THE PARSON’S LITTLE STORY.
There was a dead pause; blank amazement sat on every face; no one stirred for an instant. Then, with a great cry of joy, the Welsh baronet sprung forward and caught his lost bride in his arms.
“My Mollie—my Mollie! My darling!”
But his darling, instead of returning his rapturous embrace, disengaged herself with a sudden jerk.
“Pray, Sir Roger, don’t make a scene! Guardy, how d’ye do? Is it after dinner? I’m dreadfully tired and hungry!”
“Mollie! Good heavens, Mollie! is this really you?” gasped Mr. Walraven, staring aghast.
“Now—now!” cried Miss Dane, testily; “what’s the good of your asking ridiculous questions, Guardy Walraven? Where’s your eyesight? Don’t you see it’s me? Will you kindly let me pass, gentlemen? or am I to stand here all night on exhibition?”
Evidently the stray lamb had returned to the fold in shocking bad temper. The gentlemen barring her passage instantly made way, and Mollie turned to ascend the staircase.
“I’m going to my room, Guardy,” she condescended to say, with her foot on the first carpeted step, “and you will please send Lucy up with tea and toast immediately. I’m a great deal too tired to offer any explanation to-night. I feel as if I had been riding about in a hackney-carriage for a century or two, like Peter Rugg, the missing man—if you heard of Peter;” with which Miss Dane toiled slowly and wearily up the grand staircase, and the group of gentlemen were left in the hall below blankly gazing in one another’s faces.
“Eminently characteristic,” observed Mr. Ingelow, the first to break the silence, with a soft laugh.
“Upon my word,” said Dr. Oleander, with his death’s-head smile, “Miss Mollie’s return is far more remarkable than her departure! That young lady’s sang-froid requires to be seen to be believed in.”
“Where can she have been?” asked Lawyer Sardonyx, helplessly taking snuff.
The two men most interested in the young lady’s return said nothing: they were far beyond that. They could only look at each other in mute astonishment. At last—
“The anonymous letter did speak the truth,” observed Mr. Walraven.
“What anonymous letter?” asked Lawyer Sardonyx, sharply.
“Sir Roger received an anonymous letter a week ago, informing him Mollie would be back a week after its date. We neither of us paid any attention to it, and yet, lo! it has come true.”
“Have you that letter about you, Sir Roger?” inquired the lawyer. “I should like to see it, if you have no objection.”
Mechanically Sir Roger put his hand in his pocket, and produced the document. The lawyer glanced keenly over it.
“‘One Who Knows.’ Ah! ‘One Who Knows’ is a woman, I am certain. That’s a woman’s hand, I am positive. Look here, Oleander!”