Christie was but too glad to be off; and when Mrs. Saltonstall asked when she would prefer to leave, promptly replied, “To-morrow,” received her salary, which was forthcoming with unusual punctuality, and packed her trunks with delightful rapidity.
As the family was to leave in a week, her sudden departure caused no surprise to the few who knew her, and with kind farewells to such of her summer friends as still remained, she went to bed that night all ready for an early start. She saw nothing more of Mr. Fletcher that day, but the sound of excited voices in the drawing-room assured her that madame was having it out with her brother; and with truly feminine inconsistency Christie hoped that she would not be too hard upon the poor man, for, after all, it was kind of him to overlook the actress, and ask the governess to share his good things with him.
She did not repent, but she got herself to sleep, imagining a bridal trip to Paris, and dreamed so delightfully of lost splendors that the awakening was rather blank, the future rather cold and hard.
She was early astir, meaning to take the first boat and so escape all disagreeable rencontres, and having kissed the children in their little beds, with tender promises not to forget them, she took a hasty breakfast and stepped into the carriage waiting at the door. The sleepy waiters stared, a friendly housemaid nodded, and Miss Walker, the hearty English lady who did her ten miles a day, cried out, as she tramped by, blooming and bedraggled:
“Bless me, are you off?”
“Yes, thank Heaven!” answered Christie; but as she spoke Mr. Fletcher came down the steps looking as wan and heavy-eyed as if a sleepless night had been added to his day’s defeat. Leaning in at the window, he asked abruptly, but with a look she never could forget:
“Will nothing change your answer, Christie?”
His eyes said, “Forgive me,” but his lips only said, “Good-by,” and the carriage rolled away.
Then, being a woman, two great tears fell on the hand still red with the lingering grasp he had given it, and Christie said, as pitifully as if she loved him:
“He has got a heart, after all, and perhaps I might have been glad to fill it if he had only shown it to me sooner. Now it is too late.”
Before she had time to find a new situation, Christie received a note from Miss Tudor, saying that hearing she had left Mrs. Saltonstall she wanted to offer her the place of companion to an invalid girl, where the duties were light and the compensation large.
“How kind of her to think of me,” said Christie, gratefully. “I’ll go at once and do my best to secure it, for it must be a good thing or she wouldn’t recommend it.”
Away went Christie to the address sent by Miss Tudor, and as she waited at the door she thought: