“Perhaps so,” said Mollie, calmly. “Nevertheless, I shall never marry.”
It was Sir Roger’s despairing voice.
“Never, Sir Roger. I never was worthy of you. I would be the basest of the base to marry you now. No; what I am to-night I will go to my grave.”
She stole a glance at Hugh Ingelow, but the sphinx was never more unreadable than he. He caught her glance, however, and calmly spoke.
“And now, as Miss Mollie has had a fatiguing journey lately, and as she needs rest, we had better allow her to retire. Good-night.”
He had bowed and reached the door ere the voice of Carl Walraven arrested him.
“This very unpleasant business, Mr. Ingelow—Sir Roger,” he said, with evident embarrassment, “in which Mrs. Walraven is concerned—”
“Will be as though it had never been, Mr. Walraven,” Hugh Ingelow said, gravely. “Once more—good-night.”
He quitted the room.
Sir Roger Trajenna turned to follow, a sad, crushed old man.
Mollie shyly and wistfully held out her hand.
“Try and forget me, Sir Roger—try and forgive me. I have been a foolish, flighty girl; I am sorry for it. I can say no more.”
“No more!” Sir Roger said, with emotion, kissing the little hand. “God bless you!”
He, too, was gone.
Then Mollie turned and put her arms round her guardian’s neck.
“Dear old guardy, I am sorry for you. Oh, I wish you had never married that hateful Blanche Oleander, but lived free and happy with your mother and your Mollie. But it’s too late now; you must forgive her, I suppose. I detest her like the mischief; but we must all keep the peace.”
“I suppose so, Mollie,” with a dreary sigh. “You can’t wish I had never married more than I do. It’s a righteous punishment upon me, I suppose. I’ve been the greatest villain unhung to the only woman who ever did love me, and now this is retribution.”
He groaned dismally as he rose and kissed Mollie good-night.
“Go to your room, Mollie, and let us forget, if we can.”
“Ah!” said Mollie, “if we can. Guardy, good-night.”
Next morning, at breakfast, Mrs. Walraven did not appear. She was very ill and feverish, her maid reported, and quite unable to leave her bed.
Mr. Carl Walraven heard this sad account of his wife’s health with a grimly fixed countenance. He looked as though he had passed a restless night himself, and looked worn and haggard and hollow-eyed in the bright morning sunshine.
Mollie, on the other hand, was blooming and brilliant as the goddess Hebe. Past troubles sat lightly on buoyant Mollie as dew-drops on a rose. She looked rather anxiously at her guardian as the girl quitted the breakfast-room.
“You didn’t mention Blanche’s illness, guardy. Tea or chocolate this morning?”