“It is so soon, Jack.”
“To me it seems an age. You will consent if your father does?”
“Yes, I will.”
“And if he refuses?”
The girl nestled closer to him, and looked into his face with laughing eyes.
“Then, I am afraid I shall have to disobey him, dear. If you wish it I will be your wife in September.”
“My own sweet Madge!” he cried.
All his passionate love was poured out in those four little words. He forgot the past, and saw only the rich promise of the future. There was a lump in his throat as he added softly:
“You shall never repent your choice, darling!”
For an hour they sat on the bench, talking as they had never talked before, and many a whispered confidence of the girl’s, many a phrase and sentence, burnt into Jack’s memory to haunt him afterward. Then they parted, there by the riverside, and Madge tripped homeward.
Happy were Jack’s reflections as he picked up a cab that rattled him swiftly into Richmond and up the famous Hill to the Roebuck. Nevill and Jimmie Drexell, who had arrived a short time before, greeted him hilariously.
The table was laid for Nevill and his guests in the coffee-room of the Roebuck, as cheerful and snug a place as can be found anywhere, with its snowy linen and shining silver and cut-glass, its buffet temptingly spread, and on the walls a collection of paintings that any collector might envy.
The Roebuck’s chef was one of the best, and the viands served were excellent; the rare old wines gurgled and sparkled from cobwebbed bottles that had lain long in bin. The dinner went merrily, the evening wore on, and the sun dipped beneath the far-off Surrey Hills.
“This is a little bit of all right, my boys,” said Jimmie, quoting London slang, as he stirred his creme de menthe frappe with a straw. “I’m jolly glad I crossed the pond. Many’s the time I longed for a glimpse of Richmond and the river while I sweltered in the heat on the Casino roof-garden. Here’s to ‘Dear Old London Town,’ in the words of—who did write that song?”
Nevill drained his chartreuse.
“Come, let’s go and have a turn on the Terrace,” he said. “It’s too early to drive back to town.”
They lighted their cigars and filed down stairs, laughing gaily, and crossed the road. Jack was the merriest of the three. Little did he dream that he was going to meet his fate.
FROM THE DEAD.
There were not many people about town. The strollers had gone back to town, or down the hill to their dinners. The Terrace, and the gardens that dropped below it to the Thames, were bathed in the purplish opalescent shades of evening. From the windows of the Roebuck streamed a shaft of light, playing on the trunks of the great trees, and gleaming the breadth of the graveled walk. It shone full on Nevill and his companions, and it revealed a woman coming along the Terrace from the direction of the Star and Garter; she was smartly dressed, and stepped with a graceful, easy carriage.