Seton knelt down and held the glass to his cousin’s lips.
Merefleet returned softly and paused behind her chair.
“It’s this confounded heat,” said Seton in a savage undertone. “She will be all right directly.”
Merefleet said nothing. Again he was keenly conscious of the fact that Seton wanted to get rid of him. But a stronger influence than Seton possessed kept him standing there.
Mab opened her eyes as the neat spirit burnt her lips. She tried to push the glass away, but Seton would not allow it.
“Just a drain, my dear girl,” he said. “It will do you all the good in the world. And then—Merefleet,” glancing up at him, “will you fetch some water?”
Merefleet went as desired.
When he returned, Mab was lying forward in Seton’s arms, crying as he had never seen any woman cry before. And Seton was stroking her hair in silence.
Merefleet set down the water noiselessly, and went softly out into the summer dusk. But the great waves beating on the shore could not drown the memory of a woman’s bitter sobbing. And the man’s heart was dumb and heavy with the trouble he could not fathom.
Some hours later, returning from a weary tramp along the shore, he encountered Seton pacing to and fro on the terrace.
“She is better,” he said, in answer to Merefleet’s conventional enquiry. “It was the heat, you know, that upset her.”
“Yes,” said Merefleet quietly. “I know.”
Seton walked away restlessly, more as if he wished to keep on the move than to avoid Merefleet. He came back, however, after a few seconds.
“Look here, Merefleet,” he said abruptly, “you may take offence, but you can’t quarrel without my consent. For Heaven’s sake, leave this place! You are doing more mischief than you have the smallest notion of.”
There was that in his manner which roused the instinct of opposition in Merefleet.
“You will either tell me what you mean,” he said, “or you need not expect to gain your point. Veiled hints, like anonymous letters, do not deserve any man’s serious consideration.”
Seton muttered something inaudible and became silent.
Merefleet waited for some moments and then began to move off. But the younger man instantly turned and detained him with an imperative hand.
“What I mean is this,” he said, and the starlight on his face showed it to be very determined. “My cousin is not in a position to receive any man’s attentions. She is not free. I have tried to persuade myself into thinking you want nothing but ordinary friendship. I should infinitely prefer to think that if you can assure me that I am justified in so doing.”
“What is it to you?” said Merefleet.
“To me personally it is more a matter of family honour than anything else. Moreover I am her sole protector, and as such I am bound to assert a certain amount of authority.”