It was the parting, for he had to go to London and to his own family the next day early. Gillian spoke not a word all through the dark drive to Clipstone, but when the party emerged into the light her eyes were full of tears. Lady Merrifield followed her to her room, and her words half choked were-
“Mamma, I never knew what a great, solemn, holy thing it is. Will you look me out a prayer to help me to get worthy?”
’Twas in the summer-time so sweet,
When hearts and flowers are both in season,
That who, of all the world should meet,
In “twilight eve,” but Love and Reason.
That moon and sparkling lights did not shine alone for Gerald and Dolores. There were multitudes on the cliffs and the beach, and Sir Ferdinand and Lady Travis Underwood with their party had come to an irregular sort of dinner-supper at St. Andrew’s Rock. With them, or rather before them, came Mr. Bramshaw, the engineer, who sent in his card to Mr. Clement Underwood, and entered with a leathern bag, betraying the designs on Penbeacon.
Not that these were more than an introduction. Indeed, under the present circumstances, a definite answer was impossible; but there was another question, namely, that which regarded Sophia Vanderkist. She had indeed long been of age, but of course her suitor could not but look to her former guardian for consent and influence. He was a very bearded man, pleasant-spoken and gentlemanlike, and Lancelot had prepared his brother by saying that he knew all about the family, and they were highly respectable solicitors at Minsterham, one son a master in the school at Stoneborough. So Clement listened favourably, liked the young man, and though his fortunes at present depended on his work, and Lady Vanderkist was no friend to his suit, gave him fair encouragement, and invited him to join the meal, though the party was already likely to be too numerous for the dining-room.
That mattered the less when all the young and noisy ones could be placed, to their great delight, under the verandah outside, where they could talk and laugh to their utmost content, without incommoding Uncle Clement, or being awed by Cousin Fernan’s black beard and Cacique-like gravity. How they discussed and made fun over the humours of the bazaar; nor was Gerald’s wit the slackest, nor his mirth the most lagging. He was very far from depressed now that the first shock was over. He knew himself to be as much loved or better than ever by those whose affection he valued, and he was sure of Dolores’ heart as he had never yet been. The latent Bohemianism in his nature woke with the prospect of having his own way to make, and being free from the responsibilities of an estate, and his chivalry was excited by the pleasure of protecting his little half-sister, in pursuit of whom he intended to go.