Jack banished M. Marchand from his mind with ease, as he went out into the sunshine and freshness of the spring morning; the singing of the birds, and the beauty of the trees and flowers, told him that it was a glorious thing to be alive. He waited a few moments at a nearby livery stable, while the attendants brought out a very swell-looking and newly varnished trap, and put into the shafts a horse that would have held his own in Hyde Park.
Chiswick high-road, with its constantly widening and narrowing perspectives, its jumble of old and modern houses, had never looked more cheerful as Jack drove rapidly westward. He crossed Kew Bridge, rattled on briskly, and finally entered Richmond, where he pulled up by the curb opposite to the station where centre a number of suburban railway lines.
He had not long to wait—a glance at his watch told him that. Five minutes later the rumble of an incoming train was heard, and presently a double procession of passengers came up the steps to the street. Jack had eyes for one only, a radiant vision of loveliness, as sweet and fresh and blushing as a June rose. The vision was Madge Foster, her graceful figure set off by a new spring gown from Regent street, and a sailor hat perched on her golden curls. She stepped lightly into the trap, and nestled down on the cushions.
“Oh, Jack, what will you think of me after this,” she cried, half seriously.
“I think that the famed beauties of Hampton Court would turn green in their frames with envy if they could see you now,” Jack answered evasively, as he flicked the horses with his whip. “Here we go for a jolly day. It will come to an end all too soon.”
Love’s young dream.
The trap rattled up crooked George street, and swung around and down to classic-looking Richmond Bridge, with its gorgeous vistas of river scenery right and left over the low parapets. Madge was very quiet for a time, and it was evident that she felt some misgivings as to the propriety of what she had consented to do at Jack’s urgent request. She had left home soon after her father’s departure for town, and she must be back before six o’clock to meet him on his return. Her secret was shared with the old servant, Mrs. Sedgwick, who was foolishly fond of the girl, and naturally well-disposed toward Jack because he had saved Madge’s life. This faithful creature, on the death of her young husband twenty years before, had entered Mrs. Foster’s service; she practically managed Stephen Foster’s establishment, assisted by a housemaid and by the daily visits of a charwoman.
Until Richmond was left behind, Jack was as serious and thoughtful as his companion. He had a high sense of honor, a hatred of anything underhanded, and his conscience pricked him a little. However, it was not his fault, he told himself. Stephen Foster had no business to be churlish and ungrateful, and treat his daughter as though she were a school miss still in her teens. And what wrong could there be about the day’s outing together, if no harm was intended? It would all come right in the end, unless, unless—