A Laodicean (Chapter 8, page 1 of 5)


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Chapter 8

The telegraph had almost the attributes of a human being at Stancy Castle. When its bell rang people rushed to the old tapestried chamber allotted to it, and waited its pleasure with all the deference due to such a novel inhabitant of that ancestral pile. This happened on the following afternoon about four o'clock, while Somerset was sketching in the room adjoining that occupied by the instrument. Hearing its call, he looked in to learn if anybody were attending, and found Miss De Stancy bending over it.

She welcomed him without the least embarrassment. 'Another message,' she said.--'"Paula to Charlotte.--Have returned to Markton. Am starting for home. Will be at the gate between four and five if possible."'

Miss De Stancy blushed with pleasure when she raised her eyes from the machine. 'Is she not thoughtful to let me know beforehand?'

Somerset said she certainly appeared to be, feeling at the same time that he was not in possession of sufficient data to make the opinion of great value.

'Now I must get everything ready, and order what she will want, as Mrs. Goodman is away. What will she want? Dinner would be best--she has had no lunch, I know; or tea perhaps, and dinner at the usual time. Still, if she has had no lunch--Hark, what do I hear?'

She ran to an arrow-slit, and Somerset, who had also heard something, looked out of an adjoining one. They could see from their elevated position a great way along the white road, stretching like a tape amid the green expanses on each side. There had arisen a cloud of dust, accompanied by a noise of wheels.

'It is she,' said Charlotte. 'O yes--it is past four--the telegram has been delayed.'

'How would she be likely to come?'

'She has doubtless hired a carriage at the inn: she said it would be useless to send to meet her, as she couldn't name a time.... Where is she now?'

'Just where the boughs of those beeches overhang the road--there she is again!'

Miss De Stancy went away to give directions, and Somerset continued to watch. The vehicle, which was of no great pretension, soon crossed the bridge and stopped: there was a ring at the bell; and Miss De Stancy reappeared.

'Did you see her as she drove up--is she not interesting?'

'I could not see her.'

'Ah, no--of course you could not from this window because of the trees. Mr. Somerset, will you come downstairs? You will have to meet her, you know.'

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