of as best he could. After all, he would be none the worse for having filled My place for a few hours.
Lady Maisie (slowly). I see. It didn't matter to you whether he was suspected of being an impostor, or made to feel uncomfortable, or—or anything. Wasn't that a little unfeeling of you?
Und. Unfeeling! I allowed him to keep my evening clothes, which is more than a good many——!
Lady Maisie. At all events, he may have had to pay more heavily than you imagine. I wonder whether—— But I suppose anything so unromantic as the love affairs of a veterinary surgeon would have no interest for you?
Und. Why not, Lady Maisie? To the Student of Humanity, and still more to the Poet, the humblest love-story may have its interesting—even its suggestive—aspect.
Lady Maisie. Well, I may tell you that it seems Mr. Spurrell has long been attached, if not actually engaged, to a maid of mine.
Und. (startled out of his self-possession). You—you don't mean to Miss Phillipson?
Lady Maisie. That is her name. How very odd that you—— But perhaps Mr. Spurrell mentioned it to you last night?
Und. (recovering his sang-froid). I am hardly likely to have heard of it from any other quarter.
Lady Maisie. Of course not. And did he tell you that she was here, in this very house?
Und. No, he never mentioned that. What a singular coincidence!
Lady Maisie. Yes, rather. The worst of it is that the foolish girl seems to have heard that he was a guest here, and jumped to the conclusion that he had ceased to care for her; so she revenged herself by a desperate flirtation with some worthless wretch she met in the Housekeeper's Room, whose flattery and admiration, I'm very much afraid, have completely turned her head!
Und. (uncomfortably). Ah, well, she must learn to forget him, and no doubt, in time—— How wonderful the pale sunlight is on that yew hedge!
Lady Maisie. You are not very sympathetic! I should not have told you at all, only I wanted to show you that if poor Mr. Spurrell did innocently usurp your place, he may have lost—— But I see all this only bores you.
Und. Candidly, Lady Maisie, I can't affect a very keen interest in the—er—gossip of the Housekeeper's Room. Indeed I am rather surprised that you should condescend to listen to——
Lady Maisie (to herself). This is really too much! (Aloud.) It never occurred to me that I was "condescending" in taking an interest in a pretty and wayward girl who happens to be my maid. But then I'm not a Democrat, Mr. Blair.
Und. I—I'm afraid you construed my remark as a rebuke; which it was not at all intended to be.
Lady Maisie. It would have been rather uncalled for if it had been, wouldn't it? (Observing his growing uneasiness.) I'm afraid you don't find this bench quite comfortable?
Und. I—er—moderately so. (To himself.) There's a female figure coming down the terrace steps. It's horribly like—— But that must be my morbid fancy; still, if I can get Lady Maisie away, just in case—— (Aloud.) D—don't you think sitting still becomes a little—er—monotonous after a time? Couldn't we——
[He rises, spasmodically.
Lady Maisie (rising too). Certainly; we have sat here quite long enough. It is time we went back.
Und. (to himself). We shall meet her! and I'm almost sure it's—— I must prevent any—— (Aloud.) Not back, Lady Maisie! You—you promised to show me the orchid-house—you did, indeed!
Lady Maisie. Very well; we can go in, if you care about orchids. It's on our way back.
Und. (to himself). This is too awful! It is that girl Phillipson. She is looking for somebody! Me! (Aloud.) On second thoughts, I don't think I do care to see the orchids. I detest them; they are weird unnatural extravagant things. Let us turn back and see if there are any snowdrops on the lawn behind that hedge. I love the snowdrop, it is so trustful and innocent, with its pure green-veined—— Do come and search for snowdrops!
"Do come and search for snowdrops!"
Lady Maisie. Not just now. I think—(as she shields her eyes with one hand)—I'm not quite sure yet—but I rather fancy that must be my maid at the other end of the walk.
Und. (eagerly). I assure you, Lady Maisie, you are quite mistaken. Not the least like her!
Lady Maisie (astonished). Why, how can you possibly tell that, without having seen her, Mr. Blair?
Und. I—I meant—— You described her as "pretty," you know. This girl is plain—distinctly plain!
Lady Maisie. I don't agree at all. However, it certainly is Phillipson, and she seems to have come out in search of me; so I had better see if she has any message.
Und. She hasn't. I'm positive she hasn't. She—she wouldn't walk like that if she had. (In feverish anxiety.) Lady Maisie, shall we turn back? She—she hasn't seen us yet!
Lady Maisie. Really, Mr. Blair! I don't quite see why I should run away from my own maid!... What is it, Phillipson?
[She advances to meet Phillipson, leaving Undershell behind, motionless.
Und. (to himself). It's all over! That confounded girl recognises me. I saw her face change! She'll be jealous, I know she'll be jealous—and then she'll tell Lady Maisie everything!... I wish to Heaven I could hear what she is saying. Lady Maisie seems agitated.... I—I might stroll gently on and leave them; but it would look too like running away, perhaps. No, I'll stay here and face it out, like a man! I won't give up just yet. (He sinks limply upon the bench.) After all, I've been in worse holes than this since I came into this infernal place, and I've always managed to scramble out—triumphantly, too! If she will only give me five minutes alone, I know I can clear myself; it isn't as if I had done anything to be ashamed of.... She's sent away that girl. She seems to be expecting me to come to her.... I—I suppose I'd better.
[He rises with effort, and goes towards Lady Maisie with a jaunty unconsciousness that somehow has the air of stopping short just above the knees.