Our vigilant duenna had gradually risen to a sitting posture, and drawn nearer and nearer, and as the narrator’s voice sank into silence she said with effusion, “Well, you are a good man, I guess.”
But Fanny Meyrick sat as if entranced. The gale had died away, and, to break the spell, I asked her if she wanted to take one peep on deck, to see if there was a star in the heavens.
There was no star, but a light rising and falling with the ship’s motion, which was pronounced by a sailor to be Queenstown light, shone in the distance.
The Father was to leave us there. “We shall not make it to-night,” said the sailor. “It is too rough. Early in the morning the passengers will land.”
“I wish,” said Fanny with a deep sigh, as if wakening from a dream, “that the Church of Rome was at the bottom of the sea!”
Arrived at our dock, I hurried off to catch the train for London. The Meyricks lingered for a few weeks in Wales before coming to settle down for the winter. I was glad of it, for I could make my arrangements unhampered. So I carefully eliminated Clarges street from my list of lodging-houses, and finally “ranged” myself with a neat landlady in Sackville street.
How anxiously I awaited the first letter from Bessie! As the banker’s clerk handed it over the counter to me, instead of the heavy envelope I had hoped for, it was a thin slip of an affair that fluttered away from my hand. It was so very slim and light that I feared to open it there, lest it should be but a mocking envelope, nothing more.
So I hastened back to my cab, and, ordering the man to drive to the law-offices, tore it open as I jumped in. It enclosed simply a printed slip, cut from some New York paper—a list of the Algeria’s passengers.
“What joke is this?” I said as I scanned it more closely.
By some spite of fortune my name was printed directly after the Meyrick party. Was it for this, this paltry thing, that Bessie has denied me a word? I turned over the envelope, turned it inside out—not a penciled word even!
The shadow that I had seen on that good-bye visit to Philadelphia was clear to me now. I had said at Lenox, repeating the words after Bessie with fatal emphasis, “I am glad, very glad, that Fanny Meyrick is to sail in October. I would not have her stay on this side for worlds!” Then the next day, twenty-four hours after, I told her that I too was going abroad. Coward that I was, not to tell her at first! She might have been sorry, vexed, but not suspicious.
Yes, that was the ugly word I had to admit, and to admit that I had given it room to grow.
My first hesitancy about taking her with me, my transfer from the Russia to the later steamer, and, to crown all, that leaf from Fanny’s pocket-book: “I shall love him for ever and ever”!