Merefleet was silent.
“I’m not, you know,” she said, after a momentary pause. “I’m years older than Bert, anyhow.”
“Oh, come!” said Merefleet.
“Figuratively, of course,” she explained.
“I understand,” said Merefleet. And there was a silence.
Suddenly she laughed again merrily.
“May I share the joke?” asked Merefleet.
“You won’t see it,” she returned. “I’m laughing at you, Big Bear. You are just too quaint for anything.”
Merefleet did not see the joke, but he did not ask for an explanation.
Seton himself strolled on to the terrace and joined them directly after; and Mab began to shiver and went indoors.
The two men sat together for some time, talking little. Seton seemed preoccupied and Merefleet became sleepy. It was he who at length proposed a move.
Seton rose instantly. “Mr. Merefleet,” he said rather awkwardly, “I want to say a word to you.”
Merefleet waited in silence.
“Concerning my cousin,” Seton proceeded. “You will probably misread my motive for saying this. But nevertheless it must be said. It is not advisable that you should become very intimate with her.”
He brought out the words with a jerk. It had been a difficult thing to say, but he was not a man to shrink from difficulties. Having said it, he waited quietly for the result.
Merefleet paused a moment before he spoke. Seton had surprised him, but he did not show it.
“I shall not misread your motive,” he said, “as I seldom speculate on matters that do not concern me. But allow me to say that I consider your warning wholly uncalled for.”
“Exactly,” said Seton, “I expected you to say that. Well, I am sorry. It is quite impossible for me to explain myself. I hope for your sake you will never be placed in the position in which I am now. I assure you it is anything but an enviable one.”
His manner, blunt and direct, appealed very strongly to Merefleet. He said nothing, however, and they went in together in unbroken silence. Mab did not reappear that night.
A fortnight passed away and Merefleet was still at the hotel at Old Silverstrand. Mab was there also, the idol of the fisher-folk, and an unfailing source of interest and admiration to casual visitors at the hotel.
Merefleet, though he had become a privileged acquaintance, was still wholly unenlightened with regard to the circumstances which had brought her to the place under Seton’s escort.
As time went on, it struck Merefleet that these two were a somewhat incongruous couple. They dined together and they usually boated together in the afternoon—this last item on account of Mab’s passion for the sea; but beyond this they lived considerably apart. Neither seemed to seek the other’s society, and if they met at lunch, it was never by preconceived arrangement.