“Mr. Lynde thinks of everything,” remarked Mrs. Denham. “He should not allow himself to be dictated to by unforeseeing woman.”
“In strict confidence, Mrs. Denham, I will confess that I have arbitrarily taken this business in hand. For nearly a week, now, I have had my eye on a vehicle that must have been built expressly for us; it is driven by a tall, distinguished person, frosty of mustache and affable of manner—evidently a French marquis in disguise.”
“What an adroit fellow Ned is!” Flemming said to himself. “I wonder that with all his cleverness he could have got such a foolish notion into his head about this girl.”
“We must have the French marquis at any cost,” said Miss Denham.
“The truth is,” remarked Lynde, “I have secured him.”
“We are to start at eight, Ruth.”
“Which means breakfast at seven. Is Mr. Lynde equal to a feat like that, aunt?”
“As I intend to have watchers and sit up all night,” said Lynde, “I think I can promise to be on hand.”
This matter decided, the conversation, which had been carried on mostly in duets, became general. Flemming soon recovered from the remorse of his inadvertent question, or rather from his annoyance at the thought that possibly it had struck Lynde as having an ulterior motive.
As to Lynde, he was in the highest humor. Miss Denham had been thoroughly charming to his friend, with her serious and candid manner—a manner as far removed from reserve as from the thin vivacity of the average young woman of the period. Her rare smile had been finer than another’s laugh. Flemming himself went as near to falling in love with her and the aunt as his loyalty to Lynde and the supposed existence of a Mr. Denham permitted.
After a while the window curtains were drawn, though it was scarcely dusk without, and candles brought; then the ices were served, and then the coffee; and then the clock on the mantelpiece, as if it took malicious satisfaction in the fleetness with which Time (wreathed in flowers) slips away from mortals, set up a silvery chime—it sounded like the angelus rung from some cathedral in the distance—to tell Flemming that his hour was come. He had still to return to the hotel to change his dress-suit before taking the train. Mrs. Denham insisted on Lynde accompanying his friend to the station, though Flemming had begged that he might be allowed to withdraw without disturbing the party, and even without saying farewell. “I don’t recognize good-bys,” said he; “there are too many sorrowful partings in the world already. I never give them the slightest encouragement.” But the ladies persisted in considering the dinner at an end; then the two friends conducted the Denhams to the door of their own parlor and there took leave of them.
“Well?” said Lynde as he seated himself beside Flemming in the carriage. “What do you think of her?”
“An unusually agreeable woman,” returned Flemming carelessly. “She is thirty-eight, she looks twenty-six, and is as pleasant as nineteen.”