Ellen discovered her father with a book in a distant corner of the dining-saloon, which he preferred to the deck or the library for his reading, in such intervals as the stewards, laying and cleaning the tables, left him unmolested in it. She advanced precipitately upon him, and stood before him in an excitement which, though he lifted his dazed eyes to it from his page, he was not entirely aware of till afterwards. Then he realized that her cheeks were full of color, and her eyes of light, and that she panted as if she had been running when she spoke.
“Poppa,” she said, “there is something that Mr. Breckon wants to speak to you—to ask you about. He has asked me, but I want you to see him, for I think he had better tell you himself.”
While he still stared at her she was as suddenly gone as she had come, and he remained with his book, which the meaning had as suddenly left. There was no meaning in her words, except as he put it into them, and after he had got it in he struggled with it in a sort of perfunctory incredulity. It was not impossible; it chiefly seemed so because it seemed too good to be true; and the more he pondered it the more possible, if not probable, it became. He could not be safe with it till he had submitted it to his wife; and he went to her while he was sure of repeating Ellen’s words without varying from them a syllable.
To his astonishment, Mrs. Kenton was instantly convinced. “Why, of course,” she said, “it can’t possibly mean anything else. Why should it be so very surprising? The time hasn’t been very long, but they’ve been together almost every moment; and he was taken with her from the very beginning—I could see that. Put on your other coat,” she said, as she dusted the collar of the coat the judge was wearing. “He’ll be looking you up, at once. I can’t say that it’s unexpected,” and she claimed a prescience in the matter which all her words had hitherto denied.
Kenton did not notice her inconsistency. “If it were not so exactly what I wished,” he said, “I don’t know that I should be surprised at it myself. Sarah, if I had been trying to imagine any one for Ellen, I couldn’t have dreamed of a person better suited to her than this young man. He’s everything that I could wish him to be. I’ve seen the pleasure and comfort she took in his way from the first moment. He seemed to make her forget—Do you suppose she has forgotten that miserable wretch Do you think—”
“If she hadn’t, could she be letting him come to speak to you? I don’t believe she ever really cared for Bittridge—or not after he began flirting with Mrs. Uphill.” She had no shrinking from the names which Kenton avoided with disgust. “The only question for you is to consider what you shall say to Mr. Breckon.”
“Say to him? Why, of course, if Ellen has made up her mind, there’s only one thing I can say.”