A Mental Struggle. 85
It is astonishing how simple a thing it is to lie if you give
yourself just a little practice. Her companion moves a small
gimcrack upon the mantelpiece to and fro meditatively.
" Of Dering ? " he asks pleasantly.
A spoon drops from Patricia's hand. With a little
clatter it rings upon the silver tray. Ah! suppose the
Darnleys of Dering should be known to this hateful young
man ? A little shiver renders frozen the spine of the
younger Miss Heriot as this agonising thought runs
through her brain. Bah ! in a moment it is cast out
again. A man quartered at Bigton may know the names
of the county, but can't be on speaking terms with the
whole of it; and Dering, if a mile, is thirty from Bigton.
Poor creature ! he is young, and wants to profess a know¬
ledge to which he is not entitled.
" Yes," she answers with dignity, and looks up to mark
the effect of this assertion.
The astonishment she sees on his face throws astonish¬
ment into her own. With the surprise on his is mingled
a little amusement, and for a full minute he seems quite
incapable of removing his eyes from hers. Then he rouses
himself, and dropping into an easy-chair, draws it up close
to the table, and smiles at her friendlywise across the cakes
and the china.
" Do you like hot cakes? I do," he remarks, as though
Darnleys and Dering are unknown.
(" How artful! " says Patricia to herself. " He saw the
game was up—that I had found out he knew nothing of
the Darnleys, so sees fit to change the conversation; but
I'll circumvent him.")
" You have been at Dering, perhaps ?" she asks, sweetly,
letting a lump of sugar fall with a tinkling sound into her
" Well, I—I've seen it," returns the young man some¬
" Ah! you know my sister ?" goes on Patricia, now
entering fully into the fun of the thing, and beginning
quite to enjoy herself. Yes, she will punish him !
" No," replies he, with startling promptness, and just for
one moment he lifts his head and looks at her.