Without a moment’s thought, she fled into the inner room, the door of which stood ajar, and which was none other than Mr. Pryme’s bed-chamber! There was no time to think of any better expedient. Beatrice turned the key upon herself, and Herbert called out “Come in!” to the intruder. Neither of them had noticed that Beatrice’s little white lace sunshade lay upon the table with her gloves and veil beside it.
If Mr. Pryme had been alarmed at the bare fact of an unknown and possibly unimportant visitor, it may be left to the imagination to describe the state of his feelings when the door, upon being opened, disclosed the Member for North Meadowshire standing without!
A WHITE SUNSHADE.
For ever, Fortune, wilt thou prove
An unrelenting foe to love,
And when we meet a mutual heart,
Come in between, and bid us part?
“Well, Mr. Pryme, how d’ye do?” said Mr. Miller, in his rough, hearty voice, holding out his hand. “I dare say you are surprised to see me here. I haven’t met you since you were staying down with us at Christmas time. Well, and how goes the world with you, young man?”
Herbert, who at first had thought nothing less than that Mr. Miller had tracked his daughter to his rooms, and that he was about to have the righteous wrath of an infuriated and exasperated parent to deal with, by this time began to perceive that, to whatever extraordinary cause his visit was owing, Beatrice, at all events, had nothing to do with it. He recovered himself sufficiently to murmur, in answer to his visitor’s greeting, that the world went pretty well with him, and to request his guest to be seated.
And then, as he pushed an arm-chair forward for him, his eye fell upon Beatrice’s things upon the table, and his heart literally stood still within him. What was he to do? They lay so close to the father’s elbow that, to move them without attracting attention was impossible, and to attract attention to them was to risk their being recognized.
Meanwhile Mr. Miller had put on his spectacles, and was drawing some voluminous papers out of his breast coat-pocket.
“Now, I dare say, young man, you are wondering what brings me to see you? Well, the fact is, there is a little matter about which I am going to law. I’m going to bring an action for libel against a newspaper; it is that rascally paper the Cat o’ Nine Tails. They had an infamous paragraph three weeks ago concerning my early life, which, let me tell you, sir, was highly respectable in every way, sir—in every way.”
“I am quite sure of that, Mr. Miller.”
“I’ve brought the paragraph with me. Oh, here it is. Well, I’ve had a good deal of correspondence with the editor, and he refuses to publish an apology, and so I’m tired of the whole matter, and have placed it in the hands of my solicitors. I’m going to prosecute them, sir, and I don’t care what it costs me to do it; and I’ll expose the whole system of these trumped-up fabrications, that contain, as a rule, one grain of truth to a hundredweight of lies. Well, now, Mr. Pryme, I want a clever barrister to take up this case, and I have instructed Messrs. Grainge, my solicitors, to retain you.”