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not think there will be much time for writing."
"Not likely," Jem assented. "Mr Meredith seemed very nice, don't you think?" she went on. "He is very quiet, but he looked kind; and even the little children did not seem to mind him, and Mrs Meredith was rather afraid they might not like him."
With this view of the case Jem Moore coincided-in fact, he quite endorsed her summing-up of Mr Meredith as a husband and father, adding thereto that he preferred the silence to what might have been. "I was rather afraid, miss, as I told you once, as to what sort of a man he might be, but I was glad when I saw he wasn't a jabberer!"
Certainly no one could bring that accusation against him. And in this fact he seemed to take much comfort, and Felicity Brooke also reflectively, as to the future prosperity of the Meredith family.
After that parting there was nothing to do but to return to the captain and listen to the plans for to-day and to-morrow. But whatever sorrow might have been at her heart, she kept up a good spirit: there was no reflection of it on her face, no tone of it in her voice. She never alluded again to the future, or of the fate that was awaiting her; she did not even give Captain Baxter the chance of offering all the sympathy with which his kind heart was overflowing.
"Mrs Davis will take you ashore," he said, "and you must rig yourself out with all you want."
"I was going to ask you," she said, and she grew rather red, "if you would lend me some money. Bob will send it back directly, I know. I can't pay him till I
come of age, but he will wait-he is very generous."
"Oh, the money is all right," Captain Baxter replied, brusquely. "Tell me what you want; or, perhaps, I had better speak to Mrs Davis."
"Yes, that will be much better," Felicity assented. "I don't think I told you before, but when I am twenty-one I shall be very rich, and then I mean to live with Bob: we settled that the last time I saw him."
"How old is he?" the captain asked, tenderly curious.
"He is one year older than I am. Time goes very slowly, does it not?"
But the captain could not echo the reflection, and it was with a laugh they went out to look for Mrs Davis.
Even the next day, when he took her on board the France, and gave her into the charge of the new captain, and the very last moment had arrived, there was still no flinching, no fear of what was to come, no outward lack of courage. It was there, Captain Baxter knew, when he felt the slim, sunburnt hand cling to his : he recognised something of what she was enduring in that convulsive clasp, guessed more when he noted how the rich colour had faded, and how often the red lips quivered. But there was not a word to show it, or to ask for the sympathy he was so ready to bestow, and which her silence kept out of reach; but it was that knowledge that made him stoop his grey head and kiss her smooth cheek when he said good-byethat knowledge that prompted his thoughts of her as he drove away afterwards, "A beautiful child!-and what courage-what courage!"
"Though Love do all that Love can do, My heart will never ache or break For your heart's sake.'
London at the very height of the season. Dusty already, and hot, though it was still early in June, and the night air was pleasant and refreshing; so thought at least Sir Aymer Digby, as, leaving his hansom, he mounted slowly the steps of a great house in a fashionable square.
"It is three years,―more," he reflected, "since I was in a ballroom. I wonder what is taking me to-night?"
But he did not really wonder, only we are all inclined to keep up those little fictions, even with ourselves.
"Aymer, so you have returned! I did not believe it, and am all the more glad to see you. Come and tell me what you have been doing."
My dear Ferris, I have far more to learn than to tell. I feel like an outer barbarian. Come, instruct me. Tell me all about everybody."
But the whole time he stood talking with his old friend, he was well aware of all that went on around, of almost every passer-by in the crowded rooms; was well aware, though he never turned his head, when a beautiful blonde woman passed slowly by, her hand on the arm of an old man, whose age was scarcely concealed, under all the assistance that art could give. So close did they pass, that the golden brocade of her train swept against him, brocade scarcely more golden than the rich plaits of hair, under their diamond coronet; so close that his friend paused a moment before he risked his comment.
"The Duchess of Huntingdon, as beautiful as ever-hers is a beauty that time does not seem to touch."
And at the same moment, "She smiled oftener when I knew her," the other man was thinking, as she mingled with the crowd.
Yes, it was for that he had come here with some vague idea of testing his own weakness and strength, that he was standing in this brilliant room, amongst all the greatest in the land; and it was with a wave of thankfulness he recognised that the wound had healed, that the cold, beautiful face in which he had once read his fate, now held no power to sway him either to grief or joy. It had been a slow, agonising recovery, but the wound had healed at length.
And all the time his friend was slowly remembering the old story, cursing the luck that had made him revive it, by his passing allusion to a woman whose name could only call up bitter or unhappy thoughts.
"The new beauty is better worth looking at," with nervous anxiety to say something, and a nervous consciousness that he had said the wrong thing.
But Aymer Digby seemed unaware of it.
"You must point her out to me," he said, carelessly; all the time he was rejoicing over his regained strength- rejoicing that he had proved it, and that he need fear no more.
'There, look to your right,”—he was conscious of his friend's words, of a light touch on his arm, and,
glancing in the direction indicated, became aware of a small group, the centre of which was evidently the girl in question. He could not see her distinctly, her head was bent, he could only vaguely distinguish a beautiful figure clad in white satin, that fell in straight folds, and was devoid of flounces and ornaments alike,-of a white throat, round which was clasped a single string of pearls, of pearls twisted into thick, dark hair; then the bent head was lifted, and she walked away, a very straight, beautiful-yes, certainly beautiful -young figure, and disappeared with her partner.
But he saw her again: this time she was talking to the man who had pointed her out to him, and he watched her with a certain idle curiosity, a certain half-careless wonder as to what would be
the end of her story. This first chapter reminded him of another story that fair-haired young man who hovered near her was probably the hero of the romance; and then he smiled at the thought of how much he had conjectured.
"What do you think of her?" His friend was back by his side. Beautiful, is she not? It is no wonder she has turned everyone's head.'
"Beautiful," Sir Aymer repeated, vaguely. "Well, good-night, I have had a look round. I am going to slip away. Balls are not in my
"Oh, you must speak to her first. I have come on purpose to fetch you. She says she knows you."
"Knows me, my dear fellow! that must be a delusion." He was moving slowly away as he spoke. "Why," raising his eyes and looking slowly and deliberately towards where she stood,
"she must have been in the nursery when I left England."
He had made his escape this time. A sudden channel had opened in the crowd. With a parting nod he had gone, and Tom Ferris was left alone. A few minutes later he was back by the girl's side.
"Did you tell him?" she began, eagerly.
Mr Ferris shook his head. "You are mistaken. He says he has never seen you before-that he has been out of England for years"
"There, Felicity, now you see," broke in the fair-haired boy-he to whom had been assigned the part of hero-"now you see what comes of seeking out new adorers instead of resting content with faithful people like me."
"How tiresome you are, Jack," half turning her head. "Did you tell him my name?" addressing again her unlucky messenger. "No? Perhaps he might remember it"-her voice was not very assured-"if you were to tell him. He ought to remember me," she added more confidently; "he once saved my life."
There was no resisting the petition in the dark eyes. Mr Ferris said not another word, but turned back and fought his way through the crowd, till, in the very last room of all, he found himself once more by Aymer Digby's side.
"Going?" he questioned.
"No, I have come after you to ask you to reconsider what you said just now. Miss Brooke is certain that she has met you, and she wishes to speak to you."
"Miss Brooke, did you say? Of course I remember her. I met her once-it was several years ago."
"It seems to have been a memorable meeting?"
Sir Aymer looked at the speaker, quickly, suspiciously, but "She was only a child in those days" was all he said.
"Here he comes," the fairhaired boy observed. "Cheer up, Felicity; the advantage of being six feet two is, that I can see our Gallant Preserver being somewhat unwillingly led hither just when he thought he had caped."
"How do you do, Miss Brooke? How clever of you to recognise me." He had taken her hand, and was now standing beside her, striving to recall the child he only half remembered in the beautiful radiant girl before him. Yes, of course, now he knew it, he could trace the likeness-the same rich warm colouring and red mouth, the same dark curls, fastened up now in some way that suited the fashion, and yet which bore the same resemblance that Hilda had noted years ago to those of Henrietta Maria; and now that she looked up, the great dark eyes were just the same-they had not changed in the least. They met his own with the same frank honesty as of old.
But when he had exchanged a few commonplaces, there seemed nothing more to say. With so many possible listeners he was afraid of alluding to the past, which might easily have come to be considered a sealed book; and beyond that one mutual experience, what was there he could find to say to a girl of her age? Escape was once more in mind
"Don't you dance?" Felicity's voice questioned.
"No; I am afraid I have long passed the dancing age,' and he
smiled. that it is not for the sake of conversation we are here to-night; that can be postponed. Don't let me keep you from your partner," looking round until his eyes rested on Jack Curzon.
"But that reminds me
"Let me throw myself into the breach, Felicity. Now you see what comes of saying you are engaged when you are not! To save appearances, you will have to dance with me, though you said you would not."
"You do dance so badly," she said; but she had flushed scarlet at his words.
"I know I do-vilely; but still I am better than no one. ""
Sir Aymer made no observation; there seemed nothing else to be done. She put her hand on Jack's arm and turned away.
"He had quite forgotten me," she said, defiantly, standing still a moment later. "Did you notice it?" turning to her partner.
"My dear Felicity, incredible as it may appear, I think there was no possibility of not noticing it; and considering how you have insisted on our admiring him-both Bob and I-it would have been polite if you had introduced me to him."
"I am so sorry-I never thought of it."
"Comfort yourself with the reflection that, to judge from his speaking countenance, he had had quite enough honour in making the acquaintance of one member of the family."
But even this scathing observation failed to draw forth any rejoinder.
"Quite and entirely cured;" that was what Aymer Digby was saying to himself again, as he walked home slowly under the stars. "I shall always be thank
After that evening he often met Felicity Brooke. He called on her, and was presented to her aunt-a very ill-tempered-looking person, to whom he vainly strove to make himself agreeable. But though he saw her often, it was always when other people were present, which made it difficult to talk of the past, though she had alluded to it, had spoken of their mutual acquaintances on board the City of Prague, who, as far as he was concerned, had long ago passed into the unreal world of shadows. He had been shown Jem Moore's letter announcing his joining another ship. The letter had amused him, with its quaint wording and details of life, and the scraps of information he had picked up about the Merediths. The P.S. especially had touched his sense of humour:
the centre of a crowd of admirers, or else Lady Brooke was a silent listener to every word, in which case, by mutual consent, the past Iwas not referred to. But whoever came or went, Jack Curzon was always in attendance.
Standing watching her one morning as she rode in the Park, Aymer Digby was joined by his friend Ferris.
"She looks very well on 8 horse, does she not?" following the direction of Aymer's eyes. "Do you know her brother?" he went on. "No? He is at college -a nice boy. He has had the best of it, I expect."
"In what way?"
Well, I don't expect Lady Brooke is a particularly agreeable person to live with."
"No, I should think not," and Aymer Digby smiled; "but I expect she has her match in her niece."
Oh, I don't know; a girl has not much chance with a woman of that sort. Her husband was Miss Brooke's uncle-father's brotherand was left her guardian. Then he died, and the duties devolved on this good lady. Bob of course went off to school and college; I don't think he troubled the domestic portals much, and this girl was left in the charge of a match - making mother, with two daughters of her own to marry."
"She married them, I suppose?" Sir Aymer questioned.
"Yes, very well, according to her own views. I never saw two girls out of whom all spirit had been so completely taken; they scarcely dared to speak without leave! And then the path clear, the daughters out of the way, a niece who brings five hundred ayear to the housekeeping is an agreeable addition."