Herbert, who could not quite understand the reason of it, was almost overpowered by the warmth of Captain Kynaston’s greeting. To have his place removed next to his own, and to grasp him heartily by both hands, wringing them with affectionate fervour, was the work of a few seconds. And then, who so lively, so full of anecdote and laughter, so interested in all that could be said to him, as Maurice Kynaston during that dinner?
It made Helen angry to hear him. He could be agreeable enough, she thought, bitterly, to a chance acquaintance, picked up nobody knew where; he could find plenty of conversation for this almost unknown young man; it was only when they were alone together that he sat by glumly and silently, without a smile and without a word!
She did not take it into account how surfeited the man was with his honeycomb. Herbert Pryme, individually, was nothing much to him; but he came as the sight of a distant sail is to a shipwrecked mariner. It is doubtful, indeed, whether, under the circumstances, Maurice would not have been equally delighted to have met his tailor or his bootmaker. After dinner was over the two men went out and smoked their cigars together. This was a fresh offence to Mrs. Kynaston; usually she enjoyed an evening stroll with her husband after dinner, but when he asked her to come out with him on this occasion, she refused, shortly and ungraciously.
“No, thank you; if you and Mr. Pryme are going to smoke, I could not possibly come; you know that I hate smoke.”
Poor Herbert was about to protest that nothing would induce him to smoke; but Maurice passed his arm hurriedly through his.
“Come along, then, and have a cigar in the garden,” he said, with scarcely concealed eagerness; he felt like a schoolboy let out of school.
Helen went up to her bedroom, and sat sulkily by her open window, looking over the lake on to the mountains. Long after it was dark she could see the two red specks of their cigars wandering about like fire-flies in the garden, and could hear the crush of the rough gravel under their footsteps, and the low murmur of their voices as they talked.
“You are coming into Meadowshire, are you not?” asked Maurice, ere they parted.
Herbert shook his head.
“Not to the Millers?”
“No, I am afraid I shall never be asked to Shadonake again,” answered the younger man, gloomily.
“Why, I thought you and Beatrice—forgive me—but is it not the case?”
“Her parents have stopped all that, Kynaston.”
“But I am sure Beatrice herself will never let it stop; I know her too well,” said Maurice, cheerily.
“There are laws in connection with minors,” began Mr. Pryme, solemnly.
“Fiddlesticks!” was Maurice’s rejoinder. “There are no laws to prevent young women falling in love, or the world would not be in such a confounded muddle as it frequently is. Don’t be downhearted, Pryme; you stick to her, and it will all come right; and look here, if they won’t ask you to Shadonake, I ask you to Kynaston; drop me a line, and come whenever you like—as soon as you get home.”