Chapter 46

Lord Warburton was not seen in Mrs Osmond’s drawing-room for several days, and Isabel couldn’t fail to observe that her husband said nothing to her about having received a letter from him. She couldn’t fail to observe, either, that Osmond was in a state of expectancy and that, though it was not agreeable to him to betray it, he thought their distinguished friend kept him waiting quite too long. At the end of four days he alluded to his absence.

‘What has become of Warburton? What does he mean by treating one like a tradesman with a bill?’

‘I know nothing about him,’ Isabel said. ‘I saw him last Friday at the German ball. He told me then that he meant to write to you.’

‘He has never written to me.’

‘So I supposed, from your not having told me.’

‘He’s an odd fish,’ said Osmond comprehensively. And on Isabel’s making no rejoinder he went on to enquire whether it took his lordship five days to indite a letter. ‘Does he form his words with such difficulty?’

‘I don’t know,’ Isabel was reduced to replying. ‘I’ve never had a letter from him.’

‘Never had a letter? I had an idea that you were at one time in intimate correspondence.’

She answered that this had not been the case, and let the conversation drop. On the morrow, however, coming into the drawing-room late in the afternoon, her husband took it up again.

‘When Lord Warburton told you of his intention of writing what did you say to him?’ he asked.

She just faltered. ‘I think I told him not to forget it.’

‘Did you believe there was a danger of that?’

‘As you say, he’s an odd fish.’

‘Apparently he has forgotten it,’ said Osmond. ‘Be so good as to remind him.’

‘Should you like me to write to him?’ she demanded.

‘I’ve no objection whatever.’

‘You expect too much of me.’

‘Ah yes, I expect a great deal of you.’

‘I’m afraid I shall disappoint you,’ said isabel.

‘My expectations have survived a good deal of disappointment.’

‘Of course I know that. Think how I must have disappointed myself! If you really wish hands laid on Lord Warburton you must lay them yourself.’

For a couple of minutes Osmond answered nothing; then he said: ‘That won’t be easy, with you working against me.’

Isabel started; she felt herself beginning to tremble. He had a way of looking at her through half-closed eyelids, as if he were thinking of her but scarcely saw her, which seemed to her to have a wonderfully cruel intention. It appeared to recognize her as a disagreeable necessity of thought, but to ignore her

  By PanEris using Melati.

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