Chapter X. Lady Honoria Makes Arrangements
In another moment somebody entered the room; it was Elizabeth. She had returned from her tithe collecting expedition--with the tithe. The door of the sitting-room was still ajar, and Geoffrey had his back towards it. So it happened that nobody heard Elizabeth's rather cat- like step, and for some seconds she stood in the doorway without being perceived. She stood quite still, taking in the whole scene at a glance. She noticed that her sister held her head down, so that her hair shadowed her, and guessed that she did so for some reason-- probably because she did not wish her face to be seen. Or was it to show off her lovely hair? She noticed also the half shy, half amused, and altogether interested expression upon Geoffrey's countenance--she could see that in the little gilt-edged looking-glass which hung over the fire-place, nor did she overlook the general air of embarrassment that pervaded them both.
When she came in, Elizabeth had been thinking of Owen Davies, and of what might have happened had she never seen the tide of life flow back into her sister's veins. She had dreamed of it all night and had thought of it all day; even in the excitement of extracting the back tithe from the recalcitrant and rather coarse-minded Welsh farmer, with strong views on the subject of tithe, it had not been entirely forgotten. The farmer was a tenant of Owen Davies, and when he called her a "parson in petticoats, and wus," and went on, in delicate reference to her powers of extracting cash, to liken her to a "two- legged corkscrew only screwier," she perhaps not unnaturally reflected, that if ever--pace Beatrice--certain things should come about, she would remember that farmer. For Elizabeth was blessed with a very long memory, as some people had learnt to their cost, and generally, sooner or later, she paid her debts in full, not forgetting the overdue interest.
And now, as she stood in the doorway unseen and noted these matters, something occurred to her in connection with this dominating idea, which, like ideas in general, had many side issues. At any rate a look of quick intelligence shone for a moment in her light eyes, like a sickly sunbeam on a faint December mist; then she moved forward, and when she was close behind Geoffrey, spoke suddenly.
"What are you both thinking about?" she said in her clear thin voice; "you seem to have exhausted your conversation."
Geoffrey made an exclamation and fairly jumped from his chair, a feat which in his bruised condition really hurt him very much. Beatrice too started violently; she recovered herself almost instantly, however.
"How quietly you move, Elizabeth," she said.
"Not more quietly than you sit, Beatrice. I have been wondering when anybody was going to say anything, or if you were both asleep."
For her part Beatrice speculated how long her sister had been in the room. Their conversation had been innocent enough, but it was not one that she would wish Elizabeth to have overheard. And somehow Elizabeth had a knack of overhearing things.
"You see, Miss Granger," said Geoffrey coming to the rescue, "both our brains are still rather waterlogged, and that does not tend to a flow of ideas."
"Quite so," said Elizabeth. "My dear Beatrice, why don't you tie up your hair? You look like a crazy Jane. Not but what you have very nice hair," she added critically. "Do you admire good hair, Mr. Bingham."
"Of course I do," he answered gallantly, "but it is not common."