Mrs. Linton was greatly amused--she certainly was surprised. The surprises were natural, but the amusement was not quite logical. It was, however, quite natural that her guests--two of them excepted-- should be amused when they observed her surprise.
Could anything be funnier, one of these guests asked another in a whisper, than Mrs. Linton's chagrin on finding that her own particular Sir Lancelot had discovered an Elaine for himself?
Of course the guest who was so questioned agreed that nothing could possibly be funnier; and they both laughed in unison. If people cannot derive innocent fun from watching the disappointment of their hostess, in what direction may the elements of mirth be found?
It was agreed that Mrs. Linton had invited Herbert Courtland up the river for her own special entertainment--that she had expected him to punt her up the river highways and the backwater by-ways, while Phyllis Ayrton and the rest of her guests looked after themselves, or looked after Mrs. Linton's husband; but it appeared that Herbert Courtland had not been consulted on this subject, the result being that Mrs. Linton's arrangements had been thrown into confusion.
The consensus of opinion among the guests was to the effect that Mrs. Linton's arrangements had been thrown very much awry indeed. But then the guests were amused, and as it is getting more and more difficult every year to amuse one's guests, especially those forming a house- party at a season when nothing lends itself to laughter, Mrs. Linton would have had every reason to congratulate herself upon the success of her party, had she been made aware of the innocent mirth which prevailed for some days among her guests.
She would possibly have been greatly diverted also at the overshrewdness of her guests, who were, of course, quite ignorant of the conversation regarding Phyllis Ayrton which had immediately preceded her invitation to Herbert to spend a few days on the river.
But though Ella had undoubtedly given Herbert to understand that she was anxious to have him at The Mooring while Phyllis was there, in order that he might have an opportunity of seeing more of her, and to obtain his agreement that her theory that the man who truly loves a woman should be ready to marry that woman's dearest friend, still it must be confessed that she was surprised to observe the course adopted by both Phyllis and Herbert. She had expected that all her tact and diplomacy would be required in order to bring the young people--with all the arrogance of the wife of twenty-six years of age she alluded to a girl of twenty-three and a man of thirty-two as the young people --together.
She had had visions of sitting in the stern of an out-rigger built for two, remonstrating with Herbert--he would of course be at the oars-- for choosing to paddle her up the river while he allowed some of the other men to carry off Phyllis in, say, the Canadian canoe. A picture had come before her of the aggrieved expression upon the face of Herbert when she would insist on his going out by the side of Phyllis to feed the peacocks on the terraces in the twilight; and she had more than once seemed to hear his sigh of resignation as she, with a firmness which she would take pains to develop, pleaded a headache so that he and Phyllis might play a game of billiards together.