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"How could we do it then?" she asked.
"That's the odd thing. It didn't seem at all out of the way at the time," he pondered.
"You'd do it again now, if the case arose, but I shouldn't. That's the difference," said she.
Harry considered this remark for a moment with an impartial air. "Well, perhaps I should," he admitted at last, "but you needn't tell that to Cecily. Content yourself with discussing it with Mina or Mr Neeld."
"I'm tired of both of them," she cried. "They do nothing but talk about you."
That night as he sat in the garden at Blent with his wife, Harry returned the compliment by talking of the Imp. He looked up toward Merrion and saw the lights in the windows.
"I think Mina is with us for life, Cecily," said he.
"I like her to be," she answered with a laugh. "First because I like being loved, and she loves me. And then I like you to be loved, and she loves you. Besides, she's been so closely mixed up with it all, hasn't she? She knew about you before I did, she knew Blent before I did. And it's not only with you and me. She knew your mother, Addie Tristram, too."
"Yes, Mina goes right back to the beginning of the thing."
"And the thing, as you call it, is what brought us here together. So Mina seems to have had something to do with that too. It all comes back to me when I look at her, and I like to have her here."
"Well, she's part of the family story now. And she'll probably keep a journal and make entries about us, like the late Mr Cholderton, and some day be edited by a future Mr Neeld. Mina must stop, that's clear."
"It's clear anyhow--because nothing would make her go," said Cecily.
"Let's go up the hill and see her now?" he suggested.
Together they climbed the hill and reached the terrace. There were people in the drawing-room, and Harry signed to Cecily to keep out of sight. They approached stealthily.
"Who's with her? I didn't know anyone was staying here," whispered Cecily.
Harry turned his face toward her, smiling. "Hush, it's old Neeld!"
They peeped in. Neeld was sitting in an arm-chair with some sheets of paper in his hand. He had his spectacles on and apparently had been reading something aloud to Mina; indeed they heard his voice die away just as they came up. Mina stood in front of him, her manner full of her old excitement.
"Yes, that's it, that's just right!" they heard her exclaim. "She stood in the middle of the room and"--Harry pressed his wife's hand and laughed silently--"she cried out just what you've read. I remember exactly how she looked and the very words that Mr Cholderton uses.
'Think of the difference it makes, the enormous difference!' she said.
Oh, it might have been yesterday, Mr Neeld!"
Harry leapt over the window-sill and burst into the room with a laugh.
"Oh, you dear silly people, you're at it again!" said he.
"The story does not lose its interest for me," remarked old Mr Neeld primly, and he added, as he greeted Cecily, "It won't so long as I can look at your face, my dear. You keep Addie Tristram still alive for me."
"She's Lady Tristram--and I'm the enormous difference, I suppose," said Harry.
Mina and Neeld did not quite understand why Cecily turned so suddenly and put her hand in Harry's, saying, "No, Harry, there's no difference now."
Meanwhile, down in Blentmouth, Miss Swinkerton looked up from the local paper and remarked across the table to Mrs Trumbler:
"Here's an announcement that Lady Tristram will give a ball at Blent in January. You'll remember that I told you that two months ago, Mrs Trumbler."
"Yes, Miss Swinkerton, but that was before all the----"
"Really I'm not often wrong, my dear," interrupted Miss S. decisively.
"Well, I hope there won't be any more changes," sighed Mrs Trumbler.
"They're so very startling."
She might rest in peace awhile. Addie Tristram was dead, and the t.i.tle to Blent was safe till the next generation. Beyond that it would not perhaps be safe to speak in view of the Tristram blood and the Tristram ways.
_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_
A MAN OF MARK
MR WITT'S WIDOW
A CHANGE OF AIR
HALF A HERO
THE PRISONER OF ZENDA
THE G.o.d IN THE CAR
THE DOLLY DIALOGUES
COMEDIES OF COURTs.h.i.+P
THE CHRONICLES OF COUNT ANTONIO
THE HEART OF PRINCESS OSRA
RUPERT OF HENTZAU
THE KING'S MIRROR