“You seem very anxious to get rid of us and bury us at the back of beyond,” I said, nettled and unable to conceal my chagrin at the matter-of-fact way in which he wished to dispose of us.
“I venture to hope I may be permitted to accompany you, and remain with you—”
It was now Henriette’s turn to laugh outright at this rather blunt proposal, and I regret to add that I blushed a rosy red.
“To remain with you and near you so long as my services may be required,” he went on, gravely, by no means the interpretation my sister had put upon his remark; for he fixed his eyes on me with unmistakable meaning, and held them so fixedly that I could not look away. There could no longer be any doubt how “it stood with us;” my heart went out to him then and there, and I nodded involuntarily, more in answer to his own thoughts than his suggestion. I knew from the gladness on his frank, handsome face that he understood and rejoiced.
“You see,” he went on, quickly, dealing with the pressing matter in hand, “I know all about the place. I have soldiered at Gibraltar and often went over to Africa. It’s not half bad, Tangier, decent hotels, villas furnished if you prefer it. Sport in the season, and plenty of galloping ground. The point is, how we should travel?”
I could be of service in this; my inquiries at Cook’s had qualified me to act as a shipping clerk, and we soon settled to take a steamer of the Bibby Line due that afternoon, which would land us at Gibraltar in two or three days. Thence to Tangier was only like crossing a ferry. The Colonel’s man, l’Echelle, was sent to secure cabins, and we caught the ship in due course. Three days later we were soon comfortably settled in the Hotel Atlas, just above the wide sweep of sands that encircle the bay. It was the season of fierce heat, but we faced the northern breezes full of invigorating ozone.
Tangier, the wildest, quaintest, most savage spot on the face of the globe, was to me the most enchanting. Our impressions take their colour from the passing mood; we like or loathe a place according to the temper in which we view it. I was so utterly and foolishly happy in this most Eastern city located in the West that I have loved it deeply ever since. After the trying and eventful episodes of the past week I had passed into a tranquil haven filled with perfect peace. The whole tenor of my life had changed, the feverish excitement was gone, no deep anxiety vexed or troubled me, all my cares were transferred to stronger shoulders than mine. I could calmly await the issue, content to enjoy the moment and forget the past like a bad dream.