“Sir Rufus may have resented her want of fortune,” remarked Lady Verner.
“I think not. He was not a covetous or a selfish man; and our revenues are such that I can make ample settlements on my wife. No, it was the self-will. But it is all over, and I can openly claim her. You will give her to me, Lady Verner?”
“I suppose I must,” was the reply of my lady. “But people have been calling her an old maid.”
Sir Edmund laughed. “How they will be disappointed! Some of their eyes may be opened to-night. I shall not deem it necessary to make a secret of our engagement now.”
“You must permit me to ask one question, Sir Edmund. Have you and Decima corresponded?”
“No. We separated for the time entirely. The engagement existing in our own hearts alone.”
“I am glad to hear it. I did not think Decima would have carried on a correspondence unknown to me.”
“I am certain that she would not. And for that reason I never asked her to do so. Until I met Decima to-night, Lady Verner, we have had no communication with each other since I left. But I am quite sure that neither of us has doubted the other for a single moment.”
“It has been a long while to wait,” mused Lady Verner, as they entered the presence of Decima, who started up to receive them.
WAS IT A SPECTRE?
When they returned to the rooms, Sir Edmund with Decima, Lady Verner by her daughter’s side, the first object that met their view was Jan. Jan at a ball! Lady Verner lifted her eyebrows; she had never believed that Jan would really show himself where he must be so entirely out of place. But there Jan was; in decent dress, too—black clothes, and a white neckcloth and gloves. It’s true the bow of his neckcloth was tied upside down, and the gloves had their thumbs nearly out. Jan’s great hands laid hold of both Sir Edmund’s.
“I’m uncommon glad you are back!” cried he—which was his polite phrase for expressing satisfaction.
“So am I, Jan,” heartily answered Sir Edmund. “I have never had a real friend, Jan, since I left you.”
“We can be friends still,” said plain Jan.
“Ay,” said Sir Edmund meaningly, “and brothers.” But the last word was spoken in Jan’s ear alone, for they were in a crowd now.
“To see you here very much surprises me, Jan,” remarked Lady Verner, asperity in her tone. “I hope you will contrive to behave properly.”
Lady Mary Elmsley, then standing with them, laughed. “What are you afraid he should do, Lady Verner?”
“He was not made for society,” said Lady Verner, with asperity.
“Nor society for me,” returned Jan good-humouredly. “I’d rather be watching a case of fever.”
“Oh, Jan!” cried Lady Mary, laughing still.
“So I would,” repeated Jan. “At somebody’s bedside, in my easy coat, I feel at home. And I feel that I am doing good; that’s more. This is nothing but waste of time.”