Mr. Bullsom threw open the door.
“Up-stairs,” he repeated, “and throw it into the rag-bag.”
Selina hesitated. Then she rose, and with scarlet cheeks and a poor show of dignity, left the room. Mr. Bullsom drew himself up and beamed upon Mary.
“I’ll show’em a bit,” he declared, with great good-humour. “I may be an ignorant old man, but I’m going to wake these girls up.”
Mary struggled for a moment, but her sense of humour triumphed. She burst out laughing.
“Oh, uncle, uncle,” she exclaimed, “you’re a wonderful man.”
He beamed upon her.
“You come shopping with us in London,” he said. “We’ll have some fun.”
FIFTEEN YEARS IN HELL
“Really,” Lady Caroom exclaimed, “Enton is the cosiest large house I was ever in. Do throw that Bradshaw away, Arranmore. The one o’clock train will do quite nicely.”
Lord Arranmore obeyed her literally. He jerked the volume lightly into a far corner of the room and came over to her side. She was curled up in a huge easy-chair, and her face caught by the glow of the dancing firelight almost startled him by its youth. There was not a single sign of middle age in the smooth cheeks, not a single grey hair, no sign of weariness in the soft full eyes raised to his.
She caught his glance and smiled.
“The firelight is so becoming!” she murmured.
“Don’t go!” he said.
“My dear Arranmore. The Redcliffes would never forgive me, and we must go some time.”
“I don’t see the necessity,” he answered, slowly. “You like Enton. Make it your home.”
She raised her eyebrows.
“How improper!” “Not necessarily,” he answered. “Take me too.”
She sat up in her chair and regarded him steadily.
“Am I to regard this,” she asked, “as an offer of marriage?”
“Well, it sounds like it,” he admitted.
“Dear me. You might have given me a little more notice,” she said. “Let me think for a moment, please.”
Perhaps their thoughts travelled back in the same direction. He remembered his cousin and his playfellow, the fairest and daintiest girl he had ever seen, his best friend, his constant companion. He remembered the days when she had first become something more to him, the miseries of that time, his hopeless ineligibility—the separation. Then the years of absence, the terrible branding years of his life, the horrible pit, the time when night and day his only prayer had been the prayer for death. The self-repression of years seemed to grow weaker and weaker. He held out his hands. But she hesitated.
“Dear,” she said, “you make me very happy. It is wonderful to think this may come after all these years. But there is something which I wish to say to you first.”
“You are very, very dear to me now—as you are—but you are not the man I loved years ago. You are a very different person indeed. Sometimes I am almost afraid of you.