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"For tea?'*

" Exactly. For tea. The tree is shady, the ground
flat around it. It is, indeed, a most convenient spot."

" But there is no cloth laid here for tea."

" True ! " he said ; " but I can soon remedy that,"

And he turned back to where some few yards higher
up Susan had originally deposited the tray, and from
whence the gleam of a folded white cloth could be seen
among the trees.

He went to fetch the cloth, and was back again with
it in a few seconds. Then he once more busied him-
self with the china.

" Please don't tire yourself. Lieutenant Carrington,"
said Boadicea from above, " if you desire to have tea
under this tree, we can, of course, have it here. But
Susan can lay the cloth. She will be back directly.
Please do not tire yourself doing her work."

" I feel no fatigue, I assure you."

But his work had become somewhat aimless. At



AN IMPERTINENT YOUNG MAN 163

least so it appeared to Boadicea. He moved the cups,
and the saucers and the plates from one place to an-
other and back again, but he was not really attempting
to lay the cloth for tea in a proper and methodical
manner. It irritated her to see him fussing about like
this, and yet he would not give up, in spite of what she
said. And he seemed quite happy in his task, for his
eyes twinkled with merriment every time they met
hers.

" Why doesn't Susan come back ? " she said, and
sighed audibly with impatience.

" I wonder I " he said calmly, and went on rattling
the cups and saucers.

*' I told her to come back at once with the toast and
bread and butter."

" And I told her just now not to let me see her face
for at least ten minutes."

" Why should you have told her that ? "

" For private reasons of my own."

" Then it was extremely foolish to give her such or-
ders. And I doubt if she will obey them."

" Oh ! she will obey them, I'll warrant. I took good
care of that. I should call Susan a discriminating
young female."

" And I should call you most impertinent for Inter-
fering with the orders which I gave to Susan."

Now, Boadicea must have been feeling very cross
indeed, or she would not thus have departed from the
customs of politeness prescribed by good breeding to-
wards a gentleman who but a little while ago had been
and who in another twenty- four hours would once
more become a complete stranger.



i64 MEADOWSWEET

But Lieutenant Carrington seemed totally unaware
of the fact that he had offended Miss Aldmarshe, for
he did not show that due sense of humility which her
reproof should have called forth in him; on the con-
trary, he said quite imperturbably, and with consum-
mate politeness :

" Miss Boadicea Aldmarshe, you are a marvellous
judge of character: I am extremely impertinent."

" Then I pray you mend your ways ! " she retorted.

" Not while you are perched on that tree."

"Why not?"

He came close to the foot of the ladder, and as it
was leaning against the tree, so did he lean up against
it, and his merry grey eyes were fixed on a point some
three or four feet lower than Miss Boadicea's face.

" Because," he said, and she could see his lips, and
could see that they twitched — not with shame or re-
gret, I'll be bound — *' because if I were not imperti-
nent I would not dare to watch at this moment the
daintiest pair of . , ,"

" Lieutenant Carrington ! " she broke in sternly.

And still he was neither rebuffed nor ashamed.

"If you wriggle about so much," he said, " you will
surely fall."

And he actually mounted two rungs of the ladder.

" I wish to descend," she said stiffly ; " I pray you
stand aside."

But he did not stand aside. He so far misconstrued
her commands that he mounted two further rungs of
the ladder.

" I have not the remotest desire to stand aside," he
said. " You don't know, perhaps, what a charming



AN IMPERTINENT YOUNG MAN 165
picture you make perched up there among the cher-



ries ! "



" I wish Susan would come back I " retorted she,
With a sigh.

"If she does, before I have told you something that
IS in my mind, I will either commit murder or . . ."

"Or what?"

By way of a reply, he mounted several further rung,3
of the ladder, until his head was just below the level
of Boadicea's knees.

"On the whole," he said, looking boldly into her
face, " I think that this is the wiser course."

" Lieutenant Carrington," she commanded, " I re-
quest you to descend."

" I will not descend until you have heard what I
have got to say."

" There Is nothing that you could say to me at this
moment that would interest me."

And, very ostentatiously, she spread her book upon
her knees, and began once more to read about Glaucus
and Nydia, and the marble halls of Pompeii.

"Oh I I can wait!" said Lieutenant Carrington
airily.

And he settled himself down on the top of the lad-
der, astride on the branch against which it rested, and
leaned back his head against the trunk. He took off
his hat and threw it down amongst the china cups and
saucers. Then he actually began to whistle! — yes,
whistle ! and with Miss Aldmarshe bubbling over with
wrath by his side.

"Very warm summer we are having," he said
lightly.



1 66 MEADOWSWEET

" Very/'

She was absorbed in her book, and he was absorbed
in the contemplation of her. Never had she looked so
pretty, not even to him, who had been feasting on her
beauty these weeks past, whenever chance or her wil-
fulness allowed him to gaze upon her undisturbed.
She had on a white muslin frock, and the strong after-
noon sun striking through the leafy branches of the
tree made patches of gold upon it, and caused blue
shadows to nestle in the folds. Her soft brown hair
was a little wild after the fruit-picking, and a very
gentle breeze stirred the curly tendrils all round her
head, making them shimmer and quiver in the intense
brilliancy of the light.

. Her face now was bent down to her book, and he
could just see the still childish contour of cheek and
chin, with the vivid red lips and the pearly shadows
cast by the drooping lashes.

Pretty? My God! but she was pretty! and Lieu-
tenant Carrington was no longer heart-whole. For
days and weeks now she had filled his entire heart and
mind and soul until he positively ached with the wild
desire to fold her in his arms, to raise her chin up with
his hand until her eyes looked straight into his ; those
eyes that were so true, so pure, so full of the knowl-
edge of nature and of God, so ignorant of the world.

But up to now he had never dared speak to her of
love. She seemed such a child that he almost feared
to trust his happiness to words that might scare her,
that might not reach her soul. For days and weeks he
had waited patiently for the tiny, almost impercepti-
ble sign that would tell him that he might speak. Her



AN IMPERTINENT YOUNG MAN 167

blush the other day when he was talking about Chinese
birds' nests, her confusion when some of his worship-
ful admiration had on that occasion spoken mutely
through his eyes, her quaint stiffness when first she
met him again after that episode, and her subsequent
avoidance of him was the first of encouragement which
he had received.

With it had come hope, and to-day Chance had
played into his hands. Lady Jeffreys had a bad head-
ache and had gone to her room for half an hour's rest
before tea, and Boadicea was alone perched like a
w^ood-nymph in the branches of a tree.

The orchard was silent, too, in the heat of this after-
noon; the buzz of bumble bees alone disturbed the
peaceful stillness around. Lieutenant Carrington was
lost in a dream from which he was suddenly awak-
ened by a loud and prolonged snore which came from
below.

Boadicea, too, was startled, and nearly dropped her
book, which would have been calamitous to Aunt Caro-
line's best china tea-service.

" Mr. Crabtree makes a pretty picture down there,
does he not?" said Jack Carrington, in an easy con-
versational tone.

" Lieutenant Carrington," she rejoined Impatiently,
" did you hear me remark that I wished to descend? "

" I did hear you make that observation. Miss Ald-
marshe," he replied.

" Yet you have made no attempt at letting me pass."

" The attempt would be beyond my humble capaci-
ties."

I wish to use that ladder, Lieutenant Carrington."



((



i68 MEADOWSWEET



((



It is at your service, Miss AldmarsHe, if you will
put that book aside and listen to me quietly for ten
minutes."

" That were beyond my humble capacities ! *' she re-
torted.

" In that case, I fear me that the ladder will remain
inaccessible to the prettiest little feet in England."

" Then I'll jump ! " she said resolutely, and turning
her back on him and on the ladder.

But with a comical air of reproach, he pointed down-
wards to his own elaborate arrangement of tea-cups
and saucers round the foot of the tree.

" What ! " he exclaimed — " on Aunt Caroline's best
china? ... or into Mr. Crabtree's lap — which?"

" I think you are odious ! " she said.

" Absolutely odious ! " he assented. " Hadn't you
better listen to what I have to say ? "

" I cannot ! You are sure to talk nonsense, and
Cousin Barnaby hates to hear nonsense talked."

Whereupon Cousin Barnaby gave forth a mighty
snore.

" * Out of their own mouths thine enemies confound
thee'!" quoted Jack, triumphantly; "and out of my
mouth only wisdom shall come, I promise you."



" Another time ! " urged Boadicea.



There never is another time. You make a point of
never being alone with me."

" I do not see that there is any occasion for you to
see me alone."

" But I go away to-morrow."

" I know that. All the more reason why we should
not see too much of one another to-day. The less we



AN IMPERTINENT YOUNG MAN 169

are together, the easier it will be to carry on this foolish
pretence another twenty-four hours."

*' Foolish pretence? " he asked.

" Indeed, what else is it? "

" A serious engagement."

" Pshaw ! " and she tried by the expression in her
face to show him all the contempt which she felt for
that so-called engagement.

" I asked you in the presence of several witnesses,"
he persisted, " for the honour of your hand in mar-
riage, and in the presence of several witnesses you
accepted me as your future husband."

" You know quite well, Lieutenant Carrington, that
you only asked me, and I only accepted as you say, in
order to save Olive from Sir Baldwin's unreasoning
jealousy. We are going through the pretence of an
engagement to save appearances; and you will, of
course, be glad when that pretence no longer binds
you. As we are going to break off this mock engage-
ment in a few days, there is no cause to hold conversa-
tions about it."

" There is every cause for me to tell you some time
during the next few hours exactly how pretty you are."

" Your original estimate of me was that I was a
young savage."

" That was a long time ago."

" One month ago exactly, to the day."

" Is it as long? Well, since then many things have
changed."

" Including your estimate of me? " she asked iron-
ically.

"No! Not that"



170 MEADOWSWEET

" You've not come to the conclusion that I am not a
savage ? "

" No. I've merely discovered that there's nothing
in the world so fascinating as a young savage."

Again that look in his eyes ; they did not only twin-
kle, they glowed, and — worse still — they caused her
cheeks to glow. She would have given worlds to be
able to run away; but he had possession of the ladder,
and Aunt Caroline's best china was down below.

"Ah!" she exclaimed suddenly; "there's someone
coming at last."

" The devil ! " he retorted.

" And Cousin Barnaby is awake ! " she added tri-
umphantly.

This was true. Cousin Barnaby even at this mo-
ment was heard to yawn, and was seen to remove the
handkerchief from the top of his head.

I am afraid that this time Jack emphatically said :
"Damn!"

" Kindly allow me to descend," resumed Boadlcea
quietly.

He made pretence to be making way for her.

" On one condition," he said.

"What is it?"

" That you give me ten minutes' private interview
in this orchard some time this afternoon."

" There's no necessity," she said firmly.

" Very well."

And once more he Installed himself on the top of the
ladder as if he had no intention of stirring from that
uncomfortable position.

Tears of vexation rose to Boadicea's eyes.



AN IMPERTINENT YOUNG MAN 171

" Olive is coming this way ! " she pleaded.

" Ten minutes ! " he pronounced resolutely.

"Oh, very well!"

The citadel had capitulated. Lieutenant Carring-
ton began descending the ladder, whilst Boadicea
watched him impatiently. Midway down the ladder
he paused :

" Alone," he said.

"If you insist."

" I insist. You promise ? "

"I . , . ohl here's Olive!"

" You promise ? "

** I promise. There 1 "



CHAPTER XVII

'A MAN IN LOVE

Olive came walking down the orchard in her pret-
tiest afternoon gown, and with a rose-coloured sun-
shade held above her head.

She was looking her best just now and she knew it,
and when a woman knows that she is pretty, that
knowledge makes her a thousand times prettier than
before. Lieutenant Carrington was going away to-
morrow; he would be absent some months, during
which time that silly mock engagement with Boadicea
would be broken off, and on his return Lady Jeffreys
could resume with him that pleasing flirtation, that
agreeable toying with the flames of passion, which was
her idea of supreme enjoyment in life.

But to-day being the last which Lieutenant Jack
would spend in her company for many months to
come, it would have to be one fraught with many de-
lights, with graciousness tempered with a measure of
coquetry, just sufficient to leave in its trail a happy
memory of the past, and an exciting longing for the
future.

Therefore she had put on her most becoming gown,
and retired to her room during the hottest part of the
day so that she should appear fresh as spring blossom
to dazzle Jack's eyes at tea time.

She thought to find him alone in the orchard lan-

172



A MAN IN LOVE 173

guishing for her company, and listening with bored
attention to Boadicea's few remarks. In her mind she
had apprised the young couple's attitude to one an-
other, entirely to her own satisfaction. On the part
of Boadicea there was just childish ignorance of the
world, a total want of knowledge of the art how to
captivate and hold a man. She may originally have
been flattered by Lieutenant Carrington's notice of her,
but seeing him tired and bored, as he undoubtedly
was in her presence, she must very quickly have given
up all thoughts of trying to please him.

As for Lieutenant Jack, why, of course, his attitude
was plain enough to the eyes of the lady who desired
to keep him dangling round her skirts. He looked
upon Boadicea with eyes of contemptuous pity. How
could he fail to do so, seeing that he must for ever be
comparing her with her beautiful and fascinating
sister.

Having thus disposed of the feelings of two young
people Lady Jeffreys felt herself at liberty to give free
rein to her own. She liked Lieutenant Jack. He was
good looking, and had distinguished himself above the
herd of idle young men about town. There was a
certain amount of social glory to be derived from hav-
ing a temporary society lion dallying round her skirts ;
moreover, it continued to vex Sir Baldwin Jeffreys,
who — heartily ashamed of his violent outburst of
jealousy — had not put in an appearance at Old Manor
Farm since then.

Olive — thinking to find Lieutenant Jack listless and
bored in her absence — was very disagreeably sur-
prised when she saw him standing at the bottom of a



174 MEADOWSWEET

ladder watching with unmistakable attention Boadi-
cea's descent from a cherry tree. So absorbed did he
seem in the contemplation of a pair of ankles encased
in white cotton stockings that he did not even perceive
the swish of silk skirts on the grass, nor the affected
little cough which should have told him that a very
beautiful lady was close by,

Olive frowned. She was not pleased with the pic-
ture, which in itself would have delighted the eye of
any artist or dreamer or poet who happened to revel
in brilliant sunshine and dense blue shadows, in wild
brown hair on which the afternoon light threw gleams
of ruddy gold, in youth and grace, and that subtle
aroma of delight which emanates from young people
who are in love, and do not yet know the full meaning
of the passion.

Still frowning, Olive approached the grand fatherly
cherry-tree, at the foot of which Barnaby Crabtree was
just awakening from his midday slumber.

" Child," said Lady Jeffreys through pursed lips,
" what are you doing here ? "

She was still talking from some little distance, and
no doubt that was the reason why her high-pitched
soprano voice sounded shrill and out of tune on this
exquisitely harmonious afternoon*

" I thought," she added, " that aunt had deputed you
to set the china straight."

Boadicea was a little confused, as well she might be,
seeing that Olive was angered with her, and Lieutenant
Carrington's searching grey eyes seemed brimming
over with amusement.

I . . ." she stammered, "that is . . . we . . .



a



A MAN IN LOVE 175

Lieutenant Carrington and I . . . did busy ourselves
in . . .

" Looking for begad caterpillars on a tree-top, I sup-
pose ! " muttered Cousin Barnaby irritably.

Olive was surveying Aunt Caroline's best china tea-
set with frowning eyes.

" You had better busy yourself to better purpose
now," she said. " Lieutenant Carrington, please 1 —
a branch of thorn has caught the hem of my gown.
Might I trouble you to disentangle it ? "

" At your service, Lady Jeffreys."

And Boadicea had the mortification to see with what
alacrity he ran to do Olive's bidding, leaving her to
struggle with the china, which he himself had so clum-
sily ranged round the foot of the cherry-tree. He
knelt at Olive's feet and busied himself laboriously —
and very lengthily, she thought — with the bit of
bramble that was tearing a filmy lace flounce, whilst
Olive was looking down on him, smiling and quite
good-humoured now.

Obviously the disentangling of a bit of thorn from a
silk gown could not last an indefinite length of time.
Boadicea was watching the process through the cor-
ners of her eyes, which caused her once or twice to
stumble against Cousin Barnaby's outstretched legs,
whereupon he said something very rude under his
breath.

" Child," said Olive after a while in that high-pitched
tone which she usually affected. " I can see aunt com-
ing from the house with a pile of cakes and Susan be-
hind her, more clumsy than a cow. Had you not best
goto her? "



176 MEADOWSWEET

" Allow me to go," said Lieutenant Carrington, ris-
ing to his knees with truly marvellous alacrity, consid-
ering the pleasing occupation in which he had just been
engaged.

" Ah, Lieutenant Carrington ! " pleaded Olive, with
captivating grace, " please do not vote me a nuisance,
but the string of my shoe has come undone, and I can-
not fasten it myself without grave discomfort."

Jack looked undecided. On the one hand he did not
want Boadicea to go away from him at this moment,
or at any other when he could persuade her to remain
close by, and on the other he could not with politeness
refuse to render a lady the service of tying up her shoe.
Boadicea, trying to conceal her vexation under a mask
of indifference, decided the point for him.

" I pray you, Lieutenant Carrington," she said in a
high-pitched, affected tone of voice like that of her sis-
ter, "attend to Lady Jeffreys' shoe-string. I have
business elsewhere."

And before Jack could make a movement to stop her,
she had darted away like some elfish creature of woods
and orchards, her muslin gown flying out behind her,
her brown hair gleaming in the sun.

" Jack ! " whispered Lady Jeffreys tenderly.

He knelt down once more and busied himself with
her shoe, whilst Cousin Barnaby murmured rude things
in the rear.

When he had finished tying the shoe, he rose to his
feet, and she took his arm with easy familiarity and
led him away among the cherry-trees. He went quite
submissively, for indeed his thoughts were not here at
all : they were following the graceful fairy -like figure



A MAN IN LOVE 177

that had run away from him just now, and his mind
was busy recalHng every line that had enchanted him
while she ran, dwelling on the memory of her as she
sat there in the cherry-tree with the sunshine playing
on her hair, the soft blush mantling on her downy
cheek. . , .

And Olive went rambling on, talking of Lady
Medenham's rout, and of the Queen's latest whim in
bonnets. He listened without hearing, and gave an-
swers without heeding, thankful that Lady Jeffreys
was too absorbed in her own charming personality to
notice his absent gaze and his crooked remarks ; appar-
ently she had succeeded in. persuading herself that
he was so filled with sorrow at his coming departure
from her side that he had no heart for society small
talk.

He did not mind walking round the orchard like this,
and indeed, the beautiful Lady Jeffreys hardly existed
for him. He was living through that halcyon time
that only comes once in life — and not in every life — ■
the halcyon time of newly awakened love, when every
blade of grass whispers of one foot, and every bird
throat sings the praise of one divinity.

Whilst Jack Carrington wandered round the orchard'
with Olive he saw Boadicea at every turn and behind
every tree, her voice spoke to him through that of the
thrush, her brown hair glittered for him in every ray
of sunshine.

And now Aunt Caroline really came bustling out
with a tray in her hands on which were laid plates filled
with cakes, bread and butter, and all manner of things
to eat. She was scolding Susan as hard as she could



178 MEADOWSWEET

go, her tongue and her feet going along at an equally
quick rate.

" Lord bless my soul, did anyone ever see the like?
Truly servants were specially invented by Providence
to plague us. There is nothing this girl does that I
could not do a thousand times better than she, or a
thousand times quicker. Susan ! Susan ! where in the
name of common-sense are you? "

And Susan, who was following very closely on her
mistress's heels with another tray on which were set
the tea-pot, milk and cream jugs, and other appur-
tenances of the homely brew, said pertly:

" Here, ma'am."

" Bustle up, then ! bustle up ! " admonished Aunt
Caroline. " The tea should have been here long ago."

" It is half an hour late," said Cousin Barnaby, who
made no attempt to give a hand in the laying-out of the
picnic tea.

Aunt Caroline and Susan were very busy for the
next five minutes in setting out the best china tea-serv-
ice, and making arrangements for the comfort of
everyone else.

" There ! that will do," said Aunt Caroline, when all
had been arranged to her satisfaction. " Run and find
your master now, Susan."

"Yes, ma'am. Master was in the orchard just



now."



" Well ! and did you tell him that tea was ready ? "

" Yes, ma'am."

" Did he say he was coming? "

" He said something like mixed biscuits, ma'am ! "

" Mixed biscuits ? "



A MAN IN LOVE 179

" Some of his confounded Latin, I suppose! " con-
cluded Cousin Barnaby, with a grunt.

But even at this moment Uncle Jasper was coming
along. He had his coat on with the brass buttons, and
the wig with the full curls over the temples, a specimen
case made of shining brass was slung round his shoul-
ders by a strap, and he had his butterfly-net in his
hand, showing that he had not spent an idle after-
noon.

" Qui utile 'dulci miscuit," he said, when he saw the
tea-things so temptingly laid out in the shade of the
cherry-tree on the grass.

" Mixed biscuits ! " commented Cousin Barnaby
'drily.

" * Who mixes the agreeable with the useful,' is the
correct translation from the Latin adage, Barnaby,"
said Uncle Jasper blandly.

Though he saw the tea laid out before him, and Aunt
Caroline raising the heavy tea-pot preparatory to pour-
ing out, he said, with his usual vagueness :

" Tea did you say, my dear? "

"Why, of course, tea, Jasper! " said Aunt Caroline
impatiently; "didn't you hear me say at dinner time
that we would have tea in the orchard to-day ? "

" A most inconvenient spot ! " remarked Cousin
barnaby.

He was stuffing the corner of a napkin into the open-
ing of his collar. Already he had taken possession of
the most shady and most comfortable seat at the im-
provised tea-table, with his back against the trunk of
the tree, and his favourite cakes and scones disposed


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