The Man HTML version

16. A Private Conversation
The name braced Stephen at once. Here was danger, an enemy to be encountered; all the
fighting blood of generations leaped to the occasion. The short spell of sleep had helped
to restore her. There remained still quite enough of mental and nervous excitement to
make her think quickly; the words were hardly out of the maid's mouth before her
resolution was taken. It would never do to let Leonard Everard see she was diffident
about meeting him; she would go down at once. But she would take the precaution of
having her aunt present; at any rate, till she should have seen how the land lay. Her being
just waked from sleep would be an excuse for asking her aunt to see the visitor till she
came down. So she said to the maid:
'I have been asleep. I must have got tired walking in the wood in the heat. Ask Auntie to
kindly see Mr. Everard in the blue drawing- room till I come down. I must tidy my hair;
but I will be down in a few minutes.'
'Shall I send Marjorie to you, miss?'
'No! Don't mind; I can do what I want myself. Hurry down to Miss Rowly!'
How she regarded Leonard Everard now was shown in her instinctive classing him
amongst her enemies.
When she entered the room she seemed all aglow. She wanted not only to overcome but
to punish; and all the woman in her had risen to the effort. Never in her life had Stephen
Norman looked more radiantly beautiful, more adorable, more desirable. Even Leonard
Everard felt his pulses quicken as he saw that glowing mass of beauty standing out
against the cold background of old French tapestry. All the physical side of him leaped in
answer to the call of her beauty; and even his cold heart and his self-engrossed brain
followed with slower gait. He had been sitting opposite Miss Rowly in one of the
windows, twirling his hat in nervous suspense. He jumped up, and, as she came towards
him, went forward rapidly to greet her. No one could mistake the admiration in his eyes.
Ever since he had made up his mind to marry her she had assumed a new aspect in his
thoughts. But now her presence swept away all false imaginings; from the moment that
her loveliness dawned upon him something like love began to grow within his breast.
Stephen saw the look and it strengthened her. He had so grievously wounded her pride
the previous day that her victory on this was a compensation which set her more at her
old poise.
Her greeting was all sweetness: she was charmed to see him. How was his father, and
what was the news? Miss Rowly looked on with smiling visage. She too had seen the
look of admiration in his eyes, and it pleased her. Old ladies, especially when they are
maiden ladies, always like to see admiration in the eyes of young men when they are
turned in the direction of any girl dear to them.