THE RUSSIA-LEATHER CASE.
“Never again,” so speaketh
In the blank desolate passion of despair:
Never again shall the bright dream I cherished
Delude my heart, for bitter truth is there:
The Angel Hope shall still my cruel pain;
Never again, my heart—never again!
Sir John Kynaston fell back a step or two and turned very white.
“How do you do?” said Vera, quietly, and put out her hand.
They stood in the open air. There was a carriage passing, some idle cabmen on the stand with nothing to do but to stare at them, a gaping nursery-maid and her charges at the gate. Whatever people may feel on suddenly running against each other after a deadly quarrel, or a heart-rending separation, or after a long interval of heart-burnings and misunderstandings, there are always the externals of life to be observed. It is difficult to rush into the tragedy of one’s existence at a gulp; it is safer to shake hands and say, “How do you do?”
That is what Vera felt, and that was what these two people did. Sir John took her proffered hand, and responded to her stereotyped greeting. By the time he had done so he had recovered his presence of mind.
“What an odd thing to meet you at the door of this church,” he said, rather nervously. “Do you know that my brother was married here this morning?”
“Yes; I was in the church.”
“Were you? How glad I am I did not know it,” almost involuntarily.
There was a little pause; then Vera asked him if he was going to Walpole Lodge.
“Eventually; but I have come back here to look for something. My brother has lost a little Russia-leather case; he thinks he may have dropped it in the church; there were two ten-pound notes in it. I am going in to look for it. Why, what is that in your hand? I believe that is the very thing.”
“I—I—just picked it up,” stammered Vera. She began searching in the pockets of the case. “I did not think there was anything in it. Yes, here are the notes, quite safe.”
She took them out and gave them to him. He held out his hand mechanically for the case also.
“Thank you; you have saved me the trouble of looking for it. I will take it back to him at once.”
But she could not part with her treasure; it was all she had got of him.
“The letter-case is very shabby,” she said, crimsoning with a painful confusion. “I do not think he can want it at all; it is quite worn out.”
Sir John looked at her with a slight surprise.
“It can be very little use to him. One likes sometimes to have a little remembrance of those—of people—one has known; he would not mind my keeping it, I think. Tell him—tell him I asked for it.” The tears were very near her voice; she could scarcely keep them back out of her eyes.