“What do you mean about Harford?” he asks presently.
“He wants me to marry him,” replied Virginia quietly. “He asked me four years ago; he asked me again the day before yesterday.”
She draws a letter from her pocket, and scans Philip’s face as he reads it. When he has finished, he looks at her. She understands his glance but too well. There is an only half-suppressed eagerness—a half-suppressed hope in it.
“What shall I do?” she says, so quietly that it deceives him.
“There is no better fellow living than Harford,” he says cordially. “If you thought you could be happy with him; if—”
He stops abruptly. There is a look of such terrible agony in Virginia’s face that he starts up and takes her hand.
“No, no,” he cries. “Let it be as I said. Let us marry each other. It is the only thing to be done.”
Virginia’s ears, sharpened by suffering, catch the dreary tone of the concluding words.
* * * * *
Next morning, when Philip, according to custom, went to Virginia’s room, he found her asleep. From that sleep she never woke. One more of those unfortunate cases of an overdose of chloral. The deceased lady had suffered much from sleeplessness, and always kept the fatal drug by her bedside.
The church gave its blessing, and society smiled when that heretic and sceptic Mr. Vansittart led his charming girl-bride to the altar a few months later. It was whispered that there had been an—entanglement, but that was all hushed up now, and he had become a respectable member of society.
It would be an injustice to Josiah to suppose that he limited his quest in the field of knowledge to that particular portion indicated by his honoured association with a distinguished society. He was proud in his modest way, if the paradox be permitted, when he produced his card, on which was engraved “Josiah Smith, F.R.S.A.” Also it was known amongst his friends that casual references to his great work on “Underground England” were not displeasing to him. But, as he was wont to say, “The surest way of finding either mental or bodily recreation is to seek it in fresh fields of labour.”
Thus it came to pass one evening in the spring of this year that Josiah, having shut himself in all day with the determination to make up for lost time, found he had, with the aid of cold tea and wet bandages, added as much as half a page to his great work. Feeling the need of a little change of thought and association, he had availed himself of an invitation kindly sent to him to join the meeting of an aeronautic society. Josiah had listened with profound attention to the various speeches made, and had thought, really, when he had a little more time he would devote it to the fascinating science of aeronautics.