There was a grim set to the maid’s mouth and a steely glitter in her eyes.
“I was just coming to ask you, dearie, if you’d like a cup of tea. One gets fair sick of the ruins and things one sees on this river. The young ladies can come and find you at tea if they want to.”
How often had the motherly woman gone out to bring in the lamb from the storm, or hunted the fields and hedgerows for her straying chick!
Later, she sat on the edge of her darling’s bed and patted the curly head resting on her faithful heart, to the accompaniment of little clucking sounds.
“There now, dearie—there now—there now! It isn’t worth crying over; every river is as full of good fish as ever sailed on it in a boat that couldn’t run straight. Let old Nannie dry her baby’s tears. There how—there now!”
She dried the tear-stained little face with a big handkerchief, and rocked her child to the rhythm of the music which drifted from the hall, borne by the night breeze, through the open window, until the sobs had ceased.
And in the ball-room the Thistleton family nodded their heads sagely to the rhythm of the same music.
“I am sure she didn’t see Mr. Kelham and Sybil, Mamma,” Ellen was saying. “She was having tea when we went to find her, and looked quite all right.”
“I was thankful when I saw her,” broke in Berenice, patting a thick envelope with the Edinburgh post-mark. “On the Nile, together, it really did not seem comme il faut at all, and wherever Mrs. Sidmouth was, she might have countenanced the—er—the courtship by her presence on deck.”
“Well, all’s well that ends well,” said Mamma placidly, as she secretly returned thanks that her daughters were not as others.
* * * * * *
But later, far into the night, Damaris stood at her window, with her arms round the bulldog’s neck.
“You’re the only one who really loves me, Well-Well. Everybody else run away and leaves me. I’m—I’m, so unhappy!”
Tears stood in the big eyes as she flung out her arms and cried in a sudden passionate intensity, “Marraine! Marraine! I want you—I want you! If you loved me, you would come to me, because I want you so!”
“The thorns which I have reap’d
are of the tree
I planted; they have torn me, and I bleed.
I should have known what fruit would spring
from such a seed.”
Olivia Duchess of Longacres stood on the balcony of the hotel, looking down at the cortege which had escorted the wife of the Sheik el-Umbar from the House ’an Mahabbah some way out in the desert and which was making its way as best it could through the tortuous, narrow, unpaved streets of Khargegh town.
The white and only wife of the great Arab travelled en reine; two outriders with modern rifles slung across the shoulder and brandishing throwing-spears, caused consternation amongst the spectators as at a word or touch of the unspurred foot they made their magnificent horses rear and back and plunge.