His way back to the club did not lie near Ancester Towers, but he reconciled a renewal of his visit there to his conscience by the consideration that an unusually late Session was predicted. A little more country air would do him no harm, and the Towers was the best club in the country. He had had absolutely no motive whatever for going there, outside what this implies.

They were leaving for London in the course of an hour or so, having said farewell in the morning to such guests as still remained at the Towers; and intended, after a short stay in town, to part company the Earl going to Bath, where it was his practice each year to go through a course of bathing, by which means he contended his life might be indefinitely prolonged to return in time for Christmas, which they would probably celebrate or, as the Earl said, undergo at Ancester Towers, according to their usual custom.

If he had killed Achilles, it is ten to one Gwen would have gone abroad with her mother, instead of being spirited away to Cavendish Square by her cousin in order that she should thereby become entangled in slums. Or for that matter, why not the death of the Macganister More? Had he been living still, Cousin Clo would never have visited Ancester Towers at all. No no!

The jeremiads over this unfortunate misadventure must have lasted fully ten minutes before a lull came; for the gentleman could catch no other wind in his sails, and had to let out every reef to move at all. Lady Ancester was not inclined to lose time.

Torrens, rather to the good woman's surprise and, indeed, delight. He was so good-humoured that he played it again, and also the Schottische; and would have stood Gluck over to meet her taste indefinitely, but that voices came outside, and the selection was interrupted. The voice of Lady Ancester was one, saying despairingly: "My dear, if you're not ready we must go without you.

I tell you this, Lord Ancester and it is no rhapsody; just bald truth that if this day had never come about.... I mean if it had come about otherwise; I might have gone away this morning, for instance ... and if I had had to learn, as I yet may, that this black cloud I live in was to be my life for good, and all that image I saw for a moment of Gwen Gwen in her glory in the light of the sunset, for one moment one moment!..." He breaks down over it.

In spite of the fact that Lady Ancester was well over five-and-forty, and that he himself was four or five years older, and that she had all but hinted that the sight of him would have disillusioned her if the Earl had not for that was what he read between her lines she had left something indefinable behind, which he was pleased to condemn as sentimental nonsense.

Then he was observed by his son to be humming and hawing, somewhat in the manner of ourselves when asked to say a few words at a public dinner. This was Adrian's report to Irene later. "Had a visitor to-day s'pose they told you Lady Ancester. Sorry your mother wasn't up to seeing her." "I know. We passed her coming away. Said how-d'ye-do in a hurry. What had her ladyship got to say for herself?"

Lest the reader should be inclined to blame the accidental possessor of these letters for doing what this story must perforce put on record, and to say that his action disgraced the Earldom of Ancester, let it remind him what the facts were that were already in his lordship's possession, and ask him whether he himself, so circumstanced, might not have felt as the Earl did that the case was one for a sacrifice of punctilios in the face of the issues that turned upon their maintenance.

And at the word an electric shock of a sort passed up his arm, the hand that still held his showing no marked alacrity to release it. "Yes, this is me," says the voice of its owner, "that's mamma." Lady Ancester, standing close to her, meets his outstretched hand and shakes it cordially.