It was a week after the publication of “William Trewulliam,” the novel which had taken all London by storm. In all the drawing-rooms of Mayfair, in all the clubs of Pall Mall, people were asking each other, “Who is John Penquarto?” Nobody knew—save one.
Lady Mary knew. It was not the name Penquarto which had told her; it was—yes, you have guessed—the scene at the beginning of the book, when William Trewulliam meets the little Anne and shares his last raspberry-drop with her. Even under this disguise she recognized that early meeting. She pierced beneath the imagination of the novelist to the recollection of the man. John Penquarto—of course! Now she remembered the name.
It had always been a mystery to her friends why Lady Mary had never married. No girl in Society had been more eagerly courted. It was whispered that already she had refused more than one Archbishop, three Newspaper Proprietors and a couple of Dukes. Something, she scarcely knew what, told her that this was not love. She must wait. As she dressed to go to the Duchess of Bilberry’s “At Home,” she wondered if she would ever meet John Penquarto again, and if he had altered.
It was John speaking. He had seen her the moment she came in at the door. Something—was it the Duchess’s champagne at dinner?—had reminded him of the acid-drop they had eaten together and this had brought back his memories in a flood. To-night he would meet her again. He knew it instinctively. Besides, it was like this that William Trewulliam had met Anne again, and Henry Polhenery had met Sarah, and Thomas Pentummas had met Alice, and—well, anyhow he knew.
It was Mary speaking. Perhaps you had guessed.
“You knew me?” (This is John. It was his turn.)
“I knew you.” (Said Mary.)
“Do you remember—”
Mary blushed, and John did not deviate from the healthy red colour which he had maintained throughout the conversation. In spite of his success he was never quite at ease in society at this period of his life. Nor were Henry Polhenery and Thomas Pentummas. They remained handsome but awkward, which was why women loved them so.
“I love you,” (John speaking.)
“I think I must have always loved you.” (Mary going it.)
He took her hand in his.
Nobody noticed them. They were as much alone as if they had been at the National Gallery together. Many of the guests were going through similar scenes of recognition and love-making; others were asking each other if they had read “William Trewulliam” yet, and lying about it others again were making for the buffet. John and Mary had the world to themselves....
They were married a month later. John, who did not look his best in a frock-coat, had pleaded for a quiet wedding, and only the Duchess of Bilberry and Mr. Pump were present at the simple ceremony which took place at the Bloomsbury registry-office. Then the happy couple drove away.