“Did you not know it before?” he asked. “I did not dare to think it.”
“What a mask of ice I must wear! How could a man feel as I have done without showing it? Your sister at least knew.”
“It was last night. She began to praise you, I said what I felt, and then in an instant it was all out.”
“But what could you—what could you see in me? Oh, I do pray that you may not repent it!” The gentle heart was ruffled amid its joy by the thought of its own unworthiness.
“Repent it! I feel that I am a saved man. You do not know how degrading this city life is, how debasing, and yet how absorbing. Money for ever clinks in your ear. You can think of nothing else. From the bottom of my heart I hate it, and yet how can I draw back without bringing grief to my dear old father? There was but one way in which I could defy the taint, and that was by having a home influence so pure and so high that it may brace me up against all that draws me down. I have felt that influence already. I know that when I am talking to you I am a better man. It is you who, must go with me through life, or I must walk for ever alone.”
“Oh, Harold, I am so happy!” Still they wandered amid the darkening shadows, while one by one the stars peeped out in the blue black sky above them. At last a chill night wind blew up from the east, and brought them back to the realities of life.
“You must go in. You will be cold.”
“My father will wonder where I am. Shall I say anything to him?”
“If you like, my darling. Or I will in the morning. I must tell my mother to-night. I know how delighted she will be.”
“I do hope so.”
“Let me take you up the garden path. It is so dark. Your lamp is not lit yet. There is the window. Till to-morrow, then, dearest.”
“Till to-morrow, Harold.”
“My own darling!” He stooped, and their lips met for the first time. Then, as she pushed open the folding windows she heard his quick, firm step as it passed down the graveled path. A lamp was lit as she entered the room, and there was Ida, dancing about like a mischievous little fairy in front of her.
“And have you anything to tell me?” she asked, with a solemn face. Then, suddenly throwing her arms round her sister’s neck, “Oh, you dear, dear old Clara! I am so pleased. I am so pleased.”
VENIT TANDEM FELICITAS.
It was just three days after the Doctor and the Admiral had congratulated each other upon the closer tie which was to unite their two families, and to turn their friendship into something even dearer and more intimate, that Miss Ida Walker received a letter which caused her some surprise and considerable amusement. It was dated from next door, and was handed in by the red-headed page after breakfast.