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The Half-Hearted

4. Afternoon In A Garden
The gardens of Glenavelin have an air of antiquity beyond the dwelling, for there the
modish fashions of another century have been followed with enthusiasm. There are
clipped yews and long arched avenues, bowers and summer-houses of rustic make,
and a terraced lawn fringed with a Georgian parapet. A former lord had kept peacocks
innumerable, and something of the tradition still survived. Set in the heart of hilly
moorlands, it was like a cameo gem in a tartan plaid, a piece of old Vauxhall or
Ranelagh in an upland vale. Of an afternoon sleep reigned supreme. The shapely
immobile trees, the grey and crumbling stone, the lone green walks vanishing into a
bosky darkness were instinct with the quiet of ages. It needed but Lady Prue with her
flounces and furbelows and Sir Pertinax with his cane and buckled shoon to re-create
the ancient world before good Queen Anne had gone to her rest.
In one of the shadiest corners of a great lawn Lady Manorwater sat making tea. Bertha,
with a broad hat shading her eyes, dozed over a magazine in a deck-chair. That
morning she and Alice had broken the convention of the house and gone riding in the
haughlands till lunch. Now she suffered the penalty and dozed, but her companion was
very wide awake, being a tireless creature who knew not lethargy. Besides, there was
sufficient in prospect to stir her curiosity. Lady Manorwater had announced some twenty
times that day that her nephew Lewis would come to tea, and Alice, knowing the truth of
the prophecy, was prepared to receive him.
The image of the forsaken angler remained clear in her memory, and she confessed to
herself that he interested her. The girl had no connoisseur's eye for character; her
interest was the frank and unabashed interest in a somewhat mysterious figure who
was credited by all his friends with great gifts and a surprising amiability. After breakfast
she had captured one of the spectacled people, whose name was Hoddam. He was a
little shy man, one of the unassuming tribe of students by whom all the minor intellectual
work of the world is done, and done well. It is a great class, living in the main in red-
brick villas on the outskirts of academic towns, marrying mild blue-stockings, working
incessantly, and finally attaining to the fame of mention in prefaces and foot-notes, and
a short paragraph in the _Times_ at the last. . . . Mr. Hoddam did not seek the company
of one who was young, pretty, an heiress, and presumably flippant, but he was flattered
when she plainly sought him.
"Mr. Lewis Haystoun is coming here this afternoon," she had announced. "Do you know
him?"
"I have read his book," said her victim.
 
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