When he had been a few days at the Garth, Foster thought he had better take Carmen’s packet to Edinburgh. She had said nothing about its being urgent and he did not want to go, but he must keep his promise and would afterwards be at liberty. Mrs. Featherstone had given him to understand that he was to make the Garth his headquarters as long as he stayed in England, and he looked forward to doing so with much content. The more he saw of his hosts, the better he liked them, and it was a privilege to enjoy Alice Featherstone’s friendship. She had, of course, given it him for her brother’s sake, but he must try to keep it on his merits.
Since he had seen Alice he began to understand Carmen better. Carmen had charm and knew how to use it to her advantage, while he could not imagine Alice’s employing her beauty to gain an object. She was proud, with an essentially clean pride, and sincere, while Carmen had a talent for intrigue. The latter enjoyed using her cleverness to put down a rival or secure a prominent place; she was a hustler, as they said in the West. Alice, he thought, would not even claim what was hers; it must be willingly offered or she would let it go. Yet he knew she would be a staunch and generous friend to anybody who gained her confidence.
This kind of comparison, however, was profitless and perhaps in bad taste. After all, he was a friend of Carmen’s and must do her errand. He left the Garth next morning, and Featherstone, who made him promise to come back as soon as possible, drove him across the moors to a small station on the North British line, where he caught an Edinburgh train.
When they ran out of the hills at Hawick, rain was falling and the valley filled with smoky haze, through which loomed factories and chimney stacks. The station was crowded, and Foster gathered from the talk of the people who got in that a big wool sale was going on and the townsfolk who were not at the auction made it a holiday. His compartment was full, but looking through the window he saw a fashionably dressed girl hurrying along the platform with a porter. They tried one or two carriages, in which there seemed to be no room, and the guard had blown his whistle when they came abreast of Foster’s compartment. Opening the door as the train began to move, he held out his hand and pulled the girl in.
“My bag; it mustn’t be left!” she cried, trying to get back to the door, but Foster caught the bag as the porter held it up and put it on the rack.
“There’s a seat in the corner,” he said and went into the corridor.
When they stopped at Galashiels a number of people got out, and he returned to the compartment. It was now unoccupied except by an old man and the girl he had helped, who gave him a grateful smile.
“I hadn’t time to thank you, but I should have missed the train if you had not been prompt,” she said.