On our way back from church we met Voltaire and Kaffar, who were eagerly conversing. They took but little notice of us, however, and, for my own part, I felt relieved when they were out of sight.
“Do you know what is on the programme for to-night?” I said, when they were out of hearing.
“Yes; Mr. Temple has arranged for a conjuror and a ventriloquist to come, and thus we shall have something to occupy our attention besides ordinary chitchat.”
“I’m very glad,” I replied, “although I should be delighted to spend the evening as I have spent this morning.”
I said this with an earnestness about which there could be no doubt, and I fancied I saw a blush mount to her cheek. At any rate, I felt that we were good friends, and my heart beat high with hope.
Arriving at Temple Hall, I saw Tom reading a letter. “Disappointing, Justin, my boy,” he said.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Why, I engaged some fellows to come here and give us an entertainment to-night, and they write to say they can’t come. But never mind; we must do the best we can among ourselves. You are good at all sorts of odd games; while at—yes, the very thing!—that’s delightful!”
“You’ll know to-night! ’Pon my word, it’s lucky those juggling fellows can’t come. Anyhow, I can promise you a jolly evening.”
Had I known then what that evening would lead to, I should not have entered the house so joyously as I did; but I knew nothing of what lay in the future, while Miss Forrest’s great dark eyes beamed upon me in such a way as to make earth seem like heaven.
VOLTAIRE’S STORY OF THE EAST
When lunch-time came, I, to my delight, obtained a seat next to Miss Forrest, and soon I became oblivious to all else but her. I was sure, too, that she liked me. Her every word and action disclaimed the idea of her being a coquette, while her honest preference for my society was apparent.
As we left the table I turned towards Voltaire, and I found that he was looking at us. If ever hate and cruelty were expressed in any human face, they were expressed in his. Evidently he regarded me as his rival, and thus his natural enemy. A little later in the afternoon he was again talking with Kaffar, and instinctively I felt that I was the subject of his conversation. But I did not trouble, for was not Gertrude Forrest near me, and did we not have delightful conversation together? It seemed as if we had known each other for years, and thus it was natural for us to converse freely.
Just before dinner, Voltaire came to me, as if he wished to enter into conversation. He commenced talking about Yorkshire, its customs, legends, and superstitions, and then, with a tact and shrewdness which I could not resist, he drew me into a talk about myself. I felt that he was sifting me, felt that he was trying to read my very soul, and yet I could not break myself from him.