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Helena

Politics?--Well, there was the House of Lords, and the possibility of
some minor office, when his Admiralty work was done. And the whole
post-war situation was only too breathless. But for a man who, as soon as
he had said Yes, was immediately seized with an insensate desire to look
once more at all the reasons which might have induced him to say No,
there was no great temptation in politics. Work was what the nation
wanted--not talk.
Agriculture and the Simple Life?--Hardly! Five years of life in London,
four of them under war conditions, had spoilt any taste for the country
he had ever possessed. He meant to do his duty by his estate, and by the
miscellaneous crowd of people, returned soldiers and others, who seemed
to wish to settle upon it. But to take the plunge seriously, to go in
heart and soul for intensive culture or scientific dairy-farming, to
spend lonely winters in the country with his bailiffs and tenants for
company--it was no good talking about it--he knew it could not be done.
And--finally--what was the good of making plans at all?--with these new
responsibilities which friendship and pity and weakness of will had
lately led him to take upon himself?--For two years at least he would not
be able to plan his life in complete freedom.
His thoughts went dismally off in the new direction. As he turned away
from the window, a long Venetian mirror close by reflected the image of a
tall man in naval uniform, with a head and face that were striking rather
than handsome--black curly hair just dusted with grey, a slight chronic
frown, remarkable blue eyes and a short silky beard. His legs were
slender in proportion to the breadth of his shoulders, and inadequate in
relation to the dignity of the head. One of them also was slightly--very
slightly--lame.
He wandered restlessly round the room again, stopping every now and then
with his hands in his pockets, to look at the books on the shelves.
Generally, he did not take in what he was looking at, but in a moment
less absent-minded than others, he happened to notice the name of a
stately octavo volume just opposite his eyes--
"Davison, on Prophecy."
"Damn Davison!"--he said to himself, with sudden temper. The outburst
seemed to clear his mind. He went to the bell and rang it. A thin woman
in a black dress appeared, a woman with a depressed and deprecating
expression which was often annoying to Lord Buntingford. It represented
somehow an appeal to the sentiment of the spectator for which there was
really no sufficient ground. Mrs. Mawson was not a widow, in spite of the
Mrs. She was a well-paid and perfectly healthy person; and there was no
reason, in Lord Buntingford's view, why she should not enjoy life. All
the same, she was very efficient and made him comfortable. He would have
raised her wages to preposterous heights to keep her.
"Is everything ready for the two ladies, Mrs. Mawson?"
"Everything, my Lord. We are expecting the pony-cart directly."
"And the car has been ordered for Miss Pitstone?"
"Oh, yes, my Lord, long ago."
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