When it moved on again, they were normal young people once more, and discussed various features of the Young Manchus’ raid on society as though the extermination of political adversaries were a commonplace occurrence in modern England.
At last, after a journey which lived long in their minds, since even a prosaic train may follow the path to Wonderland, they arrived at London Bridge, and hummed in a taxi through streets of gaunt warehouses until the light of Westminster flashed on a Thames veiled in the blue mystery of a Summer gloaming.
The cab had hardly halted outside the Fortescue Square mansion when the door was thrown wide, and Tomlinson appeared, flanked by two stalwart footmen. The butler’s face was aglow with pleasure.
“It’s all right now you’ve come, Miss Evelyn,” he said joyfully. “Mrs. Forbes arrived more than an hour ago.”
But Tomlinson was in error. He did not know what tribulations loomed already through the haze of the future, or he would have laid to heart the time-honored advice to venturesome travelers:
“Never hallo till you’re out of the wood!”
Mrs. Forbes, a slim, elegant woman, looked as if she were her daughter’s elder sister. Although driven by hay fever to the seaside regularly at the beginning of the London season, she was far from being a malade imaginaire. She did not go willingly. Each year she hoped against hope that the annoying ailment would not make itself felt, yet no sooner was the month of May well established than for six or seven weeks she had either to drag her husband and daughter away from the metropolis or live by herself in some South Coast hotel.
She had tried Brighton, whence Mr. Forbes could travel to the city, but soon discovered that the daily train journey was not good for his health. After that, she insisted on adopting the self-denying ordinance of leaving Evelyn with her father in the town house from the middle of May till the end of June, when all three went to the Highlands.
She, of course, had not the remotest knowledge of the terrors threatening her household; a thunderbolt out of a Summer sky would have astonished her less than the indignities she endured when haled away from Eastbourne in the luxurious car which Wong Li Fu had at his command.
Theydon had been in the house nearly half an hour and was exchanging experiences with Forbes and Handyside— the latter, by virtue of his extraordinary share in the day’s adventures, being admitted to the full confidence of the others— when Evelyn brought her mother into the library.
“Here is some one who positively refuses to retire for the night until she has met you, Mr. Theydon,” said the girl, radiant with joy and relief, now that the shadow of death had passed, apparently forever, leaving her dear ones unscathed.