“Quite right, Lady Bassett,” broke in Colonel Cathcart. “He’ll hold his own, wherever he is. I always said so when he was in the Service.”
“And a little over probably,” put in Bobby Fraser. “Miss Roscoe, if you ever find him hard to manage, you send for me.”
Muriel, from the shelter of Sir Reginald’s arm, looked across at the speaker with a smile of unwonted confidence.
“Thank you all the same,” she responded, “but I don’t expect any difficulties in that respect.”
“She is far more likely to fight my battles for me,” remarked Nick complacently, “seeing my own fighting days are over.”
“And what have you been doing with yourself all this time?” demanded Sir Reginald suddenly. “You have been singularly unobtrusive. What have you been doing?”
Nick’s answering grin was one of sheer exuberance of spirit. “I’ve just been marking time, sir, that’s all,” he replied enigmatically. “A monotonous business for every one concerned, but it seems to have served its purpose.”
Sir Reginald grunted a little, and looked uncomfortably at his wife’s twisted smile. “And now you want to get married, do you?” he said.
“At once,” said Nick.
“Well, well,” said Sir Reginald, beginning to smile himself. “All’s well that ends well, and Muriel is old enough to please herself. Mind you are good to her, that’s all. And I wish you both every happiness.”
“So do I,” said Bobby Fraser heartily. “And look here, you jack-in-the-box, if you’re wanting a best man to push you through, I’ll undertake the job. It’s a capacity in which I have often made myself useful.”
“Right O!” laughed Nick. “But you won’t find I want much pushing, old chap. I’m on my way to the top crag of Everest already.”
“Ah, Captain Ratcliffe, be careful!” murmured Lady Bassett. “Do not soar too high!”
He bowed to her a third time, still with his baffling smile. “Thanks, dear Lady Bassett!” he said lightly. “But you need have no misgivings. Forewarned is forearmed, they say. And on this occasion, at least, I am wise—in time.”
“And dear Muriel too, I wonder?” smiled Lady Bassett.
“And dear Muriel too,” smiled Nick.
THE EAGLE SOARS
Night and a running stream—a soft gurgle of sound that was like a lullaby. Within the tent the quiet breathing of a man asleep; standing in the entrance—a woman.
There was a faint quiver in the air as of something coming from afar, a hushed expectancy of something great. A chill breath came off the snows, hovering secretly above the ice-cold water. The stars glittered like loose-hung jewels upon a sable robe.
Ah, that flash as of a sword across the sky! A meteor had fallen among the mountains. It was almost like a signal in the heavens—herald of the coming wonder of the dawn.