Amber had come to the conclusion that it would be better for her to be frank with her friend Josephine in regard to the personnel of her fellow-guests at The Weir for the Sunday. A month had passed since Josephine had promised to keep herself disengaged for this particular Sunday, but in the meantime a good many things had happened, the most important being (as she fancied) the dinner at Ranelagh, which had given a certain amount of prominence to Mr. Win-wood and had aroused a curious prejudice against him in the estimation of Josephine. It was thus, she thought, only fair to Josephine to tell her that Mr. Winwood had also promised to go to The Weir for the Sunday, so that, if she felt that another day spent in his company would be insupportable, she might have a chance of concocting some excuse for remaining in town.

The daughter of a politician of eminence should be at no loss for a plausible excuse to extricate herself from the consequences of a promise of a month’s standing. She should have at her command—even though her father did not actually belong to the Cabinet—a sufficiency of that subtle element called (by the organs of the Opposition) tergiversation to tide her over a shoal place.

It was this thoughtfulness on the part of Amber that impelled her to let Josephine know that Mr. Winwood also had promised to go to The Weir, and she felt greatly relieved to find that her friend did not make any attempt to draw upon her imagination for an excuse to prevent her joining the party at Sir Creighton’s riverside cottage.

She wondered if Josephine’s prejudice was abating already, or if she was merely showing how polite she could be.

It was when she was trying to recover from the startling effects of the return of Pierce Winwood to the drawing-room after the departure of Lord Lull-worth, that her father came to her, saying something about Pierce Winwood.

“I am very glad you asked him here,” he said. “Yes; he was able to convince me of his identity.”

“So you remembered his father’s name after all,” said Amber.

“Yes—oh, yes. I remembered his father’s name.”

“It was the story that brought it back to you?”

“Yes—that singular story.”

“You were able to tell him the names of the people—the names that he was so anxious to find out?”

“Oh, yes; I was able to—to satisfy him on this point. By the way, he and Josephine had some chat together in the garden—I could see them from my window.”

Amber shook her head and then said:

“Poor fellow!”

“Why poor fellow, pray?” asked her father raising his eyebrows.

“I am afraid that he—that is—I’m not quite sure that I should tell you that——”

“Let me know what it is you are in doubt about, and I will give you my best advice on this doubtful and delicate point,” said he.

“If you decide that I shouldn’t have told you will you let it be as if I hadn’t told you?” she said, clasping her hands over his arm.

“Certainly I will,” he replied. “The terms are quite honourable.”

“Then I may tell you that an hour after leaving this room he returned.”

“For an umbrella—that’s what they do in plays: they always come back for the umbrella which, with the most careful inadvertency they have left behind them. But he didn’t come back to let you know that owing to the distractions of lunch, he had forgotten to mention that he loved you?”

“Worse—much worse. He came to ask me if I could tell him if Joe had given her promise to marry someone.”

“Heavens above! And did he specify the some one?”

“Oh, dear, no; he had no one—that is to say, he had every one in his mind’s eye. He could not understand how it was possible that so sweet and lovely a girl should have reached the age of twenty-four without having given her promise to marry some man.”

“It does seem a bit queer, doesn’t it? Well?”

“That’s all. I told him, of course, that Joe was quite free.”

“Of course. But that being so, where does your ‘poor fellow!’ come in. Why not ‘lucky fellow’?”

Amber shook her head more sadly than she had shaken it before.

“The pity of it! the pity of it!” she murmured. “Poor Joe!”

“Poor yourself!” laughed Sir Creighton. “You cannot be ambitious enough to wish to include all the world in your pity. Why ‘poor Josephine’?”

“She confessed to me that she hated him,” said Amber in a whisper—the whisper of an aspen—tremulous rather than sibilant.

“What, hated him? I had no idea that she cared so much as that for him already,” said her father. “Are you sure that she confessed to hating him?”

Amber’s hands dropped from his arm, but her eyes did not drop from his face.

“Do you mean—you cannot mean—that—that all may yet be well?” she cried.

“My dear girl,” said he, smiling a smile which he had provisionally patented since his daughter had made it a practice to consult him on curious points of psychology and diction and deportment. “My dear daughter, I have, as you well know, little time to devote to the study of temperament or poetry or unpractical things of that sort, but I have seen enough in the course of a busy but not wholly unobservant life, to convince me that when a young woman goes so far as to confess that she hates any particular young man, or old man, for that matter—she has gone very far in the direction of saying that she loves that particular man. I don’t say that Josephine——”

“She doesn’t. She doesn’t—at least—I don’t believe that she has thought about him one way or another. She was, however, quite polite to him today.”

“That’s rather a bad sign, isn’t it? When a girl is polite to a man whom she hates, she makes one feel that his chances with her are reduced. But of one thing you may be sure—yea, of two things you may be certain; the first is that no girl hates a man of whom she has not been thinking a great deal; the second is that no girl hates a man unless she knows that he loves her.”

“How curious! How very curious! You are sure—quite sure?”

“There are variants,” said the man of science. “But one cannot study the properties of the positive and negative currents of electricity for forty years without learning something of the elementary principles of attraction and repulsion. The air was, I think, strongly charged with electricity when the first woman was born; and that being so, don’t you think you might do worse than ask Winwood and Josephine to join us at The Weir, some of these days?”

He was smoothing her hair very gently: the action was prettily paternal but it was also strictly businesslike; for was he not the inventor of that microelectrometer which is so marvellously sensitive that it is capable of measuring the force of the current generated by the stroking of a cat. He had experimented on his daughter years ago. No penalty attached to his doing so, though had he tried his electrometer on the cat he would have laid himself open to a criminal prosecution.

She was all unconscious of the escaping ohms; she was puzzling out the hard saying that had come from her father. She was trying to see daylight through the obstructions of his phrases and the obscuration of his logic.

She shook her head—for the third time—saying: “I’m in a bit of a mist just now. I should like to think it all out.”

“As if one can get out of a mist through much thinking,” said he. “Dearest daughter of my house and heart, take my advice and think only when you cannot help thinking; but remember that woman was not made to think but to act. It is man, foolish man, who is so badly endowed of nature that he is compelled to think out things. The woman who thinks is about as womanly as the pantomine Old Mother Hubbard. Be a woman, my dear, and assert your femininity by acting—yes, acting in accordance with no principle of logic, but strictly in response to the prompting of your instinct.”

He kissed her and looked at the timepiece.

“I’ll write to Mr. Winwood,” she said somewhat helplessly and hopelessly. “Joe long ago promised to come to us at The Weir on Saturday week. But I think I must tell her if he accepts the mater’s invitation.”

“Oh, certainly; that is the least you can do: she was so polite to him to-day,” said her father from the door, smiling that registered smile of his and making his escape before she could put the question to him which that smile invariably prompted.

She felt that it was all very well for him to advise her not to think out any matter; it was not so easy, however, for her to refrain from thinking, seeing that he had led her into the perilous paths of thought long ago. He had taught her the art of thinking long ago, and yet now he could airily assure her that she was very foolish and—what was much the same thing—very unwomanly to try to think herself out of a difficult place.

Well, that showed that he was a man anyway—a man as illogical as the most sapient savant can be, and that is saying a good deal.

The suggestions made to her by her father had, however, considerably widened the horizon of her consideration, so to speak. That is to say, she had only been thinking how admirably Josephine had succeeded in hiding beneath a mask of politeness her ill-founded prejudice against Mr. Winwood; whereas now she was led to consider the possibility of that mask of hers concealing a good deal more. She had been pitying, first, Mr. Winwood for having been so impulsive as to fall in love with Josephine; and, secondly, Josephine for having been so impulsive as to conceive a prejudice that might interfere with her happiness in the future.

But now, it seemed that she need not have pitied either of them—if her father’s suggestions were worth anything.

And then she had given an exclamation of derision and had begun to think of other matters. She meant this exclamation to bear upon the wisdom of her father veiled (as so much wisdom may be if one is only wise) in a fine lacework of phrases. Her father’s Valenciennes phrases were much admired: they had a charming and delicate pattern of their own which perhaps some people admired more than the wisdom whose features they effectually concealed, and the design of his Point de Venise was so striking that no one was in the least curious as to whether it concealed any thought or not.

Thus it was that Sir Creighton’s daughter found it necessary to make use of a serious exclamation when she found that when she had looked for wisdom from her father he had given her a phrase—the lace cerement of wisdom.

And then she gave a more emphatic exclamation when she reflected upon the possibility of Josephine’s polite demeanour being as opaque as her father’s paradoxes. She had believed that the embroidered domino of politeness—that makes a variation from the rather flimsy trope of the lace—concealed within its folds only her friend’s dislike for the presence of Mr. Winwood; but now it had been suggested to her that there was a good deal below the billowy surface of the ornamented fabric that she had never suspected to exist there.

She said “Psha!” also “Phu!” and “Phi,” and gave vent to all those delicately modulated breathings with long-drawn sibilants which moments of staccato derision suggest to those young women who have not trained themselves to the more robust verbiage of condemnation—sounds like the stamping of Alpine heels upon a solid pavement.

It was of course a great relief to the girl to give way to those half tones of vituperation—those dainty slipper-taps as it were, of impatience. But after all the real relief that she experienced was in diverting her thoughts from the possible dissimulation of her father and her friend to the plain and simple language made use of by Lord Lullworth in her presence.

Lord Lullworth was, of course, a fellow with no pretensions to brain-power—with no delicate appreciation of the subtleties of language; but beyond a shadow of doubt Amber felt the greatest relief to her mind through reflecting upon his extraordinary frankness. There at any rate was a man who knew exactly what he meant and who was able to communicate to another person exactly what he meant. To be sure what he did mean was something too absurd to be entertained for a moment; still it had been clearly defined and—yes, it was not without picturesqueness and—yes, it was undeniably a relief to think about him.

Only an hour had passed since she had been lying back among her cushions, reflecting, with the help of the Florentine mirror, upon the situation of the moment. She had at that time been led, out of a feeling that Lord Lullworth should have fair play, to think of him in active and brutal contest with the other young men who had been drinking tea with her; but now she found that, even judged from a lofty standpoint, he was susceptible of being thought about with positive pleasure—well, if not absolute pleasure certainly with satisfaction, the satisfaction which comes from a sense of relief.

And then she found that really his frankness had not been unpicturesque as a pose. She began to feel that a great misapprehension existed in the minds of most people in regard to frankness. The impression undoubtedly did prevail that frankness was only candour in hob-nailed boots. She knew that the general feeling is that if candour is insolence in a white surplice, frankness is rudeness in rags. That misapprehension was allowed to exist simply because so many people who were really clever, never found that it suited them to be frank. They had given all their attention to the art of not being frank, just as some women give up all their time to their dress, neglecting their bodies, to say nothing of their souls, in order that they may appear well-dressed. She felt convinced that if a really clever man were to study frankness as an art he might be able to make a good thing out of it. At any rate it would be a novelty.

Yes, Lord Lullworth had certainly struck out a path for himself, and had made some progress—quite enough to impress her, and to cause her some remorse when she reflected upon her having thought of him as a fool.

Lord Lullworth undoubtedly had made an appreciable amount of progress when he had impelled the girl who had first thought of him only as a young fool, to give herself over to the consideration of his position as an athlete, then of his position as a relieving influence coming after the distractions of intellectuality; and, finally, of his position as an original thinker—the pioneer of a cult which might yet become a power in a society where dissimulation, flourishes.

And what marked the extent of his progress the more vividly was the fact that the result of her consideration of the young man from every successive standpoint only strengthened his place in her esteem.

Then her mother wrote the invitation to Mr. Win-wood for Saturday week and he accepted it in due course; and it was on the Wednesday next before that Saturday that Amber met Josephine on the terrace of the great historic house in Kensington, and reminded her that she had engaged herself to go up the river to The Weir from Saturday to Monday.

That was not the only engagement of which Josephine was conscious.

Still she had been able to shoot a dart of pretty badinage with a barb touched with sugar instead of gall, in the direction of Mr. Winwood at that moment; and thus Amber had gone home more amazed than ever.

But not before she had been charmed by her gracious reception at the hands of the Countess of Castlethorpe.

No young man with a mother so perfectly charming could be unworthy of consideration, she felt.

And thus Lord Lullworth took another stride along the perilous path upon which he had set his feet.

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