Daniel came back on Monday. I didn't see him till we were all having tea in the hall. It wasn't till the crowd had cleared away a bit that we got a chance of having a word together.
"Well, Willow?" he said.
"It's all right."
"You have destroyed the manuscript?"
"Not exactly; but-"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean I haven't absolutely-"
"Willow, your manner is furtive!"
"It's all right. It's this way-"
And I was just going to explain how things stood when out of the library came leaping Uncle Willoughby looking as braced as a two-year-old. The old boy was a changed man.
"A most remarkable thing, Willow! I have just been speaking with Mr. Wolfram on the telephone, and he tells me he received my manuscript by the first post this morning. I cannot imagine what can have caused the delay. Our postal facilities are extremely inadequate in the rural districts. I shall write to headquarters about it. It is insufferable if valuable parcels are to be delayed in this fashion."
I happened to look at Daniel's profile at the moment, and at this juncture he swung round and gave me a look that went right through me like a knife. Uncle Willoughby meandered back to the library, and there was a silence that you could have dug bits out of with a spoon.
"I can't understand it," I said at last, "I can't understand it, by Jove!"
"I can. I can understand it perfectly, Willow. Your heart failed you. Rather than risk offending your Uncle, you-"
"No, no! Absolutely!"
"You preferred to lose me rather than risk losing your money. Perhaps you did not think I meant what I said. I meant every word. Our engagement is ended."
"But - I say!"
"Not another word!"
"But, Daniel, old thing!"
"I do not wish to hear any more. I see now that your Aunt Sheila was perfectly right. I consider that I have made a very lucky escape. There was a time when I thought that, with patience, you might be molded into something worthwhile. I see now that you are impossible!"
And he popped off, leaving me to pick up the pieces. When I had picked up the debris to some extent I went to my room and rang for Giles. He came in looking as if nothing had happened or was ever going to happen. He was the calmest thing in captivity.
"Giles!" I yelled. "Giles, that parcel has arrived in London!"
"Did you send it?"
"Yes, miss. I acted for the best, miss. I think that both you and Lord Osbourne overestimated the danger of people being offended at being mentioned in Sir Willoughby's Recollections. It has been my experience, miss, that the normal person enjoys seeing his or her name in print, irrespective of what is said about them. I have an aunt, miss, who a few years ago was a martyr to swollen limbs. She tried Walkinshaw's Supreme Ointment and obtained considerable relief - so much so that she sent them an unsolicited testimonial. Her pride at seeing her photograph in the daily papers in connection with descriptions of her lower limbs before taking, which were nothing less than revolting, was so intense that it led me to believe that publicity, of whatever sort, is what nearly everybody desires. Moreover, if you ever studied psychology, miss, you will know that respectable old gentlemen are by no means averse to having it advertised that they were extremely wild in their youth. I have an uncle - "
I cursed his aunts and uncles and all the rest of his family.
"Do you know that Lord Osbourne has broken off his engagement with me?"
Not a bit of sympathy! I might have been telling him it was a fine day.
"Very good, miss."
He coughed gently.
"As I am no longer in your employment, miss, I can speak freely without appearing to take liberty. In my opinion you and Lord Osbourne were unsuitably matched. His lordship is of a highly determined and arbitrary temperament, quite opposed to your own. I was in Lord Devonsmith's service for nearly a year, during which time I had ample opportunities of studying Lord Osbourne. The opinion of the servants was far from favorable to him. His lordship's temper caused a good deal of adverse comment among us. It was at times quite impossible. You would not have been happy, miss!"
"I think you would have found his educational methods a little trying, miss. I have glanced at the book his lordship gave you - it has been lying on your table since our arrival - and it is, in my opinion, quite unsuitable. You would not have enjoyed it. And I have it from his lordship's own man, who happened to overhear a conversation between his lordship and one of the gentlemen staying here that it was his intention to start you almost immediately upon Nietzsche. You would not enjoy Nietzsche, miss. He is fundamentally unsound."
"Very good, miss."
It's rummy how sleeping on a thing often makes you feel quite different about it. It's happened to me over and over again. Somehow or other, when I woke up the next morning the old heart didn't feel half so broken as it had done. It was a perfectly topping day, and there was something about the way the sun came in at the window and the row the birds were kicking up in the ivy that made me half wonder whether Giles wasn't right. After all, though he had a wonderful profile, was it such a catch being engaged to Daniel Osbourne as the casual observer might imagine? Wasn't there something in what Giles had said about his character? I began to realize that my ideal husband was something quite different, something a lot more clinging and drooping and prattling, and what-not.
I had got as far as this in thinking the thing out when "Types of Ethical Theory" caught my eye. I opened it, and I give you my honest word, this is what hit me:
Of the two antithetic terms in the Greek philosophy one only was real and self-subsisting; and that one was Ideal Thought as opposed to that which it has to penetrate and mould. The other, corresponding to our Nature, was in itself phenomenal, unreal, without any permanent footing, having no predicates that held true for two moments together; in short, redeemed from negation only by including indwelling realities appearing through.
Well - I mean to say - what? And Nietzsche, from all accounts, a lot worse than that!
"Giles," I said, when he came in with my morning tea, "I've been thinking it over. You're engaged again."
"Thank you, miss."
I sucked down a cheerful mouthful. A great respect for this bloke's judgment began to soak through me.
"Giles. Pack our things. We're returning to London."
"Very good, miss. I'll just ring ahead."
"Ring ahead? Whatever for?"
"To notify Miss Maclay of your impending arrival, miss. I installed her into the guest quarters of your apartment yesterday."
"You did what?"
"It seemed most prudent, miss. It occurred to me that it would not only benefit your allowance, but Miss Maclay does, in all respects, seem a more suitable companion for you, miss."
I was most awfully moved, don't you know, by the way Giles had rallied round.
"Oh, Giles," I said; "about that check dress."
"Is it really a frost?"
"A trifle too bizarre, miss, in my opinion."
"But lots of ladies have asked me who my seamstress is."
"Doubtless in order to avoid her, miss."
"She's supposed to be one of the best in London."
"I am saying nothing against her moral character, miss."
I hesitated a bit. I had a feeling I was passing into this chappie's clutches, and that if I gave in now I should become just like poor old Andrew Lenkergill, unable to call my soul my own. On the other hand, this was obviously a cove of rare intelligence, and it would be a comfort in a lot of ways to have him doing the thinking for me. Besides, something seemed that this was an occasion that called for rich rewards. I made up my mind.
"All right, Giles," I said. "You know! Give the bally thing away to somebody!"
He looked down at me like a father gazing tenderly at the wayward child.
"Thank you, miss. I gave it to the cook last night. A little more tea, miss?"