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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 77 pages of information about On the Church Steps.

But there was something else at work against me—­what was it?—­something that I could neither see nor divine.  And it was not altogether made up of Aunt Sloman, I was sure.

“I cannot leave her now, Charlie.  Dr. R——­ wishes her to remain in Philadelphia, so that he can watch her case.  That settles it, Charlie:  I must stay with her.”

What was there to be said?  “Is there no one else, no one to take your place?”

“Nobody; and I would not leave her even if there were.”

Still, I was unsatisfied.  A feeling of uneasiness took possession of me.  I seemed to read in Bessie’s eyes that there was a thought between us hidden out of sight.  There is no clairvoyant like a lover.  I could see the shadow clearly enough, but whence, in her outer life, had the shadow come? Between us, surely, it could not be.  Even her anxiety for her aunt could not explain it:  it was something concealed.

When at last I had to leave her, “So to-morrow is your last day?” she said.

“No, not the last.  I have changed my passage to the Saturday steamer.”

The strange look came into her face again.  Never before did blue eyes wear such a look of scrutiny.

“Well, what is it?” I asked laughingly as I looked straight into her eyes.

“The Saturday steamer,” she said musingly—­“the Algeria, isn’t it?  I thought you were in a hurry?”

“It was my only chance to have you,” I explained, and apparently the argument was satisfactory enough.

With the saucy little upward toss with which she always dismissed a subject, “Then it isn’t good-bye to-night?” she said.

“Yes, for two days.  I shall run over again on Thursday.”

CHAPTER VII.

The two days passed, and the Thursday, and the Friday’s parting, harder for Bessie, as it seemed, than she had thought for.  It was hard to raise her dear little head from my shoulder when the last moment came, and to rush down stairs to the cab, whose shivering horse and implacable driver seemed no bad emblem of destiny on that raw October morning.

I was glad of the lowering sky as I stepped up the gangway to the ship’s deck.  “What might have been” went down the cabin stairs with me; and as I threw my wraps and knapsack into the double state-room I had chosen I felt like a widower.

It was wonderful to me then, as I sat down on the side of the berth and looked around me, how the last two weeks had filled all the future with dreams.  “I must have a genius for castle-building,” I laughed.  “Well, the reality is cold and empty enough.  I’ll go up on deck.”

On deck, among the piles of luggage, were various metal-covered trunks marked M——.  I remember now watching them as they were stowed away.

But it was with a curious shock, an hour after we had left the dock, that a turn in my solitary walk on deck brought me face to face with Fanny Meyrick.

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