“I say!” he exclaimed, turning to a tall youth, who had been inspecting his operations, “that Liverpool train must be beastly late, Dol. Those fellows ought to be here before this. The Mater will be in a stew. She ordered dinner at five, as the youngsters dine with us, of course, to-day, and it’s past that now.”
“Hush! will you? I’ll vow that cab is stopping! Yes! By all that’s splendid, there they are!” and Dol Farrar’s joy-whoop rang through the English oaken hall with scarcely less vehemence than it had rung in former days through the dim aisles of the Maine forests.
A sound of spinning cab-wheels abruptly stopping, a noise of men’s feet on the steps outside, and the hall-door was flung wide by two pairs of welcoming hands.
“Cyrus! Royal! Got here at last? Oh! but this is jolly.”
“Neal, dear old boy, how goes it? Dol, you’re a giant. I wouldn’t have known you.”
Such were the most coherent of the greetings which followed, as two visitors, in travelling rig, their faces reddened by eight days at sea in midwinter, crossed the threshold.
There could be no difficulty in recognizing Cyrus Garst’s well-knit figure and speculative eyes, though a sprouting beard changed somewhat the lower part of his face. And if Royal Sinclair’s tall shoulders and brand-new mustache were at all unfamiliar, anybody who had once heard the click and hum of his hasty tongue would scarcely question his identity.
The Americans had steamed over the Atlantic amid bluster of elements, purposing a tour through southern France and Italy. And they were to take part, before proceeding to the Continent, in the festivities of an English Christmas at the Farrars’ home in Manchester.
“Oh, but this is jolly!” cried Neal again, his voice so thickened by the joy of welcome that—embryo cavalry man though he was—he could bring out nothing more forceful than the one boyish exclamation.
Dol’s throat was freer. Sinclair and he raised a regular tornado in the handsome hall. Questions and answers, only half distinguishable, blew between them, with explosions of laughter, and a thunder of claps on each other’s shoulders. When their gale was at its noisiest, Royal’s part of it abruptly sank to a dead calm, stopped by “an angel unawares.”
A girl of sixteen, with hair like the brown and gold of a pheasant’s breast, opened a drawing-room door, stepped to Neal’s side, and whispered,—
“My sister,” said Neal, recovering self-possession. “Myrtle, I believe I’ll let you guess for yourself which is Garst and which is Sinclair.”
“Well, I’ve heard so much about you for the past two years that I know you already, all but your looks. So I’m sure to guess right,” said Myrtle Farrar, scrutinizing the Americans with a pretty welcoming glance, then giving to each a glad hand-shake.
Royal’s tongue grew for once less active than his eyes, which were so caught by the golden shades on the pheasant-like head that for a minute he could see nothing else. Even Cyrus, who was accustomed to look upon himself as the cool-blooded senior among his band of intimates, tingled a little.