Frank did not reply. He had already thought the matter over and over again, and had reached the opinion that he could not interfere. If he had not himself proposed to her, and been refused, he might have moved. Up to that time he had stood in the position of an old friend of the family, and as such could well have spoken to Lady Greendale on a matter that so vitally concerned Bertha’s happiness. Now his taking that step would have the appearance of being the interference of a disappointed rival, rather than of a disinterested friend. He went up on deck, sat there for a time, and at last arrived at a conclusion.
“It is my duty. There can be no doubt about that,” he said to himself. “If Bertha really loves Carthew, she will believe his denial rather than my accusation, unsupported as it is by a scrap of real evidence. In that case, she will put down my story as a piece of malice and meanness. But, after all, that will matter little. I had better far lose her liking and esteem than my own self respect. I will tell Lady Greendale about this. The responsibility will be off my hands then. She may not view the matter as an absolute bar to Carthew’s marrying Bertha—that is her business and Bertha’s—but at any rate I shall have done my duty. I will wait, however, until Bertha has accepted him.
“I have made up my mind, George,” he said, later on. “If I hear that Miss Greendale has accepted Carthew, I shall go to her mother and tell her the story. I have little hope that it will do much good. It is very hard to make a girl believe anything against the man she loves, until it can be proved beyond doubt, and as Carthew will of course indignantly deny that he had anything to do with it, I expect that it will have no effect whatever, beyond making her dislike me cordially. Still, that cannot be helped. It is clearly my duty not only as her friend, but as the friend of her father and mother. But I wish that the task did not fall upon me.”
“I am glad to hear you say that, Major,” George said, quietly. “I can see, sir, that, as you say, it would be better if anyone else could do it, but Lady Greendale has known you for so many years that she must surely know that you would never have told her unless you believed the story to be true.”
“No doubt she will, George. I hope Miss Greendale will, too; but even if she does not see it in that light I cannot help it. Well, I will go ashore to the clubhouse and find out whether they have heard anything about the entries for the cup.”
When he returned he said to the captain:
“I hear that the Phantom has entered, Hawkins. I am told that she has just come off the slips, and that she has had a new suit of racing canvas made by Lapthorne.”
“Well, sir, I think that we ought to have a good chance with her. She has shown herself a very fast boat the few times she has been raced, but so have we, and taking the line through boats that we have both sailed against, I think that we ought to be able to beat her.”