“Go back on foot!” Riatt interrupted. “My dear Miss Fenimer, that is quite impossible. It must be every inch of ten miles, it’s dark, a blizzard is blowing, I don’t know the way, and we haven’t passed a house.”
“But, but,” said she, “suppose they don’t rescue us to-night?”
“They probably will to-morrow,” answered Riatt, and he walked past her into the house.
Christine was glad to get out of the wind, but the damp chill of the deserted house was not much of an improvement. Ahead of her in the darkness, she could hear Riatt snapping electric switches which produced nothing.
“Isn’t the light connected?” he called.
“I don’t know.”
“Aren’t there lamps in the house?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where could I find some candles?”
“What a tiresome man!” she thought; and for the third time she answered: “I don’t know.”
A rather unappreciative grunt was his only reply, and then he called back: “You’d better stay where you are, till I find something to make a light.”
She asked nothing better. She was oppressed with a sense of crisis. An inner voice seemed to be saying, in parody of Charles Francis Adams’s historic words: “I need hardly point out to your ladyship that this means marriage.”
She had thought, lightly enough, that everything was settled the evening before on the stairs when she had made up her mind that he would do. But with all her belief in herself, she was not unaware even then that unforeseen obstacles might arise. He might be secretly engaged for all she knew to the contrary. But now she felt quite sure of him. With Fate playing into her hands like this—with romance and adventure and the possibilities of an uninterrupted tete-a-tete, she knew she could have him if she wanted him. And the point was that she did. At least she supposed she did. She felt as many a young man feels when he lands his first job—triumphant, but conscious of lost freedoms.
Marriage, she knew, was the only possible solution of her problems. Her life with her father was barely possible. As a matter of fact they were but rarely together. The tiny apartment in New York did not attract Fred Fenimer as a winter residence, when he had an opportunity of going to Aiken or Florida or California at the expense of some more fortunate friend. In summer it was much the same. “My dear,” he would say to his daughter, “I really can’t afford to open the house this summer.” And Christine would coldly acquiesce, knowing that this statement only meant that he had received an invitation that he preferred to a quiet summer with her.
Sometimes throughout the whole season father and daughter would only meet by chance on some unexpected visit, or coming into a harbor on different yachts.
“Isn’t that the Sea-Mew’s flag?” Christine would say languidly. “I rather think my father is on board.”