“Good-bye, Norris! I wish you every sort of good fortune, and if I dared I would say that I wish you a little more heart, a little more understanding, and a little more gratitude!
He folded the letter up and placed it carefully in his coat pocket. Then he went off into the reading-room in search of John Drayton. Life did not seem to him so absolutely simple a thing now, as a few hours ago.
MY NAME IS MILDMAY
“I am quite sure,” Virginia protested, a little shyly, “that you will want it yourself before long.”
The young man laughed pleasantly.
“I am going to run that risk, anyhow,” he said. “Please let me wrap it round you properly, so.”
He did not wait for her consent, but after all she was scarcely prepared to withhold it, for it was a very cold morning, and the young man who had been sitting on the next chair, with an unused rug by his side, was wearing a particularly heavy fur coat.
“I think,” he said, “that it is quite plucky of you to stay up on deck a morning like this. I suppose your people are all below?”
She shook her head.
“My people,” she said, “are a very long way away.”
“Your maid, then,” he suggested. “Useless creatures maids, at a time like this. They are nearly always seasick, especially the first day out.”
Again she shook her head.
“I am travelling quite alone,” she said.
He looked at her in astonishment.
“Alone!” he repeated. “Why, you seem to me much too young. Forgive me, please,” he added, apologetically, “I did not mean to be impertinent. I suppose you are an American?”
“I am,” she admitted.
“Ah! that explains everything,” he remarked with a little gesture of relief. “You belong, then, to the most wonderful race on earth, to the only race who have dared to cross swords with Mrs. Grundy and disarm her.”
“On the contrary,” she declared, “Mrs. Grundy of New York is quite as formidable as Mrs. Grundy of London, only we don’t invoke her quite so often. Still, I will admit that, strictly speaking, I ought not to be travelling alone. The circumstances are very exceptional.”
“I hope,” he said earnestly, “that you will give me the opportunity of looking after you some of the time. I am quite alone, too, and I know no one on board.”
She let her eyes rest for a moment or two upon his face. He was very fair, young, certainly not more than seven or eight and twenty, and reasonably good-looking; but apart from these things, he had eyes which she liked, a voice which was indubitable, and manners which left no possible room for doubt as to his status. She bowed her head alittle gravely.
“You are very kind indeed,” she said. “I have never crossed before, and I am quite sure that if you have the time to spare, you can be ever so useful to me.”