The solitary porter on duty eyes her inquiringly. “Going by the up train, Miss?” he says, touching his hat respectfully as he passes her.
“No,” says Vera, blushing hotly under the thick shelter of her veil, and then adds with that readiness of explanation to which persons who have a guilty conscience are prone, “I am only waiting to see somebody off.” An uncalled-for piece of information which has only the effect of setting the bucolic mind of the local porter agog with curiosity and wonderment.
Presently the few passengers for the early train begin to arrive; a couple of farmers going into the market town, a village girl in a smart bonnet, an old woman in a dirty red shawl, carrying a bundle; that is all. Maurice is very late. Vera remembers that he always puts off starting to catch a train till the very last minute. She stands waiting for him at the further end of the platform, as far away as she can from the knot of rustic passengers, with a beating heart and a fever of impatience within her.
The train is signalled, and at that very minute the dog-cart from Kynaston drives up at last! Even then he has to get his ticket, and to convey himself and his portmanteau across from the other side of the line. Their good-bye will be short indeed!
The train steams up, and Maurice hurries forward followed by the porter bearing his rugs and sticks; he does not even see her, standing a little back, as she does, so as not to attract more attention than need be. But when all his things are put into the carriage, and the porter has been duly tipped and has departed, Captain Kynaston hears a soft voice behind him.
“I have come to wish you good-bye again.” He turns, flushing at the sound of the sweet familiar voice, and sees Vera in her long ulster, and her face hidden behind her veil, by his side.
“Good Heavens, Vera! you—out on such a morning?”
“I could not let you go away without—without—one kind word,” she begins, stammering painfully, her voice shaking so, as she speaks, that he cannot fail to divine her agitation, even though he cannot see the lovely troubled face that has been so carefully screened from his gaze.
“This is too good of you,” he begins. That very minute a brougham dashes rapidly up to the station.
“It is the Shadonake carriage!” cried Vera, casting a terrified glance behind her. “Who can it be? they will see me.”
“Jump into the train,” he answers, hurriedly, and, without a thought beyond an instinct of self-preservation for the moment, she obeys him. Maurice follows her quickly, closing the carriage door behind him. “Nobody can have seen you,” he says. “I daresay it is only some visitors going away; they could not have noticed you. Oh! Vera,” turning with sudden earnestness to her; “how am I ever to thank you for this great kindness to me?”
“It is nothing; only a five minutes’ walk before breakfast. It is no trouble to me; and I did not want you to think me unfeeling, or unkind to you.”