12. On The Road Home
When Leonard Everard parted from Stephen he did so with a feeling of dissatisfaction:
firstly, with Stephen; secondly, with things in general; thirdly, with himself. The first was
definite, concrete, and immediate; he could give himself chapter and verse for all the
girl's misdoing. Everything she had said or done had touched some nerve painfully, or
had offended his feelings; and to a man of his temperament his feelings are very sacred
things, to himself.
'Why had she put him in such a ridiculous position? That was the worst of women. They
were always wanting him to do something he didn't want to do, or crying . . . there was
that girl at Oxford.'
Here he turned his head slowly, and looked round in a furtive way, which was getting
almost a habit with him. 'A fellow should go away so that he wouldn't have to swear lies.
Women were always wanting money; or worse: to be married! Confound women; they all
seemed to want him to marry them! There was the Oxford girl, and then the Spaniard,
and now Stephen!' This put his thoughts in a new channel. He wanted money himself.
Why, Stephen had spoken of it herself; had offered to pay his debts. Gad! it was a good
idea that every one round the countryside seemed to know his affairs. What a flat he had
been not to accept her offer then and there before matters had gone further. Stephen had
lots of money, more than any girl could want. But she didn't give him time to get the
thing fixed . . . If he had only known beforehand what she wanted he could have come
prepared . . . that was the way with women! Always thinking of themselves! And now?
Of course she wouldn't stump up after his refusing her. What would his father say if he
came to hear of it? And he must speak to him soon, for these chaps were threatening to
County Court him if he didn't pay. Those harpies in Vere Street were quite nasty . . . ' He
wondered if he could work Stephen for a loan.
He walked on through the woodland path, his pace slower than before. 'How pretty she
had looked!' Here he touched his little moustache. 'Gad! Stephen was a fine girl anyhow!
If it wasn't for all that red hair . . . I like 'em dark better! . . . And her being such an
infernal boss!'. . . Then he said unconsciously aloud:
'If I was her husband I'd keep her to rights!'
'So that's what the governor meant by telling me that fortune was to be had, and had
easily, if a man wasn't a blind fool. The governor is a starchy old party. He wouldn't
speak out straight and say, "Here's Stephen Norman, the richest girl you are ever likely to
meet; why don't you make up to her and marry her?" But that would be encouraging his
son to be a fortune-hunter! Rot! . . . And now, just because she didn't tell me what she
wanted to speak about, or the governor didn't give me a hint so that I might be prepared, I
have gone and thrown away the chance. After all it mightn't be so bad. Stephen is a fine