“Oh, Captain Grange,” she panted piteously, “promise—promise you will never let me go!”
Her agitation surprised him, but it awaked in him a responsive tenderness that compassed her with a strength bred rather of emergency than habit.
“My little girl, I swear I will never let you go,” he said, with grave assurance. “You are quite safe now. No one shall ever take you from me.”
And it was to Muriel as if, after long and futile battling in the open sea, she had drifted at last into the calm heaven which surely had always been the goal of her desires.
AN OLD STORY
Jim Ratcliffe was in the drawing-room with Daisy when they returned. He scrutinised them both somewhat sharply as they came in, but he made no comment upon their preference for the garden. Very soon he rose to take his leave.
Grange accompanied him to the door, and Muriel, suddenly possessed by an overwhelming sense of shyness, bent over Daisy and murmured a hasty goodnight.
Daisy looked at her for a moment. “Tired, dear?”
“A little,” Muriel admitted.
“I hope you haven’t been catching cold—you and Blake,” Daisy said, as she kissed her.
Muriel assured her to the contrary, and hastened to make her escape. In the hall she came face to face with Blake. He met her with a smile.
“What! Going up already?”
She nodded. Her face was burning. For an instant her hand lay in his.
“You tell Daisy,” she whispered, and fled upstairs like a scared bird.
Grange stood till she was out of sight; then turned aside to the drawing-room, the smile wholly gone from his face.
Daisy, from her seat before the fire, looked up with her gay laugh. “I’m sure there is a secret brewing between you two,” she declared. “I can feel it in my bones.”
Grange closed the door carefully. There was a queer look on his face, almost an apprehensive look. He took up his stand on the hearthrug before he spoke.
“You are not far wrong, Daisy,” he said then.
She answered him lightly as ever. “I never am, my dear Blake. Surely you must have noticed it. Well, am I to be let into the plot, or not?”
He looked at her for a moment uneasily. “Of course we shall tell you,” he said. “It—it’s not a thing we could very well keep to ourselves for any length of time.”
A sudden gleam of understanding flashed into Daisy’s upturned face, and instantly her expression changed. With a swift, vehement movement she sprang up and stood before him.
“Blake!” she exclaimed, and in her voice astonishment, dismay, and even reproach were mingled.
He averted his eyes from hers. “Won’t you congratulate me, Daisy?” he said, speaking almost under his breath.
Daisy had turned very white. She put out both hands, and leaned upon the mantelpiece.