They sat down in the chair, she on the arm as before. After a moment he glanced at her perplexed face, and asked:
“Are you afraid to go, Grace?”
“It isn’t that, Hugh. I was just wondering if we could reach Manila by the twenty-third of May. It is unlucky to change the wedding day after it has been once selected,” she said softly.
“Grace Vernon, you are an angel. I was afraid you would show the white feather. It’s a go, then—Manila! We can start next week and get there in good time.”
“Next week? Impossible!” she cried in alarm.
“Nonsense! You can get ready for a trip to New York, making your preparations for a sea voyage secretly. I’ll attend to all the details. It will be easy. No one will ever dream of what we are doing until we cable the news home to your aunt.”
“Oh, I must tell Aunt Elizabeth!”
“Not much! That’s no way to elope. We must do it correctly or not at all. Nobody is to know until we are really married. Can you get ready in a week?”
“If I really must.”
“Can’t take any more time than that if we want to reach Manila in time for the wedding.”
“Oh, Hugh! We can’t go to Manila!” she cried, suddenly starting to her feet in distress. “My Uncle Harry lives there. He is my mother’s only brother and he’s been there since the close of the war. He’s in the hemp business. Oh, dear! How provoking!” she concluded almost piteously.
“It’s fine!” he exclaimed jubilantly. “We can be married at his home. I’m sure he’ll be happy to have us. You can write and tell him we’re coming, dear. Lord!” with great relief in his voice, “that simplifies matters immensely. Now we have an excuse for going to Manila. But above all things don’t cable to him. Write a nice long letter and mail it just before we start.”
She was silent a long while, staring soberly at the blaze in the grate.
“There’ll be no bridesmaids and ushers over there, Hugh.”
“We don’t want ’em.”
Silence for a few minutes.
“In a week, did you say?”
“Well, I’ll be ready,” she said solemnly.
He kissed her tenderly, lovingly, pressed her cold hand and said encouragingly:
“We’ll meet in New York next Monday afternoon. Leave everything to me, dear. It will be much pleasanter to go by way of London and it will help to kill a good deal of time.”
“Hugh,” she said, smiling faintly, “I think we’re proving that father was right. I can’t possibly arrive at the age of discretion until I am twenty-three and past.”
THE BEGINNING OF FLIGHT
Mr. Ridgeway paced back and forth outside the iron gates in the Grand Central Station on the afternoon of April 1st, 190—, a smile of anticipation and a frown of impatience alternating in his fresh, young face. Certain lines of care seemed to have disappeared since we saw him last, nearly a week ago, and in their stead beamed the light of a new-found interest in life. Now and then he took from his pocket a telegram; spectators stared amusedly at him as he read and reread: