“And you will be a widower!” reply I, with a bitter smile.
Barbara is as obstinate as I am. She, too, seems to prefer the spite of the elements to disturbing the tete-a-tete in the coach. Musgrave has made her as comfortable as he can, with her back against the poor little Scotch fir, and a plaid over both their heads.
The feast proceeds in solemn silence. Even if we had the heart to talk, the difficulty of making ourselves heard would quite check the inclination.
There are little puddles in all our plates—the bread and cakes are pap—lamb is damp and flabby, and the mayonnaise is reduced to a sort of watery whey.
Mr. Parker is the only one who, under these circumstances, makes any attempt to pretend that we are enjoying ourselves.
“This is not so bad, after all,” he says, still with that same unconquerable accent of joviality. He has to say it three times, and to put up his hands to his mouth like a speaking-trumpet, before any one hears him. When they do, “answer comes there none!”
I, indeed, am not in a position for conversation at the exact moment that the demand is made upon me. I have just come to the end of a long wrestle with my umbrella. It has at last got its wicked will, and has turned right inside out! All its whalebones are aspiring heavenward. It is transformed into a melancholy cup—like a great ugly flower, on a bare stalk. I lay the remains calmly down beside me, and affront the blast and the tempest alone! I have a brown hat on—at least it was brown when we set off—I am just wondering, therefore, with a sort of stupid curiosity, why the rill that so plenteously distills from its brim, and so madly races down my cold nose, should be sky blue, when I perceive that Barbara has left her shelter, and her lover, and is standing beside me.
“Poor Nancy!” she says, with a softly compassionate laugh, “how wet you are! come under the plaid with me! you have no notion how warm it keeps one; and the tree, though it does not look much, saves one a bit, too —and Frank does not mind being wet—come quick!”
I am too wretched to object. No water-proof could stand the deluge to which mine has been subjected. My shoulder-blades feel moist and sticky: my hair is in little dismal ropes, and dreadful runlets are coursing down my throat, and under my clothes.
Without any remonstrance, I snuggle under the plaid with Barbara—with a little of the feeling of soothing and dependence with which, long ago, in the dear old dead days at home, I used, when I was a naughty child, or a bruised child—and I was very often both—to creep to her for consolation.
Thanks to the wind, and to our proximity, we are able to talk without a fear of being overheard.
“You are wrong!” Barbara says, glancing first toward the coach, and then turning the serene and limpid gravity of her blue eyes on me; “you are making a mistake!”