Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Women's Genre Fiction Project

Under Fate's Wheel, an electronic edition

by Lawrence L. Lynch [Van Deventer, Emma Murdoch]

date: [18--?]
source publisher: Ward, Lock & Co., Limited
collection: Genre Fiction

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<< chapter 10 chapter 30 >>

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AS the train slows up before the station at Lee, Hope's glances are roving about the platform in search of her brother's tall figure, which is nowhere in sight. But she sees the pony-carriage across the street in charge of a small boy, and hurries out.

At the top of the car steps leading down to the station platform she stops and stares, aghast, transfixed, at sight of her aunt. Her Aunt Cass standing calmly just below, arrayed in a short, blue bicycle frock, russet boots, and an Alpine hat; and it needs a sharp poke from an anxious old lady, just behind her, to rouse her and bring her back to a sense of the situation.

"Where is Fee?" she asks, when she has clasped the gauntleted hand of the waiting spinster, and they are moving toward the pony-carriage.

"I'm sure I don't know! I looked to him to fetch you, and it is just by chance that I came in, with my wheel, in time to come for you myself."

She utters the word "wheel" with utmost nonchalance.

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"With your wheel! Oh, Aunt Cass I"

Aunt Cass gathers up the reins, and shakes long whip over the ears of the fat ponies. She has no notion of accounting for her deeds to this "chit of a girl."

"Oh, I don't propose to be a fossil, if I am a spinster," she says airily. "Besides, I was getting too fat! Don't you think it's giving me a fine colour--the exercise?" and she turns her face toward the now amused girl, with the utmost coolness.

"It has given you a fine black and blue colour, just under that lock of hair you have drawn down so artfully, Miss Chetwynde; and as you are bound to have it out of me sooner or later, I'll tell you now, that the rig, bloomers and all, is very becoming, you'll shame half the girls. Come, Auntie, tell me--how did you come to do it?"

"Well--I had to do something. And I got sort of--fascinated by what seemed to me the difficulty of the thing."

"I declare, I shall never dare leave you again, Aunt Cass, lest you take to ground and lofty tumbling in my absence."

"I've already taken to that. It's the same thing, quite," and the little spinster smiles grimly at her own recollections.

"One might fancy," Hope goes on smilingly, "that Felix has not been doing his duty. Has he quite forsaken you for the Redlands?"

"Felix has been very attentive, very!" Here the ponies get a sharp stroke of the whip and dash off in haste. "And it's you he has forsaken for Redlands. | | 129 Mrs. Hilton took luncheon with me, and told me that Felix and Miss Lorna were off for the afternoon on a bicycle tour."

"Oh--indeed!" there is a little note of displeasure in Hope's voice. "Well, so long as he does not seek to annex more of Redlands than he can entertain, I am quite content."

"Hope Chetwynde!"--Aunt Cass suddenly pulls up the ponies, and holds them down to a slow trot--"for a girl of your good sense, you can be the most ridiculous upon occasion! Why should you set yourself up for a prude because your brother Felix has made a few foolish speeches about Loyd Hilton and yourself? I don't think any too much of Fee Chetwynde's delicacy, goodness knows; but I don't think that the conversation which he repeated to you, as between himself and young Hilton, ever took place! The poor fellow had never so much as seen you at the time; and in my opinion, all Fee's foolish talk about Hilton's desire to 'exchange sisters,' and the absurd plans for the 'trade,' all took form in Fee's own brain when--"

"Well?--when--go on, Aunt."

"When Fee had been taking too much wine--there!"

"And may not Mr. Hilton have taken 'too much wine?'"

"No! Mr. Hilton, I happen to know, never touches wine." With Miss Cassandra to be angry was to be emphatic.

"And--what does all this lead up to--Auntie?" Hope's voice is cold now.

"Simply to the thought that you might very well | | 130 be more agreeable, more hospitable, to the ladies at Redlands. You may snub the male contingent to your heart's content. Goodness knows, I'm no matchmaker."

Dinner, at the villa, is late; for the ladies have waited for the return of Felix until they, or the cook, will wait no longer.

"It is unusual for Felix to remain so long at Redlands; and as for dining there, that is out of the question," Aunt Cass declares, "quite out of the question; for the Hiltons dine ceremoniously, and Felix is in his cycling costume."

"Even if he must dine with his lady fair, after a long afternoon spent in her society," grumbles the spinster, "he could run home for a dress suit. It is only two miles, a ten-minutes' ride on his wheel."

They have much to say to each other, these two, who are, in spite of their differences, such devoted friends; and while they wonder at his absence, they do not feel alarmed when at bedtime, which comes early at the villa, Felix is absent still.

"It's not very flattering to me!" Hope says, as she turns at the foot of the stairs to bid her aunt a last good-night. "And I can't say that I fancy passing the night without a protector in the house."

"I've got a 'protector' in my part of the house!" snaps Aunt Cass.

"Oh--your pistol, yes! I wonder if you would really use it at need?"

"You'll see, if the occasion comes. I only hope Felix won't try to pass himself off for a house- | | 131 breaker when he comes in, as he's sure to do, some time in the small hours."

But the small hours pass, and Felix Chetwynde does not come.

It is eleven o'clock when Hope goes up to her room, and she is still restless and wakeful. She is surprised, and a little hurt, at her brother's non-appearance, and when she has pondered over this, she is reminded in some way of the note in her chatelaine, and she reads it again slowly, and with a growing interest.

"I wonder for whom this was intended?" she murmurs, "and how it came in my lap all unseen by me! It's lucky for me that I have no lover, otherwise I might pass an uneasy night, in consequence of its ghastly warning."

. . . . . . .

While Hope is still pondering over this mysterious note, two young men are seated in the summer-house by the lake at Redlands, close together, and conversing in low whispers. They have been thus for an hour at least, and they are now about to separate.

As they rise and stand face to face in the dark both faces are pale and serious, and one is despondent as well. The other, that of the taller and larger young man, is resolute and stern as he takes the other's hand in the darkness.

"I must go, Loyd," he says, with a sigh; "and, I repeat it, you must play your part! It is hard, I know, but it is not for yourself. All that I can do, by drawing the inquiry away from you, I shall do--and--"

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"It's that that I can't bear, Terry!" Loyd says. "You are taking my deed upon yourself, or, at least, inviting suspicion toward yourself. It is horrible! It unmans me!"

"It must not. We are both working to save her a blow that she might never outlive. I thank heaven that her long faint has dulled her memory, and that she does not know all. She never shall know if I--if we can prevent it! Come, old fellow, your part is by far the hardest--I know that."

"I think I could get through with the rest, if only--if he were not lying out there stark and cold. If only the body were housed--cared for, Terry!" catching his friend's arm in a convulsive grasp. "I had almost forgot that pistol--why--"

"Why did I throw it across where I did? Don't you know? It--it was his weapon, was it not?"

"Yes. How did you know?"

"I saw his wheel out there where you had left it, and I knew his whim--his fancy for strapping the little weapon upon his tool-case when he rode through the wood paths. He would not lose a shot at rabbit, or what not." He started. "There's another thing. Strange how one forgets these hateful details. When I went to look--you know--after I had gotten the wheels ready, I noticed a queer thing."


"Close beside him, sticking almost upright in the bushes, was a cane."


"Yes. Do you remember that heavy ornate cane which we saw in his room one day, and which he | | 133 declared so valuable? It was the same cane; I could almost swear to it."

"Why, he rode one of my wheels. Why should he encumber himself with that?"

"Then he did not take it from your place?"

"No; how could he?"

"It's very strange! I saw him on his way to Redlands. I was sitting near the roadside, concealed from sight by the fringe of bushes about me--I'll tell you how I came there later on, if necessary--and he passed. Something went wrong with his tyre, and he stopped a little beyond me. He had no cane, I could swear."

He turns as if to go, and Hilton sighs heavily. "Loyd," he says, putting a strong hand upon the other's shoulder, "put this thing off your mind. You must not show anxiety, remember, and, about him, be easy. The body shall be found in the morning, early."

. . . . . . .

"Aunt Cass, I am getting uneasy, and I am going to ride over to Redlands and make some inquiries about Felix."

The ladies have breakfasted on the morning after Hope's home-coming. After ascertaining that Felix is not yet in his room, and now, as they came out from the morning-room, Hope's face takes on the look of decision which her aunt has learned to know and not to combat.

"You are going to ride?"

"Yes. I'd rather go alone, Auntie, if you don't mind. I'm sufficiently acquainted to go so, and--it would look too inquisitorial for both to go."

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"We might merely call."

"No. I'm not in the mood for a mere call. It's borne in upon me that something is wrong with Felix, and I mean to find out the truth. He's taken absolutely nothing, except his wheel. Besides, there are reasons--business reasons--why he should have been eager to meet me last night."

"If anything serious has happened," Miss Chetwynde says, "one of us should certainly be at home. I will be that one, and I will order your horse while you go and dress."

The spinster sees her niece ride away upon her handsome bay hunter, and then goes to her own room, where she stands for a moment, with a hand upon her desk, which still contains the letter taken from the brier rose bush.

"It may explain his absence," she muses, referring to the letter; "and perhaps I ought to read it." A moment her hand hovers above the locked desk, then it falls at her side.

"I'll wait," she murmurs. "There is such a thing as knowing too much!"

Before many hours have passed Aunt Cassandra had reason to be glad of this decision.

Terence Glynne has been for some weeks an occupant of one of the pretty "fishing cottages," so called, at Lee, which charming little village is, after all, but a suburb of the big Lakeside city. A young artist, with a taste for "marines," is his housemate, and the two, singly or together, have become familiar figures along the Lake shore and about the pleasant country roads.

Always an early riser, Hope Chetwynde is out | | 135 unusually early this morning, and the dew still glistens upon the wayside grass when she runs her horse out from the main road to take the less travelled one leading south-east to Redlands.

At the turn of the path her horse bounds aside at sight of two figures just beyond, and when Hope has him again in hand she recognises Terence Glynne and his artist friend.

While she has obstinately held to her determination not to meet or know Loyd Hilton, she has allowed Felix to present this other friend, and the two have met on several occasions before her sudden flitting to the mountains.

He approaches her now with many apologies, and she loses no time in telling him her anxiety and the cause of her early canter.

"There are such strong reasons why my brother should be at home, this morning at least," she says, in conclusion, "and I am riding to Redlands, where he went, as I am told, yesterday. Can you give me any news of him, Mr. Glynne?"

Terence Glynne's face is very grave as he answers, "I saw your brother yesterday morning, Miss Chetwynde, and talked with him for a half-hour at his own door. I had been out on my wheel then, as now."

"And--you left him there?"

"I left him there. I remember looking back as I rode out through the gate and saw him reading a letter upon the piazza."

"And--did he speak of his plans--for the day, perhaps?"

Glynne looks away down the white road as he | | 136 answers, "Chetwynde was in outing dress, and I think he mentioned a ride, but where, or when, I do not recall." He turns back and meets her eyes.

"If you have any hint, any clue, that I can follow out, Miss Chetwynde, my friend and I will willingly aid you in your search."

"I am going to Redlands," she says, gathering up her reins, "and, should I get no news there--which way were you going?"

"My friend Harley wants to sketch the old bridge at the Heights."

"Then I will not detain you. If I get no news at Redlands I will ask for your aid, Mr. Glynne. I hoped, when I saw you, that you could at least guess where he might be." She bows and hastens on.

Terence Glynne shakes his head silently as she gallops away, and goes back to the fence corer, where Fred Harley is busily repairing a punctured tyre.

"Harley," he says hoarsely, "Felix Chetwynde left home with his wheel yesterday, and has not returned, and I have proffered our assistance. She thinks he came this way, and something--a fit, a sprain, or other hurt--may have left him helpless. If you will take the cart path up I will follow the other I one. We can meet--where?"

"Why not at the bridge? If either one fails to be there the other can come on around the circuit."

"Very well."

As Harley completes his task and rises to mount his wheel he says to Glynne, who is turning toward the westward path--

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"I say, wouldn't he be discovered before now if he was hurt in these woods?"

"Not necessarily. It is not a regular carriage road, you must know. There are no houses nearer than Redlands, and the woods are never hunted now. These two paths have only lately been cleared for the use of wheels, mostly by Hilton and his friends. It's really quite an isolated wood road."

"All right; we'll beat it the more carefully."

As Harley turns away Glynne calls to him over his shoulder--

"Oh, Fred! I heard yesterday that the old bridge at the ravine is unsafe. I wouldn't cross it."

"All--right!" comes the reply from farther down the path, and the two have gone their separate, useless ways.

Half an hour later Terence Glynne, sitting, with pale face and clenched teeth, beside the path half way up the slope, sees his friend wheeling recklessly toward him white faced and panting.

"He's found it," mutters the watcher. "God I how much more of this must I endure! It's horrible."

"Glynne--my God!" cries Harley, when he is near enough to be heard. "There's a man--Chetwynde, no doubt--lying in a clump of brush on the south side of the ravine, and the bridge is down. It must be Chetwynde, though I can't see his face or tell if he's alive or dead; but he's dressed in a corduroy suit, and there's a wheel close by against a tree. Say," as he slips from his wheel beside his friend, "what's the trouble?"

Glynne rises with a slight limp and shows a big rent in his tyre,

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"I took a header and my tool case is missing; I had forgotten. Never mind me, Harley; you must ride on at once to Redlands, if you don't meet Miss Chetwynde on the way, and tell them what you've seen. Leave me your tool kit; I'll come on as fast as I can. We must not delay a moment."

"It's a queer first call," declares Harley, "and a beastly errand. But you're right. There's been too much delay already, I'm thinking. Hope you have not lamed yourself badly, Terry," and he speeds off.

"Lamed myself!" groans Terence Glynne, as his messenger rushes on. "I'll have a moral limp for life! I feel like a cheat, a cad, a scoundrel, and yet--I'd do it over again for her!"

. . . . . . .

Mrs. Hilton is the ideal stepmother, and the twins are her companions and confidantes. When Lorna arrived at Redlands, with only her brother as escort--for Glynne had left them just beyond the eastward turn, and out of sight from the house or grounds--she was too weak to talk, and was glad to be allowed to go directly to her room and her bed. The shock had been a severe one, but Mrs. Hilton was a wise and tender nurse, and she soon had the girl asleep under the influence of a harmless sedative. When this was accomplished Loyd called her into his own den, and, sitting before her face to face, told her the truth, all of it, so far as he knew it.

"I could not keep this horrible thing from you, mother," he said. "I need your help, your advice, your sympathy. Glynne says that I must remain | | 139 silent, but it will be horribly hard, and if it were not for her I could not."

"My dear boy," she replied, taking both his hands between her own, "Mr. Glynne was right, and you must bear this thing in silence. It would spoil your sister's whole life if it were known. But I hope and pray that she may forget at least the last and worst horror."

"But, mother, I don't see how."

"Loyd, do you know what power it was that held your sister for hours under the spell, and that came so near being fatal to her happiness, if not her life?"

"No, I do not understand."

"It was hypnotism! Felix Chetwynde was a hypnotist, and he has lost his life through trying to use his power dishonourably. It is a terrible complication, my dear boy, but it might have been even worse--for her. The hypnotised seldom remember, and I hope Lorna will have forgotten the worst, if not the most."

And in the morning this is what happens. Lorna recalls a scene, a declaration, and a swoon, and no more; and the fallen bridge, the long hours, all seem blotted from her memory.

She awakes feverish, and ill too, and Mrs. Hilton is actually glad that she can deny her to visitors, and set a faithful maid on guard over her young lady's chamber.

And Mrs. Hilton, too, is on guard, knowing well what must come.

When Hope, in her dark green habit, enters her presence, Mrs. Hilton, heart-sore for the grief which | | 140 she knows is so near the fair and stately girl, and yet determined to stand between her own dear ones and any ill which her hand or tongue can avert, greets her with gentle cordiality, and listens to her story with evident solicitude and sympathy.

She has not been able to shape her own course, not knowing how the attack will come, but as Hope speaks her resolve is suddenly taken. Half truths are weapons strong and dangerous, but Mrs. Hilton grasps at the chance to use them for what she believes to be the general good.

"I should not have ventured to call here," so Hope concludes her story, "if Aunt Cassandra had not told me that Felix had made an appointment with Miss Hilton. If he kept that appointment she must have seen him as late as yesterday afternoon, and she might-"

"Miss Chetwynde"--the lady's voice is soft, sympathetic, and calm--"sit down here beside me and let me tell you--what I can. Lorna is ill this morning--unable to leave her room in fact--and I fear you cannot see her. She came home yesterday very much distressed and agitated, and I feared one of her nervous attacks. They have been brought on before by too much cycling. Lorna is quite too enthusiastic as a wheelwoman. I feared too she had ridden too far. But--there was more than that."

"More! What do you mean?"

"I am going to tell you. Do not look so apprehensive, my dear. Lorna has few, if any, secrets from me; and this is what she told me. You will forgive me if I pain you. It is best to be frank--if one can."

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"It is best always," Hope breaks in. "Do not fear to speak. I think--I can anticipate--a little."

"Ah!" the other looks at her curiously. "You know then, perhaps, what your brother's feelings were toward my girl?"

Hope nods silently.

"They went out, it seems, for a ride in the direction of Elm Heights, but paused here and there on the way, and during a pause, it seems, your brother began to talk of his feelings. I suppose he must have felt quite certain of success, for it seems that when Lorna understood him, and let him see that she could not feel for him as he wished, he lost his head a little, and said things that were wild, and that frightened Lorna so much that she felt she must leave him. In fact, not to dilate uselessly upon so unpleasant a subject, they separated, and Lorna turned homeward."


"Let me explain. Some time after they had set out Loyd came in and was told that Lorna was out with her wheel. He had meant to ask her to ride with him into Lee; but he set out alone. Not far from here he met several wheelmen, and stopped to speak with Mr. Glynne, who was on his way to call upon us, having decided to go away from Lee for a time. Of course Loyd regretted Lorna's absence and said so, adding that she had gone towards the Heights upon her wheel; whereupon Mr. Glynne told him that he had heard the bridge across the ravine pronounced unsafe for even a foot passenger, and that it was to be torn down at once. At first Loyd gave no thought to the unsafe bridge, know- | | 142 ing that his sister was with a gentleman, but later it occurred to him that they might attempt to cross the bridge, that your brother might not be aware of its condition, and he turned back."

"With Mr. Glynne?"

"Mr. Glynne had given up his call upon meeting Loyd, and--they had separated. Loyd went on, alone, and before he reached the bridge he came upon Lorna--and brought her home."

"And--Felix? Pardon me, Mrs. Hilton, I do not quite comprehend. Am I to believe that my brother left Miss Hilton--was not with her?"

"He was not--with her--when she came to Loyd,--when they met."

"But--where did he go--how--"

Mrs. Hilton's soft hand is placed upon the girl's nervous palm.

"Miss Chetwynde, I have yet to tell you the most painful part of my story, and you will then understand why I have told it you at all. It is a thing which I trust will not be allowed to go beyond us two, for your brother's sake and for Lorna's. The poor dazed child was not able to explain at all points; there were such strange blanks in her story that I was compelled to question her closely, and what she said and left unsaid has convinced me."

"Of what!" Mrs. Hilton. "What are you leading up to so carefully?"

"Did you ever know, or guess, that your brother was, to some extent, a hypnotist?"

"A--hyp-notist!" The blood goes slowly from Hope Chetwynde's cheeks. "I did not--know."

"It is the truth." Mrs. Hilton rises, and there is | | 143 just a hint of coldness in her voice. "Lorna knows nothing of the science, and therefore she attributes her hazy and broken remembrance of their interview to the fright and shock caused by his insistence and final rage. But I know, and when I had heard her story I should have guessed, even if your aunt had not confirmed the opinion, that Mr. Chetwynde was a hypnotist, and that he had very nearly won Lorna's consent to a hasty marriage through his powers as such. Your brother, when Lorna last remembers him, was an angry and disappointed man, and if he has not returned it may be that--that it is because of this. And now, will you keep this matter--for his sake, for Lorna's, for all our sakes--a secret, whatever happens? Your aunt will confirm what I have said--she knows."

Hope Chetwynde rises and moves slowly toward the door. Strange thoughts are flitting through her mind. Light words, uttered in badinage and boasting, and soft tones. She turns, with extended hand, at the door, but speech comes with difficulty.

"I thank you," she says, between two breaths. "And--you may trust me to keep your--our secret. I think I will not--look--further."

At the very door of exit they come face to face with Loyd Hilton, pale, grave, and preoccupied. He starts as his step-mother names each to each, and Hope flushes, and pales again, at the thought that here, at last--after many flights and evasions--at his own threshold, she has met and been presented to Loyd Hilton.

In her momentary confusion she half extends her hand; but he does not seem to see it, and the | | 144 next moment they are descending the steps, toward the lower terrace where her horse awaits her.

"You have not yet adopted the popular craze, I believe," Mrs. Hilton says, by way of conversation, and to spare Loyd, whose face is set and strained, and Hope merely answers "No." As he lifts her to her saddle with an ease and spring which is a surprise to her, and which causes her to look down with wonder at the slight figure which marks so much muscular power.

It is the first time that Hope has ever replied to a like query in the same brief way without adding, "I detest the bicycle."

As she gathers up her reins to ride away something comes rushing down the lane from the high road and wheels into the drive. It is Fred Harley upon his racing-wheel, and he flings himself off, regardless of Hope's curvetting horse, or of the others standing by.

"Miss Chetwynde!" he pants, "I--I'm horribly afraid I have bad news for you!" They are looking frightenedly straight at each other, and do not see the glance exchanged by Loyd Hilton and his step-mother. "The--the old bridge across the ravine is down; and-and there is a body--a man, I mean, lying upon the further side, in the bushes. I--I could not see his face; but--but he is dressed in a brown corduroy suit, and there is a wheel--near him!"

There is a cry from Hope, an inarticulate murmur from those behind her, and then Loyd Hilton steps forward, saying firmly, almost coldly--

"There is no way of crossing that ravine, Miss | | 145 Chetwynde, if the bridge is gone; and, pardon me, the quickest way to reach the place is by train, from Lee to Lakeville. There is one in just half an hour. Shall I send, or go? I am entirely at your disposal."

"Thanks." Hope's eyes are full of horror, but her mouth is set. "Go--one of you--go by all means--to Lee. As for me I must know at once!" She strikes her horse sharply with her whip, and is off and out in the lane before they can think. They watch her breathlessly, until she wheels her horse into the eastern path, and thus Harley exclaims--

"She is going there to see for herself. Shall you take your wheel, Hilton?"

As Loyd Hilton turns, in a dazed, strange manner, toward the speaker, Mrs. Hilton lays a restraining hand upon his arm.

"Loyd, I think you had better remain nearer home. There is much to do at the villa, and, as the nearest neighbour, we should give our services there where there are only women. Mr.--Mr. Harley, will not you go on to Lakeville, and take some one with you? Doctor Jarvis is their family physician while here. He is the very man."

Harley is more than willing, and he knows what should be done.

"I will get there in time to take the sheriff's deputy along. It is his business," he says. And he goes, with no further ceremony, and at the top of his speed.

And now Mrs. Hilton turns to Loyd. "My dear Loyd," she says sadly, "you must remain here for the present. I will go to the Chetwyndes."

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"Trust me;" she stops him with a gesture as she speaks. "I shall know what to do. Call the carriage for me please."

As the pony carriage swings into the highway, not far from the Redlands by road, it comes upon Terence Glynne, walking slowly, and leading a disabled wheel. Mrs. Hilton stops her ponies.

"Mr. Glynne," she calls--"one moment. We have bad news from the Chetwyndes. Mr. Felix they fear has met with an injury. I am on my way to the villa, and I wish you would go to Loyd, who will explain more fully. We may need you both soon. Indeed, it may be wise and kind for you both to call, say in an hour from now."

Glynne lifts his hat and turns toward Redlands.

"If she only knew!" he mutters.

But Mrs. Hilton does know his part in the tragedy of yesterday, though Loyd, in telling his story, has been careful to picture his friend as both brave and magnanimous.

A little further on, and Hope Chetwynde races past the leisurely ponies.

"It is he!" she calls across her shoulder, and flies on, her eyes white and set, her eyes horror-stricken.

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