He held her closely, and lying against his breast she felt the sigh he stifled. His lips were upon the silvered hair.
“Perhaps—some day—Daisy,” he said, under his breath.
And she, clinging to him, whispered back through her tears, “Oh, Will,—I do hope so.”
IN THE NAME OF FRIENDSHIP
It was very hot down on the buzzing race-course, almost intolerably so in the opinion of the girl who sat in Lady Bassett’s elegantly-appointed carriage, and looked out with the indifference of boredom upon the sweltering crowds.
“Dear child, don’t look so freezingly aloof!” she had been entreated more than once; and each time the soft injunction had reached her the wide dark eyes had taken to themselves a more utter disdain.
If she looked freezing, she was far from feeling it, for the hot weather was at its height, and Ghawalkhand, though healthy, was not the coolest spot in the Indian Empire. Sir Reginald Bassett had been appointed British Resident, to act as adviser to the young rajah thereof, and there had been no question of a flitting to Simla that year. Lady Bassett had deplored this, but Muriel rejoiced. She never wanted to see Simla again.
Life was a horrible emptiness to her in those days. She was weary beyond expression, and had no heart for the gaieties in which she was plunged. Idle compliments had never attracted her, and flirtations were an abomination to her. She looked through and beyond them with the eyes of a sphinx. But there were very few who suspected the intolerable ache that throbbed unceasingly behind her impassivity—the loneliness of spirit that oppressed her like a crushing, physical weight.
Even Bobby Fraser, who saw most things, could scarcely have been aware of this; yet certainly it was not the vivacity of her conversation that induced him to seek her out as he generally did when he saw her sitting apart. A very cheery bachelor was Bobby Fraser, and a tremendous favourite wherever he went. He was a wonderful organizer, and he invariably had a hand in anything of an entertaining nature that was going forward.
He had just brought her tea, and was waiting beside her while she drank it. Lady Bassett had left the carriage for the paddock, and Muriel sat alone.
Had she had anything on the last race, he wanted to know? Muriel had not. He had, and was practically ruined in consequence—a calamity which in no way seemed to affect his spirits.
“Who would have expected a rank outsider like that to walk over the course? Ought to have been disqualified for sheer cheek. Reminds me of a chap I once knew—forget his name—Nick something or other—who entered at the last minute for the Great Mogul’s Cup at Sharapura. Did it for a bet, they said. It’s years ago now. The horse was a perfect brute—all bone and no flesh—with a temper like the