As he spoke, Captain Yorke advanced to the door and extended his hand to assist the occupant of the vehicle to alight, but Betty, ignoring assistance, attempted to spring past him to the ground. As the willful maiden did so the topknot of her hood caught in a provoking nail of the open door and was violently pulled from her head: and as her lovely, rosy face almost brushed his sleeve, Geoffrey started back with a low cry,—
A MAID’S CAPRICE
“Mistress Betty, sir,” came the swift whisper in retort, and with so haughty a gesture that Geoffrey stepped back as if he had been struck, while Betty, with a slight inclination of her head, passed on to where Mrs. Seymour stood with Caesar on the other side of the coach. But if she expected him to follow she was swiftly made aware of her mistake, for Geoffrey merely pursued his intention of searching the pockets of the coach, and when he emerged from it he came, hat in hand, toward the ladies with face more calm and unruffled than Betty’s own.
“If you will resume your seats,” he said, addressing Mrs. Seymour, without a glance at Betty, who (now that her anger born partly of terror had passed) stole a quick look at him, and as quickly looked away, “I will ride on before you and be waiting at the river; if it be safe, you will cross on horseback; if not, on foot, and I shall take great pleasure in seeing that you reach King’s Bridge Inn in safety.” Whereupon he escorted Mrs. Seymour to the coach, and when he turned to assist Betty found that she was in the act of climbing inside by the other door, where Caesar stood in attendance.
“What a provoking child it is!” said Geoffrey to himself as he flung into his saddle, smiling at the recollection of Betty’s rebuke and proud little toss of her head. “‘Mistress Betty’! Very well, so be it; and thanks to the star of good fortune which guided my steps up the road to-day. I wonder how she comes here, and why,” and Captain Yorke gave his horse the spur as he galloped on.
Some distance behind him the coach lumbered forward, and Mrs. Seymour’s tongue rattled on gayly. So engrossed was she with being nearly at her journey’s end, and their good luck at having fallen in with Yorke, that Betty’s silence passed unnoticed.
“To think that we should meet again,” ran Betty’s thoughts. “‘Betty,’ forsooth! How dare he use my name so freely! What would Mrs. Seymour have thought had she heard him, and how could I possibly have explained with any air of truth unless I told her the whole story—which I would rather die at once than do. He has not changed at all; I should have known him anywhere, even in that hateful scarlet coat, which becomes him so mightily. I wonder if my rebuke was too severe”—and here she became conscious of Mrs. Seymour again.
“Yorke—did not that handsome young officer say his name was Yorke? Why, then he must have some kinship with the Earl of Hardwicke; very probably this young man may be a grandson of the earl. I must ask my sister; she will have some information about it.”