“Yes, sir,” she answered again.
“Well then,” he began, “I know another man who wants you—this stage idea is not the only way out of the store. Remember you’re not to speak—this other man wants to marry you.”
A scarlet flush sprang to Mary’s face and slowly ebbed away again leaving her deadly pale. She kept her word in letter but hardly in spirit for she looked at him through tear-filled eyes, and shook her head.
“Of course you can’t be expected to take to the idea just at first,” said he, as if she had spoken, “but I want you to think it over. The man is a well-off, gentlemanly sort of chap. Miles too old for you of course—for you’re not twenty and he’s nearly forty—but I think he would make you happy. I know he’d try with all the strength that’s in him.”
Blank incredulity was on Mary’s face. She glanced at the watch and up at him and again she shook her head.
“This man,” Burgess went on, “is a friend of Miss Masters and it was through her that he first heard of the Lady Hyacinths. He was an idler then. A shiftless, worthless loafer, but the Lady Hyacinths made a man of him and he’s gone out and got a job.”
Comprehension overwhelming, overmastering, flashed into Mary’s eyes. But her promise held her silent and in her chair. Again it was as though she had spoken.
“Yes, I see you understand—you probably think of me as an old man past the time of love and yet I love you.”
“Doubt thou the stars
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.”
“That’s all I have to offer you, sweetheart. Just love and my life,” and he in turn went to the window and looked out into the gathering dusk.
Mary sat absolutely still. She knew now that she was dreaming. Just so the dream had always run and when the five minutes were past, she rose and went to him: a true Ophelia, her arms all full of hyacinths.
“My honored Lord,” said she. He turned, and the dream held.
The Pennsylvania Limited was approaching Jersey City and the afternoon was approaching three o’clock when Mr. John Blake turned to Mrs. John Blake, nee Marjorie Underwood, a bride of about three hours, and precipitated the first discussion of their hitherto happy married life.
“Your Uncle Richard Underwood,” said he—the earlier discussions in the wedded state are usually founded upon relations—“is as stupid as he is kind. It was very good of him to arrange that I should meet old Nicholson. Any young fellow in the country would give his eyes for the chance. But to make an appointment for a fellow at four o’clock in the afternoon of his wedding day is a thing of which no one, except your Uncle Richard, would be capable. He might have known that I couldn’t go.”
“But you must go,” urged the bride, “it’s the chance of a lifetime. Besides which,” she added with a pretty little air of practicality, “we can’t afford to throw away an opportunity like this. We may never get another one, and if you don’t go how are you to explain it to Uncle Richard when we dine there to-morrow night?—you know we promised to, when he was last at West Hills.”