home traditions are infinitely superior. It is on the Middle Classes that
the greatness of England depends."
"Does it?" thought Lord Buntingford irritably. "I wonder."
He rose and began to pace his library, a shabby comfortable room which he
loved. The room however had distinction like its master. The distinction
came, perhaps, from its few pictures, of no great value, but witnessing
to a certain taste and knowledge on the part of the persons, long since
dead, who hung them there; from one or two cases of old Nankin; from its
old books; and from a faded but enchanting piece of tapestry behind the
cases of china, which seemed to represent a forest. The tapestry, which
covered the whole of the end wall of the room, was faded and out of
repair, but Lord Buntingford, who was a person of artistic sensibilities,
was very fond of it, and had never been able to make up his mind to spare
it long enough to have it sent to the School of Art Needlework for
mending. His cousin, Lady Cynthia Welwyn, scolded him periodically for
his negligence in the matter. But after all it was he, and not Cynthia,
who had to live in the room. She had something to do with the School, and
of course wanted jobs for her workers.
"I hope that good woman's train will be punctual," he thought to himself,
presently, as he went to a window and drew up a blind. "Otherwise I shall
have no time to look at her before Helena arrives."
He stood awhile absently surveying the prospect outside. There was first
of all a garden with some pleasant terraces, and flights of stone steps,
planned originally in the grand style, but now rather dilapidated and
ill-kept, suggesting either a general shortage of pelf on the part of the
owner--or perhaps mere neglect and indifference.
Beyond the garden stretched a green rim of park, with a gleam of water in
the middle distance which seemed to mean either a river or a pond, many
fine scattered trees, and, girdling the whole, a line of wooded hill.
Just such a view as any county--almost--in this beautiful England can
produce. It was one of the first warm days of a belated spring. A
fortnight before, park and hills and garden had been deep in snow. Now
Nature, eager, and one might think ashamed, was rushing at her neglected
work, determined to set the full spring going in a minimum of hours. The
grass seemed to be growing, and the trees leafing under the spectator's
eyes. There was already a din of cuckoos in the park, and the nesting
birds were busy.
The scene was both familiar and unfamiliar to Lord Buntingford. He had
been brought up in it as a child. But he had only inherited the Beechmark
property from his uncle just before the war, and during almost the whole
of the war he had been so hard at work, as a volunteer in the Admiralty,
that he had never been able to do more than run down once or twice a year
to see his agent, go over his home farm, and settle what timber was to be
cut before the Government commandeered it. He was not yet demobilized, as
his naval uniform showed. There was a good deal of work still to do in
his particular office, and he was more than willing to do it. But in a
few months' time at any rate--he was just now taking a fortnight's
leave--he would be once more at a loose end. That condition of things
must be altered as soon as possible. When he looked back over the years
of driving work through which he had just passed to the years of
semi-occupation before them, he shrank from those old conditions in
disgust. Something must be found to which he could enslave himself again.
Liberty was the great delusion--at least for him.