“Quite right,” he said, hastily. “Now, who is to be the happy woman?”
Dick’s hawk eye promenaded over the crowd in the second room, in the door-way of which he was standing.
“That one,” he said; “the tall girl in the green gown talking to the Bishop.”
“You have a wonderful eye for heiresses. You have picked out the greatest in London. That is Miss Rachel West. You say you want two.”
“One at a time, thanks. I shall take her down to supper. I suppose—er—there is supper at this sort of thing, isn’t there?”
“Of a kind. You need not be afraid of the claret; it isn’t yours.”
“Catch you giving your best at a crush,” retorted Dick. “The Bishop’s moving. Hurry up.”
But as he groped against the wall,
two hands upon him fell,
The King behind his shoulder spake: “Dead man, thou dost not well.”
Hugh had gone through the first room, and, after a quarter of an hour, found himself in the door-way of the second. He had arrived late, and the rooms were already thinning.
A woman in a pale-green gown was standing near the open window, her white profile outlined against the framed darkness, as she listened with evident amusement to the tall, ill-dressed man beside her.
Hugh’s eyes lost the veiled scorn with which it was their wont to look at society and the indulgent patronage which lurked in them for pretty women.
Rachel West slowly turned her face towards him without seeing him, and his heart leaped. She was not beautiful except with the beauty of health, and a certain dignity of carriage which is the outcome of a head and hands and body that are at unity with each other, and with a mind absolutely unconscious of self. She had not the long nose which so frequently usurps more than its share of the faces of the well-bred, nor had she, alas! the short upper lip which redeems everything. Her features were as insignificant as her coloring. People rarely noticed that Rachel’s hair was brown, and that her deep-set eyes were gray. But upon her grave face the word “Helper” was plainly written—and something else. What was it?
Just as in the faces of seamen we trace the onslaught of storm and sun and brine, and the puckering of the skin round the eyes that comes of long watching in half-lights, so in some faces, calm and pure as Rachel’s, on which the sun and rain have never beaten, there is an expression betokening strong resistance from within of the brunt of a whirlwind from without. The marks of conflict and endurance on a young face—who shall see them unmoved! The Mother of Jesus must have noticed a great difference in her Son when she first saw Him again after the temptation in the wilderness.
Rachel’s grave, amused glance fell upon Hugh. Their eyes met, and he instantly perceived, to his astonishment, that she recognized him. But she did not bow, and a moment later left the nearly empty rooms with the man who was talking to her.