But of Charles Svendt I have no harsh word to say. He could not help being his father’s son, and one must not blame him for the unavoidable. And, in most respects, he was as unlike his worthy parent as circumstances permitted.
He was on the Stock Exchange and doing well there. He had very comfortable rooms near St. James’s Square, and enjoyed life in his own way and at his own not inconsiderable expense. When Margaret Brandt was at home, however, he was much at his father’s house in Melgrave Square.
He made no pretence to unco’ guidness whatever. He subscribed to nothing outside the House, with two exceptions—the Dogs’ Home at Battersea, and the Home of Rest for Aged Horses at Acton—signs of grace both these offerings, I take it!
To all other demands he invariably replied,—“Can’t burn the candle at both ends, my dear sir. The governor charitables for the whole family. He’ll give you something if you’ll let him head the list and keep it standing.”
No, we have no fault to find with Charles Svendt. Time came when he was weighed and not found wanting.
Graeme and he had run across one another occasionally—at the Travellers’ Club and elsewhere—but their acquaintance had never ripened to the point of introduction till that night at the Whitefriars’ dinner. After that they were on nodding terms, but not much more, until—well, until later.
So, though there was hope in his heart, born of Lady Elspeth’s approval and quiet suggestings, John Graeme was still somewhat doubtful as to Margaret Brandt’s feelings towards him, and quite at a loss how to arrive at a more exact knowledge of them.
Too precipitate an advance might end in utter rout. And opportunities of approach were all too infrequent for his wishes.
Their chance meetings were rare and exquisite pleasures,—to be looked forward to with an eagerness that held within it the strange possibility of pain through sheer excess of longing;—to be enjoyed like the glory of a fleeting dream;—to be looked back upon with touches of regret at opportunities missed;—to be dwelt upon for days and nights with alternate hope and misgiving, with the rapturous recalling of every tone of the sweet voice, of every word it had uttered, of every gracious gesture, and every most minute and subtle change in the sweetest face and the frankest and most charming eyes in the world.
Their acquaintance had blossomed thus far, when a dire disaster happened and justified all his fears.
He ran gaily up the steps of Lady Elspeth’s house one afternoon, brimming with hope that kindly fortune might bring Margaret that way that day, and was hurled into deepest depths of despair by old Hamish as soon as he opened the door.