whether the Lady Thwaite of a hundred years ago had ever tried making hay, or had been at the pains to look at the process, save in some French print of Un Amusement Pastorale,' though she had been an Eastwich bride and had dwelt at Whitehills for the most of her life. If it had been otherwise, could she have dressed herself in what looked like a pink gauze sacque, and worn a mobcap with a hat suspended by the ribbons half way down her shoulders, and employed such a toy rake as would not have gathered more than half-a-dozen blades of grass at a time? · King Lud had his will. There was a little music extracted with difficulty from the old piano, for Lady Thwaite had carried away her Broadwood, and this was an instrument as old as the hills,' the most musical man present felt bound to protest with a groan, an out-of-tune thing without the additional octaves, which had been used by Sir John's last unmarried sister. Lady Thwaite played first, but Iris, though she played among the other girls, declined to follow immediately after her hostess.
THE BEAST THROWS HIMSELF AT BEAUTY'S FEET.
IRIS was getting too bold, far too bold; she took herself to task disconsolately soon afterwards, when all her nerves were jarred, and her heart again sent fluttering in her throat. There had been some talk of the garden, and Lady Thwaite had asked Sir William about the lilies which ought to be in blossom on the pond, and about the Japanese lilies which she had introduced with success into the tank at the end of the largest greenhouse. There was a little stir indicative of an adjournment to the gardens, but Iris felt quite safe in joining in the movement. It would only be the young people who would go out again before returning home to dinner, and mentally she classed Sir William, in spite of his last night's waltzing, with the elderly folks, and seated him in her imagination beside Lady Fermor, to whom he seemed bent on doing the honours of his house. Iris was ready to acknowledge, even in her present prejudiced state of mind, that the homage did not come ill from the prime of manhood to tottering, though untamed and undaunted old age. Instead, her dream of security was rudely broken by her seeing Sir William standing in front of her, and hearing him say, 'Miss Compton, would you mind going to see the lilies ?
She did mind, but she could not say so. She had an instantaneous comprehension that the hour and the man had come, and she must meet them with the courage which other girls summoned up for similar trials. She took his arm and walked out, with the knowledge that all the eyes in the room were fixed on the couple, as they had been last night. She dared not let herself think that Lucy must be pitying her, lest the sense of her friend's compassion should shake her firmness.
Slight and matter-of-course as the advance might appear, it was really the most direct, unmistakable approach he had made to her that day. She would never have looked upon it as anything save a host's politeness, and Sir William's growing savoir faire, if it had not been for what she had been told last night, which had robbed her of her ease and peace of mind, till she could not put an indifferent interpretation on a simple action.
Iris could not tell whether Sir William had been spurred on by her grandmother to take the leap which lay before him, or whether it was the spontaneous impulse of a man with regard to whom she had not doubted that he was a brave man. He might never have read poetry (if she had known it, he had taken to reading it lately, and had gone through dozens of love poems on her account), still, he might by instinct have arrived at an entire agreement with the gallant Montrose :
"He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
To gain or lose it all.'
Yet she felt the arm on which her fingers were resting trembling as she walked along the corridor, and she feared she would need to have coolness for both. She had read that in certain circumstances, under the influence of passion, strong men are sometimes weaker than fragile women. But whatever other girls had done
she ought to be able to do, and surely he would take his rejection like a man. She knew he could not conceal his feelings, and she did not expect him to be forbearing and generous, especially after what her grandmother had done. He might be rude and angry, but his anger was not what she feared.
Withal, modest as Iris was, she never doubted the sincerity of Sir William's sentiments, she never fancied that he could be influenced by any other motive than unfortunate misplaced attachment to herself. There was little distrust, and almost no suspicion, in Iris Compton's nature, neither was there the least tendency to double-dealing or trifling. There was not the making of a coquette in her. Now that the moment from which she had turned away with the greatest repugnance was at hand, she would rather face it and have it over, because it would be better for both of them. Then she would reckon with her grandmother ; at least the gentle, inexperienced, ill-armed girl would match herself with the woman who had eaten of the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of evil to the last bitter-sweet morsel, who could be as furious as she was unscrupulous.