There was a moment’s silence. Mr. Miller was buttoning-up his coat with the air of a man who buttons up his heart within it at the same time. He regarded the young man fiercely, and yet there was a lingering wistfulness, too, in his gaze. He would have given a good deal to hear, from his lips, a satisfactory explanation of the circumstances which told so suspiciously against him. He liked the young barrister personally, and he was fond enough of his daughter to wish that she might be happy in her own way. He spoke one word more to the young man.
“Have you nothing to say; Mr. Pryme?”
Herbert shook his head, with his eyes gloomily downcast.
“I can only tell you, sir, that you are mistaken in what you imagine. If you will not believe my word, I can say nothing more.”
“And what of these, Mr. Pryme—what of these?” pointing furiously downwards to Beatrice’s property.
“I cannot explain it any further to you, Mr. Miller. I can only ask you to believe me.”
“Then, I do not believe you, sir—I do not believe you. Would any man in his senses believe that you haven’t got a woman hidden in the next room? Do you suppose I’m a fool? I have the honour of wishing you good day, sir, and I am sorry I ever took the trouble of calling upon you. It is, of course, unnecessary for you to trouble yourself concerning my case, in these altered circumstances, Mr. Pryme; I beg to decline the benefit of your legal assistance. Good afternoon.”
The door closed upon him, and the sound of his retreating footsteps echoed noisily down the stairs. Herbert sank into a chair and covered his face with his hands. So lately hope and fortune seemed to have smiled upon him for one short, blissful moment, only to withdraw the sunshine of their faces again from him more completely, and to leave him more utterly in the dark than ever. Was ever man so unfortunate, and so unlucky?
But for the contretemps concerning that wretched sunshade, he would now have been a hopeful, and almost a triumphant, lover. Now life was all altered for him!
The door between the two rooms opened softly, and Beatrice, no longer brave, and defiant, and laughing as she had been when she went in, but white, and scared, and trembling, crept hesitatingly forth, and knelt down by her lover’s side.
“Oh, Herbert! what has happened? It was papa—I heard his voice; but I could not hear what you talked about, only I heard that he was angry at the last, when he went away. Oh! tell me, dearest, what has happened?”
Herbert pointed bitterly to her belongings on the table.
“What fatality made me overlook those wretched things?” he cried, miserably; “they have ruined us!”
Beatrice uttered an exclamation of dismay.
“Papa saw them—he recognized them!”
“Not as yours, thank God!”