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HOME > Classical Novels > For the Allinson Honor > CHAPTER XXIII UNEXPECTED SUPPORT
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 The day after Andrew's return he was sitting in the library at Ghyllside, waiting for dinner. Though a fire burned on the hearth1 by which he lounged, cigarette in hand, two of the tall windows were open and the air that flowed in was soft and muggy2. He had spent most of the day in shooting, and after a long walk across wet meadows and a boggy3 moor4 he now felt very comfortable and somewhat drowsy5. He would have to bestir himself when the guests he expected arrived, and he was enjoying a few minutes' rest. His cigarette was, however, only half smoked when Wannop walked in.  
"As I didn't see you downstairs I came up to look for you; Gertrude's with Hilda. Haven't Florence and Leonard arrived yet?"
"Train seems to be late," Andrew replied. "I suppose I should have gone to meet them, but I felt lazy."
"Was that all?"
"It wasn't my only reason. To tell the truth, I shirked the drive home with Leonard. I'm a poor dissembler and our relations are rather strained. It will be easier to meet him when there are others about."
"They'll be on his side."
"I expect so; but I'm not afraid of direct opposition6. It's beating about a delicate subject and trying to keep on safe ground that bothers me."
[Pg 236]"I know; it's embarrassing. You won't be able to broach7 matters of any importance to-night."
"No. We'll have one or two outside people here and I want my homecoming to be harmonious8. We'll let things stand over till to-morrow."
"Feeling nervous about it?" Wannop suggested with a grin.
"I'll confess that I do. It's the preliminary tussle9, and I haven't many backers."
"You needn't be downhearted. I don't know that your people are remarkably10 broad-minded, but they're straight—I'll say that even for Robert. They'll come round if they think you're right. But don't be apologetic; take a firm tone. Manner goes a long way and, after all, you are the head of Allinson's."
"The trouble is that I've allowed Leonard to usurp11 my place and he'll be hard to depose12."
Andrew rose, for there were voices and footsteps below, and they went down to meet the arriving guests. The hall was large and square, with seats in recesses14 and one or two small tables and comfortable chairs scattered15 about. Mrs. Fenwood had come with Robert Allinson, who shook hands with Andrew heartily16, though there was a hint of constraint17 in his manner afterward18. He was not quite satisfied with Andrew's conduct before leaving England, and could not forget that his interference in the matter of Mrs. Olcott's house had been thwarted19. He regarded Wannop, who was saying something humorous to Mrs. Fenwood, with a suspicious eye.
Then there was a rattle20 of wheels outside and Florence Hathersage came in with Leonard. He expressed his pleasure at Andrew's safe return and after a few friendly words hurried off to his room. When he came down[Pg 237] again three more guests arrived, and Andrew went eagerly to meet them. Ethel Hillyard and Mrs. Olcott were foremost, and after welcoming them Andrew turned toward a man with a lined, brown face, bearing the stamp of the soldier. It was with marked cordiality that they shook hands.
"It's good to see you, Tom," Andrew said. "I heard you had just got home, and though it's an unhealthy country, you're looking very fit."
"A little fever now and then, though I escaped fairly well," rejoined the other with a friendly smile. "I have a good deal to say to you when we get a chance." He lowered his voice as he added: "I'm deeply grateful."
The meeting had a dramatic interest to the onlookers21. Every eye had been fixed22 on the stranger. As he had come with Mrs. Olcott his identity was obvious; and the good-will both men had shown had its significance. Then Andrew led the Olcotts forward and presented them to the elderly unmarried relative who managed his household and looked after Hilda. Mrs. Olcott's color was slightly heightened, though she smiled, for she understood the interest she had aroused and this was her triumph. She had produced the husband whose absence had excited comment and whose existence some had ventured to doubt. Moreover, he was a man to be proud of, and nobody who had witnessed their meeting could doubt that he was Andrew's trusted friend. Robert Allinson looked at him earnestly and then turned to Leonard with a frown. He was narrow and censorious, but he was just, and he felt that he had been mistaken, or perhaps misled.
They went in to dinner and Andrew sat at the head of his table, saying enough to keep conversation going, but content to give Leonard the lead. Considering[Pg 238] how he stood toward his host, Hathersage showed admirable tact23. He skilfully24 turned every topic which might prove difficult and kept the others on safe ground; he was witty25 in a polished manner, but if anything a little too obviously at ease. For the first time it struck one or two of the party with surprise that there was something in Andrew's bearing which his more brilliant brother-in-law lacked. The soldier from tropical Africa bore the same elusive26 stamp of command, sincerity27 and steadfastness28. Ethel Hillyard, studying them carefully, decided29 that Leonard was, by comparison, cheap and superficial.
Still, it was largely due to his efforts that dinner was a pleasant function without an awkward pause in it; and afterward the guests dispersed30 through several rooms to amuse themselves. When Andrew found a place by Ethel Hillyard in a recess13 in the hall, she surveyed him with smiling scrutiny31.
"I think you did well in going to Canada," she said. "Though I can't quite express what I mean, you look bigger."
"As a matter of fact, I'm a good deal lighter32."
Ethel laughed.
"Oh, well, I don't want to make you embarrassed! I believe you had a trying time. Looking after the silver mine didn't prove as easy as you expected?"
"I don't remember what I expected, but I found it very difficult."
"So I gathered. Antony Wannop seems to think the reforms you have in view won't be popular. I suppose you have been summoned home to explain?"
"No," said Andrew; "I came. There's a difference."
"It's marked," Ethel answered. "But we are old[Pg 239] friends, Andrew; follow your own bent33, stick to your guns. Whatever plans you have determined34 on will be fair. Once before I told you not to be daunted35; but it strikes me that you need less encouragement now."
"Thank you," said Andrew. "I'm sorry I can't tell you much about the matter. You see——"
"It's a family affair, and after all I have my ideas. But you made some new friends by the Lake of Shadows, didn't you?"
"Yes; staunch ones. They showed their friendship in a very practical way. That's something I owe to you; I suspect that you have been prejudicing them in my favor."
"Then you have a good opinion of Geraldine?"
Andrew colored as he met her inquiring glance.
"Yes," he said simply, "the highest I'm capable of forming."
Ethel smiled rather
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