THE OTHER MAN
“Please, Marraine, will you give us your blessing?”
The joyous excitement and relief incidental to the safe return of the voyagers had spent itself at last, and now, refreshed and invigorated by a hot bath and by a meal of more varied constituents than biscuit and plain chocolate, Magda propounded her question, a gleam of mirth glancing in her eyes.
Lady Arabella glanced doubtfully from one to the other. Then a look of undisguised satisfaction dawned in her face.
“Do you mean——” she began eagerly.
“We’ve been and gone and got engaged,” explained Quarrington.
“My dears!” Lady Arabella jumped up with the agility of twenty rather than seventy and proceeded to pour out her felicitations. Incidentally she kissed everybody all round, including Quarrington, and her keen old hawk’s eyes grew all soft and luminous like a girl’s.
Coppertop was hugely excited.
“Will the wedding be to-morrow?” he asked hopefully. “And shall I be a page and carry the Fairy Lady’s train?”
Magda smiled at him.
“Of course you shall be a page, Topkins. But the wedding won’t be quite as soon as to-morrow,” she told him.
“Why not?” insinuated Quarrington calmly. “There are such things as special licences, you know.”
“Don’t be silly,” replied Magda scathingly. “I’ve only just been saved from drowning, and I don’t propose to take on such a risk as matrimony till I’ve had time to recover my nerve.”
Lady Arabella surveyed them both with a species of irritated approval.
“And to think,” she burst out at last, indignantly, “of all the hours I’ve spent having my silly portrait painted and getting cramp in my stiff old joints, and that even then it needed Providence to threaten you both with a watery grave to bring you up to the scratch!”
“Well, we’re engaged now,” submitted Magda meekly.
Lady Arabella chuckled sardonically.
“If you weren’t, you’d have to be—after last night!” she commented drily.
“No one need know about last night,” retorted Magda.
“Huh!” Lady Arabella snorted. “Half Netherway will know the tale by midday. And you may be sure your best enemy will hear of it. They always do.”
“Never mind. It will make an excellent advertisement,” observed Magda philosophically. “Can’t you see it in all the papers?—’NARROW ESCAPE OF THE WIELITZSKA.’ In big capitals.”
They all laughed, realising the great amount of probability contained in her forecast. And, thanks to an enterprising young journalist who chanced to be prowling about Netherway on that particular day, the London newspapers flared out into large headlines, accompanied by vivid and picturesque details of the narrow escape while yachting of the famous dancer and of the well-known artist, Michael Quarrington—who, in some of the cheaper papers, was credited with having saved the Wielitzska’s life by swimming ashore with her.