The Half-Hearted HTML version

9. The Episodes Of A Day
It is painful to record it, but when the Glenavelin party arrived at noon of the next day it
was only to find the house deserted. Lady Manorwater, accustomed to the vagaries of
her nephew, led the guests over the place and found to her horror that it seemed
undwelt in. The hall was in order, and the tart and rosy lairds of Etterick looked down
from their Raeburn canvases on certain signs of habitation; but the drawing-rooms were
dingy with coverings and all the large rooms were in the same tidy disarray. Then, wise
from experience, she led the way to Lewis's sanctum, and found there a pretty
luncheon-table and every token of men's presence. Soon the four tenants arrived, hot
and breathless, from the hill, to find Bertha Afflint deep in rods and guns, Miss Wishart
and Lady Manorwater ensconced in the great armchairs, and Mr. Stocks casting a
critic's eye over the unruly bookshelves.
Wratislaw's presence at first cast a certain awe on the assembly. His name was so
painfully familiar, so consistently abused, that it was hard to refrain from curiosity. Lady
Manorwater, an ancient ally, greeted him effusively, and Alice cast shy glances at this
strong man with the kind smile and awkward manners. The truth is that Wratislaw was
acutely nervous. With Mr. Stocks alone was he at his ease. He shook his hand heartily,
declared himself delighted to meet him again, and looked with such manifest favour on
this opponent that the gentleman was cast into confusion.
"I must talk shop," cried Lady Manorwater when they were seated at table. "Lewie, have
you heard the news that poor Sir Robert has retired? What a treasure of a cook you
have, sir! The poor man is going to travel, as his health is bad; he wrote me this
morning. Now who is to take his place? And I wish you'd get me the recipe for this
tomato soup."
Lewis unravelled the tangled skein of his aunt's questions.
"I heard about Merkland last night from Wratislaw. I think, perhaps, I had better make a
confession to everybody. I never intended to bother with party politics, at least not for a
good many years, but some people want me to stand, so I have agreed. You will have a
very weak opponent, Stocks, so I hope you will pardon my impertinence in trying the
The candidate turned a little pale, but he smiled gallantly.
"I shall be glad to have so distinguished an opponent. But I thought that yesterday you
would never have dreamed of the thing."
"No more I should; but Wratislaw talked to me seriously and I was persuaded."