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A Traitor in London

201 pages
Library of Alexandria
The elder speaker smiled as he proffered this advice, knowing well that he was provoking his cousin beyond all bounds. Harold Burton was young, fiery-tempered, and in love. To be thwarted in his love was something more than exasperating to this impetuous lover. The irritating request that he should keep his temper caused him to lose it promptly; and for the next five minutes Mr. Gilbert Malet was witness of a fine exhibition of unrestrained rage. He trembled for the furniture, almost for his own personal safety, though he managed to preserve a duly dignified outward calm. While Harold stamped about the room, his burly cousin posed before a fireless grate and trimmed his nails, and waited until the young man should have exhausted this wholly unnecessary display of violence. They were in the library of Holt Manor. It was a sombre, monkish room; almost ascetic in its severity. Bookcases and furniture were of black oak, carpet and curtains of a deep red color; and windows of stained glass subdued the light suitably for study and meditation. But on this occasion the windows were open to the brilliant daylight of an August afternoon, and shafts of golden sunshine poured into the room. From the terrace stretching before the house, vast woods sloped toward Chippingholt village, where red-roofed houses clustered round a brawling stream, and rose again on the further side to sweep to the distant hills in unbroken masses of green. Manor and village took their Teutonic names from these forests, and buried in greenery, might have passed as the domain of the Sleeping Beauty. Her palace was undoubtedly girdled by just such a wood. But this sylvan beauty did not appeal to the pair in the library. The stout, domineering owner of the Manor who trimmed his nails and smiled blandly had the stronger position of the two, and he knew it well--so well that he could afford to ignore the virile wrath of his ward. Strictly speaking, Captain Burton was not a ward, if that word implies minority. He was thirty years of age, in a lancer regiment, and possessed of an income sufficient to emancipate him from the control of his cousin Gilbert. Still, though possible for one, his income was certainly not possible for two, and if Gilbert chose he could increase his capital by twenty thousand pounds. But the stumbling-block was the condition attached to the disposal of the money. Only if Malet approved of the prospective bride was he to part with the legacy. As such he did not approve of Brenda Scarse, so matters were at a standstill. Nor could Harold well see how he was to move them. Finding all his rage of no avail, he gradually subsided and had recourse to methods more pacific.