"It will be completely inadmissable in court."
"The Earl's word is his bond, is it not? That is what you were just telling me."
"Shall I draw up the papers? You take them to your Master." She made no attempt to soften the brutality of the word. "I think you will be surprised at how willingly he signs them."
"I will urge him with every fiber of my being not to."
Good, she thought. That should clinch the deal.
A few minutes later, Mr. Hardheart stalked out of the shop, rattling the door before slamming it shut behind him. Reza Schlierbeck was busy polishing Colonel Carter's boots.
"You certainly sent him packing, Hepzibah."
"Oh, he will be back, Father," she said, gazing dreamily.
"What about the Music Hall?"
"What?" She tore her imagination from the miles of intensely green-flanked rutted roads, with tenants all along the way looking up and touching their hats as the coach passed, the women curtseying, while children ran alongside giving cheers, diving for the pennies one threw, until, there it loomed, the gray, ancient, crumbling, towering edifice one saw engravings of in schoolbooks and on old currency: Choir Castle and Environs.
"The Music Hall, Hepzibah. You got to get out, be among your own kind. It is not good, your being cooped up back there all day. What is to become of you?"
"Oh Father," she said, and began to laugh.
"My dear, he is coming," the Baroness announced excitedly, erupting from the main door even as the messenger boy's bicycle bell could still be heard tinkling idly down the elm-lined avenue.
The guests were on the lawn, where a makeshift tent had been erected and a rudely carpentered table, over which a threadbare Flemish tapestry had been thrown, held an impressive assortment of cakes and fresh berries. The tea service, gleaming in the summer sun, was gold.
"Who is?" Lady Tabitha asked, irritated that the Baroness persisted in treating her private life as a topic fit for general consumption. Like these cakes, she thought languidly, which she regarded but did not eat, admiring instead how the bone-white porcelain looked when held against her fair skin.
"Why Mr. Finch, of course."
Of course. At least the old lady retained enough propriety not to say "your only hope, he to whom you have so rashly pledged yourself, your lover some day, god-willing," though Lady Tabitha, sensitive on the subject, fancied she heard all that behind the simple stating of the name.
"Lutwidge coming?" the Earl asked. "Good show."
"I have never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Finch," Miss Ethyl said. " Though naturally I know of him."
"He speaks of having had some business in Town," the Baroness went on, perusing the telegram more closely. "I had expected him sooner, you see."
"Will there be room?" Miss Ethyl asked.