Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Inspiring Novel > The Spoils of Poynton > CHAPTER X
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
 Fleda's line had been taken, her word was quite ready; on the terrace of the painted pots she broke out before her interlocutress could put a question. "His errand was perfectly1 simple: he came to demand that you shall pack everything straight up again and send it back as fast as the railway will carry it."  
The back road had apparently2 been fatiguing3 to Mrs. Gereth; she rose there rather white and wan4 with her walk. A certain sharp thinness was in her ejaculation of "Oh!"—after which she glanced about her for a place to sit down. The movement was a criticism of the order of events that offered such a piece of news to a lady coming in tired; but Fleda could see that in turning over the possibilities this particular peril5 was the one that during the last hour her friend had turned up oftenest. At the end of the short, gray day, which had been moist and mild, the sun was out; the terrace looked to the south, and a bench, formed as to legs and arms of iron representing knotted boughs6, stood against the warmest wall of the house. The mistress of Ricks sank upon it and presented to her companion the handsome face she had composed to hear everything. Strangely enough, it was just this fine vessel7 of her attention that made the girl most nervous about what she must drop in. "Quite a 'demand,' dear, is it?" asked Mrs. Gereth, drawing in her cloak.
"Oh, that's what I should call it!" Fleda laughed, to her own surprise.
"I mean with the threat of enforcement and that sort of thing."
"Distinctly with the threat of enforcement—what would be called, I suppose, coercion8."
"What sort of coercion?" said Mrs. Gereth.
"Why, legal, don't you know?—what he calls setting the lawyers at you."
"Is that what he calls it?" She seemed to speak with disinterested9 curiosity.
"That's what he calls it," said Fleda.
Mrs. Gereth considered an instant. "Oh, the lawyers!" she exclaimed lightly. Seated there almost cosily10 in the reddening winter sunset, only with her shoulders raised a little and her mantle11 tightened12 as if from a slight chill, she had never yet looked to Fleda so much in possession nor so far from meeting unsuspectedness halfway13. "Is he going to send them down here?"
"I dare say he thinks it may come to that."
"The lawyers can scarcely do the packing," Mrs. Gereth humorously remarked.
"I suppose he means them—in the first place, at least—to try to talk you over."
"In the first place, eh? And what does he mean in the second?"
Fleda hesitated; she had not foreseen that so simple an inquiry14 could disconcert her. "I'm afraid I don't know."
"Didn't you ask?" Mrs. Gereth spoke15 as if she might have said, "What then were you doing all the while?"
"I didn't ask very much," said her companion. "He has been gone some time. The great thing seemed to be to understand clearly that he wouldn't be content with anything less than what he mentioned."
"My just giving everything back?"
"Your just giving everything back."
"Well, darling, what did you tell him?" Mrs. Gereth blandly16 inquired.
Fleda faltered17 again, wincing18 at the term of endearment19, at what the words took for granted, charged with the confidence she had now committed herself to betray. "I told him I would tell you!" She smiled, but she felt that her smile was rather hollow and even that Mrs. Gereth had begun to look at her with some fixedness20.
"Did he seem very angry?"
"He seemed very sad. He takes it very hard," Fleda added.
"And how does she take it?"
"Ah, that—that I felt a delicacy21 about asking."
"So you didn't ask?" The words had the note of surprise.
Fleda was embarrassed; she had not made up her mind definitely to lie. "I didn't think you'd care." That small untruth she would risk.
"Well—I don't!" Mrs. Gereth declared; and Fleda felt less guilty to hear her, for the statement was as inexact as her own. "Didn't you say anything in return?" Mrs. Gereth presently continued.
"Do you mean in the way of justifying22 you?"
"I didn't mean to trouble you to do that. My justification23," said Mrs. Gereth, sitting there warmly and, in the lucidity24 of her thought, which nevertheless hung back a little, dropping her eyes on the gravel—"my justification was all the past. My justification was the cruelty—" But at this, with a short, sharp gesture, she checked herself. "It's too good of me to talk—now." She produced these sentences with a cold patience, as if addressing Fleda in the girl's virtual and actual character of Owen's representative. Our young lady crept to and fro before the bench, combating the sense that it was occupied by a judge, looking at her boot-toes, reminding herself in doing so of Mona, and lightly crunching25 the pebbles26 as she walked. She moved about because she was afraid, putting off from moment to moment the exercise of the courage she had been sure she possessed27. That courage would all come to her if she could only be equally sure that what she should be called upon to do for Owen would be to suffer. She had wondered, while Mrs. Gereth spoke, how that lady would describe her justification. She had described it as if to be irreproachably28 fair, give her adversary29 the benefit of every doubt, and then dismiss the question forever. "Of course," Mrs. Gereth went on, "if we didn't succeed in showing him at Poynton the ground we took, it's simply that he shuts his eyes. What I supposed was that you would have given him your opinion that if I was the woman so signally to assert myself, I'm also the woman to rest upon it imperturbably30 enough."
Fleda stopped in front of her hostess. "I gave him my opinion that you're very logical, very obstinate31, and very proud."
"Quite right, my dear: I'm a rank bigot—about that sort of thing!" and Mrs. Gereth jerked her head at the contents of the house. "I've never denied it. I'd kidnap—to save them, to convert them—the children of heretics. When I know I'm right I go to the stake. Oh, he may burn me alive!" she cried with a happy face. "Did he abuse me?" she then demanded.
Fleda had remained there, gathering32 in her purpose. "How little you know him!"
Mrs. Gereth stared, then broke into a laugh that her companion had not expected. "Ah, my dear, certainly not so well as you!" The girl, at this, turned away again—she felt she looked too conscious; and she was aware that, during a pause, Mrs. Gereth's eyes watched her as she went. She faced about afresh to meet them, but what she met was a question that reinforced them. "Why had you a 'delicacy' as to speaking of Mona?"
She stopped again before the bench, and an inspiration came to her. "I should think you would know," she said with proper dignity.
Blankness was for a moment on Mrs. Gereth's brow; then light broke—she visibly remembered the scene in the breakfast-room after Mona's night at Poynton. "Because I contrasted you—told him you were the one?" Her eyes looked deep. "You were—you are still!"
Fleda gave a bold dramatic laugh. "Thank you, my love—with all the best things at Ricks!"
Mrs. Gereth considered, trying to penetrate33, as it seemed; but at last she brought out roundly: "For you, you know, I'd send them back!"
The girl's heart gave a tremendous bound; the right way dawned upon her in a flash. Obscurity indeed the next moment engulfed34 this course, but for a few thrilled seconds she had understood. To send the things back "for her" meant of course to send them back if there were even a dim chance that she might become mistress of them. Fleda's palpitation was not allayed35 as she asked herself what portent36 Mrs. Gereth had suddenly perceived of such a chance: that perception could come only from a sudde............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved