“Your narrative, my dear Adam, is altogether admirable. I think I may now take it that we are both well versed in the actual facts, and that our conference had better take the shape of a mutual exchange of ideas. Let us both ask questions as they may arise; and I do not doubt that we shall arrive at some enlightening conclusions.”
“Will you kindly begin, sir? I do not doubt that, with your longer experience, you will be able to dissipate some of the fog which envelops certain of the things which we have to consider.”
“I hope so, my dear boy. For a beginning, then, let me say that Lady Arabella’s letter makes clear some things which she intended—and also some things which she did not intend. But, before I begin to draw deductions, let me ask you a few questions. Adam, are you heart-whole, quite heart-whole, in the matter of Lady Arabella?”
His companion answered at once, each looking the other straight in the eyes during question and answer.
“Lady Arabella, sir, is a charming woman, and I should have deemed it a privilege to meet her—to talk to her—even—since I am in the confessional—to flirt a little with her. But if you mean to ask if my affections are in any way engaged, I can emphatically answer ’No!’—as indeed you will understand when presently I give you the reason. Apart from that, there are the unpleasant details we discussed the other day.”
“Could you—would you mind giving me the reason now? It will help us to understand what is before us, in the way of difficulty.”
“Certainly, sir. My reason, on which I can fully depend, is that I love another woman!”
“That clinches it. May I offer my good wishes, and, I hope, my congratulations?”
“I am proud of your good wishes, sir, and I thank you for them. But it is too soon for congratulations—the lady does not even know my hopes yet. Indeed, I hardly knew them myself, as definite, till this moment.”
“I take it then, Adam, that at the right time I may be allowed to know who the lady is?”
Adam laughed a low, sweet laugh, such as ripples from a happy heart.
“There need not be an hour’s, a minute’s delay. I shall be glad to share my secret with you, sir. The lady, sir, whom I am so happy as to love, and in whom my dreams of life-long happiness are centred, is Mimi Watford!”
“Then, my dear Adam, I need not wait to offer congratulations. She is indeed a very charming young lady. I do not think I ever saw a girl who united in such perfection the qualities of strength of character and sweetness of disposition. With all my heart, I congratulate you. Then I may take it that my question as to your heart-wholeness is answered in the affirmative?”
“Yes; and now, sir, may I ask in turn why the question?”
“Certainly! I asked because it seems to me that we are coming to a point where my questions might be painful to you.”