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Sir William, getting up and stretching himself again. I'll be here to-morrow, of course, but to-night I'm dizzy like-dizzy with freedom from care, and content, Honor. I feel as if I had been standing on my head for half a year, but that will come right with a night's sleep: everything will come right when I'm back in the part I'm fit for, that I know how to play as well as my neighbours—nobody can cast scorn upon me then.
Honor helped him on with his coat, nay, she convoyed him half the way back to Whitehills in the summer dusk, laughing at his questioning her whether she were not tired, scouting at the idea of her not liking to be out alone in the late twilight-not offending against the convenances, where there were none to be set at nought.
SIR WILLIAM had to learn that, practically alone in the world as he was, he could not be suffered to please himself without somebody's interfering to prevent his ruin.
The first sign of the interference was to be detected in Lady Thwaite's driving over to Lambford in hot haste, within three days of the Whitehills hay-making, and begging to see Lady Fermor alone before luncheon, when there was security against other visitors.
Lady Thwaite need not have said 'alone', in reference to Iris, who had not been accustomed to spend her mornings with her grandmother. But the Mildmays had stayed two days longer than had been anticipated, to suit their own convenience, Lady Fermor did not hesitate to remark, and Lady Thwaite was not sure that they were gone at last, when she
sent in her card with a corner turned down, and a pencilled request to see Lady Fermor in her dressing-room.
Show her up,' had been the immediate rejoinder. "What's in the wind now? Then she added, just out of the servant's hearing : 'At least, I'll find out what has become of my sulking gentleman these last two days.'
Lady Fermor's dressing room was the cosiest room in Lambford, but it was also the dullest, with a deadly dulness to a stranger. It did not afford the slightest evidence that its mistress had a single taste or interest beyond her personal concerns and what went on in her own mind. There were no little groups of family miniatures or photographs above the chimney-piece, no washed-out, characteristic children's heads reappearing in sketches in crayons of self-conscious boys and girls, and ending in portraits, in water-colours or oils, of mature men and women-though Lady Fermor had been twice married, and was a grandmother with half-a-dozen grandchildren, in descent from her first husband, in addition to Iris Compton, the grand-daughter of the second. There were no little trophies of her own or of the members of her families' resi
dence in foreign places, in stone, or bronze, or ivory, woodwork or basketwork, Indian embroidery or grass cloth, ending in the merest trifles of nickknacks formed out of twisted vine-twigs and plaited palm-leaves, and carved juniper-root. There were no books and no work. Lady Fermor read the newspapers, but nothing else, and she never worked. She sat with her shrivelled, bony hands in her lap, and went over her own thoughts, often busying herself with the scenes and people of the past. One might have thought the process in this case would hardly have been pleasant. But, pleasant or unpleasant, Lady Fermor was equal to it. She preferred her own identity to that of any other person, and reviewed the events of her earlier life without shrinking, simply because they had belonged to her life, and so had always possessed keen relish of some kind for her.
There was not a portrait of Lord Fermor in the room, but there were several engravings from pictures of his favourite horses to enliven his wife's sanctum ; and the ink-bottle which she used for the business jottings she still made, at the heavy old writing-table, was composed of one of the hoofs of the Lambford
horse which had been the most distinguished of the season at Newmarket.
Summer and winter a brisk fire burned in Lady Fermor's dressing-room, the atmosphere of which was heavily laden with old Jockey Club scent, while there was no replenishment of oxygen from the closed windows. This little fact alone would have made a visit to its mistress in her den, on a sultry August morning, a trial to any person full of modern theories of health, and with fresh-air proclivities. But in addition, Lady Fermor indulged in a habit of having every visitor she entertained shown to the warmest corner. It might have been an unconscious impulse of her old hospitality, as that was now the physical good she craved most; or it might have been a plan to shorten and prevent visits at hours and in a region which she reserved for herself. Yet she had no occupation to be disturbed, and even no practices to be hidden, unless that she wore the worst shawls and dowdiest caps, when nobody—not even Fermor or Pollock—could see them.
“What's in the wind, Lady Thwaite ? repeated Lady Fermor, without the smallest scruple, to the visitor, after the two had