“Come this way, and I’ll tell you what convinced me.”
“I can’t see how any argument can prevail on you to swerve from the path of honour, the only career any one can care about,” cried Sydney, the romance of her nature on fire.
“Hush, Sydney,” he said, partly from the exquisite pain she inflicted, partly because her vehemence was attracting attention.
“No wonder you say Hush,” said the maiden, with what she meant for noble severity, “No wonder you don’t want to be reminded of all we talked of and planned. Does not it break Babie’s heart?”
“She does not know.”
“Then it is not too late.”
But at that moment the bride’s aunt, who felt herself in charge of Miss Evelyn, swooped down on them, and paired her off with an equally honourable best man, so that she found herself seated between two comparative strangers; while it seemed to her that Lucas Brownlow was keeping up an insane whirl of merriment with his neighbours.
Poor child, her hero was fallen, her influence had failed, and nothing was left her but the miserable shame of having trusted in the power of an attraction which she now felt to have been a delusion. Meanwhile the aunt, by way of being on the safe side, effectually prevented Jock from speaking to her again before the party broke up; and he could only see that she was hotly angered, and not that she was keenly hurt.
She arrived at home the next day with white cheeks and red eyes, and most indistinct accounts of the wedding. A few monosyllables were extracted with difficulty, among them a “Yes” when Fordham asked whether she had seen Lucas Brownlow.
“Did he talk of his plans?”
“One cannot but be sorry,” said her mother; “but, as your uncle says, his motives are to be much respected.”
“Mamma,” cried Sydney, horrified, “you wouldn’t encourage him in turning back from the defence of his country in time of war?”
“His country!” ejaculated Fordham. “Up among the hill tribes!”
“You palliating it too, Duke! Is there no sense of honour or glory left? What are you laughing at? I don’t think it a laughing matter, nor Cecil either, that he should have been led to turn his back upon all that is great and glorious!”
“That’s very fine,” said Fordham, who was in a teasing mood. “Had you not better put it into the ‘Traveller’s Joy?’”
“I shall never touch the ‘Traveller’s Joy’ again!” and Sydney’s high horse suddenly breaking down, she flew away in a flood of tears.
Her mother and brother looked at one another rather aghast, and Fordham said-
“Had you any suspicion of this?”
“Not definitely. Pray don’t say a word that can develop it now.”
“He is all the worthier.”
“Most true; but we do not know that there is any feeling on his side, and if there were, Sydney is much too young for it to be safe to interfere with conventionalities. An expressed attachment would be very bad for both of them at present.”