“No—that would never be!” she said. “But—don’t you understand? I—wanted to know—something. Thank you. I won’t ask more now.”
“I’ve always meant to tell you—a good deal,” remarked Ransford, after another pause. “You see, I can scarcely—yet —realize that you’re both growing up! You were at school a year ago. And Dick is still very young. Are—are you more satisfied now?” he went on anxiously. “If not—”
“I’m quite satisfied,” she answered. “Perhaps—some day —you’ll tell me more about our father and mother?—but never mind even that now. You’re sure you haven’t minded my asking —what I have asked?”
“Of course not—of course not!” he said hastily. “I ought to have remembered. And—but we’ll talk again. I must get into the surgery—and have a word with Bryce, too.”
“If you could only make him see reason and promise not to offend again,” she said. “Wouldn’t that solve the difficulty?”
Ransford shook his head and made no answer. He picked up his letters again and went out, and down a long stone-walled passage which led to his surgery at the side of the house. He was alone there when he had shut the door—and he relieved his feelings with a deep groan.
“Heaven help me if the lad ever insists on the real truth and on having proofs and facts given to him!” he muttered. “I shouldn’t mind telling her, when she’s a bit older—but he wouldn’t understand as she would. Anyway, thank God I can keep up the pleasant fiction about the money without her ever knowing that I told her a deliberate lie just now. But —what’s in the future? Here’s one man to be dismissed already, and there’ll be others, and one of them will be the favoured man. That man will have to be told! And—so will she, then. And—my God! she doesn’t see, and mustn’t see, that I’m madly in love with her myself! She’s no idea of it —and she shan’t have; I must—must continue to be—only the guardian!”
He laughed a little cynically as he laid his letters down on his desk and proceeded to open them—in which occupation he was presently interrupted by the opening of the side-door and the entrance of Mr. Pemberton Bryce.
MAKING AN ENEMY
It was characteristic of Pemberton Bryce that he always walked into a room as if its occupant were asleep and he was afraid of waking him. He had a gentle step which was soft without being stealthy, and quiet movements which brought him suddenly to anybody’s side before his presence was noticed. He was by Ransford’s desk ere Ransford knew he was in the surgery—and Ransford’s sudden realization of his presence roused a certain feeling of irritation in his mind, which he instantly endeavoured to suppress—it was no use getting cross with a man of whom you were about to rid yourself, he said to himself. And for the moment, after