English Literature

Lady Cassandra by Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey

Lady Cassandra by Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey

Chapter One.

A Matrimonial Hurdle.

Cassandra Raynor stood on the terrace of her great house, looking over the sweep of country stretching to right and left, and in her heart was the deadliest of all weariness,—the weariness of repletion. It seemed at that moment the bitterest cross that she had nothing left for which to wish, that everything good which the world could give was hers already, and had left her cold.

The stately old house was hers, with its treasures of old-world furnishings, the same furnishings which had ministered to generations dead and gone, and would minister to others yet to come. It would have been considered sacrilege to stamp the individuality of the chatelaine of an hour on those historic halls. The distant stretch of country was part of her estate, but the sight of it brought no thrill to Cassandra’s veins. Her jaded eyes had wearied of the familiar landscape, as they had wearied of the interior of the house, in which she seemed more a tenant than a mistress.

Cassandra wandered idly to and fro, obsequiously shadowed by obsequious servants, and wondered what it would feel like to live in a semi-detached villa, and arrange one’s own rooms in one’s own way, and frill pink silk curtains, and festoon lamp shades, and run to the door to meet a husband returning from the City. She herself had never run to meet Bernard. If she had once begun that sort of thing, she might have been running all day long, for he was always in and out. She wondered what it would feel like to have a husband who disappeared regularly at nine a.m., and returned at seven. One might be quite glad to see him!

Cassandra had done her duty to the family by producing a healthy male child within eighteen months of her marriage. So sorely had she suffered in giving birth to her son that there was no hope of a second child to bear him company, but there had been no regret nor self-pity in her mother’s heart during those first hours in which he lay, red and crumpled, within her arms. Never while she lived could Cassandra forget the rest, the thankfulness, the deep, uplifted joy of those hours. It had seemed to her then that with the coming of the child all gaps must be filled, and all the poverty of life be turned into gold. But… was it her own fault, or the fault of circumstances which had brought about the disillusionment? It had been difficult to believe that the stolid, well-behaved young person, who walked abroad between two white-robed nurses, spoke when he was spoken to, and tucked his feeder carefully beneath his chin, was really her own child, bone of her bone, flesh of her flesh; the wonder child of whom she had dreamt such dreams.

Cassandra had known nothing of babies; Mrs Mason, the head nurse, knew everything, and Bernard was tenacious of the safety of his heir. He thought it a pity for his wife to “interfere,” and said as much with his usual frankness. He did not approve of young children being in evidence, and discouraged the boy’s appearance downstairs. At an unusually early age also he selected a preparatory school at the far end of the county, and henceforth Bernard the younger visited home for the holidays only, and was no longer a member of the household proper. Cassandra loved him, but,—she had wanted to love him so much more! In those first hours she had imagined a bond of union so strong and tender that the commonplaces of the reality could not fail to be a disappointment. Bernard was a dutiful boy, a sensible boy, a boy who brought home satisfactory reports; he considered the Mater a good sort, and appreciated her generosity. Her affection he endured, her tenderness he would have abhorred, but it was as difficult to be tender to Bernard the son, as to Bernard the father. Cassandra had abandoned the attempt.

And, socially speaking, the Court was situated in a hopeless part of the county. The other two big places in the neighbourhood were occupied, the one by an objectionable nouveau riche, and the other by an elderly couple of such strong evangelical tendencies that they disapproved of everything which other people enjoyed. There were, it is true, a few pleasant families at the other side of the county, but though they could be counted upon for state occasions, the intervening miles forbade anything like easy, everyday intimacy. In autumn the Raynors entertained a succession of guests for the shooting, but for the rest of the year Bernard discouraged house parties. He was bored by Cassandra’s friends, she was bored by his, the guests were mutually bored by each other, what then was the use of going to trouble and expense?

As for Chumley, the nearest small township, a mile or less from the nearest gate of the Court, from Cassandra’s point of view “No-one” lived there—literally no one, but a few dull, suburban families who gave afternoon tea parties, gossiped about their neighbours, and wore impossible clothes. Cassandra maintained that there was not a creature in Chumley worth knowing, but Bernard said that was nonsense, there must be some decent women among them, if she would only be decent in return! Cassandra maintained that she was decent; she called on them sometimes, and she asked them to garden parties. One could do no more.

Cassandra had been married ten years, and would be thirty on her next birthday. When one was a girl it had seemed so impossibly dull to be thirty. And it was; Cassandra thought it would be vastly more agreeable to be forty, at once, and be done with it. At forty, one began to grow stout and grey, to lie down in the afternoon, and feel interested in committee meetings, and societies, and other people’s business. At thirty, one was still so painfully interested in oneself!

At forty, one was old, looked it, felt it, acknowledged it with body and mind… but at thirty, it was difficult to be consistently discreet. At thirty, one knew one was old; with the brain one knew it, but it was impossible to live consistently up to the knowledge. There were moments when one felt so extraordinarily, so incredibly young, moments when the mirror, instead of crying shame on such folly, backed one up in delusion, and gave back the reflection of a girl!

Cassandra thanked Providence daily for her eyes, her hair, her straight back, and the dimple in her chin. Viewed in full, her face was a charming oval; taken in halves it supplied two admirable profiles. The nose leant a trifle to the left, so that was the side on which she chose to be photographed and on which she bestowed the prettiest side of her hats. Cassandra and the mirror enjoyed the hats, and Chumley disapproved. That was all the satisfaction she got out of their purchase. Bernard took no notice of clothes during the enchanting period of their youth, but just when his wife was feeling tired to death of a garment, he would awake to a consciousness of its existence and cry: “Holloa, what’s this? You are mighty smart. Another new frock?” Cassandra wished to goodness as he was not more observant, he would not be observant at all. It made it so awkward to order new things.

Cassandra seated herself in a deep cushioned chair, folded her hands in her lap, and began one of the animated conversations with her inner self which were the resource of her idle hours. It was so comfortable talking to oneself,—one could be honest, could say precisely what one meant, need have no tiresome fears for other people’s susceptibilities.

“What’s the matter with me that I feel so restless and dull? I ought to be contented and happy, but I’m not. I’m bored to death, and the trouble of it is,—I can’t think why! I’ve everything I could wish for, and I’m as unsatisfied as if I’d nothing. In the name of fortune, my dear, what do you want?—It comes to this—I’m either a morbid, introspective, weak-minded fool or else I’m noble and fine, and am stretching out for higher things. I’d like to think it was the last, but I’m not at all sure! I don’t long to be great or noble, or superior in any way—only just to be happy, and at rest… I wonder if by chance I’m unhappily married? That would account for so much. I wonder if I ruined my life when I gave in, and said ‘yes’ to Bernard! If I did, it was with the best intentions. I was fond of him. When a dull, quiet man gets really worked up, there’s something extraordinarily compelling. And I expected he’d stay worked up. At eighteen any girl would. There ought to be a Bureau of Matrimonial Intelligence to prevent them from making such mistakes. I’d be the secretary, and say: ‘My dear, he won’t! This is only a passing conflagration. It will die out, and he’ll revert to the normal. You’ll have to live with the normal till death do you part. It doesn’t follow that you’ll quarrel… Ah! my dear girl, there are so many worse things! It’s deplorable, of course, to quarrel with one’s husband, but the reconciliation might be worth the pain. You might put your head on his shoulder, and say: “It was every bit your fault, and the rest was mine. Kiss me! and we’ll never do it again!” and he’d choose the prettiest dimple, and kiss you there, and do it so nicely, you’d long to quarrel again. Oh, yes, there are points about quarrelling, but it’s so hopelessly uningratiating to be—bored. The worse you feel, the less you can say. Imagine telling a man that he bored you to extinction, and expecting to be kissed in return! Being bored goes on and on, and never works itself off’… Bernard is good and loyal, and honourable, and just,—and I’m so tired of him. I am; and I can’t pretend any longer. We’ve lived together in peace and boredom for ten long years, and something within me seems wearing out—

“I wonder how many married people come up against this hurdle? Its name is satiety, and it is bristling with difficulties. I’ve a suspicion that if one could get cleanly over, it would be a safe trot home. But it blocks the way. I’m up against it now—”

Cassandra rested an elbow on the arm of her chair, and leant her head on the uplifted hand. A thrill of something like fear ran through her veins. The simile of the hurdle had leapt into her mind subconsciously, as such things will, but the conscious mind recognised its face. Along the quiet path lay no chance for the reforming of life; it must necessarily be some shock, some upheaval, which would either open out new fields, or gild the old with some of the vanished splendour. Even if one failed to reach the goal without a toss, a toss was preferable to an eternal jog-trot.

Cassandra narrowed her eyes, and stared into space, but no man’s face pictured itself in her mind; for ten long years Bernard had, for good or ill, filled the foreground of her life, not the mildest of flirtations had been hers. She was a pure-minded woman, bred on conventional lines, and the idea of a lover would have outraged her delicacy. In considering the events which might possibly vitalise the future, her mind dwelt on strictly legitimate happenings. A serious illness,—her own,—Bernard’s,—the boy’s; the loss of money; a lengthened separation, which would revive joys staled by custom. Regarded dispassionately the prospects were not cheerful, nevertheless she found herself cheered by the contemplation. She saw herself occupied, engrossed, with something to do, a real object in life. It might be a reviving experience to have one of the Bernards—not dangerously so, of course, but just enough ill to feel dependent on the one woman in the family. Even to be ill oneself would have points. She would sit propped up against her best pillow covers, wearing a distracting bed jacket and cap, and Bernard would come in, and look at her, and say,—What would he say? Cassandra’s smile was twisted with a pathetic humour. “Holloa, old girl. Got ’em all on! Bucking up a bit, ain’t you? I’m off for a ride…” Rather a tame dénouement to which to look forward as the reward for weeks of suffering! Cassandra determined on the whole that she would rather keep well.

And the two Bernards,—what sort of convalescents would they make? Cassandra drew a mental picture of the sick room, with the older patient stretched on a couch, and herself seated by his side, a devoted and assiduous nurse, but there was an obstinate commonplaceness about father and son which refused to adapt itself to the scene. Bernard would have no reflections to make on the wonder of life restored; he would want to hear the Sporting Times read aloud, and the latest news of the crops. His tenderest acknowledgment of her care would be a, “Looking a bit peaked, old girl! What’s the sense of paying a nurse and doing the work yourself?” As for the boy, he would talk cricket, be politely bored, and surreptitiously wipe off kisses. Cassandra determined that on the whole the two Bernards had better keep well also!

As for poverty—one would certainly have enough to do to run a house on a few hundreds a year, but though viewed generally the prospect sounded picturesque, a definite narrowing down to a comparison with one of the many Chumley homesteads, brought a quick shudder of distaste. The narrow rooms, the inferior servants, the infinitesimal gardens,—Cassandra thrust out her hands in horror of the thought, and laughed a soft, full-throated laugh.

“If I am bound to be dissatisfied, let me at least have room to be dissatisfied in! I could bear being stinted in almost anything rather than space. If Bernard loses his money, we’ll go abroad and live on a prairie,—anything rather than a stifling villa.”

She turned her head as the door opened, and her husband entered, and crossed the room to a bureau in the far corner. He wore the usual tweed suit, the Norfolk jacket accentuating his increasing width, the loose knickerbockers revealing large, well-shaped legs. His skin was tanned to a rich brown, his eyes were a clear hard blue, his teeth strong and white, his moustache was cut in a straight harsh line along the upper lip. His cool gaze included his wife with the rest of the furnishings, but he gave no acknowledgment of her presence; not a flicker of expression passed over his face.

There came to Cassandra suddenly, irrepressibly, the necessity of shocking him into life. She was not a woman who indulged in scenes; it came naturally to her to hide her feelings, and act a part before the world. If Bernard had not entered at just that psychological moment, if he had looked one bit less sleek, and satisfied, and dense, she could have gone on acting, as she had done for years past; as it was, a desire for expression rose with giant force, and would not be gainsaid. Very well! So be it. For once she would speak out, and Bernard should hear. She had an acute, a devastating curiosity to hear what he would say.

“Bernard, are you busy? I want to speak to you.”

He turned his head. The clear tints of his skin looked startlingly healthy as seen in the light of the great open window.

“All right! Fire ahead.”

“Bernard, do you love me?”

“Good Lord!” The utter stupefaction on Raynor’s face proved that this was the last of all questions which he had expected to hear. He came across the room, and stood staring down into his wife’s face. “What the dickens is up?”

“Nothing is up. I asked you a simple question. What should be up?”

“I thought you’d taken offence at something I’d done!”

“You have done nothing in the least unusual that I know of. I rather wish you had. Do you, Bernard?”

“Do I what?”

“You know quite well, but I’ll ask you again, if you prefer it. Do you love me, Bernard?”

The man’s ruddy face took a deeper tinge.

“I say, Cass, what rot is this? That was settled and done with years ago. I married you. You’re my wife. If you are not sure of me by this time, you never will be.”

“You are quite sure of yourself?”

“Of course I am. What d’you mean? I’m not the sort to er—er—”

Cassandra turned her head over her shoulder and flung him a challenging glance, her blue eyes bright with defiance.

“Then you had better understand, Bernard, once for all, that—I am not sure of myself! I’m not at all sure that I love you!”

She had said it. The words rang like a clarion call through the silent room. After years of self-deception, and careful covering up, a moment’s impulse had laid bare the skeleton. It stood between them, a naked horror, grinning with fleshless lips. Cassandra saw it and shuddered at the sight, but it was too late to draw back. She caught her breath, and sat tremblingly waiting for what should come.

What came was a burst of hearty, good-natured laughter. Bernard’s eyes twinkled, his white teeth gleamed. He stretched out a freckled hand and laid it on his wife’s arm.

“That’s all right, old girl! Don’t you worry about that. You’re fond of me all right, and a rattling good wife. We’ve been married a dozen years, and never had a row. If all couples got along as well as we do, things would be a sight better. What’s the use of bothering about love at this time of day. I’m not a sentimental fellow. I’m satisfied with things as they are. So are you too, as a rule. Got a fit of the blues, that’s all!—I say, Cass, Peignton’s coming to tea, and I met that girl of the Mallison’s,—Teresa, isn’t it?—and asked her to come along too, and make up a game afterwards. She plays a good hand, and Peignton’s engaged to her they say, or going to be. So we will do them a good turn, as well as ourselves.”

Cassandra rose slowly, straightening her shoulders as if throwing off a weight. Standing there her head was on a level with her husband’s, and for a moment their eyes met, his calm and unperturbed, hers sparkling and defiant. She had spoken. He had heard the truth, and had laughed at her for her pains. Now let the Fates bring what they might. He had been warned…

“Very well, Bernard. I’ll have tea early. Shall I order the car to take her home?”

“Er—no. They’ll send. Pony cart or some contraption of the kind. Peignton’ll look after her all right.”

He chuckled, aroused to interest in a prospective romance, though his own had faded. He turned, softly whistling, and fumbled in the bureau, while Cassandra beat a retreat to her own room.

Now she was angry with herself, sore with the humiliation of an unnecessary rebuff. “How futile of me! How superfluous to bring it on my own head! What did I expect?” she asked herself bitterly. She stood staring out of the window at the landscape, already darkening in the short February light, while the thoughts chased themselves in her brain. Her youth,—Bernard,—her marriage,—the birth of her child,—ennui,—disappointment,—emptiness. The different stages seemed to follow one after another in relentless sequence; they merged together in nebulous confusion. Then suddenly her thoughts switched to another topic.

“Teresa!” she found herself repeating, “Teresa Mallison!” With critical accuracy she was conjuring up the picture of a tall, thickly built girl, with fair hair, fresh complexion, and a narrow, long-chinned face. In Chumley circles Teresa Mallison was considered a pretty girl, and pretty she was, and would be, so long as the glow of youth disguised the harshness of her features. Cassandra acknowledged as much with the generosity which most women show towards the attractions of their sisters, difficult as masculine incredulity finds it to credit the fact. Teresa Mallison was quite a pleasant sort of girl, amiable and unaffected, and quite angelic about accepting eleventh-hour invitations to fill a vacant place. One way and another she had been a fairly frequent visitor at the Court, during the last year, but imagine choosing to live all one’s life with such a companion! Imagine breakfasting throughout the years with Teresa Mallison as a vis-à-vis; being sad with Teresa, glad with Teresa, living day after day with Teresa; growing old, dying, always, always with Teresa; watching her heavy form grow heavier, her long face longer, seeing the wrinkles gather round the light blue eyes, listening always, for ever, to the thin, toneless voice, the recurrent spasms of laughter. Dane Peignton too; Peignton of all men! Not one of the ordinary, uninteresting Chumley natives, but the most attractive bachelor in the neighbourhood! That made the mystery deeper.

Dane Peignton was a comparatively new-comer to the neighbourhood; was in fact only a bird of passage, being a temporary tenant of a small place a few miles distant from the Court, during its owner’s sojourn abroad. Peignton had retired from the Army after a serious breakdown in health, and being not overburdened with this world’s goods, had been delighted to accept from old friends the loan of a house for a couple of years, the responsibility of superintending the up-keep of the estate being taken as a quid pro quo against rent. Being country-bred, he had little difficulty in fitting into his new duties, and in envisaging the future, felt that after Vernon’s return, he would like nothing better than to secure a land agency, live quietly in the country, and take up country sports. Given a few congenial neighbours, and a library of books, he would feel no hankerings for town.

An hour later Cassandra descended the great staircase, and made her way to the drawing-room to await her guests. She had discarded her morning dress, and moved by some subtle impulse of coquetry had decked herself in a new creation, which was pleased to call itself a bridge gown. Even she herself would have been puzzled to give an accurate explanation of her own motives in so doing; so many elements entered, and intermingled. Bernard had repulsed her,—let him see what manner of woman he had repulsed! The remembrance of the girl, rich in youth and love, came also as a spur to the woman to whom the years had brought disillusion. Teresa Mallison had placed her on a pinnacle, and worshipped her as a marvel of grace and beauty,—she wished to retain the girl’s admiration, wished for her own sake to feel conscious of looking her best. She dressed for Bernard’s benefit, for Teresa’s, for her own; the only person of whom she took no account was Dane Peignton himself. He stood outside her life.

The great drawing-room with its white panelled walls looked somewhat cold and austere, but round the log fire was a little haven of comfort, where four Spanish leather screens formed a background for deeply cushioned sofas. The firelight played on the rich colouring of the old leather work, on the dainty equipments of the tea table; on Cassandra herself in her rose-red draperies, on the face, that was so young and vivid, on the eyes which were so tired.

Dane Peignton approaching from the further end of the room had a moment to take in the details of the scene, before she saw him in her turn, and the picture stayed in his mind.

Cassandra on her part regarded Peignton with the added curiosity which every woman feels towards an embryo lover, seeing him in a new light, as a central figure in the eternal drama. She saw a tall man with a military bearing, somewhat at variance with bowed shoulders, a clean-shaven face, not handsome, not plain, the features large and roughly hewn, the eyes a dark steel grey. Yet he was attractive. Why was he so attractive? Cassandra pondered the question while keeping up a light flow of conversation, and arrived at varying conclusions. It was his eyes. It was his mouth. It was his mobility of expression. It was an air of weakness underlying strength, which evoked sympathy and interest. He was attractive, that was the end of the matter; and he cared for Teresa Mallison!

The door opened, and Teresa was announced. She had discarded her coat and appeared in a short dark skirt, and a white blouse, transparent at the neck, and displaying a goodly length of bare brown arms. Her feet looked disproportionately large in walking shoes, and there was a hint of the provincial in her gait. One descried at a glance that it was not often her lot to make an entrance into so stately a room. Cassandra rose to greet her with an involuntary feeling of commiseration. A few minutes before she had come near grudging the girl her good fortune, now at the sight of her, her heart melted with pity. So gauche, so raw! The heavy looks, the reddened arms. Cassandra’s fastidious eye took in the blemishes at a glance, and the feminine in her rose on the girl’s behalf. She placed her on the corner of the sofa, nearest the softly tinted light, moved a table to her side, with a deft hand twitched away a dark cushion and substituted one of a vivid blue. The effect was transforming, for once the dark skirt was hidden from sight the filmy blouse became at once dainty and appropriate, while the softened light showed to advantage the gleam in the fair, coiled hair, the youthful pink and white of the complexion. Cassandra glanced at Peignton to see if he appreciated the picture; and discovered him leaning forward, looking into the girl’s face with pleasure and admiration. Teresa was smiling back, and showing her large white teeth. Cassandra squeezed her lips into a tight little knot, and told herself she was very pleased. But how foolish they looked!

Bernard came in, and sat himself down with deliberation. He enjoyed afternoon tea, insisted on having a table to himself, and a supply of hot buttered toast. Hardly a day passed that he did not ask for a second supply, and give instructions as to liberality with the butter. He drank three cups of tea, and helped himself largely to cream. And then he wondered that he grew stout! Cassandra nibbled daintily at minute wafers of bread, and the girl on the sofa ate sweet cakes with youthful relish.

“What’s the news, Miss Mallison?” Bernard asked between his mouthfuls of toast. It was a question which he never failed to ask, and Teresa Mallison’s replies never failed to evoke the expected amusement. She believed so implicitly that he was interested in the doings of that dead-alive little hole, and brought out her little items with such an air of importance.

“The Vicar has asked me to decorate the chancel for Easter.”

“Don’t you do it! Lots of trouble, and nobody pleased. Let someone else take that job.”

“Oh, but”—Teresa looked shocked—“I want to! It’s an honour. I’ve only done the finials before. But it needs lots of flowers. I wondered if…”

“I’ll bet you did! They always do.” Bernard laughed good-naturedly. “All right, Miss Teresa; you shall have them. Someone has them every year, and I’d sooner give them to you than most. Tell Dawes what you want, and I’ll see that he remembers. And if you want him to help—”

“Oh, thanks!” Teresa’s cheeks showed a deeper colour. “I have some helpers. Mr Peignton has promised.”

“That’s right, Peignton! Make yourself useful.” Bernard’s smile was so significant, that Teresa made haste to give the conversation a turn.

“The Martin Beverleys have come home.”

“They have, have they? That’s the author fellow who married the heiress, who was not an heiress, because she gave it all up to marry him. Chucked away,—how much was it? Fifty thousand a year?”


“Ah well, thirty’s good enough! He didn’t seem to me, the few times I’ve met him, exactly cheap at the price. Good-looking enough in a fashion, and plays a fair game, but a stiff, reserved kind of beggar. Takes himself too seriously for my taste. They tell me he writes good books.”

Teresa waxed eloquent in favour of the local celebrity.

“Oh, beautiful! He is one of the best authors. The last one was the best of all. It’s run through several editions. You ought to read it, Mr Raynor.”

“Can’t stick novels!” declared Bernard, who was never known to read a line beyond the morning papers. “Can’t understand how anyone can when they’ve passed the cub stage. And as to writing them—Good Lord! Fancy that old solemn sides Beverley writing an impassioned love scene! Beats me how he manages to do it.”

“It wouldn’t, if you knew Mrs Beverley!” Teresa said sagely. Her blue eyes brightened, she drew a long, eloquent breath. “She is—adorable!”

The men laughed. Cassandra looked up with a dawning of interest.

“She was Grizel Dundas, niece of that terrible old woman. I’ve heard of her often, but we never met. I’ve met Mr Beverley and his sister, that handsome girl who went to India: they have been here to several garden parties. He is certainly rather stiff, but one feels from his books that he must be worth knowing. It’s interesting to know a man for whom a woman has given up so much, but still more interesting to meet the woman. Tell us, Teresa, what she is like!”

But Teresa wrinkled her brows, and looked vague and perplexed. She could enthuse, but it appeared that she could not describe.

“Er—it’s so difficult! She’s like no one else. I’ve never met anyone in the least like her.”

Cassandra put the invariable question:

“Is she pretty?”

“Oh, lovely!” Teresa cried. “At least—sometimes! She changes. I’ve heard people call her plain. But you hardly think of her looks. She’s so—” Again she hesitated, and became lost in confusion. Cassandra probed once more.

“So—what? Teresa, do please be definite! I’m interested in this Mrs Beverley. If she’s really plain, it’s so clever of her to look lovely. If she is lovely, it’s so stupid of her to look plain. What is she so—?”

“Funny!” gasped Teresa, and giggled triumphantly. “Yes, she is funny! She says funny things. In a funny way. She is not a bit like—”


“Chumley,” said Teresa, and involuntarily Cassandra heaved a sigh of relief.

“Lovely. Plain. Funny. Not a bit like Chumley.” Cassandra noted each point with an infinitesimal nod; into her eyes there danced a spark of light. “This sounds exciting! I shall call upon Mrs Beverley.”

“Thankful to hear it!” Raynor grumbled. “You ought to call a lot more. People expect it. It would please ’em, and be good for you. You shut yourself up, and get hipped. A woman needs gossip, to let off steam.”

Cassandra’s light laugh carried off the personality of the remark, but after the laugh came a sigh, a ghost of a sigh of whose passing her husband and Teresa remained serenely unconscious. Only Peignton heard it, and his eyes turned to rest upon her face.

There was in his glance an intentness, an understanding which gave the impression of barriers thrust aside. Cassandra was startled by it, and discomposed. She had reached the stage when she did not expect to be understood. That such a stranger as this man should have read her thoughts seemed at the moment a deliberate offence. She lowered her lids with an impulse of self-defence.

“It is five o’clock,” she said shortly. “Bernard, if you can tear yourself from buttered toast, shall we begin bridge?”


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