The General put his two hands on Joan’s shoulders. He looked at her, and then he kissed her.
“You are very welcome, my dear,” he said. “I blame myself, I do indeed. I ought to have found out where you were long ago. Your father was one of my dearest friends, God rest his soul. I knew him well, and his dear little wife too—your mother, my child, one of the loveliest women I ever saw. And you are like her, as like her as a daughter can be like her mother. Bless my heart, it takes me back when I see you, takes me back to the day when Tom married her, the loveliest girl—but I am forgetting, I am forgetting. You’ve brought your things?” he asked. “Hudson, where’s Hudson? Ring for Mrs. Weston, that’s my housekeeper, child. She’ll look after you. And now you are here, you will stay here with us for a long time, a very long time. It can’t be too long, my dear. I am a lonely old man, but we’ll do our best to make you happy.”
“I think,” Joan said softly, “that you have done that already! Your welcome and your kindness, have made me happier than I have been for a very, very long time.”
THE GENERAL CALLS ON HUGH
Hugh Alston lingered in London, why, he would not admit, even to himself. In reality he had lingered on in the hope of seeing Joan Meredyth again. How he should see her, where and when, he had not the faintest idea; but he wanted to see her even more than he wanted to see Hurst Dormer.
He had thought of going to the city and calling on Mr. Philip Slotman again. But he had not liked Mr. Slotman.
“If I see her, she will only suggest that I am annoying and insulting her,” Hugh thought. “I suppose I thought that I was doing a very fine and very clever thing in asking her to be my wife!” His face burned at the thought. He had meant it well; but, looking back, it struck him that he had acted like a conceited fool. He had thought to make all right, by bestowing all his possessions and his person on her, and she had put him in his place, had declined even without thanks.
“And serve me jolly well right!” Hugh said. “Who?” he added aloud.
“Gentleman, sir—General Bartholomew,” said the hotel page.
“And who on earth is he?”
“Short, stout gentleman, sir, white whiskers.”
“That’s quite satisfactory then; I’ll see him,” said Hugh.
He found the General in the lounge.
“You’re Hugh Alston,” said the General. “I’d know you anywhere. You are your father over again. I hope that you are as good a man.”
“I wish I could think so,” Hugh said, “but I can’t!” He shook hands with the General. He had a dim recollection of the old fellow, as one of his father’s friends, who in the old days, when he was a child, had come down to Hurst Dormer; but the recollection was dim.
“How did you find me out here, sir?”