Stephen Linton had bought The Mooring when his wife had taken a fancy to it the previous year, when she had had an attack of that river fever which sooner or later takes hold upon Londoners, making them ready to sell all their possessions and encamp on the banks of the Thames. It had been a great delight to her to furnish that lovely old house according to her taste, making each room a picture of consistency in decoration and furniture, and it had been a great delight to her to watch the garden being laid out after the most perfect eighteenth-century pattern, with its green terraces and clipped hedges. She had gone so far as to live in the house for close upon a whole fortnight the previous autumn. Since that time the caretaker had found it a trifle too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer, he had complained to Mrs. Linton. But she knew that there is no pleasing caretakers; she had not been put out of favor with the place; she hoped to spend at least a week under its roof before the end of the season, and perhaps another week before starting for Scotland in the autumn.
She suddenly came to the conclusion one day that her husband was not looking well--a conclusion which was certainly well founded. She declared that a few days up the river was precisely what would restore him to robust health. (But here it is to be feared her judgment was in error.) He had been thinking too much about the new development of the mine and the property surrounding it at Taragonda Creek. What did his receiving a couple of hundred thousand pounds matter if his health were jeopardized, she inquired of him one day, wearing the anxious face of the Good Wife.
He had smiled that curious smile of his,--it was becoming more curious every day,--and had said:
"Up the river we shall go, and I'll get Phyllis to come with us to amuse you--you know that you like Phyllis," his wife cried.
"There is no one I like better than Phyllis," he had said.
And so the matter had been settled.
But during the day or two that followed this settlement, Ella came upon several of her friends who she found were looking a trifle fagged through the pressure of the season, and she promptly invited them to The Mooring, so that she had a party of close upon a dozen persons coming to her house--some for a day, some for as long as three days, commencing with the Tuesday when she and Phyllis went off together. Mr. Linton had promised to join the party toward the end of the week.
And that was how it came about that Herbert Courtland found himself daily admiring the cleverness of Phyllis Ayrton when she had the punt pole in her hands. He also admired the gradual tinting of her fair face, through the becoming exertion of taking the punt up the lovely backwater or on to the placid reaches beyond. Sometimes the punt contained three or four of the party in addition to Herbert, but twice he was alone with her, and shared his admiration of her with no one.