“I know the man, Grace; and so do you,” said Jack.
“True?” asked Grace.
“True,” said Jack.
“I know him?” asked Grace. “Why, who is there in —— that would do anything like that?”
“No one that I know of,” said Jack. “But you have forgotten a somewhat diffident and reserved young man with whom you were conversing in the parlor an hour ago?”
Grace grew pale, and sank into a seat. “O, Jack, you don’t mean—?”
“Yes,” he said, interrupting her, “it was Sedgwick, and it was splendidly done, too. It was, by Jove!”
“Honest?” asked Grace.
“Honest, and I will deliver your message.”
Blushing scarlet, Grace sprang up and began to plead.
Browning would promise nothing except that he might possibly put the matter off a little while. “But,” he added, “I believe Jim would give more to see your imitation than you would to see the original performance repeated without change of scene.”
“Were you not sharp, Jack, to get me to commit myself before ever gaining a glimpse of this wonderful man?” asked Rose.
“Indeed, was,” he replied. “Why, I recall now that once when we were having a friendly dispute, he threatened that unless I came to his terms he would come over here, search you out, and try to steal you away from me.”
“But then he had not seen me,” said Grace, mockingly.
All laughed at that. Rose spoke first and said: “But, if he is your close friend, and has come to England with you, why does he go back to the hotel?”
Browning smiled and said, “Why, child, save for three days in his own father’s house, he has been under no gentleman’s private roof for years. He does not know our English methods. And that makes me think; I, too, must go. My own tenure here was a little uncertain, when I went away, and now I, too, am going to the hotel. When my father comes, Grace, you may tell him I have been here, that I called, but that I am staying at the —— Hotel. If he comes and calls upon me, I shall be glad to see him; if he does not, why, to-morrow at ten, if you girls will have your hats and wraps on, I think Jim and myself will be glad to engage you for a drive. Jim has not been forbidden the premises, and he can call for you while I wait outside.”
No persuasion would make him remain. Putting his arm around Rose, he drew her to him, and said: “We will give the old folks a chance to do the fair thing; if they will not, what then, little one?”
“Henceforth,” she answered, gravely, but low and sweet, “your home is to be my home, your God my God.” Then she bent and touched his hand with her lips, and he wended his way back to find Sedgwick.
A dinner party.
And Sedgwick, what of him? He had gone, as he said, “to see Jack through, as Jack had stood by him in Ohio,” but when Grace Hamlin—or Grace Meredith, which was her real name—at their summons entered the parlor he was transfixed. Just medium height was she, slight but perfect in form, with darkish-brown eyes and clear-cut features, a golden chestnut curly mass of hair, the hand of a queen, and the hand-clasp of a sincere, true and happy woman. And poor Jim was lost in a moment.