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Chapter 10 (continued)
Matters were in this state when Lady Wetherby, who, having danced classical dances for three months without a break, required a rest, shifted her camp to the house which she had rented for the summer at Brookport, Long Island, taking with her Algie, her husband, the monkey Eustace, and Claire and Mr Pickering, her guests. The house was a large one, capable of receiving a big party, but she did not wish to entertain on an ambitious scale. The only other guest she proposed to put up was Roscoe Sherriff, her press agent, who was to come down as soon as he could get away from his metropolitan duties.
It was a pleasant and romantic place, the estate which Lady Wetherby had rented. Standing on a hill, the house looked down through green trees on the gleaming waters of the bay. Smooth lawns and shady walks it had, and rustic seats beneath spreading cedars. Yet for all its effect on Dudley Pickering it might have been a gasworks. He roamed the smooth lawns with Claire, and sat with her on the rustic benches and talked guardedly of lubricating oil. There were moments when Claire was almost impelled to forfeit whatever chance she might have had of becoming mistress of thirty million dollars and a flourishing business, for the satisfaction of administering just one whole-hearted slap on his round and thinly-covered head.
And then Roscoe Sherriff came down, and Dudley Pickering, who for days had been using all his resolution to struggle against the siren, suddenly found that there was no siren to struggle against. No sooner had the press agent appeared than Claire deserted him shamelessly and absolutely. She walked with Roscoe Sherriff. Mr Pickering experienced the discomfiting emotions of the man who pushes violently against an abruptly-yielding door, or treads heavily on the top stair where there is no top stair. He was shaken, and the clamlike stolidity which he had assumed as protection gave way.
Night had descended upon Brookport. Eustace, the monkey, was in his little bed; Lord Wetherby in the smoking-room. It was Sunday, the day of rest. Dinner was over, and the remainder of the party were gathered in the drawing-room, with the exception of Mr Pickering, who was smoking a cigar on the porch. A full moon turned Long Island into a fairyland.
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