Her face was rather white, and the hand which lay upon the work in her lap trembled a little, while she clasped the arm of the chair with the other; but she broke in upon his hesitation with an even voice:
“It has been very pleasant for us all, I’m sure,” she said, “and, frankly, I’m sorry that it must be interrupted for a while, but that is about all there is of it, isn’t it? We shall probably be back not later than October, I should say, and then you can renew your contests with Julius and your controversies with me.”
Her tone and what she said recalled to him their last night on board the ship, but there was no relenting on this occasion. He realized that for a moment he had been on the verge of telling the girl that he loved her, and he realized, too, that she had divined his impulse and prevented the disclosure; but he registered a vow that he would know before he saw her again whether he might consistently tell her his love, and win or lose upon the touch.
Miss Blake made several inaccurate efforts to introduce her needle at the exact point desired, and when that endeavor was accomplished broke the silence by saying, “Speaking of ‘October,’ have you read the novel? I think it is charming.”
“Yes,” said John, with his vow in his mind, but not sorry for the diversion, “and I enjoyed it very much. I thought it was immensely clever, but I confess that I didn’t quite sympathize with the love affairs of a hero who was past forty, and I must also confess that I thought the girl was, well—to put it in plain English—a fool.”
Mary laughed, with a little quaver in her voice. “Do you know,” she said, “that sometimes it seems to me that I am older than you are?”
“I know you’re awfully wise,” said John with a laugh, and from that their talk drifted off into the safer channels of their usual intercourse until he rose to say good night.
“Of course, we shall see you again before we go,” she said as she gave him her hand.
“Oh,” he declared, “I intend regularly to haunt the place.”
When John came down the next morning his father, who was, as a rule, the most punctual of men, had not appeared. He opened the paper and sat down to wait. Ten minutes passed, fifteen, twenty. He rang the bell. “Have you heard my father this morning?” he said to Jeffrey, remembering for the first time that he himself had not.
“No, sir,” said the man. “He most generally coughs a little in the morning, but I don’t think I heard him this morning, sir.”
“Go up and see why he doesn’t come down,” said John, and a moment later he followed the servant upstairs, to find him standing at the chamber door with a frightened face.
“He must be very sound asleep, sir,” said Jeffrey. “He hasn’t answered to my knockin’ or callin’, sir.” John tried the door. He found the chain bolt on, and it opened but a few inches. “Father!” he called, and then again, louder. He turned almost unconsciously to Jeffrey, and found his own apprehensions reflected in the man’s face. “We must break in the door,” he said. “Now, together!” and the bolt gave way.