She had completely forgotten, in that moment of exultation, the squarely military figure that had passed down the dining-room of the Chateau, and the coldly unsmiling eyes with which it had regarded her as she sat with her companion over their memorable meal.
THE SAILING OF THE Empress
Bull Sternford was reading over the telegram he had just written. Its phraseology was curious. But it expressed the things he wanted to say, and he knew it would be understood by the man to whom it was addressed.
“HARKER, SACHIGO, LABRADOR.
War. Pass mill through hair sieve. Clear
refuse. Watch fireguard. Look around. Plums otherwise ripe.
Return earliest date.
He smiled as he looked up from his reading. An acquaintance passed through the hall of the hotel. He nodded to him. Then the smile died out of his eyes, and it was like the passing of a gleam of sunshine. He passed the message across the counter to the attendant and paid for it.
War! It was only an added development in the course of the ceaseless work of life. The thought of it disturbed him not one whit. It was the element in which he thrived. But for all that his mood had lost much of its usual equanimity.
For two weeks he had applied himself assiduously to the work upon which he was engaged. He had travelled hundreds of miles to the other capital cities of the country in pursuit of his affairs. He had worked in that express fashion which was characteristic of him. But under it all, through it all, a depressing disappointment hung like a shadow over every successful effort he put forth. The memory of an evening at the Chateau haunted him. The vision of smiling hazel eyes and a radiant crowning of vivid hair filled every moment of his waking dreaming. He had not seen or heard of Nancy McDonald since that first night in Quebec.
To-morrow he sailed for England. The thought of it afforded him none of the satisfaction with which he had always looked forward to that journey. Yet it meant no less to him now. On the contrary. It really meant more. It meant that his work was marching forward to the great completion which was to crown his labours, and the work of those others who had conceived the task.
It should have been a wonderful moment for him. The house of Leader and Company of London had thrown its doors open to him in welcome. Sir Frank Leader with his millions, his shipping, his great power, and the confidence which his name inspired in British commercial circles, would not fail. The prospect lying ahead, for all the threatened war, should have stirred him to a keen enthusiasm that achievement was within his grasp. But none of these emotions were stirring.
He felt if he could only see Nancy McDonald, that perfect creature with her amazing beauty and splendid courage, just to exchange a few words, just to receive her smiling “bon voyage,” and even to hear her laughing declaration of her frank enmity, why—it would—But there was no chance now—none at all. He sailed to-morrow.