“We shall entrain to-morrow morning!” he announced. “We are going to South La Tir on the frontier.”
Oh, joy! Oh, lucky 128th! It was to see still more of the world! The sergeant stood by listening to the uproar and cautioning the men not to overturn the tables and benches. Even the banker’s and the manufacturer’s sons, who had toured the country from frontier to frontier in paternal automobiles, were as happy as the laborer’s son.
“What fun it would be if we could visit back and forth with the fellows on the other side of the frontier!” said Hugo.
“What the—eh!” exclaimed the sergeant. “Will you never stop your joking, you, Hugo Mallin?”
“Never, sir,” replied Hugo dryly. “It comes natural to me!”
THE SECOND PROPHECY
In the reception-room, where he awaited the despatch of his card, Hedworth Westerling caught a glimpse of his person in a panel glass so convenient as to suggest that an adroit hotel manager might have placed it there for the delectation of well-preserved men of forty-two. He saw a face of health that was little lined; brown hair that did not reveal its sprinkle of gray at that distance; shoulders, bearing the gracefully draped gold cords of the staff, squarely set on a rigid spine in his natural attitude. Yes, he had taken good care of himself, enjoying his pleasures with discreet, epicurean relish as he would this meeting with a woman whom he had not seen for ten years.
On her part, Marta, when she had received the note, had been in doubt as to her answer. Her curiosity to see him again was not of itself compelling. The actual making of the prophecy was rather dim to her mind until he recalled it. She had heard of his rise and she had heard, too, things about him which a girl of twenty-seven can better understand than a girl of seventeen. His reason for wanting to see her he had said was to “renew an old acquaintance.” He could have little interest in her, and her interest in him was that he was head of the Gray army. His work had intimate relation to that which the Marta of twenty-seven, a Marta with a mission, had set for herself.
A page came to tell Westerling that Miss Galland should be down directly. But before she came a waiter entered with a tea-tray.
“By the lady’s direction, sir,” he explained as he set the tray on a table opposite Westerling.
Across a tea-table the prophecy had been made and across a tea-table they had held most of their talks. Having a picture in memory for comparison, he was seeing the doorway as the frame for a second picture. When she appeared the picture seemed the same as of old. There was an undeniable delight in this first impression of externals. There had been no promise that she would be beautiful, and she was not. There had been promise of distinction, and she seemed to have fulfilled it. For a second she paused on the threshold rather diffidently. Then she smiled as she had when she greeted him from the veranda as he came up the terrace steps. She crossed the room with a flowing, spontaneous vitality that appealed to him as something familiar.