by Georgette Heyer
Kate hesitated for a moment. "Mr. Templecombe told me that the engagement won't be announced until next week, but I thought you would wish to know of it earlier, in case--in case you think it wise to warn Torquil, Aunt Minerva."
"My dear child," said her ladyship, mildly amused, "have you lived with us for several weeks without discovering that, with Torquil, it is 'out of sight, out of mind'? Oh, I don't doubt this news will put him into a flame! After that he will glump for a day or two, before forgetting all about it. The case would have been different, of course, had I permitted him to dangle after her."
Kate's brow was wrinkled. She said: "Why didn't you, ma'am? It seems to me such a suitable alliance!"
"I have other plans for Torquill," replied her aunt, lightly. "So, as is seen, had Lady Templecombe for Dorothea!"
Whatever Kate may have thought of this ruthless management of her son, she very soon saw that Lady Broome had exactly gauged the effect of the announcement on him. It did, at first, wind him up; and he talked, in a theatrical way, of Dolly's having sold herself to the highest bidder; but then he fell into the mopes, in which state of mind he was at outs with everyone, ripping up grievances, and subjecting his entourage to Turkish treatment, as Kate roundly informed him. It seemed, for a moment, that he would take violent exception to this reproof, but after staring at her for a blazing instant he suddenly burst out laughing, snatched her into his arms in a breath-taking hug, and exclaimed: "I like you! Oh, I DO like you, coz!"
"Well," said Kate, disengaging herself, "I don't know why you should, but I'm very much obliged to you!" She saw that this rebuff had brought back the lowering look to his face, and added: "Now don't try to come the ugly with me, Torquil, for you'll be taken at fault if you do!"
He looked at her, queerly smiling. "Not afraid of me, are you, coz?"
"Not in the least!"
There was a spark kindling in his eyes; he said softly: "Shall I make you afraid? No, I don't think I will. And yet---and yet---!" His smile grew; he took her face between his slim, strong hands, and turned it up. An indefinable change came into his own face; his eyes grew brighter; his fingers slid down to her throat, and she felt them harden, and quiver.
From the doorway, a stern voice said imperatively: "Torquil!"
Torquil's hands fell; he lifted them again, but to press them over his eyes. Kate, flushing, found herself confronting a stranger, who looked her over rather contemptuously, and then transferred his gaze to Torquil. He seemed but just to have arrived at Staplewood, and to have come from some distance, for he was wearing a long, caped driving-coat, which brushed the heels of his top-boots, and he was carrying his hat and gloves in one hand. He was a tall man, with broad shoulders, and very regular features; and Kate judged him to be about thirty years of age.
A sigh broke from Torquil; he uncovered his eyes, and turned, blinking at the stranger. "Why--why--Philip!" he exclaimed, starting forward with every sign of delight.
The stranger smiled at him. "Well, bantling? How do you do?" he said, holding out his hand.
Torquil clasped it eagerly. "Oh, famously! But how is this? Did we expect you? Have you come to stay?"
"For a day or two. No, you didn't expect me. Am I unwelcome?"
"You will be, with Mama!" said Torquil, giggling. His eyes fell on Kate; he said: "Oh, are you there, coz? This is Philip, you know! Philip, this is Cousin Kate!"
She was too much surprised by his unaffected pleasure in his Cousin Philip's arrival to take more than cursory note of the artless surprise in his voice when he saw that she was still in the room. When she recalled how viciously he had spoken to her of Philip Broome, she could only marvel at him, and congratulate herself on not having believed his accusations.
"Ah, yes!" said Philip, bowing slightly. "Cousin Kate!"
"I don't think I can claim even remote kinship with you, sir," she retorted, nettled by his tone.
"Can't you? Why not?"
"I am merely Lady Broome's half-niece. I can only be, at the best--or worst--a 'connection' of yours!"
This flash of spirit seemed to amuse him; a reluctant smile warmed his eyes;
he said: "Bravo!"
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