‘You didn’t expect me to meet you on such a night, did you, Johnnie?’ she cried with a break in her voice.
‘Awfully glad to see you, Tiny,’ said the short gentleman. ’On such a night!’
After thus unconsciously quoting the Merchant of Venice, Mr. Brown-Smith turned to his valet. ‘Don’t forget the fishing-rods,’ he said.
‘I took the opportunity of driving over with a gentleman from Upwold,’ said Mrs. Brown-Smith. ‘Let me introduce him. Methven,’ to her maid, ‘where is the Vidame de la Lain?’
’I heard him say that he must help Mrs. Andrews, the cook, to find a seat, Ma’am,’ said the maid.
‘He really is kind,’ said Mrs. Brown-Smith, ’but I fear we can’t wait to say good-bye to him.’
Three-quarters of an hour later, Mr. Brown-Smith and his wife were at supper at Upwold.
Next day, as the cook’s departure had postponed the shooting party, they took leave of their hostess, and returned to their moors in Perthshire.
Weeks passed, with no message from the Vidame. He did not answer a letter which Mrs. Malory allowed Matilda to write. The mother never showed to the girl the note which he had left with her maid. The absence and the silence of the lover were enough. Matilda never knew that among the four packed in the brougham on that night of rain, one had been eloping with a married lady—who returned to supper.
The papers were ’requested to state that the marriage announced between the Vidame de la Lain and Miss Malory will not take place.’ Why it did not take place was known only to Mrs. Malory, Mrs. Brown-Smith, and Merton.
Matilda thought that her lover had been kidnapped and arrested, by the Secret Police of France, for his part in a scheme to restore the Royal House, the White Flag, the Lilies, the children of St. Louis. At Mrs. Brown-Smith’s place in Perthshire, in the following autumn, Matilda met Sir Aylmer Jardine. Then she knew that what she had taken for love (in the previous year) had been,
‘Not love, but love’s first flush in youth.’
They always do make that discovery, bless them! Lady Jardine is now wrapped up in her baby boy. The mother of the cook recovered her health.
’Mr. Frederick Warren’—so Merton read the card presented to him on a salver of Limoges enamel by the office-boy.
‘Show the gentleman in.’
Mr. Warren entered. He was a tall and portly person, with a red face, red whiskers, and a tightly buttoned frock-coat, which more expressed than hid his goodly and prominent proportions. He bowed, and Merton invited him to be seated. It struck Merton as a singular circumstance that his visitor wore on each arm the crimson badge of the newly vaccinated.
Mr. Warren sat down, and, taking a red silk handkerchief out of the crown of his hat, he wiped his countenance. The day was torrid, and Mr. Merton hospitably offered an effervescent draught.