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 Stornham Court had taken its proper position in the county as a place which was equal to social exchange in the matter of entertainment. Sir Nigel and Lady Anstruthers had given a garden party, according to the decrees of the law obtaining in country neighbourhoods. The curiosity to behold1 Miss Vanderpoel, and the change which had been worked in the well-known desolation and disrepair, precluded2 the possibility of the refusal of any invitations sent, the recipient3 being in his or her right mind, and sound in wind and limb. That astonishing things had been accomplished4, and that the party was a successful affair, could not but be accepted as truths. Garden parties had been heard of, were a trifle repetitional, and even dull, but at this one there was real music and real dancing, and clever entertainments were given at intervals5 in a green-embowered little theatre, erected6 for the occasion. These were agreeable additions to mere7 food and conversation, which were capable of palling8.  
To the garden party the Anstruthers did not confine themselves. There were dinner parties at Stornham, and they also were successful functions. The guests were of those who make for the success of such entertainments.
“I called upon Mount Dunstan this afternoon,” Sir Nigel said one evening, before the first of these dinners. “He might expect it, as one is asking him to dine. I wish him to be asked. The Dunholms have taken him up so tremendously that no festivity seems complete without him.”
He had been invited to the garden party, and had appeared, but Betty had seen little of him. It is easy to see little of a guest at an out-of-door festivity. In assisting Rosalie to attend to her visitors she had been much occupied, but she had known that she might have seen more of him, if he had intended that it should be so. He did not—for reasons of his own—intend that it should be so, and this she became aware of. So she walked, played in the bowling9 green, danced and talked with Westholt, Tommy Alanby and others.
“He does not want to talk to me. He will not, if he can avoid it,” was what she said to herself.
She saw that he rather sought out Mary Lithcom, who was not accustomed to receiving special attention. The two walked together, danced together, and in adjoining chairs watched the performance in the embowered theatre. Lady Mary enjoyed her companion very much, but she wondered why he had attached himself to her.
Betty Vanderpoel asked herself what they talked to each other about, and did not suspect the truth, which was that they talked a good deal of herself.
“Have you seen much of Miss Vanderpoel?” Lady Mary had begun by asking.
“I have SEEN her a good deal, as no doubt you have.”
Lady Mary's plain face expressed a somewhat touched reflectiveness.
“Do you know,” she said, “that the garden parties have been a different thing this whole summer, just because one always knew one would see her at them?”
A short laugh from Mount Dunstan.
“Jane and I have gone to every garden party within twenty miles, ever since we left the schoolroom. And we are very tired of them. But this year we have quite cheered up. When we are dressing10 to go to something dull, we say to each other, 'Well, at any rate, Miss Vanderpoel will be there, and we shall see what she has on, and how her things are made,' and that's something—besides the fun of watching people make up to her, and hearing them talk about the men who want to marry her, and wonder which one she will take. She will not take anyone in this place,” the nice turned-up nose slightly suggesting a derisive11 sniff12. “Who is there who is suitable?”
Mount Dunstan laughed shortly again.
“How do you know I am not an aspirant13 myself?” he said. He had a mirthless sense of enjoyment14 in his own brazenness16. Only he himself knew how brazen15 the speech was.
Lady Mary looked at him with entire composure.
“I am quite sure you are not an aspirant for anybody. And I happen to know that you dislike moneyed international marriages. You are so obviously British that, even if I had not been told that, I should know it was true. Miss Vanderpoel herself knows it is true.”
“Does she?”
“Lady Alanby spoke17 of it to Sir Nigel, and I heard Sir Nigel tell her.”
“Exactly the kind of unnecessary thing he would be likely to repeat.” He cast the subject aside as if it were a worthless superfluity and went on: “When you say there is no one suitable, you surely forget Lord Westholt.”
“Yes, it's true I forgot him for the moment. But—” with a laugh—“one rather feels as if she would require a royal duke or something of that sort.”
“You think she expects that kind of thing?” rather indifferently.
“She? She doesn't think of the subject. She simply thinks of other things—of Lady Anstruthers and Ughtred, of the work at Stornham and the village life, which gives her new emotions and interest. She also thinks about being nice to people. She is nicer than any girl I know.”
“You feel, however, she has a right to expect it?” still without more than a casual air of interest.
“Well, what do you feel yourself?” said Lady Mary. “Women who look like that—even when they are not millionairesses—usually marry whom they choose. I do not believe that the two beautiful Miss Gunnings rolled into one would have made anything as undeniable as she is. One has seen portraits of them. Look at her as she stands there talking to Tommy and Lord Dunholm!”
Internally Mount Dunstan was saying: “I am looking at her, thank you,” and setting his teeth a little.
But Lady Mary was launched upon a subject which swept her along with it, and she—so to speak—ground the thing in.
“Look at the turn of her head! Look at her mouth and chin, and her eyes with the lashes18 sweeping19 over them when she looks down! You must have noticed the effect when she lifts them suddenly to look at you. It's so odd and lovely that it—it almost——”
“Almost makes you jump,” ended Mount Dunstan drily.
She did not laugh and, in fact, her expression became rather sympathetically serious.
“Ah,” she said, “I believe you feel a sort of rebellion against the unfairness of the way things are dealt out. It does seem unfair, of course. It would be perfectly20 disgraceful—if she were different. I had moments of almost hating her until one day not long ago she did something so bewitchingly kind and understanding of other people's feelings that I gave up. It was clever, too,” with a laugh, “clever and daring. If she were a young man she would make a dashing soldier.”
She did not give him the details of the story, but went on to say in effect what she had said to Betty herself of the inevitable21 incidentalness of her stay in the country. If she had not evidently come to Stornham this year with a purpose, she would have spent the season in London and done the usual thing. Americans were generally presented promptly22, if they had any position—sometimes when they had not. Lady Alanby had heard that the fact that she was with her sister had awakened23 curiosity and people were talking about her.
“Lady Alanby said in that dry way of hers that the arrival of an unmarried American fortune in England was becoming rather like the visit of an unmarried royalty24. People ask each other what it means and begin to arrange for it. So far, only the women have come, but Lady Alanby says that is because the men have had no time to do anything but stay at home and make the fortunes. She believes that in another generation there will be a male leisure class, and then it will swoop25 down too, and marry people. She was very sharp and amusing about it. She said it would help them to rid themselves of a plethora26 of wealth and keep them from bursting.”
She was an amiable27, if unsentimental person, Mary Lithcom—and was, quite without ill nature, expressing the consensus28 of public opinion. These young women came to the country with something practical to exchange in these days, and as there were men who had certain equivalents to offer, so also there were men who had none, and whom decency29 should cause to stand aside. Mount Dunstan knew that when she had said, “Who is there who is suitable?” any shadow of a thought of himself as being in the running had not crossed her mind. And this was not only for the reasons she had had the ready composure to name, but for one less conquerable.
Later, having left Mary Lithcom, he decided30 to take a turn by himself. He had done his duty as a masculine guest. He had conversed31 with young women and old ones, had danced, visited gardens and greenhouses, and taken his part in all things. Also he had, in fact, reached a point when a few minutes of solitude32 seemed a good thing. He found himself turning into the clipped laurel walk, where Tommy Alanby had stood with Jane Lithcom, and he went to the end of it and stood looking out on the view.
“Look at the turn of her head,” Lady Mary had said. “Look at her mouth and chin.” And he had been looking at them the whole afternoon, not because he had intended to do so, but because it was not possible to prevent himself from doing it.
This was one of the ironies33 of fate. Orthodox doctrine34 might suggest that it was to teach him that his past rebellion had been undue35. Orthodox doctrine was ever ready with these soothing36 little explanations. He had raged and sulked at Destiny, and now he had been given something to rage for.
“No one knows anything about it until it takes him by the throat,” he was thinking, “and until it happens to a man he has no right to complain. I was not starving before. I was not hungering and thirsting—in sight of food and water. I suppose one of the most awful things in the world is to feel this and know it is no use.”
He was not in the condition to reason calmly enough to see that there might be one chance in a thousand that it was of use. At such times the most intelligent of men and women lose balance and mental perspicacity37. A certain degree of unreasoning madness possesses them. Th............
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