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The Half-Hearted

15. The Nemesis Of A Coward
Two days later the Andrews drove up the glen to Etterick, taking with them the unwilling
Mr. Wishart. Alice had escaped the ordeal with some feigned excuse, and the
unfortunate Mr. Thompson, deeply grieving, had been summoned by telegram from
cricket to law. The lady had chattered all the way up the winding moorland road, crying
out banalities about the pretty landscape, or questioning her very ignorant companions
about the dwellers in Etterick. She was full of praises for the house when it came in
view; it was "quaint," it was "charming," it was everything inappropriate. But the amiable
woman's prattle deserted her when she found herself in the cold stone hall with the
great portraits and the lack of all modern frippery. It was so plainly a man's house, so
clearly a place of tradition, that her pert modern speech seemed for one moment a
fatuity.
It was an off-day for the shooters, and so for a miracle there were men in the drawing-
room at tea-time. The hostess for the time was an aunt of Lewis's, a certain Mrs.
Alderson, whose husband (the famous big-game hunter) had but recently returned from
the jaws of a Zambesi lion. George's sister, Lady Clanroyden, a tall, handsome girl in a
white frock, was arranging flowers in a bowl, and on the sill of the open window two men
were basking in the sun. From the inner drawing-room there came an echo of voices
and laughter. The whole scene was sunny and cheerful, youth and age, gay frocks and
pleasant faces amid the old tapestry and mahogany of a moorland house.
Mr. Andrews sat down solemnly to talk of the weather with the two men, who found him
a little dismal. One--he of the Zambesi lion episode--was grizzled, phlegmatic, and
patient, and in no way critical of his company. So soon he was embarked on extracts
from his own experience to which Mr. Andrews, who had shares in some company in
the neighbourhood, listened with flattering attention. Mrs. Alderson set herself to
entertain Mr. Wishart, and being a kindly, simple person, found the task easy. They
were soon engaged in an earnest discussion of unsectarian charities.
Lady Clanroyden, with an unwilling sense of duty, devoted herself to Mrs. Andrews.
That simpering matron fell into a vein of confidences and in five brief minutes had laid
bare her heart. Then came the narrative of her recent visit to the Marshams, and the
inevitable mention of the Hestons.
"Oh, you know the Hestons?" said Lady Clanroyden, brightening.
"Very well indeed." The lady smiled, looking round to make sure that Lewis was not in
the room.
"Julia is here, you know. Julia, come and speak to your friends."
 
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