The capital of Bengal was a very gay city. What with balls and public breakfasts at the Governor General’s, brilliant assemblages given by the Civil Service Granders, with no end of picnics, theatricals, cricket matches and races improvised by the military and naval officers, for the especial benefit (at least so they said) of the beautiful, gay butterflies that condescended to grace, with their presence, such assemblages; and Pauline Barton never allowed these occurrences to transpire without inducing the beautiful Miss Effingham, as she was usually styled, to accompany her, for Pauline was, indeed, very popular in Chowringee and around its vicinity, and her Bungalow was a constant lounge for the gallants of all services. Horace was no niggard in his hospitality, but preferred the ease and comfort of his own sanctum to the gay rattle that was continually going on in his pretty little wife’s drawing room or verandahs. And Arthur was again, for a fourth time since his arrival in the country, in Calcutta. He had contrived to get appointed one of a committee for the purchasing of troop horses for his regiment and this would detain him at the Presidency for a couple of months. This was a source of much pleasure to Edith, for sometimes accompanied by Mrs. Barton, but more frequently alone, would Arthur and Edith, either driving or on horseback, wend their way through the shaded avenues that crossed the Midan, along the strand by the river side to Garden, reach and loiter in the Botanical Gardens; this being considered by the Grandees the most fashionable resort for a canter in the early morn or a pleasant drive about sunset.
It never entered the head of pretty Mrs. Barton that there could be any serious love making between her friend and the handsome Lieutenant. She knew that they had been brought up together from childhood and were more like brother and sister than lovers, and had such an idea been suggested to her by any of her friends, she would have pooh poohed it as mere moonshine. She knew that it was out of the question for a Subaltern to enter the matrimonial arena; besides the brilliant beauty of Miss Effingham must command a suitable alliance and an enviable position whenever she cared to enter upon the responsibility of married life, and it appeared evident that Edith was in no hurry to take the initiative or allow herself to be led away by the flattering speeches she daily heard from those, by whom she was surrounded. Nor was Mrs. Barton at all desirous that she should enter into any such engagement, for she was well aware that it was the charm of her fair friend’s manner that drew to her house the most agreeable and handsomest men of the capital. She knew likewise that it was Horace’s intention to settle in England as soon as his term of service should expire, and it would then be time for Edith to select from her numerous admirers the one she most preferred, but until that time she should be exceedingly sorry to part with her.