“Yes, a couple of years.”
“By Jove, it’s queer we didn’t meet before. Fancy you turning up here!”
“I stopped last night with a friend in Grove Park,” Nevill answered, after a brief hesitation, “and feeling a bit seedy this morning, I came for a stroll along the river. I hear of a gallant rescue from the water, and, of course, you are the hero, Jack. Is the young lady all right?”
“I believe so.”
“Do you know who she is?”
“Miss Madge Poster, sir,” spoke up the landlord, “and I can assure you she was very nearly drowned—”
“Not so bad as that,” modestly protested Jack.
Victor Nevill’s face had changed color again, and for a second there was a troubled look in his eyes. He spoke the girl’s name carelessly, then added in hurried tones:
“You must get into dry clothes at once, Jack, or you will be ill—”
“Just what I told him, sir,” interrupted the landlord. “Young men will be reckless.”
“I am going back to town to keep an engagement,” Nevill resumed. “Can I do anything for you?”
“If you will, old chap,” Jack said gratefully. “Stop at my studio,” giving him the address, “and send my man Alphonse here with a dry rig.”
“I’ll go right away,” replied Neville. “I can get a cab at Kew Bridge. Come and see me, Jack. Here is my card. I put up in Jermyn street.”
“And you know where to find me,” said Jack. “I am seldom at home in the evenings, though.”
A few more words, and Neville departed. Jack was prevailed upon by the landlord to go to an upper room, where he stripped off his drenched garments and rubbed himself dry, then putting on a suit of clothes belonging to his host. The latter brought the cheering news that Miss Foster had taken a hot draught and was sleeping peacefully, and that it would be quite unnecessary to send for a doctor.
A little later Alphonse and a cab arrived at the rear of the Black Bull, where there was a lane for vehicular traffic, and Jack once more changed his attire. He left his card and a polite message for the girl, pressed a substantial tip on the reluctant landlord, and was soon rattling homeward up Chiswick high-road, feeling none the worse for his wetting, but, on the contrary, gifted with a keen appetite. He had sent his boat back to Maynard’s.
“What a pretty girl that was!” he reflected. “It’s the first time in five years I’ve given a serious thought to a woman. But I shall forget her as quickly—I am wedded to my art. It’s rather a fetching name, Madge Foster. Come to think of it, it was hardly the proper thing to leave my card. I suppose I will get a fervid letter of gratitude from the girl’s father, or the two of them may even invade my studio. How could I have been so stupid?”
He ate a hearty lunch, and set to work diligently. But he could not keep his mind from the adventure of the morning, and he saw more frequently the face of the lovely young English girl, than that of the swarthy Moorish dancer he was doing in oils.