“Can she be one of us?” Miss Macroyd demanded, in a dramatic whisper.
“She might be anything,” Verrian returned, trying instantly, with a whir of his inventive machinery, to phrase her. He made a sort of luxurious failure of it, and rested content with her face, which showed itself now in profile and now fronted him in full, and now was restless and now subsided in a look of delicate exhaustion. He would have said, if he would have said anything absolute, that she was a person who had something on her mind; at instants she had that hunted air, passing at other instants into that air of escape. He discussed these appearances with Miss Macroyd, but found her too frankly disputatious; and she laughed too much and too loud.
At Southfield, where they all descended, Miss Macroyd promptly possessed herself of a groom, who came forward tentatively, touching his hat. “Miss Macroyd?” she suggested.
“Yes, miss,” the man said, and led the way round the station to the victoria which, when Miss Macroyd’s maid had mounted to the place beside her, had no room; for any one else.
Verrian accounted for her activity upon the theory of her quite justifiable wish not to arrive at Seasands with a young man whom she might then have the effect of having voluntarily come all the way with; and after one or two circuits of the station it was apparent to him that he was not to have been sent for from Mrs. Westangle’s, but to have been left to the chances of the local drivers and their vehicles. These were reduced to a single carryall and a frowsy horse whose rough winter coat recalled the aspect of his species in the period following the glacial epoch. The mud, as of a world-thaw, encrusted the wheels and curtains of the carryall.
Verrian seized upon it and then went into the waiting-room, where he had left his suit-case. He found the stranger there in parley with the young woman in the ticket-office about a conveyance to Mrs. Westangle’s. It proved that he had secured not only the only thing of the sort, but the only present hope of any other, and in the hard case he could not hesitate with distress so interesting. It would have been brutal to drive off and leave that girl there, and it would have been a vulgar flourish to put the entire vehicle at her service. Besides, and perhaps above all, Verrian had no idea of depriving himself of such a chance as heaven seemed to offer him.
He advanced with the delicacy of the highest-bred hero he could imagine, and said, “I am going to Mrs. Westangle’s, and I’m afraid I’ve got the only conveyance—such as it is. If you would let me offer you half of it? Mr. Verrian,” he added, at the light of acceptance instantly kindling in her face, which flushed thinly, as with an afterglow of invalidism.
“Why, thank you; I’m afraid I must, Mr. Merriam,” and Verrian was aware of being vexed at her failure to catch his name; the name of Verrian ought to have been unmistakable. “The young lady in the office says there won’t be another, and I’m expected promptly.” She added, with a little tremor of the lip, “I don’t understand why Mrs. Westangle—” But then she stopped.